'It is something natural that people who fancy themselves beautiful and elegant should be
fond of flowers; on which account the companions of Persephone are represented as
gathering flowers. And Sappho says she saw--
anthe' amergousan paid' agan hapalan.
'A maiden full tender plucking flowers.'
Frs. 122, 123
Poly paktidos adumelestera, chrusô chrusotera.
Far sweeter of tone than harp, more golden than gold.
Quoted by Demetrius as an example of hyperbolic phrase. A commentator on
Hermogenes the rhetorician says: 'These things basely flatter the ear, like the erotic phrases
which Anacreon and Sappho use, galaktos leukotera, whiter than milk, hydatos hapalôtera,
fresher than water, pêktidôn emmelestera, more musical than the harp, hippou gaurotera,
more skittish than a horse, rhodôn habrotera, more delicate than the rose, himatiou heanou
malakôtera, softer than a fine robe, chrusou timiôtera, more precious than gold.'
'Wherefore also Sappho is eloquent and sweet when she sings of Beauty, and of
Love and Spring and the Kingfisher; and every beautiful expression is woven into her poetry,
besides what she herself invented.'
Maximus Tyrius says:--
'Diotima says that Love flourishes in prosperity, but dies in adversity; a sentiment
which Sappho comprehends when she calls Love glukipikros, bitter-sweet [cf. fr. 40] and
algesidôros, giver of pain. Socrates calls Love the wizard, Sappho mythoplokos, the weaver
To melêma toumon.
Quoted by Julian, and by Theodorus Hyrtacenus in the twelfth century A.D., as of 'the wise
Sappho.' Bergk says Sappho would have written to melêma hômon in her own dialect.
'To ganos, the brightress, standing over the whole city, hou diaphtheiron tas opseis,
not destroying the sight, as Sappho says, but developing at once and crowning and watering
with cheerfulness; in no way huakinthinô anthei homoion, like a hyacinth-flower, but such as
earth and sun never yet showed to men.'
'Anacreon . . . says they are crowned also with dill, as both Sappho [cf. fr. 78] and
Alcaeus say; though these also say selinois, with parsely.'
'Thus contend [the maidens] rhodopêchis kai likôpides kai kalliparêoi kai meliphônoi, with
rosy arms and glancing eyes and fair cheeks and honeyed voices--this indeed is Sappho's
'Before the porch the most musical and meilichophônoi, soft-voiced, of the maidens sang the
hymeneal song; this indeed is Sappho's sweetest utterance.'
Antipater of Sidon, Anthol. Pal. ix. 66, and others, call Sappho sweet-voiced.
Libanius the rhetorician, about the fourth century A.D., says:--
'If therefore nought prevented Sappho the Lesbian from praying nukta autê
genesthai diplasian, that the night might be doubled for her, let me also ask for something
similar. Time, father of year and months, stretch out this very year for us as far as may be,
as, when Herakles was born, thou didst prolong the night.'
Bergk thinks that Sappho probably prayed for nukta triplasian, a night thrice as long
as an ordinary night, in reference to the myth of Jupiter and Alcmene, the mother of
'A hundred furlongs further (from Elaea, a city in Aeolis) is Cané, the promontory
opposite to Lectum, and forming the Gulf of Adramyttium, of which the Elaïtic Gulf is a
part. Canae is a small city of the Locrians of Cynus, over against the most southerly
extremity of Lesbos, situated in the Canaean territory, which extends to Arginusae and the
overhanging cliff which some call Aega, as if "a goat," but the second syllable should be
pronounced long, Aegâ, like akta and archa, for this was the name of the whole
mountain which at present is called Cané or Canae . . . and the promontory itself seems afterwards
to have been called Aega, as Sappho says, the rest Canê or Canae.'
The Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius says:--
'Apollonius calls Love the son of Aphrodite, Sappho of Earth and Heaven.'
But the Argument prefixed to Theocritus, Idyl xiii., says:--
'Sappho called Love the child of Aphrodite and heaven.'
