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Sappho (ca 630? B.C.E.)  
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It is "an environment in which woman-loving women find freedom and wholeness as well as sanctuary from a threatening world." It is the Lesbian Nation, that symbolic space where the lesbian feels welcome and at home.

Zimmerman states that "mythically," Lesbian Nation existed on Sappho's Lesbos, but her description of Lesbian Nation, to some degree, fits in realistically with what we can infer from Sappho's poems. Namely, that there existed within this extremely rigid Greek culture a community of women who, even if just for a little while, loved one another and supported one another.

This, they would always remember. And they could draw strength from Sappho's assurance that they would live on in memory. For her prediction to her female companions has come true many times over now: "I tell you, someone will remember us, even in another time."

Anita George

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arts >> Overview:  Classical Art

Ancient Greek and Roman art represents a variety of homoerotic experience in several different ways.

social sciences >> Overview:  Greece: Ancient

The institution of pederasty (paiderastia) was a conspicuous feature of ancient Greek public and private life, but other forms of male-male sexual relations flourished in the Greco-Roman cosmopolis of the second and third centuries C.E.

literature >> Overview:  Greek Literature: Ancient

Ancient Greece holds a unique place in the heritage of homosexual literature as it was a society that openly celebrated same-sex love in its poetry and prose.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Lesbian

Since the 1960s, the general trend in lesbian poetry has been collective and political rather than purely aesthetic.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Sappho

Despite Sappho's status as most ancient lesbian foremother, her image is almost entirely absent from modern and contemporary lesbian art.

literature >> Allen, Paula Gunn

Of mixed Native American, Scottish, and Lebanese heritage, American poet and literary scholar Paula Gunn Allen reinterprets the historic and mythic beliefs of Native Americans from a twentieth-century lesbian-feminist perspective.

literature >> Barney, Natalie Clifford

In addition to being the muse and inspiration of other writers, American expatriate Natalie Barney, known as the Amazon, was a poet, memoirist, and epigrammatist in her own right.

literature >> Baudelaire, Charles

Baudelaire was among the first French poets to include lesbians as subjects.

literature >> Broumas, Olga

Greek-born lesbian poet and translator Olga Broumas writes openly erotic poems that combine ancient Greek echoes and late twentieth-century idiom.

literature >> Dickinson, Emily

Emily Dickinson's poems and letters to her sister-in-law Susan are both passionate and elusive in their homoeroticism.

literature >> Doolittle, Hilda

The bisexual poet and novelist Hilda Doolittle, who published under the initials H. D., wrote poems and autobiographical prose works that celebrate women's romantic relationships with each other.

literature >> Grahn, Judy

Judy Grahn has been an effective leader the gay rights movement, and her identity as a lesbian and a feminist has infused all of her works, in both prose and poetry.

literature >> Lorde, Audre

The work of African-American activist and writer Audre Lord was greatly influenced by her lesbianism.

literature >> Lowell, Amy

Much of Amy Lowell's poetry is extremely frank, forthrightly sensual, and often overtly lesbian.

literature >> Plutarch

No ancient is more instructive about pederasty than the Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch.

literature >> Rich, Adrienne

Adrienne Rich, who aestheticized politics and politicized aesthetics, is America's most widely read lesbian poet.

literature >> Swinburne, Algernon Charles

Algernon Charles Swinburne was interested in flagellation, sadomasochism, bisexuality, and lesbianism, not only for their erotics but also as gestures of social and cultural rebellion.

literature >> Vivien, Renée

Renée Vivien, who had many affairs with women, openly celebrated lesboerotic love in her poetry and dreamed of women-controlled spaces in an era when most women were still domestically confined.


Burnett, Anne Pippin. Three Archaic Poets. London: Gerald Duckworth, 1983.

Cantarella, Eva. Pandora's Daughters: The Role and Status of Women in Greek and Roman Antiquity. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1987.

De Jean, Joan. Fictions of Sappho 1546-1937. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Dover, Kenneth J. Greek Homosexuality. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Pres, 1978.

DuBois, Page. Sappho Is Burning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Faderman, Lillian. Surpassing the Love of Men. New York: William Morrow, 1981.

Grahn, Judy. The Highest Apple: Sappho and the Lesbian Poetic Tradition. San Francisco: Spinsters, Ink, 1985.

Hallett, Judith. "Sappho and Her Social Context." Signs 4 (1979): 447-464.

Klaich, Dolores. Woman + Woman: Attitudes Toward Lesbianism. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974.

Lefkowitz, Mary R. "Critical Stereotypes and the Poetry of Sappho." Greek, Roman & Byzantine Studies 14 (1973): 113-123.

Page, Denys. Sappho and Alcaeus. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965.

Rissman, Leah. Love as War: Homeric Allusion in the Poetry of Sappho. Konigstein: Verlag Anton Hain, 1983.

Robinson, David M. Sappho and Her Influence. Boston: Marshall Jones, 1924.

Snyder, Jane McIntosh. Lesbian Desire in the Lyrics of Sappho. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

_____. The Woman and the Lyre: Women Writers in Classical Greece and Rome. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989.

Winkler, John J. "Double Consciousness in Sappho's Lyrics." The Constraints of Desire. New York: Routledge, 1990. 162-187.

Zimmerman, Bonnie. The Safe Sea of Women: Lesbian Fiction 1969-1989. Boston: Beacon Press, 1990.


    Citation Information
    Author: George, Anita  
    Entry Title: Sappho  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated June 11, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  


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