Naturally, someone as intimately concerned with love as Sappho would be drawn to the irresistible realm of the goddess of love. And indeed, Aphrodite plays a significant role in many of Sappho's poems. It is to this goddess that Sappho addresses several of her works. In some cases, it seems as if the poet were a supplicant, begging Aphrodite for mercy from the ravages of unrequited love; in others, Sappho sings joyfully of the beautiful deity, and the poems are like graceful gifts to this golden goddess:
It is intriguing to see how deftly Sappho has woven elements related to Aphrodite into the poem, and with such subtlety - she refers to the apple not once but twice (a symbol of the goddess - think for example of the golden apple awarded to her by Paris); and roses, a flower dear to the lovely deity, are mentioned as well. The poet conjures up an image of serene and most of all natural beauty, which alludes to Aphrodite and her realm.
"Leave Krete and come to this holy temple
where the graceful grove of apple trees
circles an altar smoking with frankincense.
Here roses leave shadows on the ground
and cold springs bubble through apple branches
where shuddering leaves pour down profound sleep.
In our meadow where horses graze
and wild flowers of spring blossom,
anise shoots fill the air with aroma.
And here, Queen Aphrodite, pour
heavenly nectar into gold cups
and fill them gracefully with sudden
In honor of her contributions to Greek poetry and music, Sappho is sometimes referred to as the "tenth Muse".
Sappho in Art History
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The Norton Book of Classical Literature
This anthology has several of Sappho's poems, including the one featured on this page. In addition, many other splendid works of literature from the Classical world are featured in translation.
If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho
The poems of Sappho are translated by classicist Anne Carson in this beautiful book. It features both the original Greek and the author's English translation. The book also includes notes on the poems as well as a "who's who" of literary references.