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Headword: *sapfw/
Adler number: sigma,107
Translated headword: Sappho
Vetting Status: high
[Daughter] of Simon, though others [say] of Eumenos; others, of Eerigyos; others, of Ekrytos; others, of Semos; others, of Kamon; others, of Etarkhos; others, of Skamandronymos. Her mother was Kleis; [she was] a woman of Lesbos, from Eressos,[1] a lyric poet, who was born in the 42nd Olympiad,[2] when Alkaios also lived, and Stesikhoros, and Pittakos.[3] She also had three brothers: Larikhos, Kharaxos, Eurygios. She was married to a most wealthy man, Kerkylas, who operated from Andros,[4] and she had a daughter by him, who was named Kleis. There were three companions[5] and friends[6] of hers -- Atthis, Telesippa, Megara -- in respect of whom she incurred accusations of a shameful friendship/love.[7] Her pupils were Anagora of Miletus, Gongyla of Kolophon and Euneika of Salamis.[8] She wrote 9 books of lyric poems. And she first discovered the plectrum.[9] She also wrote epigrams and elegiacs and iambics and monodies.
Greek Original:
*sapfw/, *si/mwnos, oi( de\ *eu)mh/nou, oi( de\ *)herigu/ou, oi( de\ *)ekru/tou, oi( de\ *sh/mou, oi( de\ *ka/mwnos, oi( de\ *)eta/rxou, oi( de\ *skamandrwnu/mou: mhtro\s de\ *kleido/s: *lesbi/a e)c *)eressou=, lurikh/, gegonui=a kata\ th\n mb# *)olumpia/da, o(/te kai\ *)alkai=os h)=n kai\ *sthsi/xoros kai\ *pittako/s. h)=san de\ au)th=| kai\ a)delfoi\ trei=s, *la/rixos, *xa/racos, *eu)ru/gios. e)gamh/qh de\ a)ndri\ *kerku/la| plousiwta/tw|, o(rmwme/nw| a)po\ *)/androu, kai\ qugate/ra e)poih/sato e)c au)tou=, h(\ *klei\s w)noma/sqh. e(tai=rai de\ au)th=s kai\ fi/lai gego/nasi trei=s, *)atqi/s, *telesi/ppa, *mega/ra: pro\s a(\s kai\ diabolh\n e)/sxen ai)sxra=s fili/as. maqh/triai de\ au)th=s *)anago/ra *milhsi/a, *goggu/la *kolofwni/a, *eu)nei/ka *salamini/a. e)/graye de\ melw=n lurikw=n bibli/a q#. kai\ prw/th plh=ktron eu(=ren. e)/graye de\ kai\ e)pigra/mmata kai\ e)legei=a kai\ i)a/mbous kai\ monw|di/as.
See also sigma 108, and generally OCD4 s.v. (by Margaret Williamson). Further bibliography below; translations at the Diotima site (web addresses 1 and 2).
[1] Eres[s]os, on the SW coast of the Aegean island of Lesbos.
[2] 612-609 BCE.
[3] See delta 1496, sigma 1095, pi 1659.
[4] "Kerkylas from Andros": these names seem to be bawdy puns. "Kerkylas" is unattested elsewhere and is apparently derived from kerkos, penis; Andros, while a real island, also means "of [a] man". Thus, the Suda claims that the famous Lesbian poet was married to "Dick Allcock from the Isle of Man," in Holt Parker's translation (309). Sappho appeared as a character in numerous Greek comedies (see Campbell, 27), and Aly suggests that these may be the original source of "Kerkylas from Andros."
[5] "Companions" translates hetairai, a word which can also mean "courtesans": see epsilon 3265, epsilon 3266.
[6] "Friends" translates philai, which as an adjective means "beloved." LSJ s.v. diabole translate it as "false accusation, slander." This leaves uncertain whether, in any given instance, the accusations made are actually false or true; they are, however, invariably malicious in intent.
[7] "Friendship" translates philia, which can also mean "love."
[8] For the last-named cf. epsilon 3589. On the whole question of Sappho's "pupils," see Parker.
[9] An instrument for striking the lyre: see generally M.L. West, Ancient Greek Music (Oxford 1992) index s.v., esp 65-68. The present claim is a very odd one; Campbell suggests that there may be a confusion with pectis, a type of harp; cf. West, op.cit. 71-2.
Aly, W. "Sappho." RE II.2357-85. 1920
Campbell, David A., ed. and trans. Greek Lyric I: Sappho and Alcaeus. Loeb Classical Library. Harvard University Press, 1982
Parker, Holt N. "Sappho Schoolmistress," Transactions of the American Philological Association 123 (1993): 309-351
Williamson, M. Sappho's Immortal Daughters, Boston: Harvard University Press (1995)
Associated internet addresses:
Web address 1,
Web address 2
Keywords: biography; chronology; economics; gender and sexuality; geography; meter and music; poetry; women
Translated by: Elizabeth Vandiver on 8 December 1998@11:42:45.
Vetted by:
David Whitehead (augmented and modified notes; added keywords; cosmetics) on 21 May 2001@10:59:51.
Elizabeth Vandiver (Added italics; cosmetics) on 14 February 2005@21:50:32.
David Whitehead (tweaks to tr; augmented notes and keywords) on 9 July 2007@04:34:24.
Elizabeth Vandiver (Updated link.) on 5 October 2013@13:11:20.
Catharine Roth (supplemented note) on 5 October 2013@22:44:34.
Elizabeth Vandiver (Tweaked note 6; cosmetics.) on 6 October 2013@00:10:24.
David Whitehead (augmented primary note; another keyword; tweaks; raised status) on 22 December 2013@04:58:27.
Elizabeth Vandiver (Corrected typo.) on 7 February 2014@01:53:54.
David Whitehead (updated a ref) on 9 August 2014@10:02:40.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 4 January 2015@01:01:37.
Catharine Roth (updated links) on 4 January 2020@22:52:50.


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