Sappho is described as the greatest female poet of ancient Greece. Or, the greatest Greek lyric poet, period. Her reputation as one of the world’s finest poets has persisted for more than 2500 years, but the overwhelming majority of her work has not.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to stuff. You missed in history class from Housetop works, dotcom everyone before we get started today we wanted to let you know that there are only a few bob worked on our upcoming trips. You hear it yes with startled and delight
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tomorrow and welcome, but I'm Tracy wealth it I'm Holly fry. The poet Sappho is the first
known woman, writer and the european literary tradition, and she is described as the greatest female poet of ancient Greece or the greatest greek Lyric poet period, regardless of gender or even
greatest female poet of all time. There is a nineteen twenty six addition to her work. Where see our Haines, who edited that addition put it this way, quotes with the possible exception of Shakespeare. Homer is still the supreme poet and Sappho, without any exception. The poet s par excellence of his last words were in Greek, so I got to figure out how to treat him flight, which was a challenge. Photos reputation as one of the world's finest poets has persisted for more than twenty five hundred years and that's fascinating, because the overwhelming budget
Eddie of her work have not, and then also fascinating. Is that the words seraphic and lesbian, which is derived from the island of less boss? Worse if I lived, they ve become synonymous with same sex relationships among women, but we
actually, no very, very little about suppose life or her relationships, and two thousand years ago. Those terms had really did
meanings from what they do now, so we are going to get into all of this today. Pfeffer was also a frequent listener request and over the past few years, we ve gotten requests from Helen, silly and Pat Esther and one person who didn't have a name on their emails and then, as a heads up, we talk about people's relationships, often enough on the show. We don't usually need to mention a specific sex act. That is not the case today. So use discretion if it seems like that sort of
our authority. You might be an issue for you or people that you listened with now reveal agreed to do is show called sexy history as a whole.
a thing. It would be different and we wouldn't need those warnings now. So the most reference source of information about Sophos life is a tenth century byzantine compendium called the pseudo
and the sooner this sort of a lexicon or encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean. It has two Sappho enter
he's and we'll get into why that is a little bit later. Sophos name also comes
been lots of other entries in the Suda, including ones for her relatives places. She lived people
he knew and definitions of various literary terms she's all
mentioned in lots of other historical writing that has survived until today, although usually those references are shorter and less detailed than what's in the pseudo thou, make that very tricky to piece together, suppose biography. The pseudo was compiled more than a thousand
years after supper actually lives, and then, on top of that, it's not exactly
reliable all the time it's cobbled together from all kinds of different sources, and some of its entries pick
information. That is clearly not factual in terms of the entries I'm Sappho, it's just not clear how much of the information came from historical source is how much from what people just knew in quotation marks about Sappho in the tenth century and how much of it was gleaned from things that are mentioned in her poetry. That's always tricky to try to use pole.
comes as a source for the poets biographical details. But it's even more of a challenge here, because by the tenth century, a lot of suppose work had already been lost, so we don't know the full context of those lines that we have according to the suit
Sappho was born in the forty second Olympiad, which was between six twelve in six or nine b c e
but the wording of it could also be translated as flourished and not
or which would mean that those years for the height of her career and not her birth. The pseudo lists eight
different men as suppose. Potential father Herodotus, on the other hand, lived about two hundred years after Sappho did, and he wrote that her father
was named. Scam Andronicus, that's one of the eight men that the pseudo listed as a possibility. Hundreds of years later,
Sophos mother may have been named players, and we
to say, may have been because a couple of Sappho fragments mentioned a daughter named class in it
traditional four daughters to be named after their grandmother, but even that is pretty murky,
is the use that word does used for daughter could also just mean child, and in some cases it can actually be translated as slave.
