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The greatest poetess of antiquity, born at Mytilene or Eresus in Lesbos, lived between 630 and 570 B.C., being a younger contemporary of Alcaeus (see cut). She was married to a rich man of Andros, and had a daughter named Clais. About 596 she was obliged to flee from Lesbos, probably in consequence of political disturbances, and to remain some time in Sicily. In her later years she was again living in Lesbos, in the society of young girls with an inspiration for poetry. (See ERINNA.) Although, according to the principles expressed in her own poems, and according to trustworthy testimonies of antiquity she was a woman of pure and strict life, yet later scandal unwarrantably put an immoral interpretation on this society. Equally unfounded is the legend emanating from the Attic comedians, that she threw herself from the Leucadian rock into the sea out of despair at the rejection of her love by a handsome seaman named Phaon {fragm. of Menander's Leucadia}. Her poems were divided by the Alexander scholars into nine books according to their metres; and besides the purely lyric songs, among which the Epithalamia, or wedding-lays, were particularly celebrated, they included elegies and epigrams. Two of her odes, with a number of short fragments, are still extant. Her odes were for the most part composed in the metre named after her the sapphic strophe (or stanza), which was so much used by Horace. They are among the tenderest and most charming productions in the whole range of extant Greek literature, and afford some perception of the points of excellence ascribed to Sappho by antiquity: sincerity and depth of feeling, delicacy of rhythm, and grace and melodiousness of language.

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SAPPHO AND ALCAe. " Dark-haired, pure, and sweetly smiling Sappho, Fain would I say something, save the shame prevents me." -ALCAeUS, fragm. 55, Bergk. (Terra-cotta relief from Melos, British Museum.)
Type: Standard
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