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Σαπφώ; Aeolic, Ψάπφα). One of the

Sappho. (From the painting by Alma-Tadema.)

two great leaders of the Aeolian school of lyric poetry, Alcaeus being the other. She was a native of Mitylené, or, as some said, of Eresos in Lesbos, and flourished towards the end of the seventh century B.C. Her father's name was Scamandronymus, who died when she was only six years old. She had three brothers, Charaxus, Larichus, and Eurigius. Charaxus was violently upbraided by his sister in a poem, because he became so enamoured of the courtesan Rhodopis at Naucratis in Egypt as to ransom her from slavery at an immense price. Sappho was contemporary with Alcaeus, Stesichorus, and Pittacus. That she was not only contemporary, but lived in friendly intercourse, with Alcaeus is shown by existing fragments of the poetry of both. Of the events of her life we have no other information than an obscure allusion in the Parian Marble and in Ovid ( Her. xv. 51) to her flight from Mitylené to Sicily to escape some unknown danger, between B.C. 604 and 592; and the common story that being in love with Phaon, and finding her love unrequited, she leaped down from the Leucadian Rock. This story, however, seems to have been an invention of later times. The name of Phaon does not occur in one of Sappho's fragments, and there is no evidence that he was mentioned in her poems. As for the leap from the Leucadian Rock, it is a mere metaphor, taken from an expiatory rite connected with the worship of Apollo, which seems to have been a frequent poetical image. At Mitylené Sappho appears to have been the leader of a feminine literary set, most of the members of which were her pupils in poetry, fashion, and gallantry, so that from this association later writers have attempted to prove that the moral character of Sappho was not free from all reproach; and it is difficult to read the fragments which remain of her verse without being forced to come to the conclusion that a woman who could write such poetry could not be the pure woman that her modern apologists would have her. (See the defence of Sappho by Welcker [1816] and the various papers in the Rheinisches Museum for 1857-58.) Of her poetical genius, however, there cannot be a question. The ancient writers agree in expressing the most unbounded admiration for the passion, sincerity, and grace of her poetry. Already in her own age the recitation of one of her poems so affected Solon that he expressed an earnest desire to learn it before he died. Her lyric poems formed nine books, but of these only fragments have come down to us. The most important is a splendid ode to Aphrodité, of which we perhaps possess the whole. The best editions of the fragments is by Neue (Berlin, 1827), and that in Bergk's Poet. Lyrici Graeci, vol. iii. (4th ed. 1882). The fragments are all collected and translated into English by Wharton with a full bibliography in his Sappho (Chicago, 1895). See Arnold, Sappho (Berlin, 1871); Schöne, Untersuchungen über das Leben der Sappho (Leipzig, 1867); and Poestion, Griechische Dichterinnen (Vienna, 1876). There is a metrical translation of the fragments by Gasby-Smith (Washington, 1891).

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