so this class, who may or may not have been named after Sophos mother may or may not have been or child. This is like the most provisional discussion of literary ever, I feel like, if you heard the words possibly and may have been ve heard, most of suppose biography. We do know she lived on the island of less boss and the Aegean Sea, and that's just across the water from what's now turkey at the time that was Sardus, which was the capital of Lydia, suppose place of
earth on the island was probably the town of heiresses or the capital of Middle e me. She most likely lived most of her life and mentally me, although it is possible that
and her family either moved or fled to Sicily for a time either because of general political upheaval unless boss or because of their own political affiliations, she may have had
Three brothers, the pseudo names them as lira coast, correct sows and your videos and too
Names appear in a poem that was an earth in twenty fourteen which we talked about in one of our unearthed episodes that year and that Pelham has been nicknamed the brothers poem, because it contains these two names firm here.
a pseudo wanders than to some more questionable territory. It says that Zappos husband was Kirklees of Andrew US, but Kirklees is very close to a slang term. For the word, penis and Andrew S was a real place, but was also the word for man, so the suit his name for Sophos husband is sort of like saying he was Dick Johnson of Man Island. So this is more likely
We accrued joke than her husband's actual name. I want to make a sick come now about dig Johnson and mayhem,
a man. This pseudo names, three of Sappho friends at this tell us
and Megara using a word to describe them. They could mean
pontoon, but it could also mean
court is on, and the pseudo says her relationship with them led her to be accused of
friendship or a love that was shameful from there. The pseudo goes into.
More mundane territory. Naming a few of those students thing that
nine volumes of poetry and crediting her with inventing the plucked from which is like a pic for plucking the strings on a liar. It also describes for poetry as including epigrams, Ella Jake's. I am pics and moderate ease. Her surviving work also includes a lot of
but the lamia- and these are poems that were celebrating a marriage which she was probably commissions to rights in addition
the suitors mention of students. A number of classical sources describe Sappho as a teacher, but none of these sources mention what or where she taught
in spite of that lack of detail. A lot of articles that exists today definitively say that Sappho Rana thesis, which is sometimes described as a sort of finning
King School for women waiting to get married and its also
if those described as a religious community dedicated to Aphrodite and sometimes as a group of Temple Court zones, but really there's no substantiation to any,
this or for the idea of a thesis as an actual establish school of some sort
no Sappho surviving. Writing mentions a thesis at all. You will see a lot of just incredibly definitive sang with a hundred percent confidence statements that are like supper ran this thesis that taught these young women. How to
wives and mothers and maybe not their documentation of that and then there is the story of safer and fun, and the basic gist of this story is that Sappho fell in love with a ferryman named Faye on and when he rejected her. She threw herself off a cliff. That story makes up the bulk of the suitors second Sappho entry, which says that this supposedly different Sappho was also from ITALY Me
also played a harp and may have written lyric poetry as well. This story about the ferryman is repeated over and over and over its depicted in numerous works of art and literature, including an avid heroic ease or epistles of heroines.
say on was a mythical figure, and it seems like this idea that the real fast
threw herself over a cliff for him dates back to occur
d by many under written about two hundred years after Sappho died.
thousands of years since then, the fact that at least one of Sappho fragments mentions fail and has been used to try to substantiate this fictional
worry as though it were fact. So when it comes to suppose biography, we have a whole lot of contradictions and questionable sources and in some cases, are poetry has been used to try to substantiate those claims. So we are gonna, take a look at her poems in more detail
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Papa was a lyric poet, meaning that she composed poems. That were meant to be sung
Companies on a liar and in ancient Greece, Lyric poetry, tended to be short and very personal, often sung from one person to another or written in the voice of one person addressing another. Many of sufferers, pole,
that have survived until today, either are or are believed to be loved poems it's hard to tell sometimes, because what survives can be. Incredibly short,
homer, on the other hand, wrote epic poetry, and this was much longer with a narrative that told the story of the heroic deeds of the characters in the poem
and we should also note that its very possible that the work
you did to homer. Was
written by several people, and not just one regard.
