Sappho: Homosexual or Heterosexual

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Andrew Pearce
Dr. Smith

IDST: Sappho

Oct. 27, 2009

Sappho: Homosexual or Heterosexual?

For many centuries, scholars have argued the question of Sappho’s sexual orientation. Society, from the product of poets and philosophers from centuries after, has assumed the fact that Sappho was a homosexual. There is evidence that supports both sides, although there seems to be a debate whether the evidence is reliable. I will set out to prove in this text that this is a myth and that Sappho was not a homosexual.

There are there several facts that support the thought of Sappho’s homosexuality. The first was that from the fragments that survived, her poetry was largely about the expressions of affection towards the young girls that were close to her, including her friends, her students and her family. The second hypothesis is that she had seemed to be in the Athenian comedy as favorite stage figure that exemplified heterosexual promiscuity. Other evidence is Sappho spoke of homosexual tendencies and lesbian acts in her poetry or it is portrayed as if she did. Plays and stories really brought Sappho out to be known as a lesbian centuries after her death. This took her reputation and turned it into something associated with bad actions and insults, when in turn she became known as an erotic lesbian.

Authors created three basic strategies to interpret the reception of Sappho, which were duplication, narrativization and condensation. These three strategies were used to create the stories that we know now of Sappho. Duplication was what most ancient scholars used to try and translate all of the information they were given. What they did was duplicated Sappho into two individuals, each one was internally the same, but had completely different attributes. One was a poet, who had connections with female friends and family; the other was a prostitute, in which obviously had many male companions. The problem with this is that they could not decide...
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