Sappho 2: Fragment 94 Transcript

Diane Rayor: “Ἔρος δηὖτέ μ’ ὀ λυσιμέλης δόνει, γλυκύπικρον ἀμάχανον ὄρπετον.”

Ellie Brigida: Welcome to Sweetbitter, a podcast where we investigate the truth and controversy surrounding Sappho, her life, the Isle of Lesbos, and her relevance today. We’re your hosts, Ellie Brigida…

Leesa Charlotte: …and Leesa Charlotte.

EB: This episode, we’ll be going a bit deeper into life in Ancient Greece and the Isle of Lesbos, specifically what sexuality was like in Sappho’s time.

LC: As we do each episode, we’re going to start with one of Sappho’s fragments, chosen by our resident poet, Alyse. As usual, stay tuned until the end of the episode to hear our own version of the poem as a song. This one gets pretty steamy.

EB: Oh, yeah.

LC: So, we have our resident poet Alyse, who is going to read Fragment 94 for us.

Alyse Knorr: This is Sappho’s Fragment 94, as translated by Diane Rayor. “I simply wish to die. / Weeping she left me. // and told me this, too: / We’ve suffered terribly, Sappho. / I leave you against my will. // I answered: Go happily / and remember me– / you know how we cared for you. // If not, let me remind you / * / . . . the lovely times we shared. // Many crowns of violets, / roses, and crocuses together / . . . you put on by my side // and many scented wreaths / woven from blossoms / around your delicate throat. // And . . . with pure, sweet oil / [for a queen] . . . / you anointed . . .  // and on soft beds / . . . delicate . . . / you quenched your desire. // Not any . . . / no holy site . . . / we left uncovered, // no grove . . .  dance /  . . . sound.” So if you want to read this poem in Aeolic Greek, you can do that on our website on the listen section of the page. It’s actually really nice just to see it written in the beautiful Ancient Greek letters. And it’s cool.

EB: Agreed, it’s a beautiful language.

AK: It really is. So, just a quick intro on why I picked this poem. This poem, Fragment 94, fits into the theme of today’s show because it’s about loving women and having sex with women, and that’s what Sappho writes about a lot. And today’s episode is about sexuality in Ancient Greece, Sappho’s sexuality, and how Sappho writes about eros. So, quick note about eros. In Ancient Greece, homosexuality and heterosexuality weren’t opposed to one another. They didn’t even really exist. We’ll get into that later. But the distinction in sexuality and sex in Ancient Greece, Sappho’s time, is between marital love, which falls under the goddess Hera, Zeus’s wife; and passionate love, which falls under the goddess Aphrodite. And that can include affairs between men and men, men and women, women and women. So Sappho is writing about the more passionate love, eros. That’s her thing is eros.

EB: And she felt passionate love towards women in these poems.

AK: She sure did. I mean, in right in Fragment 94, you can hear how interested she is in love and the erotic, and in all of her poems she’s really invested in eros. Even when she’s writing songs that would have been performed at weddings, she’s still talking about eros, because the young women she was singing about were supposed to, sort of, still be under the spell of the goddess of love and passion.

EB: The honeymoon phase is Aphrodite?

AK: The honeymoon phase is more importantly the longing phase. So remember, eros is about longing and yearning and wanting, and it’s about the moment leading up to when you quench your desire, right? In Fragment 94 like, we’re not there yet, we’re just like–it’s all the foreplay leading up to the moment.

EB: Love it.

AK: So, I do have to point out one thing, because you’re going to hear more about this from Diane later. Diane is going to talk way more about this poem later on. But I should mention that there’s at least one scholar out there who has tried to argue that Sappho’s Fragment 94 is about taking a nap.

EB: What?

AK: And I’m just gonna put that out there.

EB: Quenching your desire for a nap on a bed, right?

LC: You all heard the poem, right? You all just heard that? Do we think it’s about a nap?

AK: I think not.

LC: Listeners decide.

EB: It is all up for debate. If you want to debate us that it’s a nap, that’s okay.

LC: I think this is a Twitter poll, honestly.

EB: Yes, is it about a nap.

