Women in History: Sappho

Born around 615 B.C.E. on the Greek Island of Lesbos, very little details are known about Sappho. She was a great poet and teacher, who Plato referred to as “the tenth Muse.” Her face appeared on coins, and she is credited with either inventing or refining a form of poetic meter called the Sapphic meter. Her poems were first collected into nine volumes, but were then lost for many years.

In a parody that was written about her three centuries after her death, she was portrayed as being promiscuous and a lesbian. This parody’s interpretation of her prevailed so much that the very term “lesbian” is derived from the name of her home island, Lesbos. Due to this reputation, which could neither be proved true or untrue, Pope Gregory had her work burned in 1073.

Today, she is known as one of the greatest lyric poets of all time. She was different from other poets of her time because she did not write about gods or epic narratives, but instead expressed the bittersweetness of love in her poems. The immediacy of her writing and her personal tone is still widely praised by critics. Sadly, only translations and fragments of her work can be found today.

Thank you, Sappho, for your beautiful voice and the poetry that you created with it. For more remarkable women in history, visit here.