And Pausanias, about 180 A.D., says:--
'On Love Sappho the Lesbian sang many things which do not agree with one
another. Cf. fr. 74.
'Thou art, I think, an evening-star, of all stars the fairest: this is Sappho's song to
Hesperus.' And again: 'Now thou didst appear like that fairest of all stars; for the Athenians
call thee Hesperus.'
Bergk thinks Sappho's line ran thus:--
Asterôn pantôn ho kalistos ...
Of all stars the fairest.
Elsewhere Himerius refers to what seems an imitation of Sappho, and says: 'If an ode
had been wanted, I should have given him such an ode as this (Web note: Greek omitted)--
Bride teeming with rosy loves, bride, fairest image of the goddess of Paphos, go to
the couch, go to the bed, softly sporting, sweet to the bridegroom. May Hesperus lead thee
rejoicing, honouring Hera of the silver throne, goddess of marriage.
Bride, in whose breast haunt rosy loves!
Bride, fairest of the Paphian groves!
Hence, to thy marriage rise, and go!
Hence, to thy bed, where thou shalt show
With honeyed play thy wedded charms,
Thy sweetness in the bridegroom's arms!
Let Hesper lead thee forth, a wife,
Willing and worshipping for life,
The silver-throned, the wedlock dame,
Queen Hera, wanton without shame!
J. A. SYMONDS, 1883.
The Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius says:--
'The story of the love of Selene is told by Sappho, and by Nicander in the second
book of his Europa; and it is said that Selene came to Endymion in the same cave' (on
Mount Latmus in Caria).
The Scholiast on Hesiod, Op. et D., 74, says:--
'Sappho calls Persuasion Aphroditês thugatera, Daughter of Aphrodite.'
Cf. Fr. 141.
Maximus Tyrius says:--
'Socrates blames Xanthippe for lamenting his death, as Sappho blames her
daughter (Web note: Greek omitted)--
For lamentation may not be in a poet's house:
such things befit not us.'
In the home of the Muses 'tis bootless to mourn.
Aristotle, in his Rhetoric, ii. 23, writes (Web note: Greek omitted):--
[Death is evil; the Gods have so judged: had it been good, they would die.]
Gregory, commenting on Hermogenes, also quotes the same saying (Web note: Greek omitted):--
Several attempts have been made to restore these words to a metrical form, and this of
Hartung's appears to be the simplest:--
To thnaskein kakon; houtô kekrikasi theoi
ethnaskon gar an eiper kalon hên tode.
Death is evil; the Gods have so judged: had it been good, they would die.
The preceding fragment (136) seems to have formed part of the same ode as the present.
Perhaps it was this ode, which Sappho sent to her daughter forbidding her to lament her
mother's death, that Solon is said to have so highly praised. The story is quoted from Aelian
by Stobaeus thus: 'Solon the Athenian [who died about 558 B.C.], son of Execestides, on
his nephew's singing an ode of Sappho's over their wine, was pleased with it, and bade the
boy teach it him; and when some one asked why he took the trouble, he said (Greek omitted), 'That I may
not die before I have learned it.'
'Naucratis has produced some celebrated courtesans of exceeding beauty; as
Doricha, who was beloved by Charaxus, brother of the beautiful Sappho, when he went to
Naucratis on business, and whom she accuses in her poetry of having robbed him of much.
Herodotus calls her Rhodopis, not knowing that Rhodopis was different from the Doricha
who dedicated the famous spits at Delphi.'