AK: I mean, I’ve had some good naps in my day, but I don’t know if I’d write a poem about it. Actually, I probably would. But that’s just me. It’s a great example of just how contested Sappho’s own sexuality is, and there are good reasons for it because of the nuances of how we talk about sexuality and sexual identities in our times versus Sappho’s times. There was no such thing as a lesbian identity in Sappho’s time. So we’re going to be getting into all of that on this episode, and I’m just gonna let Marguerite Johnson take it away from here. You heard her in our last episode, she is one of our wonderful guests who spoke with us for our research, and she’s a professor of Classics at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Marguerite Johnson: Well, you know, the Greeks are famous–or infamous–for inventing homosexuality. So what they’re accused of or praised for, depending on what value system you have. But what we find is that same-sex relations, what we now would define as gay love or homosexuality, seems to be recorded with gusto from the Archaic Age. So from the period Sappho was writing, we’re getting poetry beginning to be written that talks about male homosexuality. And that goes into the Classical Age–so the fifth century BC till the fourth century BC, when Athens is at its height, it’s the Classical Athenian Renaissance–when same sex desire between men, usually an older man and a younger man, was part of the cultural fabric. And there is lots and lots and lots of material written in Classical Athens about the ideal love is love between an older man and a youth. We’re not talking about such a huge intergenerational gap, as people sometimes think. We’re talking about an adult man and–even for today, it’s awkward–a youth between the ages of about 14 to 18. That could take a sexual tone, or it could be more of an educational tone. But you definitely have writers like Plato saying that love between men is the ultimate form of love, that it’s a much higher form of love than love between a man and a woman. In fifth century Athens, which is the society and the era that produces most of our information about love between men, you have Plato writing particularly at that time. They have the terms, the erastes and the eromenos. And this is embedded in their culture. So it’s an aristocratic value system, it’s an elite value system–they don’t really worry about lower classmen because they’re only really talking about themselves. But the erastes is the older male. He could be married. He would form a romantic relationship with the eromenos, which means “the beloved,” so the passive partner in the relationship. Passive because of the difference in age, also passive in terms of the difference in life experience. Now, when you read stuff about the relationship between the erastes and the eromenos, depending on who the author is, that can take a physical expression, where there is a sensuality and a sexual expression enacted. They don’t really write about the details of it very much, there could have been fondling, or what we call intercrural sex, which is rubbing the penis of one person between the thighs of another, two men together. We’re not quite sure about penetration of the eromenos by the erastes, mostly because we tend to think it wouldn’t happen very often, or would have been discouraged, because these are men of elite classes. Now that eromenos is going to grow up and become a citizen of the Athenian state and participate in politics, be military leader, maybe, you know, be someone who appears in court, the lawyer. So they have this sort of taboo or anxiety around penetrating or violating or rendering submissive the body of a future citizen. So that young man in the relationship between the erastes and the eromenos may have had some sexual contact initiated on behalf of the older man. But ideally, you would keep it relatively pure, because you’re protecting the sanctity of a future citizen’s body. That young man would be taught about politics, how to plead in court, how to participate in the army and work his way up in the Athenian state. And he would have been mentored quite often and it could have had a sexual aspect to it. So that was all aboveboard and it was part of an unusual education system from how, you know, we would think about the bodies of foreigners, or slaves, or male sex laborers–they were open to any type of abuse you wanted to mete out on them. So you could do what you wanted to your slaves, male or female. You could go and violate the bodies of male and female sex laborers in brothels. You could do so to people who were resident aliens in the city of Athens, and that was all aboveboard. Women, of course, couldn’t do anything. Women had to just marry and give birth to heirs. That was it. They could not have any other relationship. So this is intensively and extensively well documented in the fifth century. And as far as what women did, we have no idea. They allude occasionally to women being with other women, but they think it’s so extraordinarily bizarre. And if they do allude, they will often allude to Sappho, “Oh, she’s the great tribad,” which is the Roman word, the Latin is tribas, as we translate it as tribad. And that was a word that was very common in Latin to denote women who loved other women, because rather than using that category of lesbian, a lot of the terms in Greek and Latin describing one’s sexuality and sexual preference, they describe sexuality with words that indicated an action. But men were very indifferent to women and women’s bodies. And if they wanted to get their own sexual gratification, they would not look to their wives, they would go and pay a brothel worker for that sort of sexual relief, if they are inclined to be attracted to women.

LC: So I found this so fascinating from a feminist political lens–the idea of penetration causing class anxiety? Like you cannot lead a land if you are being penetrated? It’s just so prevalent still in society.

EB: Still, yes, it is. Like the fact that men who are penetrated are less “man” than other men, which is not true.

LC: Yeah.

EB: But like, that idea of it, it’s still so prevalent. That is actually really intense.

