Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Explain to me... where the term Lesbian came from

The term Lesbian is derived from the beautiful Greek Island of Lesbos (or Lesvos). It was the birth place of the poet Sapho lived in 600 B.C. Sapho was considered a great lyrical poet in her era (and would have been considered an intellectual poet), who was well know for writing romantic poetry to other women.

(To the left is a bust of Sapho)

Sapho was born sometime between 630 BC and 612 BC and thought to have died around 570 BC. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost (some reports state due to religious fanaticism), but her immense reputation has endured.

Sappho is mainly considered to have been bisexual, as she wrote love poems to both men and women. Her name is also the original of the lesser known term “Sapphic” (which is used to referred to lesbians despite the opinion that she was bisexual rather than strictly homosexual.

Here is an example of Sapho’s poetry, translated by Mary Barnard

I have not had one word from her

Frankly I wish I were dead
When she left, sh
e wept

a great deal; she said to me, "This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly."

I said, "Go, and be happy
but remember (you know
well) whom you leave shackled by love

"If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aph
and all the loveliness that we shared

"all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined
around your young neck

"myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they m
ost wished for beside them

"while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloo
med in spring without song..."

Lesbos is a beautiful Greek island and a popular tourist destination. It is easy to see why.

Interesting fact, Lesbos also contains one of the few known Petrified Forests that exist in the World.

(a photo of the coast of Lesbos)

No comments: