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(flourished 610–c. 570 BC, Lesbos, Asia Minor) Greek lyric poet. Although legends about her abound, little is known of her life. She was born on the island of Lesbos and became the leader of a thiasos, an informal female community, whose purpose was the education of young women, especially for marriage. The principal themes of her poetry are personal and reflect the activities and atmosphere of the thiasos. Her writing, mostly vernacular and not formally literary, is concise, direct, picturesque, and various. It includes nuptial songs and an expression of her love for other women, which produced the word lesbian (from the island's name). Though she was much admired in antiquity, most of her work was lost by the early Middle Ages; only an ode to Aphrodite28 lines longis complete.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Sappho, visit Britannica.com.