Teaching Students About Sappho


Sappho, a revered and celebrated lyric poet from 6th century BCE, is known for her powerful and emotional poems that express love, longing, and the beauty of nature. As one of the earliest documented female poets, Sappho’s works and legacy hold specific historical significance. Incorporating her works into curricula will not only expose students to ancient Greek literature but also help them engage with themes still relevant today.

The Life of Sappho

To provide students with a comprehensive understanding of Sappho’s importance in literary history, begin by discussing her life in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. While little is known about her family and personal life, Sappho was highly regarded in her time. Teachers should also touch upon the influence she had on poetry in ancient Greece and beyond. By understanding the context in which she lived and wrote, students can grasp how remarkable her accomplishments were.

Sappho’s Poetic Style

An important aspect of teaching about Sappho is exploring her poetic style. Characterized by their intense passion and vivid imagery, Sappho’s poems employ a unique meter called “Sapphic meter.” Explaining this concept to students will enhance their appreciation for the artistic skill and innovation underlying her poems.

Her Themes

The themes touched upon in Sappho’s poetry remain relatable to modern audiences. Her exploration of love, desire, heartbreak, friendship, loss, and the celebration of femininity are timeless subjects. By delving into these themes with students, teachers can foster thought-provoking discussions on how these topics continue to resonate with readers.

Fragmentary Nature of Her Work

It is essential to inform students that only a portion of Sappho’s original works has been preserved due to the passage of time. This fragmentary nature presents a unique opportunity to discuss preservation and the interpretation of ancient texts. By reflecting on the process of piecing together bits of historical information, students can gain valuable critical thinking skills.

 Sappho’s Legacy

Sappho’s legacy extends beyond the realm of poetry. Due to her intimate writings expressing love for women, she also became associated with the development of female homosexual identity. It is important to address this aspect when teaching students about Sappho. Understanding how the term “lesbian” originated from Sappho’s home island, Lesbos, can provide a valuable learning moment for students.


Incorporating Sappho into an educational program exposes students to the beauty and influence of her poetry while inviting them to engage with broader themes and historical perspectives. By introducing learners to powerful female literary figures like Sappho, educators can inspire a passion for poetry and spark valuable discussions on topics that span centuries.

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