UCSB Greek Myth About Sapphos

I’m stuck on a Literature question and need an explanation.

Please write a 250-500 word response to the following question prompt1): How does Sappho write about love and desire? Then choose one comparative example from modern media (a specific song you like, poem, novel, etc.) that also addresses love and desire. How does it deal with these themes? Is it dramatically different or do you see similarities? You might consider picking out specific lines from these ancient and modern examples to reference and discuss in greater detail. If you have time, then you might also think about whether you see any modern ramifications of classical myths.


(late 7th–early 6th c. BC, wrote in Greek)

Sappho was born into an aristocratic family on the island of Lesbos sometime in the late
7th century. Much of her poetry centers on erotic themes and the private relationships (in-
cluding homoerotic relationships) of a group of women with which Sappho was associated.
Called the “tenth muse” by Plato, her numerous poems were collected into nine books in
the Hellenistic period. Although some fragments, a few extensive, are preserved in quota-
tions of later authors or on papyrus scraps, this is the only one of Sappho’s poems to have
survived in its entirety. In formal terms it is a prayer and most of the standard elements of
the prayer are present: (a) an invocation (1–2), including such conventional elements as
genealogy and honorific epithets; (b) an initial statement of the request (3–5); (c) a
lengthy “reminder” of previous assistance rendered by the goddess (5–24); and (d) a second
and fuller statement of the request (25–28).

1 Prayer to Aphrodite (1 L-P)

Immortal Aphrodite on your richly crafted throne,
daughter of Zeus, weaver of snares, I beg you,
do not with sorrows and with pains subdue

my heart, O Lady,

but come to me, if ever at another time as well,
hearing my voice from far away,
you heeded it, and leaving your father’s house

of gold, you came,

yoking your chariot. Graceful sparrows
10 brought you swiftly over the black earth,

with a thick whirring of wings, from heaven down
through the middle air.

Suddenly they were here, and you, O Blessed,

with a smile on your immortal face
asked me what was wrong this time, and why

I called you this time,

and what in my maddened heart I wanted most
to happen. “Whom shall I persuade this time
to welcome you in friendship? Who is it,

Sappho, that wrongs you?

For if she flees now, soon she shall pursue;
if she refuses presents, she shall give them;
if she does not love, soon she shall love

even against her will.”

Come to me now as well; release me from
this agony; all that my heart yearns
to be achieved, achieve, and be yourself

my ally in arms.

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