New Sappho Poem Discovered

Posted on June 30, 2005

The Guardian reports that a poem written by Sappho over 2,600 years ago has been published for the first time.
Written more than 2,600 years ago, the 101 words of verse deal with a theme timeless in both art and soap operas; the stirrings of an ageing body towards the nimbleness, youth and love it once knew.

The poem is the rarest of discoveries. Sappho's pre-eminent reputation as an artist of lyricism and love is based on only three complete poems, 63 complete single lines and up to 264 fragments.

These are all that have survived of the writings of a woman who the Greek philosopher Plato said should be honoured not merely as a great lyric poet but as one of the Muses, the goddesses who inspire all art.

On hearing one of Sappho's poems sung, the sixth century BC Greek ruler Solon, a contemporary of hers, asked for someone to teach him the song "because I want to learn it and die"
Text containing the poem was discovered in the cartonnage of an Egyptian mummy. The Egyptians often used papyrus combined with other materials that when combined with water created a plaster-like surface that they could paint on. By combining the text found on the papyrus with other recently discovered Sappho writings from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri researchers were able to piece together Sappho's poem.

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