Sappho Poet / Biography

Sappho Biography. Sappho was an ancient Greek female poet who
wrote lyrical poetry famous for its intense passion and description of love. Being born on the Isle of Lesbos she is also
referred to as the first Lesbian poet. Little is known of her actual life, though
she was born around 620BC, and died approximately 50 years later. Unfortunately, much of her poetry has been
lost, although some poems have been painstakingly pieced together through surviving fragments. Details of her life are hard to piece together
as there are few reliable sources. For example, historians are unsure about whether
to take her poetry as reliable autobiographical evidence. However, evidence from the period suggests
she was temporarily exiled to Sicily because of political troubles on the island of Lesbos. Sapphos is sometimes referred to as a lesbian. The word lesbian is actually derived from
her place of birth � lesbos. However, there is no hard evidence about her
sexuality. Her poems express great passion for a variety
of people � both men and women; they may have been autobiographical or not. A philosopher Maximus of Tyre wrote that the
friendships of Sappho were similar to those of Socrates � suggesting Sappho had a circle
of like-minded friends brought together by a love of art, poetry and culture. It has been suggested, with little authority,
that Sappho may have been the head of some formal academy like a school. However, it is more likely to be a less formal
circle of friends. The poetry of Sappho often revolves around
themes of love and passion, and has a clarity and simplicity of language; within her poems,
there is great vividness and directness. The style is often conversational � giving
an impression of immediacy and action. The poems were also sung to music, meaning
they needed to be lyrical in form. Sappho is believed to have had at least two
brothers and may have been married and had a daughter. There�s also the question of her sexuality. It�s thought that Sappho expressed amorous
interest in men, and in fact such expressions were grossly caricatured in later forms of
entertainment. Nonetheless, some surviving verses, including
a hymn to Aphrodite, prominently showcase same-sex desire. Sappho thus eventually developed a reputation
of representing romance between women, with her home island of Lesbos having inspired
the term “lesbian” (though the word had different connotations in ancient times). The question of how long Sappho lived has
also been tied into the realm of legend. One story states that she might have jumped
from a cliff due to unrequited love from a male sailor. But her �Old Age Poem,� discovered in
2004 and featuring lines about time’s effects on the body, implies that the poet lived past
middle age. Her reported year of death ranges from 570�550
B.C. The bulk of Sappho�s work was lost due to
adverse environmental conditions and the restrictive, destructive mores of the Middle Ages, though
papyri fragments managed to surface by the late 1800s. Scholars and biographers over the years have
presented a variety of theories about Sappho�s life and how her work can be interpreted,
though these offerings are speculative and can�t be verified. In 2013, Oxford University scholar Dirk Obbink
announced the findings of two more pieces from Sappho �The Brothers Poem� and �The
Kypris Poem� though there�s been attendant controversy, as aspects of the discovery are
shrouded in secrecy. Works published on Sappho in the new millennium
include If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho (2002) by Anne Carson and Sappho: A New Translation
of the Complete Works (2014) by Diane Rayor.

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