Ass, though in the ancient western world he was called just the poet and Sappho was the poet Tess. Lyric poetry really flourished in ancient Greece between about six hundred and four fifty BC, so that was when
lives, it wasn't newly invented during that time. This was more a revival of an earlier poetic form and then two people were considered to be the most notable lyric poets of this period. They were Sappho and I'll, see us both of whom,
from less boss and may have known each other and even written to each other, Sappho wrote her poems in a lick Greek, which is sometimes also called lesbian, Greek and in that dialect her name was more like sharper than the Sappho that we know today in about the third century BC
Poetry was compiled into an eight or nine volume collection in Alexandria, Egypt, the volumes
Peter used for each poem which set apart for most other compilations, which tended to be organised instead by subject or seem? There were as many as ten thousand lines of poetry in this compilation, but it's possible that Sappho wrote much more than that, especially since many of her works were commissioned for special occasions like
for special occasions like weddings and they might not have been preserved after they were performed today. Sappho is down most for one particular poetic form and that's the specific, which is also called Suffolk, meter or set,
stanzas. We don't really know whether Sappho developed this form herself or refined a form that already existed, but she was so skilled at writing in this form, but ultimately carried her name. The savage used for airlines stanzas with
ray longer, limes, followed by one shorter line, and then within those lines. The meter came from lesbian Greeks, pattern of long and short syllables when people are too
its leading sophos work today. Sometimes they approximate the meter using the cure.
mistakes of whatever language their working in so, for example, in English, there's a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables with distressed syllable standing in for the long syllables in Greek and the unstressed syllables, taking the place of the short ones, leave tend to be very personal, passionate and emotional poems and their simultaneously very simple and elegant during suffers lifetime. Poetry was also believed to be magical, so poetry was thought to be able to influence or shape reality so
suppose, poetry was considered to be beautiful and melodic and powerful, but we have unfortunately very little of this poetry today and even less of it
in the form of complete poems the vast majority.
What we have is just short fragments, and some of these fragments are from damaged pieces of writing material or pieces of clay pots. Others are quotations from other people surviving
work, for example, Cassius Longitudes quoted for stanzas by Sappho, in on the sublime which was published around one hundred c e today, out of those ten thousand or so lines that we think that suffer route. We have roughly six hundred and fifty lines of poetry remaining. That is spread out across about two hundred and fifty fragments and of those six hundred and fifty lines fewer than a third of them are.
incomplete lines of poetry. A lot of them are partial lines. Six of the fragments are longer and more substantive, but still not entirely intact. In one of those longer fragments is the brothers
that we mentioned earlier, which is missing only its first few stands is only one of Sophos. Poems is believed to be complete today, and that is the ode to Aphrodite. Different collections of Sappho poetry is different numbering systems to keep up with all of these fragments, but most of the time owed to Aphrodite, sometimes translated as
M or prayer to Aphrodite is number one hears the beginning of owed to Aphrodite, translated by Tee W Higgins than in eighteen. Seventy one quote beauty
full throned immortal, Aphrodite daughter of Zeus, beguile
I implore the way mean?
down with weariness and anguish, o thou, most holy
Let me now, if ever thou kindness, harmonist my words
and in the poem Aphrodite does come and says who has harmed thee? Oh, my poor Sappho
though, now he flies ere long. He shall pursue thee fearing my gifts. He too
turn shall bring them loveless today, tomorrow
Oh, he shall woogie, though, without should spurn him
The longer fragments is the one that was quoted in on the sublime which we mentioned earlier, and it describes the speakers response to sitting across from a women that the poem is addressing. This is usually interpreted as Sappho herself describing her own response to the women that she spacing, but that's not really clear here. It is, as translated by John adding Tin Simmons in eighteen. Eighty three peer of the gods. He seemed to me the blissful man who sits and gaze of the before him close. Besides these sits and in silence. Here's the silver early speaking laughing loves low
laughter o this. This only stirs the troubled heart in my breast to tremble, for should I but see thee. A little moment straight is my voice. Hushed yea, my tongue is broken.
And through and through me, neath. The flesh, impalpable fire runs tingling. Nothing see
noise of luring waves in my ear sounds: sweat, runs down and rivers a trick.
Our seas as all my limbs and paler than grass in autumn caught by panes of menacing death. I falter lost in the love trance, but almost all the
agreements are not nearly so long as this here is an example. Sweet
other. I cannot leave my web broken as I am by longing for a boy at soft Aphrodite swill one
we think from a wedding. Poem goes neither honey nor be for me
I don't know. I love that
neither of the above another fragment just says, shot with a thousand Hughes and one reads, and I flutter like a child after her
there and one fragment is simply the words you burn me. Feathers fragments can be really evocative and then combined with her.
