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The Poems of Sappho, Part IV


H?mitu'bion stala'sson.

A napkin dripping.

From the Scholiast on the Plutus of Aristophanes to show the meaning of h?mitu'bion. This was a piece of soft linen for wiping the hands.


To`n vo`n paida kalei.

Him she called her son.

From Apollonius to show the use of digamma.


Paides, a?'fwnos e?oi^sa to'd? e?nne'pw, ai?' tis e?'rntai,
     Fwna`n a?kama'tan katðe'mena pro` podw^n,
A?iðopi'aj me ko'raj Latou^s a?ne'ðhken A?ri'sta
     E?rmokleidai'a tw^ Saonaïa'da,
ca` pro'polos, de'spoina gynaikw^n, a?^j su` xarei^sa
     pro'frwn a!mete'ron ei?kkle'ïson genea'n.

Maidens, although I am dumb, yet thus I speak, if any ask and place at your feet one with an untiring voice: To Aethopia the daughter of Leto was I consecrated by Arista, daugther of Hermocleides Saonaiades, thy servent, O queen of women; whom mayest thou bless and deign to glorify our house.

From the Greek Anthology. It is a difficult and obscure piece. Bergk has not attempted to restore the Aeolic form.


Tima'dos a?'de ko'nis, ta`n dh` rpo` ga'moio ðanou^san
      de'ksato fersefo'nas ku'aneos ða'lamos,
as kai` e?pofðime'nas pa^sai neoða^gi cida'rwj
      a?'likes immerta`n kra^tos e?'ðento ko'man.

This is the dust of Timas whom the dark chamber of Persephone recieved, dead before her wedding; when she died all her companions clipped with sharpened metal all their lovely tresses.

Here rests the dust of Timas who, unwed,
Passed the dark portals of Persephone.
With sharpened metal, when her spirit fled,
Her mourning friends each shore her fair-tressed head.

The version of J.A. Symonds is as follows:

This is the dust of Timas, whom, unwed,
Persephone locked in her darksome bed:
For her, the maids who were her fellows, shore
Their curls and to her tomb this tribute bore.

The verse is from the Greek Anthology.


A?'nðe? a?me'rgousan pai^d? a?'gan a?pala'n.

A most tender maiden gathering flowers.

Quoted by Athenaeus.


Po'lu pa'kidos ?adumeleste'ra, xru'sw xrucote'ra.

Than the lyre, far sweeter in tone, than gold, more golden.

Far sweeter than the throbbing lyre in sound,
A voice more golden than gold, new found.

Quoted by Demetrius to show the poetical value of hyperbolical phrase.


Maximus Tyrius says that Socrates calls Love the wizard, while Sappho uses the term myðoplo'kos, "fiction weaving."


Aristides quotes Sappho as saying to` ga'nos ... ou? diafðei^ron ta`s o?'pseis, "the brightness...not destroying the sight."


'Podopth'xeis kai 'e?likw'pides kai` kallipa'rhjoi
kai` meilixofwnoi.

With rosy cheeks and glancing eyes and voices sweet as honey.

Philostratus says that this indeed is Sappho's sweet salutation.

Aristaenetus says that Sappho in a hymeneal song uses the epithet meilixo'fwnoi, "soft voiced".


Pausanias, about A.D. 180, says of Sappho that concerning love she sang many things that do not always agree with one another.


Himerius, apparently quoting, says "Thou are the evening star, of all stars the fairest I think," and he says that the line comes from Sappho's song to Hesperus. Again, he says, quoting: "Now thou didst appear like that fairest of all stars; for the Athenians call thee, Hesperus."

Himerius also refers to an ode which was apparently an imitation of the work of Sappho. The ode has been transcribed by J.A. Symonds.


The Scholiast on Hesiod, Op. et D., 74, says that Sappho calls persausion, A?frodiths ðugate'ra.


Athenaeus mentions Ba'rwmos and sa'rbitos, two stringed instruments in use in the time of Sappho. Their exact character is not known. He also gives the form Ba'rmos for the name of the former instrument.

A few single words or short phrases attributed to Sappho have been preserved here or there by various writers. Some examples may be given as they have a certain interest.

Eustathius speaks of a "vagabond friendship, as Sappho would say," kalo`n dhmo'sion--"a public good."

The "Lexicon Sequerianum" defines A?'kakos as meaning "without experience of ill," and says "so Sappho uses the word."

The "Etymologicum Magnum" defines A?mamaksu's as a vine trained on poles, and says that Sappho makes the plural a?mam'ksudes. The same work mentions Sappho's use of the form au?'ws for h?'ws, "the dawn."

Pollus says that Sappho used the word Beu^dos for a woman's dress.

Phrynichus, the grammarian, says that Sappho calls a woman's dressing-case where she keeps her scents, gru'th.

A Parisian manuscript (ed. Cramer) says: "Among the Aeolian z is used for d, as when Sappho says zabaton for dia'baton, 'fordable'."

Cheoeroboscus says: "Sappho makes the accusative of ki'ndunos, danger, ki'ndun." Another writer says ki'nduna.

Photius, in his Lexicon (ninth century) says: "ða'psos is a wood used to dye hair and wool yellow, which Sappho called ksu'lon Skuðiko'n, Scythian wood."

The Fayum fragments in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, brought there in 1879, contain among other things a very small scrap with a very imperfect text on both sides of it. The fragment is considered to be of the eight century A.D., and Professor Blass of Kiel ascribes the text to Sappho, judging by the metre and the dialect. There is a posthumous essay by Bergk on this subject in the fourth edition, 1882, of his "Poetae Lyrici Graeci," but the text of the fragments is so exceedingly imperfect that attempts at restoration are the merest conjectures.

Finally, the following verse may be quoted:

Kei^non a?^ xruso'ðrone Mou^s?, e?'nicpes
u?'mnon e?k ta^s kalligu'naikos e?sðla^s
Thios xw'ras o?'n a?ei'de terpnw^s pre'sbus a?gauo`s.

O Muse, golden throned, sing that strain which the revered elder of Teos, from the rich land of fair women, sang so melodiuosly.

This verse was almost certainly not written by Sappho. Athenaeus says that "Hemesianax was mistaken when he represented Sappho and Anacreon as contemporaries, for Anacreon lived in the time of Cyrus and Polycrates [about 563-478 B.C.], while Sappho lived in the reign of Alyattes, father of Croesus." It is extremely improbable that Sappho was still living when Anacreon was born.