Sappho Greek Poetess Lesbos Museum Sculpture Bust 24″. Sappho (pronounced /?sæfo?/ in English; Attic Greek ????? IPA: [sap????], Aeolic Greek ????? [psap????]) was an Ancient Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. Later Greeks included her in the canonical list of nine lyric poets. In history and poetry texts, she is sometimes associated with the city of Mytilene on Lesbos (Carson 2002); she was also said to have been born in Eresos, another city on Lesbos. Her birth was sometime between 630 BC and 612 BC, and it is said that she died around 570 BC. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost, but her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments. Sappho’s poetry centers on passion and love for various personages and genders. The word “lesbian” derives from the name of the island of her birth, Lesbos; her name is also the origin of its less common synonym sapphic. The narrators of many of her poems speak of infatuations and love (sometimes requited, sometimes not) for various females, but descriptions of physical acts between women are few and subject to debate. Whether these poems are meant to be autobiographical is not known, although elements of other parts of Sappho’s life do make appearances in her work, and it would be compatible with her style to have these intimate encounters expressed poetically, as well. Her homoerotica should be placed in the seventh century (BC) context. The poems of Alcaeus and later Pindar record similar romantic bonds between the members of a given circle. Sappho’s contemporary Alcaeus described her thus: “Violet-haired, pure, honey-smiling Sappho” (??????? ???? ???????????? ??????, fr. 384). The 3rd century philosopher Maximus of Tyre wrote that Sappho was “small and dark” and that her relationships to her female friends were similar to those of Socrates: ” What else was the love of the Lesbian woman except Socrates’ art of love? For they seem to me to have practised love each in their own way, she that of women, he that of men. For they say that both loved many and were captivated by all things beautiful. What Alcibiades and Charmides and Phaedrus were to him, Gyrinna and Atthis and Anactoria were to the Lesbian”. During the Victorian era, it became the fashion to describe Sappho as the headmistress of a girls’ finishing school. As Page DuBois (among many other experts) points out, this attempt at making Sappho understandable and palatable to the genteel classes of Great Britain was based more on conservative sensibilities than evidence. There are no references to teaching, students, academies, or tutors in any of Sappho’s scant collection of surviving works. Burnett follows others, like C.M. Bowra, in suggesting that Sappho’s circle was somewhat akin to the Spartan agelai or the religious sacred band, the thiasos, but Burnett nuances her argument by noting that Sappho’s circle was distinct from these contemporary examples because “membership in the circle seems to have been voluntary, irregular and to some degree international.” The notion that Sappho was in charge of some sort of academy persists nonetheless.