630 – 580 B.C.
Sappho, (flourished about 600 B.C.) a Greek poet, native of Lesbos, where she was head of a great poetic school for poetry in that age and place was cultivated as assiduously and apparently as successfully by women as by men. In antiquity her fame rivaled that of Homer, and she was styled “the tenth Muse” and “the flower of the Graces.”
Almost nothing is known of her life, and the legend of her unrequited love for Phaon and of her casting herself down from promontory into the sea, has no confirmation.
Sappho is for us chiefly a name, a theme for the fervent rhetoric evoked by impassioned contemplation of the few exquisite fragments of her poems that time has spared, a type of the highest achievement of woman in literature.
Prof. John Arthur Platt says:
“Her poems were arranged in nine books, on what principle is uncertain; she is said to have sung them to the Mixo-Lydian mode, which she herself invented. The perfection and finish of every line, the correspondence of sense and sound, the incomparable command over all the most delicate resources of verse, and the exquisite symmetry of the complete odes which are extant, raise her into the very first rank of technical poetry at once, while her painting of passion has never been surpassed since, and approached only by Catullus, and by Dante in the Vita Nuova.”
Another writer, H. B. Cotterill, says:
“Sappho’s poetry has the exquisite natural grace and the delicate but distinct outlines of the finest Greek sculpture – such sculpture as we see on the frieze of the Parthenon or on some beautiful Anthenian stele. Both in thought and in language it offers the very greatest contrast imaginable to what is often regarded as the true poetical method of expressing deep emotion. It affects one not by the display of vehement passion but by impressing on one’s mind a picture which haunts the memory and ever afterwards has the power of stirring one’s feelings as if it were a real experience.”
Reference: Famous Women; An Outline of Feminine Achievement Through the Ages With Life Stories of Five Hundred Noted Women By Joseph Adelman. Copyright, 1926 by Ellis M. Lonow Company.