Play mysterious biography. They can to speed beguiling, but the fact that their so fragmented and scattered makes her work really difficult to study. We have a sense that she wrote lots of love poems and that she wrote lots of poems are people's weddings. Her work seems to carry on
out of affection as well, including physical affection for men and women, but we don't necessarily have the greatest sense of what the whole body of her work is like. There's some guesswork going on, especially since some of the fragments are so short. There were not even a hundred.
Percent sure that Sappho really wrote them and we'll get into to why there is so little of Sophos work left today to study after we have another sponsor break,
as far as we now during her lifetime and at least for a while afterward Sappho, was deeply respected at admired as a poet and a person Plato who lived roughly two hundred years after she did wrote quote
say the muses are nine, but how carelessly look at the tenth Sappho from less, but it doesn't seem as though her contemporaries
We questioned her character in any way I mean after Elsie was getting a lot of commissions to write, poetry for people's weddings, and that doesn't seem like it would be happening if she were socially reviled, but in a century since then, people have interpreted Sappho in vastly different ways in the words of hold an Parker
quote every age creates its own sappho, and many of these creations have imagined Sappho as being at least in the morality of the time, deviant or depraved. Some of these shifts our thanks to her being from the island of Lesbos. While she was living less bath was considered to be a place full of passion and poetry
and sensuality, although also with a lot of political turmoil and in fighting, which is why Sappho and her family may have fled at some point, possibly see our Haines, who we quoted at the top of the show describe it.
This way quote the aliens of less boss, we're a vigorous and gifted race, brave and war, enterprising and trade vehemence and politics eminence in poetry,
music, but within a few centuries after her death prevailing
opinion of the island of Lesbos had shifted that tendency towards passion and wealth moved more into perceived hedonism. An excess lesbos went from being thought of as a place of beauty and refinement to one of licentiousness
corruption. The greek word lesbians, in meaning, acting like someone from lesbos, became associated with impurity and one specific sex act that being fellatio. It wasn't just about the island, though, eventually this also extended to Sappho herself
greek comedy intended to be in one way or another satirical, although the exact nature and the primary targets of the satire shifted over time and look in this history of greek comedy and starting a couple of centuries after she died, Sappho became the target of this satire. Her name was used for characters and several greek comedies and those characters were usually depicted as wanten and low
full and just excessively sexual with young men, societies, understanding of relationships and gender roles shifts over time. So it certain that
mental and physical relationships were viewed very differently unless both in the seventh century b c e than they are
in various cultures today, but we know
virtually nothing about the details and many of the authors who have speculated about it have tried to draw
conclusions based on ancient Sparta, but our
you're standing of spartan society is also limited and it was a
completely different society from lesbos located in a different part of Greece, and it flourished start
two hundred years, or so after Sophos death. However,
we do know that same sex relationships became increasingly taboo and parts of Europe in the centuries after supper lives. So not really.
oh how they were regarded while she was living and where she was living. But we do.
oh, that it became more and more a taboo afterward and, as that happened, the idea that Sappho was deviance
of her worst were young man morphed into the idea that she was deviant, because
lust for young women. The first reference to this that we know,
that was written in the second or third century c E. In the sixteenth century, humanist scholars claimed that christian church officials had burned sophos work. For this reason at least
twice that Bishop Gregory Nazianzen of Constantinople had done so in three hundred and eighty followed by Pope Gregory, the seventh in one thousand and seventy three. But it's not clear
whether these burnings actually happened, especially since Bishop Gregory himself was known to quote from Sappho. Yet there's them conjecture that, over the centuries to different Gregory's, were conflated together into this one person. Who supposedly did this burning? Even if her work was burned by the church because of perceptions about Sappho morality? That would not account
for so much its loss. There were also floods and accidental fires and the aging of the material that the poetry was recorded on, and fewer and fewer people speaking Alien, Greek, meaning that there was less and less demand for new copies of her work to be printed or written or copied. Sappho didn't
fade into total obscurity, though we mentioned in our Christine De Pizan episode that she's named in the book of the city of ladies, which was written in one thousand four hundred and five by the 16th century, though, what most people knew about? Sappho really came from Ovid's sororities, rather than from anything about her actual.
