Sappho’s poems: portraits of a poetess

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Sappho was born in Lesbos and lived in the Archaic age of Greece. She is known for her love poems. Contemporary of Alcaeus, her friend, she dedicated herself, from an early age to reading. The intimate nature of her poems have led to different conclusions about her life and her feelings, though few are certain. We know she married young, had a daughter and was widowed early. It is also known that, for political reasons, she had to
leave Lesbos with her husband and only returned after his death. She founded a school to prepare girls for their future life, and these girls are the subject of her poetic fragments. Are these fragments a reflection of the feelings of the poetess towards some of her disciples? Or are they related to what has sometimes been thought her last passion – an old sailor, who appeared to her as a handsome young man, and whose disappearance may have been the cause of her death? Recently Fernando Campos wrote a novel (A Rocha Branca, Editora Objectiva, 2011) based on her life. As an author of historical fiction, Campos uses (in his own translations) several fragments by Sappho as the basis of his story.
Are these fragments sufficient as a document of the poetess’ life? Is Campos’ analysis adequate? Does he use these fragments with the specific purpose of offering an image of Sappho distinct from the usual one, which associates her with lesbian love? The purpose of this paper is to examine Sappho’s fragments, comparing them with Fernando Campos’ readings/versions, and to test how effective they are as the basis for
an historical novel rather than as a true portrait of Sappho in Antiquity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventThe International Conference Sources to Study Antiquity: Between Texts and Material Culture - NOVA FCSH, Lisboa, Portugal
Duration: 9 May 201610 May 2016


ConferenceThe International Conference Sources to Study Antiquity


  • Sappho
  • Love
  • Reception
  • Fernando Campos
  • Life


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