Herodotus, about 440 B.C., said:--
'Rhodopis came to Egypt with Xanthes of Samos; and having come to make money,
she was ransomed for a large sum by Charaxus of Mitylene, son of Scamandronymus and
brother of Sappho the poetess. Thus Rhodopis was made free, and continued in Egypt, and
being very lovely acquired great riches for a Rhodopis, though no way sufficient to erect
such a pyramid [as Mycerinus'] with. For as any one who wishes may to this day see the
tenth of her wealth, there is no need to attribute any great wealth to her. For Rhodopis was
desirous of leaving a monument to herself in Greece, and having had such a work made as
no one ever yet devised and dedicated in a temple, to offer it at Delphi as a memorial of
herself: having therefore made from the tenth of her wealth a great number of iron spits for
roasting oxen, as far as the tenth allowed, she sent them to Delphi; and they are still piled up
behind the altar which the Chians dedicated, and opposite the temple itself. The courtesans
of Naucratis are generally very lovely: for in the first place this one, of whom this account is
given, became so famous that all the Greeks became familiar with the name Rhodopis; and in
the next place, after her another whose name was Archidice became celebrated throughout
Greece, though less talked about than the former. As for Charaxus, after ransoming
Rhodopis he returned to Mitylene, where Sappho ridiculed him bitterly in an ode.'
' It is said that the tomb of the courtesan was erected by her lovers: Sappho the lyric
poet calls her Doricha. She was beloved by Sappho's brother Charaxus, who traded to the
port of Naucratis with Lesbian wine. Others call her Rhodopis.'
And another writer (Appendix Prov., iv. 51) says:--
'The beautiful courtesan Rhodopis, whom Sappho and Herodotus commemorate,
was of Naucratis in Egypt.'
' The beautiful Sappho in several places celebrates her brother, Larichus, as cup-bearer to the Mitylenaeans in the town-hall.'
The Scholiast on the Iliad, xx. 234, says:--
'It was the custom, as Sappho also says, for well-born and beautiful youths to pour
Cf. fr. 5.
Palaephatus, probably an Alexandrian Greek, says:--
'Phaon gained his livelihood by a boat and the sea; the sea was crossed by a ferry;
and no complaint was made by any one, since he was just, and only took from those who
had means. He was a wonder among the Lesbians for his character. The goddess--they call
Aphrodite "the goddess"--commends the man, and having put on the appearance of a
woman now grown old, asks Phaon about sailing; he was swift to wait on her and carry her
across and demand nothing. What thereupon does the goddess do? They say she
transformed the man and restored him to youth and beauty. This is that Phaon, her love for
whom Sappho several times made into a song.'
The story is repeated by many writers. Cf. fr. 29.
[Fr. 141 now appears as fr. 57 A, q.v.]
'Yet that gold does not contract rust the Lesbian poetess is a witness,
and gold itself shows it.'
And the Scholiast on Pindar, Pyth., iv. 407 :--
'But gold is indestructible; and so says Sappho, (Greek omitted) --
Gold is son of Zeus, no moth nor worm devours it.
Sappho's own phrase is lost.
Aulus Gellius, about 160 A.D., writes:--
'Homer says Niobe had six sons and six daughters, Euripides seven of
each, Sappho nine, Bacchylides and Pindar ten.'
Cf. Fr. 31, the only line extant from the ode here referred to.
Servius, commenting on Vergil, Aeneid, vi, 21, says:--
'Some would have it believed that Theseus rescued along with
himself seven boys and seven maidens, as Plato says in his Phaedo, and
Sappho in her lyrics, and Bacchylides in his dithyrambics, and Euripides
in his Hercules.'
No such passage from Sappho has been preserved.
Servius, commenting on Vergil, Eclog. vi. 42, says:--
'Prometheus, son of Iapetus and Clymene, after he had created
man, is said to have ascended to heaven by help of Minerva, and having
applied a small torch [or perhaps 'wand'] to the sun's wheel, he stole
fire and showed it to men. The Gods being angered hereby sent two
evils upon the earth, fevers and disease [the text here is obviously
corrupt, it ought to be 'women and disease' or 'fevers and women'], as
Sappho and Hesiod tell."
'Sappho loves the Rose, and always crowns it with some praise,
likening beautiful maidens to it.'
