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Sappho

Much uncertainty surrounds the life story of the celebrated Greek lyric poet Sappho, a woman Plato called "the tenth Muse." Born around 610 B.C. on the island of Lesbos, now part of Greece, she was said to have been married to Cercylas, a wealthy man. Many legends have long existed about Sappho's life, including a prevalent one now believed to be untrue that she leaped into the sea to her death because of her unrequited love of a younger man, the sailor Phaon. It is not known how much work she published during her lifetime, but by the 8th or 9th century Sappho's known work was limited to quotations made by other authors. In the majority of her poems, Sappho wrote about love and the accompanying emotions of hatred, anger and jealousy among the members of her largely young and female circle. Sappho gave her female acolytes educational and religious instruction as part of the preparation for marriage; the group was dedicated to and inspired by Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. Her focus on the relationships between women and girls has led many to assume that Sappho was a lesbian a word derived from the island and the communities of women that lived there but it is also true that the existence of strong emotions and attractions between members of the same sex was considered far more common and less taboo than in later years.


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