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Biography of Sappho

Portrait of Sappho

Sappho was born between 630 BC and 612 BC on the small Isle of Lesbos in the town of Eresos. Although little is known about Sappho's life, educated guesses can be drawn from her writings.

It is believed that Sappho was the daughter of an aristocratic family, Scamander and Cleïs, and to have had three brothers. It is also said that she was married and had a child, Cleïs. The origin of the child however is unkown as the word "pais" was used to describe her. The word is often used to indicate a slave or other young girl, rather than a daughter.

Sappho wrote about her time spent in Lydia, one of the wealthiest and powerful countries, with friends and the ladies of Sardis along with dancing, religion and parading armies.

Once the violent coup led by Pittacus took place in Lesbos, Sappho and other members of the aristocracy were exiled, including fellow poet Alcaeus. Her poetry speaks of her mistreatment in the following years spent before moving to Syracuse on the island of Sicily. Before her arrival at the city, the people built a statue of her as a welcome. Once Pittacus was no longer in power in 581 BC, Sappho's was free to return to her homeland.

Sappho is believed to have died around 570 BC. It is unknown what the cause of death was. However, one tradition suggests she jumped off Leucadian cliffs for her love of Phaon, a ferryman.

As some of her love poems are addressed to women, she has long been considered a homosexual. The word "lesbian" is derived from the island of Lesbos because of her. As well, the word "sapphic" comes from her name.

Sappho is said to have been the first published female poet and the first modern poet.

Poems by Sappho