This remark seems to have led some of the earlier collectors of
Sappho's fragments to include the 'pleasing song in commendation of
the Rose' quoted by Achilles Tatius in his love-story Clitophon and
Leucippe, but there is no reason to attribute it to Sappho. Mrs. E. B.
Browning thus translated it:--
SONG OF THE ROSE.
If Zeus chose us a king of the flowers in his mirth,
He would call to the Rose and would royally crown it,
For the Rose, ho, the Rose, is the grace of the earth,
Is the light of the plants that are growing upon it.
For the Rose, ho, the Rose, is the eye of the flowers,
Is the blush of the meadows that feel themselves fair--
Is the lightning of beauty that strikes through the bowers
On pale lovers who sit in the glow unaware.
Ho, the Rose breathes of love! Ho, the Rose lifts the cup
To the red lips of Cypris invoked for a guest!
Ho, the Rose, having curled its sweet leaves for the world,
Takes delight in the motion its petals keep up,
As they laugh to the wind as it laughs from the west!
And Mr. J. A. Symonds (1883):--
THE PRAISE OF ROSES.
If Zeus had willed it so
That o'er the flowers one flower should reign a queen,
I know, ah well I know
The rose, the rose, that royal flower had been!
She is of earth the gem,
Of flowers the diadem;
And with her flush
The meadows blush;
Nay, she is beauty's self that brightens
In Summer, when the warm air lightens!
Her breath's the breath of Love,
Wherewith he lures the dove
Of the fair Cyprian queen;
Her petals are a screen
Of pink and quivering green,
For Cupid when he sleeps,
Or for mild Zephyrus, who laughs and weeps.
'Sappho loves flowers with a personal sympathy,' writes
Professor F. T. Palgrave. "Cretan girls," she says, "with their soft feet
dancing lay flat the tender bloom of the -grass" [fr. 54]: she feels for the
hyacinth "which shepherds on the mountain tread under foot, and the
purple flower is on the ground" [fr. 94]: she pities the wood-doves
(apparently) as their "life grows cold and their wings fall" before the
archer' [fr. 16].
'These gifts of yours must now be likened to those of the leader
of the Muses himself, as Sappho and Pindar, in an ode, adorn him with
golden hair and lyres, and attend him with a team of swans to Helicon
while he dances with Muses and Graces; or as poets inspired by the
Muses crown the Bacchanal (for thus the lyre calls him, meaning
Dionysos), when Spring has just flashed out for the first time, with
Spring flowers and ivy-clusters, and lead him, now to the topmost
heights of Caucasus and vales of Lydia, now to the cliffs of Parnassus
and the rock of Delphi, while he leaps and gives his female followers the
note for the Evian tune.'
'There is, we see, a vagabond friendship, as Sappho would say,
kalon dêmosian, a public blessing.'
This appears to have been said against Rhodopis. Cf. fr. 138.
The Lexicon Seguerianum defines--
'Akakos, one who has no experience of ill, not, one who is good-natured. So Sappho uses the word.'
The Etymologicum Magnum defines--
'Amamaxus, a vine trained on long poles, and says Sappho makes the
plural amamaxudes. So Choeroboscus, late in the sixth century A.D.,
says 'the occurrence of the genitive amamaxudos [the usual form being
amamaxuos] in Sappho is strange.'
The Etymologicum Magnum says of Amara, a trench for watering
meadows, 'because it is raised by a water-bucket, amê being a mason's
instrument'--that it is a word Sappho seems to have used; and Orion,
about the fifth century A.D., also explains the word similarly, and says
Sappho used it.
'And in this way metaplasms of words [i.e., tenses or cases
formed from non-existent presents or nominatives] arise, like
erusarmates [chariot-drawing], lita [cloths], and in Sappho to aua,
And the Etymologicum Magnum says:--
'We find para tên auav [during the morning] in Aeolic, for
"during the day."'
The Etymologicum Magnum says:--
Auôs or êôs, that is, the day; thus we read in Aeolic. Sappho has--
potnia auôs, Queen Dawn.'