Your work by the eighteenth century, even less of Sappho's poetry, was known to the world than the six hundred and fifty lines we have today, and the word sapphic and lesbian had taken on entirely different meanings than what they
initially meant, which was basically related to Sappho or related to the island of Lesbos. Lesbian was first used. It
writing to describe a woman who is physically or romantically involved with another woman in seventeen. Thirty two and South ACT was used in association with same sex design,
are in relationships among women a few years later. The first appearance of the word Sapphic in writing was in a one thousand seven hundred and sixty one translation of Plato which read, quotes their affections, tend rather to their own sex and of this
and are the Suffolk lovers so by the romantic era in Europe, both Sappho and the island of less bus had become inextricably connected to the
idea of homosexuality among women, which was also culturally, very taboo and in some cases outlawed. But in spite of that in the nineteenth century, suffers poetry experienced, a surge in popularity
the romantics found the emotional depth of her poems and the fragments really appealing she started appearing in poems by people like Byron,
and both layer, although not necessarily, and what we would call a favourable light. Then, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a collection of manuscripts was unearthed near the egyptian city of oxy wrinkles.
drastically increasing the number of known, Sappho, fragments and giving people way more of them to study and reed running away
side? This increasing popularity was an attempt to reform Sophos image.
Something that wasn't contrary to nineteenth century morality in eighteen. Sixteen Frederick guideline
healthcare published Sappho freed from a prevailing prejudice, which tried to
interpret her poetry in a way that minimize the homo around us ISM of her work, and this did start to shift people's opinions about Sappho, but then in eighteen. Ninety five Pierre Luis, published shouts on doubly teeth, which was supposedly a collection of newly discovered poems written by one of Sappho female students who was
Aimed and the french pronunciation, Billig Dese ways were really a work of poetic fiction, though these poems are
erotic and sensual. Although people really quickly figured out that they were not really written by one of suffers students, it did reinforce the connection between Sappho and homosexual relationships among women. That welcome had been trying to minimize,
earlier work, and that lead to another effort to try to re imagined, Sophos identity in nineteen thirteen led by
Rick VON volume of its his safer
and drew from drew from thousand eighteen sixteen work and it depicted Sappho as Spinsters school Marm
this work also really reinforce the idea that Sappho was a teacher at a formal school with young women as her pupils, and this depiction is
on his reinterpreting, her poetry, not on historical research. Today Sappho seems really and
basically connected to the idea of lesbian, which can describe a person, sexual orientation, as well as their political or social identity, and that connection was really reach.
Force during the early years of the Gay rights movement in the United States when it was still known as the home. A file movement in nineteen. Fifty five four lesbian couples forms the daughters of
leaders that spell the same way as abilities, which Tracy said earlier, pronounced differently. They included activists, Phyllis,
I am, and Del Martin, who later became the first same sex couples to get married in San Francisco
It began allowing same sex marriages in two thousand for, and this was part social club part support, group part education, and
Kissy Organization. They named themselves the daughters of Bilitis after that, one thousand eight hundred and ninety five chansons De Bilitis collection, and by this point everyone knew and quotation marks that the historic Sappho was a lesbian. So the name Elias. Let the organization connect itself.
FAO and signal to potential members what the organization was for, without needing to publicly express who
when what the organisation was bore, because the social climate, and in some cases, the law just publicly declaring that this was an organization for lesbians, was not possible.
