Sappho was a lyric poet who was born some time around 620 BCE on the Greek island of Lesbos. She is known as such as her work was composed and intended to be spoken aloud to the accompaniment of a lyre.
She had a great reputation in antiquity, no mean feat for a woman at a time when women’s activities could be very limited. There is even an epigram ascribed to Plato that speaks highly of her:
Some say the Muses are nine: how careless!
Look, there’s also Sappho, from Lesbos, the tenth.
Although much of her work has been lost over the centuries, there are some fragments that remain. These are very telling in the choice of imagery. Other poets from antiquity, such as Homer, are famed for their descriptions of war and battle, and they describe beauty through military means. Although she is known to have been familiar with Homer’s work, and refers to events in it, Sappho does not continue this theme, choosing instead to go against convention and describe beauty through love.
Her work has stood the test of time and is still read, translated and admired today. Her themes too are timeless: she writes of love and relationships between women. What better figure to choose to head our Conclave, a group of writers seeking to make their way against the odds.