Sappho and the Gods

Swift, Laura (2021). Sappho and the Gods. In: Finglass, Patrick and Kelly, Adrian eds. The Cambridge Companion to Sappho. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 209–222.


The gods are a constant presence in the world of early Greek poetry, and Sappho’s work is no exception. Sappho’s presentation of the gods draws on tradition, as we see her reworking the tropes of religious poetry or epic to create a relationship with the divine that suits her persona and interests. Since desire is the primary theme of her poetry, it is not surprising that the central deity in her work is Aphrodite, and this chapter begins by exploring the complex and personal relationship that Sappho constructs with this goddess. However, Aphrodite is not the only god in Sappho’s poetry, and her treatment of the rest of the pantheon has been less thoroughly treated. The second part of the chapter examines the relationship Sappho constructs with other deities through prayer. Finally, the chapter investigates how Sappho uses religious and cultic myth, and what this reveals about her poetry’s preoccupations and its performance.

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