Monday, September 7, 2020

Sappho Could, Why Can't I? Ovid, Tristia II.361-366

While languishing in exile, Ovid complains that he alone has been punished for writing erotic poetry: 

Denique composui teneros non solus amores:
     composito poenas solus amore dedi.
Quid, nisi cum multo Venerem confundere uino,
     praecepit lyrici Teia Musa senis?
Lesbia quid docuit Sappho, nisi amare, puellas?
     Tuta tamen Sappho, tutus et ille fuit.


--Ovid, Tristia II.261-266

Well, I wasn’t the only one who wrote tender tales of love,

But I alone paid the penalty for my fictitious affairs.

What else did the old bard Anacreon’s muse teach,

Except to blend Wine & Love together?

What did Sappho teach her Lesbian* girls to do, except love?

But Sappho got away with it, and so did Anacreon!


* Lesbian here means "from the island of Lesbos," not "homoerotic"

SAPPHO

MAP:

Name:  Σαπφώ / Sappho

Date:  630 – 570 BCE

Works:  <lost: only fragments remain>

 

REGION  5

Map of Roman Empire Divided into Regions


BIO:

Timeline:

Sappho was universally applauded by the ancient world as the “Tenth Muse.” Because she was one of the earliest Greek lyric poets, there is very little definitive information on Sappho’s life.  It is generally agreed that Sappho was a wealthy noblewoman from the island of Lesbos who had three brothers and a daughter named Kleis. She used her prominent social position to support a cohort of other women artists, and composed many poems about them, expressing her love for them, praising their beauty, and celebrating their marriages. Whereas earlier Greek poetry was epic poetry with serious themes of gods, warfare, and the state, Sappho’s lyric poetry is emotional, intimate and personal. Her poetry centers around womanhood and womanly love, providing rare insight into social mores of the time period. The modern term “lesbian” (a woman who is attracted to another woman) reveals the longevity of her impact upon western culture [NOTE: Although “lesbian” is the accepted term in modern English, authors in the ancient world used a different word for a homosexual woman, and only occasionally used the term “lesbian” euphemistically]. Unfortunately, although her poetry was universally revered by the Greeks and Romans alike, Sappho’s works only exist as fragments, adding mysterious allure to her larger-than-life status but unfortunately hindering our understanding of her life and thoughts.

 Archaic Greek

Timeline of Greek Literature with "Archaic" era highlighted



OVID

MAP:

Name: Publius Ovidius Naso  

Date:  43 BCE – 18 CE

Works:  Ars Amatoria

               Metamorphoses*

              Tristia, etc.

 

REGION  1

Map of Roman Empire Divided into Regions


BIO:

Timeline:

Ovid was one of the most famous love poets of Rome’s Golden Age. His most famous work, the Metamorphoses, provides a history of the world through a series of interwoven myths. Most of his poetry is erotic in nature; for this reason, he fell into trouble during the conservative social reforms under the reign of the emperor Augustus. In 8 CE he was banished to Bithynia, where he spent the remainder of his life pining for his native homeland.

 GOLDEN AGE ROME

 

Timeline of Roman Literature with "Golden Age" era highlighted



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