The reception of Sappho's poetry even through the twentieth century offers a case study of the conflicts induced by the sexual preferences she seemingly alludes to in her verse. Maximus of Tyre suggested that her group was similar to the group that surrounded Socrates, where eros and learning went hand in hand. In antiquity Sappho was regularly counted among the greatest of poets and was often referred to as "the Poetess," just as Homer was called "the Poet. In the same way the negative images that had originally been designed to avert evil become instead critical, defamiliarizing explorations of contradictions in human experience or tensions in the psychic self. Her attitudes toward love attracted a great deal of attention, both positive and negative.
Finally, she is widely recognized as one of the great poets of world literature, an author whose works have caused her readers to repeat in many different forms Strabo's amazed epithet when he wrote that she could only be called "a marvel. Her work, though perhaps composed in writing, was meant to be performed orally, as can be seen from poems , , and others. The locus amoenus that had been that vision of heaven which by initiating the worshipper assured admission is moving here toward the less enchanting trance of modern Unterhaltungsliteratur and the glowing television tube. An Anacreontic fragment that was written in the generation after Sappho sneers at Lesbians. In literary history and critical theory Sappho's greatest importance is to be found in her contribution to the idea of the lyric genre. The classical scholar Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff defended her with great self-righteousness as a schoolteacher like himself who was devoted to educational and even spiritual aims, while Sir Denys Page strained to maintain that, while the nature of her desires is beyond doubt, there is no evidence that she actually made love to women in practice. Most often, however, the emphasis is on the poet's own suffering, caused by "bittersweet" love poem Rivals or those who reject her approaches provoke violent hostility, as may be seen in poems 55 and Later Christian censors in various ages in Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople condemned her in words such as those of Tatian, who called her "a whore who sang about her own licentiousness. For examples, one might cite poems 51, , and many others. Like Archilochus, she challenges the heroic ethos that buttressed patriotism most strikingly in poem 63 , and throughout her work she asserts, in a way little known in archaic and traditional societies, the potentially subversive primacy of the individual consciousness and the validity of its opinions and impulses. Many modern editors have exercised "gallantry" and "discretion" by eliminating or changing words or lines in her poems that they believed would be misunderstood by readers. Perhaps the text that best represents the more purely poetic influence of Sappho is number 31, which catalogues the physical symptoms of love longing in the writer as she watches her beloved chatting with a man. Only when one really takes seriously the testimony on the primary power of sexual energy in human life from the earliest so-called Venus figures of Anatolia to the work of Sigmund Freud do the nature and force of Sapphic piety become more explicable. In these the aesthetic ends are replacing the shaman's reliance on external events to validate the efficacy of the word. Nonetheless, an ancient, scurrilous tradition attacked and ridiculed her for her evident sexual preferences. Scholars have discussed her likely political connections and have proposed plausible biographical details, but these remain highly speculative. This poem is preserved in On the Sublime circa first century A. At the same time Sappho reminds modern readers of poetry's roots in magic and religion while occupying a firm place in Greek literary history as a metrical inventor and an expert practitioner of her art. Sappho seems also to have exchanged verses with the poet Alcaeus. For all her metrical complexity and innovation one of the meters in which she composed her poems later became known as the "Sapphic" meter , for all the vowel-rich melody of her verse, it is the content that has fascinated her readers. Unlike earlier singers, who had memorialized the values and ideology of a whole social group while remaining themselves in anonymity, the lyricists, Sappho prominent among them, found the truest and most significant material in individual experience. A good many plays centered around Sappho, though most were wholly unrelated to her life or her poetry. Just as the troubadours recorded the names of friends and enemies with meticulous precision and modern poets often insist on the paradoxical importance of ephemera, Sappho's texts assume an immediate net of circumstance and imply that only through the particular can the universal be manifested. Apparently her birthplace was either Eressos or Mytilene, the main city on the island, where she seems to have lived for some time.
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