Saturday, May 21, 2022

W/W: Double Harness, Sappho fr. 213

One of the most powerful symbols of love in Classical literature is the image of the yoke that binds a couple together (One example can be seen here ).  In one of the fragments of Sappho's poetry, a grammarian preserved the poet's use of the yokemate (συνδυγος) to describe two women: 

 ...…σε εμα κἈρχεανασ

σα Γοργω.  συνδυγος.


αντι του

συνζυξ. η Πλειστοδικη

τηι Γοργοι συνζυξ μετα της Γογγυλης

ονομασθησεται ...


mea Archaeanassaque

Gorgonis coniuga.


Coniuga, pro “coniunx.” Pleistodika nominatur Gorgonis coniunx, cum Gongula.


--Sappho fr. 213; P. Oxy. 2292; Translated into Latin by K. Masters

My [missing name] and Gorgo’s yokemate,* Archeanassa.

* Feminine form of yokemate, instead of masculine form. Pleistodike is named Gorgo’s yokemate, as well as Gongula. . . 



Name:  Σαπφώ / Sappho

Date:  630 – 570 BCE

Works:  <lost: only fragments remain>



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



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

ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)


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