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Greek Writer Sappho

The Greek writer Sappho is important for her lyrical poetry. She was born in Mitylene on the island of Lesbos in the late seventh century BC.

Belonging to an aristocratic family, Sappho spent most of her life in Mitylene and Eresus on Lesbos, where she taught her craft to the society of maidens to whom her poems are addressed. The term '#lesbian#', meaning a female homosexual, is derived from the relationships that Sappho is reputed to have had with her students.

Her poetry is lyrical in style and shows a perfect control of rhythm; the four-line sapphic stanza is named after her. Only fragments of her nine books of odes have survived; they are all love poems deceptively simple in style and showing tenderness as well as passion. Probably on account of the political intrigues of Lesbos during the sixth century Sappho left the island and went to Sicily, where she later died. Legend says that she committed suicide because of her unrequited love for the sailor Phaon, although there is no evidence to support this or any of the many myths that grew up around her name.

Sappho showed little interest in politics, though civil wars are said to have disturbed her life. Mostly, she wrote short lyrics to and about girls she favored, with informal hymns, apparently not for choral presentation, addressed to divinities, such as Hera and Aphrodite. There was also a group of wedding poems. Elsewhere, Sappho is bitter, and sometimes sententious. Most characteristic are simple love lyrics that described the state of her own feelings with regard to her favorite girls.

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