Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:

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The bibliography on Sappho is truly enormous and labyrinthine. She is the only ancient woman poet whose work and polyvalent figure have exerted lasting and deep influence on medieval, early modern, and modern European intellectual and sociocultural history. Her figure has further influenced modern Canadian, American, African, and Australian literature and gender ideologies. Sappho—a Greek melic poet who, in antiquity, was sometimes known simply as “the poetess,” just as Homer was known as “the poet” (Galen 4.771)—was born on Lesbos, (probably) in the late 7th century bce. On the basis of later sources (the Parian Marble, Strabo, Athenaeus, Eusebius, the medieval Greek lexicon/encyclopedia entitled Suda), there is broad scholarly consensus that she composed many of her poems between c. 600 and 580 bce. Naturally, there remains uncertainty as to the exact dates of her floruit, as there is uncertainty about the exact dates of the work and life of any Archaic poet (except for Pindar, whose life spans the Late Archaic and the Early Classical periods). Apart from numerous other poems, she composed epithalamia (wedding songs). Extremely little is known about her activities in Mytilene, probably the most important city of Lesbos. A late-2nd- or early-3rd-century Oxyrhynchus papyrus (P.Oxy. 1800 fr. 1) and the 10th-century lexicon Suda (Σ 107 Adler) provide accounts of her life (cf. P.Köln 5860, dated to the 2nd century ce): most of this late information belongs to what some scholars conventionally call “biographical tradition.” She was granted an unparalleled status as a poet and sociocultural figure in Greek and Roman Antiquity. There is no complete compilation of all the ancient testimonia for Sappho. New fragmentary poems of Sappho preserved on papyrus were discovered and published in 2004. Their importance is discussed in New Fragments and Ancient Transmission.

Article.  8567 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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