Friday, July 1, 2022

W/W: A Bittersweet Farewell, Sappho 94

τεθνάκην δ’ ἀδόλως θέλω·

ἄ με ψισδομένα κατελίμπανεν

πόλλα καὶ τόδ’ ἔειπέ̣ [μοι·

̔ ὤιμ’ ὠς δεῖνα πεπ[όνθ]αμεν,

Ψάπφ’, ἦ μάν σ’ ἀέκοισ΄ ἀπυλιμπάνω.’

τὰν δ’ ἔγω τάδ’ ἀμειβόμαν·

̔ χαίροισ’ ἔρχεο κἄμεθεν

μέμναισ’, οἶσθα γὰρ ὤς σε πεδήπομεν·

αἰ δὲ μή, ἀλλά σ’ ἔγω θέλω

ὄμναισαι [. . . .] . [. . .] . .αι

. . [            ] καὶ κάλ’ ἐπάσχομεν·

πο̣[λλοις γὰρ στεφάν]οις ἴων

καὶ βρ[όδων κρο]κ̣ίων τ’ ὔμοι

κα . .[           ] πὰρ ἔμοι περεθήκαο,

 καὶ πό̣[λλαις ὐπα]θύμιδας

πλέκ[ταις ἀμφ’ ἀ]πάλᾳ δέρᾳ

ἀνθέων ἔ̣[βαλες] πεποημμέναις,

καὶ πο̣λ̣λ̣ῳ[             ] . μύρῳ

βρενθείῳ . [            ]ρ̣υ[ . . ]ν

ἐξαλείψαο κα̣[ὶ βασ]ι̣ληίῳ,

καὶ στρώμν[αν ἐ]πὶ μολθάκαν

ἀπάλαν πα . [         ] . . .ων

ἐξίης πόθο̣[ν           ] . νίδων

* A note about the text: this is a poem found in fragmentary state. The brackets represent gaps of text that were unreadable or damaged. The last six lines of this poem are so fragmentary that they are unintelligible and not published here. 

"O utinam mortuam essem!"

Hoc multis cum lacrimis dicto,

illa me relinquit, multa

de terribilis quae passae sumus

querens, "O Psappham!" 

Illa mi dicit,

se non sua sponte me relinquere.

Sed ego contra:

“Valeas, et quantum te coluerim

in animo habeto.

Aut, si hoc nequeas,

Velim, si te omnia bona 

quae inter nos fieri soleant, memineris.

Coronas violarum 


crocorumque multas 

mecum gerebas

Et serta floribus multa

in collo tenero 

te ornabant,

et tibi tempora multo regibus decente nardo destillabant,

et in lecto molle 

tibi desiderium tuum allevabas.

***Help make LGBT Meets SPQR better! If you can create a metrically accurate translation of this poem in Latin, we would gladly publish it on this blog!***

--Sappho fr. 94; Translated into Latin by Kris Masters

“I wish I were dead,” she wept as she left me.

She said this to me and more.

Lamenting the terrible things that we’ve suffered, 

she said, “O Sapph’! I am not leaving you willingly!”

But I replied:

“Go forth, and keep in mind how much I have cherished you.

Or if you can’t, I want you to remember all of the good things that we had, too.

You were wearing crowns of violets and roses and crocuses by my side,

You were wearing perfume fit for a queen;

Upon a soft bed

You were satisfying

The yearnings of your heart.



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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