Ancient Greek stele of a man, dated to the late Classical period 375-350 BCE. Above his head “ΛΕΞΙΔΗΜΟΣ” is written, transliterated as “LEXIDEMOS” in the Roman alphabet. Marble. Source: Phoenix Ancient Art.
Sappho was a Greek lyric poet who was famous through all ages for the beauty of her writing style. Through her poetry she effectively shows her lively personality by showing emotion, being concise with her language and through the ability to critically judge her own ecstasies and grief. She is ranked high in the lists of great poets.
Sappho was also well known for her leadership of a thiasos. A thiasos is a female community that has religious and educational background. The purpose of the community was to educate young girls, especially in marriage. Sappho’s thiasos was dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite. Sappho was the goddess’ servant and the intermediary between the goddess and the young women. Much of Sappho’s poetry include flowers, bright garlands, naturalistic outdoor scenes, altars smoking with incense and perfumed unguents to sprinkle on the body and bathe the hair. All of which are the elements of Aphrodite’s rituals. In the thiasos the girls were educated and initiated into grace and elegance for seduction and love. Singing, dancing, and poetry played a central role in this educational process and other cultural occasions. As was true for other female communities, including the Spartan and for the corresponding masculine institutions, the practice of homoeroticism within the thiasos played a role in the context of initiation and education. Love is a common theme in Sappho’s poetry and is the inescapable power that is controlled by the Goddess. Sappho’s poetry combined with her female education is an interesting and unique look into how young girls grew up, and what was expected of them, in the Classical World.
Head of a wounded Amazon of the so-called “Capitol-Sosicles” type; Roman marble copy after a lost Greek bronze original, created by Polyclitus or Cresilas at Ephesus, ca. 440-430 BCE. Found in the Horti of Maecenas; now in the Capitoline Museums, Rome.