Measures: 39 x 31,6 cm
Technique: Oil on canvas
Depository: Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien
Sappho (; Attic Greek , Aeolic Greek ) was an Ancient Greece|Ancient Greek poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the list of nine lyric poets. Her birth was sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC, but little is known for certain about her life. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost, but her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments.
Life " (orig. pub. Transactions of the American Philological Association 123 (1993), pp. 309-51.
Sappho's lifetime witnessed a period of political turbulence on Lesbos and saw the rise of Pittacus. According to the Parian Marble, Sappho was exiled to Sicily sometime between 604 and 594 and Cicero records that a statue of her stood in the town-hall of Syracuse. Unlike the works of her fellow poet, Alcaeus, Sappho's surviving poetry has very few allusions to political conditions. The principal exception is Fragment 98, which mentions exile and indicates that Sappho was lacking some of her customary luxuries. Her political sympathies may have lain with the party of Alcaeus.Page, Sappho and Alcaeus, p. 225-6. Though there is no explicit record of this, it is usually assumed that Sappho returned from exile at some point and that she spent most of her life in Lesbos.
A tradition going back at least to Menander (Fr. 258 K) suggested that Sappho killed herself by jumping off the Leucadian cliffs for love of Phaon, a ferryman. This is regarded as unhistorical by modern scholars, perhaps invented by the comic poets or originating from a misreading of a first-person reference in a non-biographical poem.Lidov, p. 205-6. The legend may have resulted in part from a desire to assert Sappho as heterosexual.For example, in Reading Sappho: Contemporary Approaches, ed. Ellen Greene, University of California Press, 1996: Mary Lefkowitz, "Critical Stereotypes and the Poetry of Sappho," pp. 28f. (the story of Sappho's death represents her as "deprived because of her ugliness of male attention...which she craves"); Judith Hallett, "Sappho and Her Social Context: Sense and Sensuality," pp. 126f., while sounding a note of caution about careless assumptions of Sappho's homosexuality, discusses the story of Sappho's sexual conversion and death in the context of "disbelief and disapproval" regarding accounts of her homosexuality, which such legends may aim to disprove; Eva Stehle, "Sappho's Gaze: Fantasies of a Goddess and Young Man," p. 195 n. 10, considers that "The story probably developed in fourth-century comedy."