The Ancient Library

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guish between the fervour of Sappho and the voluptuousness of Anacreon, or even that they should refrain from bringing down all poets who ever wrote on love to one level, and from estimating them by their own debased standard. Accordingly we find that Sappho became, in the hands of the Attic comic poets, a sort of stock character in their licentious dramas, in short a mere courtezan. Her name appears as the title of plays by Ameipsias, Amphis, Antiphanes, Diphilus, Ephippus, and Ti-mocles, in which, as well as in the Phaon of Plato, and other works of other comedians, not only was the fable of her passion for Phaon dramatised, but love passages were freely introduced between her and the distinguished poets,not only of her own, but of other periods and countries ; such, for example, as Archi-lochus, Hipponax, and Anacreon (respecting these comedies, see Meineke, Frag. Com, Graec.). The writers of later times found the calumny so con-, genial to their moral tastes, or its refutation so much above their critical skill, that they readily adopted it ; except that one or two of the gram­marians resort to their vulgar critical expedient of multiplying persons of the same name, and dis­tinguish between Sappho, the poetess of Mytilene, and Sappho, a courtezan of Eresos, the latter being evidently a creature of their own imagination (Ath. xiii. p. 596, e. ; Aelian, V. H. xii. 19 ; Suid. s. v.> 3>dwv, Phot. s. v. AevKarrjs and $awv ; Apostol. Pro­verb, xx. 15). It is not surprising that the early Christian writers against heathenism should have accepted a misrepresentation which the Greeks themselves had invented (Tatian. adv. Graec. 52, 53, pp. 113, 114, ed. Worth). It was reserved for a distinguished living scholar to give a final and complete refutation to the calumny (Welcker, Sappho von einem lierrschenden Vorurtlieil befreyt, Gb'ttingen, 1816, in his Kleine ScJiriften, vol. ii. p. 80 ; com p. Mliller, Lit. of Anc. Greece, pp. 17'2, &c,). The well-known fable of Sappho's love for Phaon, and her despairing leap from the Leucadian rock, vanishes at the first approach of criticism. The name of Phaon does riot occur in one of Sappho's fragments, and there is no evidence that it was once mentioned in her poems. It first appears in the Attic comedies, and is probably de­rived from the story of the love of Aphrodite for Adonis, who in the Greek version of the myth was called Phaethon or Phaon. How this name came to be connected with that of Sappho, it is now impossible to trace. There are passages in her poems referring to her love for a beautiful youth, whom she endeavoured to conciliate by her poetry ; and these passages may perhaps be the foundation of the legend. As for the leap from the Leucadian rock, it is a mere metaphor, which is taken from an expiatory rite connected with the \vorship of Apollo, which seems to have been a frequent poetical image : it occurs in Stesichorus and Anacreon, and may have been used by Sappho, though it is not to be found in any of her extant fragments. A re­markable confirmation of the unreal nature of the whole legend is the fact that none of the writers who tell it go so far as positively to assert that Sappho died in consequence of her frantic leap. (See Welcker, Mliller, Neue, Ulrici, Bode, and other writers on Greek literature.)

Another matter of great interest is concerning the relations of Sappho to those of her own sex. She appears to have been the centre of a female iiterary society, most of the members of which were


her pupils in the technical portion of her art. For the Greeks were never guilty of the enormous error of confounding genius with its instruments, or of supposing that, because they cannot of themselves produce its fruit, therefore it can perform its work equally well without them. The female companion* and pupils of Sappho, her eralpai and juadrfrpiat, are mentioned by various ancient writers (Suid. s.v.; and especially Max. Tyr. Diss. xxiv.) ; and she herself refers to her household as devoted to the service of the Muses (/uoixro-rroAw <n/aaz/, Fr. 28). This subject cannot be pursued further here, but much interesting information about similar female societies will be found in Mailer's Dorians (b. iv. c. 4. § 8, c. 5. § 2).

She had also, however, rivals of her own sex, the heads, probably, of other associations of the same kind. Among these Gorgo and Andromeda, espe­cially, were often mentioned in her poems (Max. Tyr. L c.). She is found indulging in personal sarcasm against the latter (Fr. 23), and upbraiding a pupil for resorting to her (Fr. 37). In some in­stances she reproached her companions for faults of conduct or of temper (Fr. 42), and satirized those who preferred the enjoyment of worldly fortune to the service of the Muses (Fr. 19). Among the women mentioned as her companions, are Anactoria of Miletus, Gongyla of Colophon, Eunica of Sala-mis, Gyrinna, Atthis, and Mnasidica. Those of them who obtained the highest celebrity for their own poetical works were, damophila the Pam-phylian, and erinna of Telos.

It is almost superfluous to refer to the numerous passages in which the ancient writers have ex­pressed their unbounded admiration of the poetry of Sappho. In true poetical genius, unfettered by the conventionalities and littlenesses of later times, she appears to have been equal to Alcaeus ; and superior to him in grace and sweetness. Of course we are not to look in her productions for the fierce strains of patriotism which her great countryman poured forth ; for they would have been little be­coming in a woman ; but they find their counter­part in those addresses to Aphrodite, in which the contest of passion in the female heart is most vividly portrayed. Certainly to no one but Alcaeus, not even to Pindar himself, can we assign the honour of disputing the lyric throne with Sappho. Already in her own age, if we may believe an interesting tradition, the recitation of one of her poems so affected Solon, that he expressed an earnest desire to learn it before he died (iVa fjiaOwv avro a7ro0aj/a>, Aelian. ap. Stob. Serm. xxix. 58). Strabo speaks of her as S-aujUao-roj/ n Xf^M" (xiii. p. 617), and the praises and imitations of her by Horace and Catullus are too well known to require mention.

It may safely be affirmed that the loss of Sappho's poems is the greatest over which we have to mourn in the whole range of Greek literature, at least of the imaginative species. The fragments that survive, though some of them are exquisite, barely furnish a sample of the sur­passing beauty of the whole. They are chiefly of an erotic character ; and at the head of this class must be placed that splendid ode to Aphrodite, of which we perhaps possess the whole (Fr. 1), and which, as well as the shorter ode which follows it (Fr. 2), should be read with the remarks of Mliller (Lit. of Anc. Greece, pp. 175,178). She appears also to have composed a large number of hymeneals, from which we possess some fragments

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