LC: Yeah, and it all started there, or before, I don’t know, but I was just–I was so fascinated with this, and just the indifference to women and women’s bodies, which honestly, I would like it if our current government was less interested in women’s bodies right now.

EB: True, true. Yeah, I mean, it all has to do with power dynamics. And like, yes, their power dynamics were a bit different back then, but there’s still that struggle between the masculine and the feminine.

LC: Yeah, absolutely. So I was really grateful to speak to Jane Montgomery Griffiths in Australia. So she’s an active writer and academic. She is currently the Director of Monash University’s Center for Theater and Performance. She’s an expert on Greek drama and theories of performance, and has taught at Cambridge, Leeds, Melbourne, and La Trobe universities. She is also the writer of the one-woman show, “Sappho…in 9 fragments,” that we’ll definitely be discussing later on in the series. We’ll be hearing more from Jane in future episodes, but for now, here’s what she had to say about homosexual relationships in Ancient Greece.

Jane Montgomery Griffiths: We have a culture in Athens in the fifth century, where male homosexuality was an absolutely intrinsic part of being a citizen. That the relationship between the older man and the younger beloved was crucial for the very tenets–and this you’ll find in Plato in the symposium–that the older man educates his younger lover, and the older man needs to demonstrate moral, social, and religious probity to impress the younger boy. And the young man who is the beloved needs to demonstrate that he also is accepting these codes of behavior in the Athenian polis, so that he can impress his lover. Now, I used to teach a course on body in Ancient Greece, and the class that we would do on Greek male homosexuality was just fantastic. Because we start off by saying, okay, I want you to imagine the young men in this audience–the 18, 19 year olds–I want you to imagine that your dad’s best friend at the golf course went up to him and said, “Can I go out with your son, please? And here’s a hare that I’m going to,” as in, you know, not a rabbit, but a hare, “Here’s a hair that I’m going to give your son in courtship. And, you know, is it okay with you if we go out together?” And you’d see the young men in the audience, many of the young men crossing their legs looking absolutely terrified, and some actually leaving the lecture theater, because this was so confronting. And for us, who are so terrified at pederasty and–I mean, with justification, I have to say–who are so appalled by pederasty and pedophilia, the concept of the Greek erastes, that’s the lover, and the eromenos, that’s the beloved, is totally alien and appalling for us. Now, we have no evidence at all that that same sort of relationship happened with women, that there was an erotic relationship with women. And that, of course, is to do with the fact that the histories were written by men, and that Plato doesn’t bother to write about women. When he does, it’s purely practical. And it’s indicative of the lack of information we have that Sappho is considered to be great at giving heterosexual head by Aristophanes. So everyone in the ancient world thought that Sappho was a bit of a whore, but not that she was, as we would call, a lesbian.

EB: On that note, we’re going to take a quick break to hear from some of our sponsors.

EB: All right, so we just heard from Jane about the reputation of Sappho, which is very different from the Sappho that we heard in our poem, 94.

LC: It is the classic, ‘you won’t talk to me, therefore you’re a slut,’ reaction to Sappho.

EB: Yes.

LC: Like, you know when you’re at a bar, and then you’re like, “Hey, I’m not interested.” And then a guy’s like, “You slut!” And you’re like, “How?”

EB: You’re like, it’s actually very much not, yeah, very much not. But yeah, it’s crazy to think that Sappho, who wrote so explicitly about women, then became known for, you know, being an expert at fellatio.

LC: What a polite way to say “blowjob,” Ellie.

EB: Yes, I’m trying to be very polite about it. But, yes, she’s very good at blowjobs, according to the men of her time. And she’s handing them out like candy. We don’t know if that’s true, but we can speculate that it is just rumor, correct?

LC: Yeah. I mean usually, when these conversations are had, it’s usually a rumor.

EB: Yes. So we’ll get to diving in a bit more about why these rumors might have started. But it all relates to differing norms and expectations for men and women in Archaic and Ancient Greece. And we talked to our old friend Diane Rayor, professor of Classics at Grand Valley University and recent translator of Sappho, about justice.

Diane Rayor: In Sappho’s time, we can assume everybody got married, because that’s what you do. The same thing in fifth century Athens, men were expected to get married, women got married, everybody got married. What the men then did on their own time, that’s their business. And they have lots of opportunities, let’s say, in fifth century Athens. And same thing in, let’s say, fifth century Sparta, men had relationships with men. In Sparta, it seems pretty clear that women were also having relationships with women. But other than Sappho, Lesbos, and Sparta, we don’t have other things that, at least I know of, where it’s clear that women having relationships with other women in any kind of erotic way is just accepted or talked about really at all.

