Adnax Publications

< Sappho >

(c615 BC - c550 BC?)

Short Biography

Sappho lived in Lesbos, an island off the mainland of Greece. According to the Suda, she had three brothers, Larches, Charaxos and Eurygios, and was married to a wealthy man called Cercylas, who worked out of Andros, and by whom she had a daughter named Cleis. She had three female companions, Atthis, Telesippa and Megara, with whom she is supposed to have had lesbian friendships. She seems to have run a type of school for girls, receiving students from aristocratic families, and training them in the arts. Many of her verses are addressed to these students. She wrote nine books of lyric poems, as well as epigrams, elegaic couplets, iambics and monodic songs, but, though her work was well known in the ancient world, very little now survives, possibly the result of censorship during the Christian era. According to a papyrus of around 200 AD, she was short and dark, and rather bad-looking. Apuleius wrote that the beauty of her language made amends for the lascivious and inappropriate content of her poetry. The only complete poem of Sappho’s that has come down to us is a prayer to Aphrodite, preserved by the literary critic and historian Dionysius of Halicarnassos, who was writing in Rome around 30 BC. Other partial verses were recovered from papyri used as wrapping paper, discovered in Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Sappho Biography : Links to poetry

Ode to Aphrodite I

Ode to Aphrodite II

go to index of poets

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