Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον, οἰ δὲ πέσδων,
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον, ἐγὼ δὲ κῆν’ ὄτ-
τω τις ἔραται
πά]γχυ δ’ εὔμαρες σύνετον πόησαι
πά]ντι τ[οῦ]τ’· ἀ γὰρ πολὺ περσκέθοισα
κά]λλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα
καλλίποισ’ ἔβας ‘ς Τροίαν πλέοισα
κωὐδὲ παῖδος οὐδὲ φίλων τοκήων
πάμπαν ἐμνάσθη, ἀλλὰ παράγαγ’ αὔταν
Κύπρις· εὔκαμπτον γὰρ ἔφυ βρότων κῆρ
] κούφως τ . . . οη . . . ν
κἄμε νῦν Ἀνακτορίας ὀνέμναι-
σ’ οὐ παρεοίσας
τᾶς κε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα
κἀμάρυχμα λάμπρον ἴδην προσώπω
ἢ τὰ Λύδων ἄρματα κἀν ὄπλοισι
Alii aciem equitum ex omnibus pulcherrimum esse dicunt; alii, peditum; alii, naves; sed mihi est, quod quisque amat!
Hoc perfacile cognosci potest. Nam Tyndaris, pulcherrima ex omnibus feminis, maritum optimum relinquit et Troiam tetendit. Nec memor infantis patrisque, immo ea a Venere deducta est …
Haec mecum meditans, Anactoriam (nec praesentis), contemplor, cuius gradum gracilem et vultum mirari velim quam omnes Lydorum curros et acies dimicantes.
--Sappho, Fragment 16; Translated into Latin prose by K. Masters
Some say that the prettiest thing
In all the world
Other say it is infantry;
Others say it is ships.
But I say that is whatever you love.
You can easily realize this:
For Helen, the prettiest woman in the world,
Left her courageous husband
And sailed to Troy.
She didn’t care about her father or her own children;
She was overwhelmed by Venus [Love].
Thinking of all this, I’m reminded of Anactoria,
Whose lovely gait and glorious face
I’d rather watch
Than all the Lydian armies.
Name: Σαπφώ / Sappho
Date: 630 – 570 BCE
Works: <lost: only fragments remain>
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.
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