The solemn Dawn.
'The barômos [baromos] and sarbitos [sarbitos], both of which
are mentioned by Sappho and Anacreon,and the Magadis and the
Triangles and the Sambucae, are all ancient instruments.'
Athenaeus in another place, apparently more correctly, gives the
name of the first as barmos [barmos].
What these instruments precisely were is unknown. Cf. p. 46.
'Sappho used the word beudos for a woman's dress, a kimbericon, a
kind of short transparent frock.'
Phrynichus the grammarian, about 180 A.D., says:--
' Sappho calls a woman's dressing-case, where she keeps her
scents and such things, grutê.'
Hesychius, about 370 A.D., says Sappho called Zeus Hektôr, Hector,
i.e. 'holding fast.'
A Parisian MS. edited by Cramer says:--
'Among the Aeolians z is used for d, as when Sappho says
zapaton for diabaton, fordable.'
A Scholiast on Homer quotes agagoiên, may I lead, from
Eustathius, commenting on the Iliad, quotes the grammarian
Aristophanes [about 260 B.C.] as saying that Sappho calls a wind that is
as if twisted up and descending, a cyclone, anemon katarê, a wind
rushing from above.
Nauck would restore the epithet to verse 2 of fr. 42.
'Sappho makes the accusative of kindunos, danger, kindun.'
Another writer, in the Codex Marc., says:-- 'Sappho makes the
Joannes Alexandrinus, about the seventh century A.D., says:--
'The acute accent falls either on the last syllable or the last but
one or the last but two, but never on the last but three; the accent of
Mêdeia [Medeia the sorceress, wife of Jason] in Sappho is allowed by
supposing the ei to form a diphthong.'
An unknown author, in Antiatticista, says:--
'Sappho, in her second book, calls smirna, myrrh, myrra.'
A treatise on grammar edited by Cramer says:--
'The genitive plural of Mousa is Môsaôn among the Laconians,
Moisaôn, of the Muses, in Sappho.'
Nitron, natron (carbonate of soda) is the form 'an Aeolian
would use, such as Sappho, with a n; but,' he goes on, 'an Athenian
would spell it with a l, litron."
A Scholiast on Homer, Iliad, iii. 219, says:--
'Sappho said polyidridi, of much knowledge, as the dative of
Photius, in his Lexicon, about the ninth century A.D., says:--
Thapsos is a wood with which they dye wool and hair yellow,
which Sappho calls Skuthikon xylon, Scythian wood.'
And the Scholiast on Theocritus, Idyl ii. 88, says:--
'Thapsos is a kind of wood which is also called skutharion or
Scythian wood, as Sappho says; and in this they dip fleeces and make
them of a quince-yellow, and dye their hair yellow; among us it is called chrusoxylon, gold-wood.'
Ahrens thinks that here the Scholiast quoted Sappho, and he thus
restores the verses:-- [Web note: Greek omitted]
Scythian wood, in which they dip fleeces and make them quince-coloured, and dye their hair yellow.
Thapsus may have been box-wood, but it is quite uncertain.
The Etymologicum Magnum says:--
'The Aeolians say Tioisin ophthalmoisin, with what eyes . . .
[using tioisi for tisi, the dative plural of tis] as Sappho does.'
Orion of Thebes, the grammarian, about 450 A. D., says:--
'In Sappho chelônê, a tortoise'; which is better written cheluna,
as other writers imply.
'Bowls with a boss in the middle are called balaneiomphaloi,
circular-bottomed, from their shape, chrusomphaloi, gold-bottomed,
from the material, like Sappho's chrusastragaloi, with golden ankles.'
Some few other fragments are attributed to Sappho, but Bergk
admits none as genuine. Above is to be seen every word which he
considered hers. An account of some which have recently been brought
to light is given on the succeeding pages. [Web note: Wharton's account
of the Fayum Fragments is omitted]