Two poems by the Greek poet Sappho have been found in an anonymous collector’s possession, giving us a glimpse into a new side of the ancient writer’s world.
The discovery was made when Oxford University Classicist Dirk Obbink identified the author of the writings that appear on ancient papyrus.
The first of the two new poems mentions “Charaxos” and “Larichos,” the names given to Sappho’s brothers in the ancient tradition, though never mentioned in any of the poet’s surviving work. The second, more fragmentary poem, seems to be a love poem.
The discovery is exciting both because of the fact that most of Sappho’s work has not survived with only one full poem existing still, but also because the content of one poem is unlike others that have survived.
Williamson added that the first poem, which mentions Sappho’s brothers, is especially remarkable. “It’s very exciting to have a new Sappho poem that isn’t about erotic love or beauty,” she writes. “Here, for a change, is a poem that seems to refer to other relationships. … We’ve had far fewer poems of this type up till now, and as a result it’s been too easy to interpret her poems as the lone cry of a woman in love, rather than looking at the cultural context these quite sophisticated poems grew out of.”
* Via NPR.