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(săf`ō), fl. early 6th cent. B.C., greatest of the early Greek lyric poets (Plato calls her "the tenth Muse"), b. Mytilene on Lesbos. Facts about her life are scant. She was an aristocrat, who wrote poetry for her circle of friends, mostly but not exclusively women, and like other poets of her era, she was most likely a musician and a performer. She may have had a daughter. The term lesbian (see homosexualityhomosexuality,
a term created by 19th cent. theorists to describe a sexual and emotional interest in members of one's own sex. Today a person is often said to have a homosexual or a heterosexual orientation, a description intended to defuse some of the long-standing sentiment
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), her presumed sexual orientation, is derived from the name of her island home, Lesbos. The ancients had seven or nine books of her poetry (the first book originally consisted of 330 Sapphic stanzas; named for her, it consists of three long lines followed by one short line). Only fragments of her verse survive; the longest (seven stanzas) is an invocation to Aphrodite asking her to help the poet in her relation with a beloved woman. The most recently discovered, the five-stanza "Brothers Poem," was found in 2012. She wrote in Aeolic dialect in a great many meters. Her verse is a classic example of the love lyric, and is characterized by her passionate love of women, a love of nature, a direct simplicity, and perfect control of meter. She influenced many later poets, e.g., CatullusCatullus
(Caius Valerius Catullus) , 84? B.C.–54? B.C., Roman poet, b. Verona. Of a well-to-do family, he went c.62 B.C. to Rome. He fell deeply in love, probably with Clodia, sister of Cicero's opponent Publius Clodius. She was suspected of murdering her husband.
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, OvidOvid
(Publius Ovidius Naso) , 43 B.C.–A.D. 18, Latin poet, b. Sulmo (present-day Sulmona), in the Apennines. Although trained for the law, he preferred the company of the literary coterie at Rome.
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, and SwinburneSwinburne, Algernon Charles,
1837–1909, English poet and critic. His poetry is noted for its vitality and for the music of its language. After attending Eton (1849–53) and Oxford (1856–60) he settled in London on an allowance from his father.
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See translations by M. Barnard (1962), W. Barnstone (1965), G. Davenport (1965, 1980, 1995), S. Q. Groden (1967), P. Roche (1999), A. Carson (2002), S. Lombardo (2002), and D. J. Raynor (2014); studies by D. L. Page (1965, repr. 1979) and A. P. Burnett (1955, repr. 1983).


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Sappho, asteroid 80 (the 80th asteroid to be discovered, on May 2, 1864), was named after a legendary Greek love poetess of the sixth century b.c.e. who lived on the island of Lesbos (from which the term lesbian derives). Its orbital period is about 3½ years, and it is approximately 84 kilometers in diameter. Sappho is one of the more recent asteroids to be investigated by astrologers. Preliminary material on Sappho can be found in Demetra George and Douglas Bloch’s Astrology for Yourself, and an ephemeris (table of celestial locations) for Sappho can be found in the second edition of their Asteroid Goddesses.

Unlike the planets, which are associated with a wide range of phenomena, the smaller asteroids are said to represent a single principle. George and Bloch give Sappho’s principle as “romantic and artistic sensitivity.” Zipporah Dobyns has found it prominent in the chart of people involved with poetry and the other arts, as well as in the charts of people involved in nurturing others (the semilegendary Sappho was devoted to nurturing young women). Contrary to the connotations of its name, Sappho does not appear to be associated with homosexuality. J. Lee Lehman associates Sappho with impersonal sexual drive, although the libido represented by this asteroid may be channeled into other endeavors, particularly work. Jacob Schwartz gives the astrological significance of this asteroid as “friendships, artistic expression of sex.”


Dobyns, Zipporah. Expanding Astrology’s Universe. San Diego: Astro Computing Services, 1983.
George, Demetra, with Douglas Bloch. Asteroid Goddesses: The Mythology, Psychology and Astrology of the Reemerging Feminine. 2d ed. San Diego: 1990.
George. Astrology for Yourself: A Workbook for Personal Transformation. Berkeley, CA: Wingbow Press, 1987.
Lehman, J. Lee. The Ultimate Asteroid Book. West Chester, PA: Whitford Press, 1988.
Schwartz, Jacob. Asteroid Name Encyclopedia. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1995.



(Psappho), a Greek poet of the first half of the sixth century B.C. Born and lived on the island of Lesbos.

Sappho wrote principally about the love and the beauty of women friends, about mutual affection and the sorrow of separation, and about the wedding ritual and the parting words spoken to a bride. In her poetry, traditional motifs are supplemented by personal experiences. Sappho wrote in the Aeolian dialect, in a style very close to the colloquial language of the time. Varying combinations of long and short syllables give her verse rhythmic diversity. Several complete poems and many fragments of Sappho’s works are known, chiefly from discoveries of papyruses.


Poetarum Lesbiorum fragmenta. Edited by E. Lobel and D. Page. Oxford, 1955.
In Russian translation:
In Ellinskie poety. Translated by V. V. Veresaev. Moscow, 1963.


Iarkho, V., and K. Polonskaia. Antichnaia lirika. Moscow, 1967. Pages 49–52.
Bowra, C. M. Greek Lyric Poetry. Oxford, 1961.

Sappho (c. 620–c. 565 B. C.)

lyric poet sometimes called the “tenth muse.” [Gk. Lit.: Benét, 896–897]
See: Poetry


6th century bc, Greek lyric poetess of Lesbos