Sappho and Homosexuality

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Sappho and Homosexuality Sappho was a Greek poet in the archaic period. She lived on the island of Lesbos working at a girl’s boarding school (Bing, 1991). In Sappho’s poetry we can see many examples of her rebellion against the traditional gender roles of the archaic period in Greek culture. Although only one poem has been fully recovered, the rest only in fragments, we can still get a firm grasp of the types of messages she was trying to portray about gender biases and relationships between women (Pomeroy, 2004). Her poetry demonstrates a very high level of sexual interest in women which although was not extremely uncommon, homosexuality does not operate within the gender roles and norms. Sappho ran what is known as “Sappho’s circle”, a group of young women whose common interest was forming intimate relationships although the women were limited to only have sexual relationships with herself (Duban, 1983). In this group, women learned to play music along with other subjects. This shows a lack of dependence on men. In archaic Greek culture, women are meant to be governed by men. This circle allowed women to educate themselves freely on whatever topic they so desired. Sappho’s poems depict her feelings towards the young women in her circle and the sexual bonds they all shared (Bing, 1991). Homosexuality was not openly common in Greece. An exception to this would be in times during war. Both men and women would participate in acts of homosexual intercourse to presumably satisfy their sexual needs while away from their spouses (Pomeroy, 2004). Homosexuality was also considered acceptable when used in education and in no way due to a sexual attraction. Sappho has proved otherwise in her poetry. With her erotic and provocative descriptions of women, she shows a desire to be with a woman in more ways than the ones deemed as socially acceptable. In one of the

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