Nineteen. Fifty five, the daughters of believers created a news letter called the latter, which developed a national readership and the
they should itself became the first national lesbian Organization in the United States and ass time, went on site
foe became increasingly present. In the pages of the latter, which also had a poetry, column called sophistries. All of this continued to reinforce that connection between Sappho and the Lesbian be communion
so that is safer. We know literally almost nothing about her, and this whole story reminds me a lot of Jenny Lynde, who was supposed to be just the world's most incredible opera singer, but of whom we have no recordings yet search signals that we don't know him yeah
think, there's always a thing right. We talked about how there are many attempts to reinterpret and and shift
identity over time, and if it is like that
going. You only have these tiny bits in fragments the people can want
things so badly that they will in turn
if ever way makes them the most comfortable with the material or like a lines with their ideas of of this historical figure that we really have just them vaguest smattering of information about yeah, one that there is so many other things.
we in in theory, know about her are like ok are these three brothers are, are those three brothers, her brothers and she mentioned them in her poetry or have those names been pegged to stand for her brothers, because those are names that appeal
in her poetry, it sort of chicken and egg situation where, like we don't really know, women rang, led the witch or
someone else's brother right back with nothing to do with her at all, because it was a commission right was both poem written in someone else's voice, not suppose person all expressions anyway. I love her
I think she's fascinating, even though I know literally tiny amounts about any of its there. You go dear listener meal, furtive
We recently did an episode about Olga of Kiev, and when we started promoting that episode, we heard from a couple of listeners about these spelling that we used for Kiev, because we use the spelling k I Ii, which is
like the spelling, you'll, find it a lot of american English dictionaries and Sow guides, and a lot of news media use that spelling. It is not the preferred spelling in Ukraine, which is where the city is actually located, and it's not just that. That's not the spelling in Ukraine, it's that the government of you
rain has literally asked all of the news organisations and publications and its general people to please use a different spelling for the name. I was absolutely a hundred percent ignorant of this entire discussion
So I apologise for my oversight and I just wanted to read the statement that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of youth
put out about all of it, because I think it sort of clearly sums up what why these spelling difference exists and why it matters- and it says, in accordance with the tenth United Nations Conference on the standardization of geographical names,
We politely request all countries than organizations to review and, where necessary, amend their usage of outdated soviet era place names when referring to Ukraine. Ukraine has been an independent sovereign
nation for more than twenty seven years, but the soviet era versions of many geographic names stubbornly persist in international practice. The tree,
This from the cyrillic alphabet into Latin are often mistakenly based on the russian form of the name, not the Ukrainian. So this statement then goes on to list a lot of the most commonly misspelled names that one at the top of the list is the Ukraine with a d which we have fortunately avoided using
with a b, which we have fortunately avoided using her own just at the second one after that is clear, which is spelled k why I ve not K. I e the way we spelled it, there's a slight new arms to how these are pronounced and its as a speaker of neither russian nor ukrainian I'd like a can't, really accurately replicate bats
difference to return to the statement under the russian Empire and later the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics USSR ratification was actively used as a tool to extinguish each constituent countries, national identity, culture and language, and light of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, including its illegal occupation of Crimea. We are once again experiencing
If occasion, as a tactic that attempts to destabilize and deal a gentleman, our country, you will appreciate, we hope how the use of soviet era place names rooted in the russian language is especially painful and unacceptable to the people of Ukraine. The help avoid these mistakes. We refer you to page twenty seven of the resolution Ex Slash nine Rome, innovation of ukrainian geographical names, adopted by the tenth you and conference on standardization of geographical names, which recommends the Rome innovation and system in you
brain out the international system for the transit operations of ukrainian geographical names to better inform the international community about the correct forms of ukrainian place names and to avoid mistakes. We are launching the campaign hashtag correct, you, egg, your support in helping to ensure that the correct internationally agreed place, names or Ukraine are adopted, and your organization is greatly appreciated. So thank you to the folks who pointed out that oversight us I apologize for it. It was a hundred percent me being ignorant and not an attempt to wilfully, ignore the wishes of the nation of Ukraine, and we will be better about that going forward. I have bookmark to the most commonly miss
names. For my future reference, I, if you would like to write to us about this or any other Comcast rate history, podcast, that house networks, dot com and then we're Oliver Social media at Miss than history, where you'll find our Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. You can also come to our website, which is missed in history. Dot com and bind show notes, while the episodes holly- and I have worked on together today- show notes include links to a lot of the poetry from Sappho that you can read online for yourself. If you like, you can also find a suitable archive of every episode ever
You can subscribe to our show on Apple podcast, thy heart, radio and anywhere else. You get your PA for more on this and thousands of other topics. Visit Housetop works, dot, com.