Sappho was the greatest poet of antiquity, when the ancient Greeks were saying “the poetess” they meant Sappho, as they referred to Homer by saying "the poet." For the life of Sappho little is known, basically from her poems, from a papyrus of 200 AD and from the famous Byzantine dictionary Souda of the 10th century. We know that Sappho was born in Lesvos, around 630 B.C, a time of social and cultural prosperity on the island. She was of aristocratic origin, she had three brothers and she gave birth to one daughter. She was involved in politics at a time of political turbulence with a result her exile to Syracuse when tyrant Pittacus seized power. She returned from exile at some point and spent the rest of her life in Lesbos, founding a conservatory for the girls of aristocratic class, where she taught them poetry, music and dance.
She had a close relationship with her students and in her poems she was praising the affection between girls, she was accused for that as homosexual, that’s how the term lesbian was created (because her island was Lesvos). However, there was no word or hint that she was referring to gay sex in her poems. In her era she enjoyed great respect and appreciation, both in Greece and Italy. Plato called her the "tenth muse" and she was honored with many statues (in Syracuse’s town hall, in Pergamon etc). She was even immortalized in the currency of Lesbos. The Attic comedy writers started to satirize her as a lover of girls, in later centuries the moralists anathematized her poetry as obscene, the Christians of Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople banned her works in various historical eras, Pope Gregory VII ordered the burning of her poetry collections. Sappho wrote nine volumes of erotic poems, hymns and wedding songs, only excerpts have been saved by Alexandrian scholars. In 2014, in a papyrus of the 3rd AD century, were discovered two more of her poems. We do not know for sure how she died, if we believe Ovid she committed suicide by jumping off a cliff because of her love for someone, but that might be a myth. She probably died around 570 B.C.
SAPPHO SELECTED POEMS