MJ: Information about women loving women is scant on the ground. There is very little. Now, one reason is because Sappho is quite unusual. We have a woman’s voice. And not only do we have a woman’s voice, we have a woman composing songs about loving other women. She is completely unusual in that respect. They maybe recognized that women could be attracted to other women. And if the Greek poets touched on this, it was usually done with quite a derisive attitude. They didn’t like it, but it didn’t interest them that much, really, until the Hellenistic Age. So after the age of Alexander the Great, you get a couple of authors dabbling in it and talking about it, but it’s usually taken as something completely silly and absurd. And so it’s almost a case of Queen Victoria thinking lesbians didn’t exist because they couldn’t possibly do anything with each other. Like what would–that just a doesn’t exist because there’s nothing elongated to go in a hole, how would this work? Then as you get into Hellenistic poetry and Hellenistic literature, you will get weird pieces of literature that talk about women going and buying dildos to use with other women or on themselves. This is scurrilous literature. And they apparently were made by shoemakers because they had excess leather. So there was a really quiet market in Greek cities, on the slide, where you could get a dildo by someone who worked in leather.

LC: A leather dildo.

MJ: It must be covered in wood. Or, I don’t know, but there’s literature that mocks women who go and do this sort of thing.

LC: Women be buying dildos since a while apparently.

EB: Honestly, I love this episode.

LC: Yeah, this is my favorite discovery of Ancient Greece so far.

EB: Yes. Women have always found a way to get in touch with their sexuality, even when other people are trying to tell them that they shouldn’t, so I love it. I love it. By the way, Fragment 99, which could be by Sappho or might not be, has one badly damaged word that could be construed to read: “receivers of the dildo.”

LC: Wow. Ahead of her time ahead of her time, truly.

EB: Yes. Ahead of her time. Making lesbian dildo jokes since BCE. Love it. We had the pleasure of talking to Sandra Boehringer, who is a lecturer at the University of Strasbourg, where she teaches Greek history and the history of women in gender, and she also literally wrote the entry on female homosexuality for the Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oh, and we also conducted the interview in French.

LC: We say, “we,” and we mean, “Alyse.”

EB: Yes. Alyse conducted the interview in French, which was amazing. And the wonderful Annie McCarthy was kind enough to translate for us. Hers is the voice you’ll hear in English.

LC: We asked Sandra about gender norms in Ancient Greece, and she told us it was actually a more complicated question, mostly because we don’t have enough sources to know what norms were, and because the ancients conceived of it in a totally different way, through a totally different paradigm than we do today. And their way had a lot to do with this concept of eros that Alyse discussed before. Anyway, we’ll let Sandra take it from here.

Sandra Boehringer/Annie McCarthy: Doesn’t mean that they all copied Sappho. It also means that, at the time, that’s how eros expressed itself. What is fascinating, well said right away, eros doesn’t have a gender. In fact, eros doesn’t take into account, for the ancients, the sex of the person who loves and the sex of the person who is loved. It’s also anachronistic to say that there is no sex, because we say that there is none, because for us, we know the story of homosexuality, of the word has been considered abnormal at a time, how now there are struggles for the recognition and their equality, etc. For us, it seems to be different things, because they’re perceived like different things. For the ancients, it’s not that there are categories in eros. It’s that anybody who has an erotic feeling is a victim of this force, what she calls eros, and the questions of age and sex doesn’t matter. In a way, what we can notice is in terms of standards, in fact, is that eros, in itself, eros doesn’t have any. Especially since it’s something that the way it’s sang, doesn’t take into account at all the opinion of the people who are the victims. It means that eros is going to seize. It’s something that comes from the outside. It’s also very different from the way we perceive life today. It’s something we feel within us, something that is hiding, that feeds, that is sold, that is confessed, and also the sex, the gender, the sexual identity and sexual orientation, is something that comes to define ourselves. So for the ancients, it’s an outside force, and the person is subjected passively to this force, and takes the person away. Therefore, it’s in a certain way, it’s in any case out of norm, because it’s something from the outside that brings a human being to do things not really normal, but regardless of his or her sex. It’s something that is not very civilized, eros. It’s something that happens and disturbs an established order. That’s how eros appears to be, like I told you. It’s always an incredible Sappho, in any case, in all the motifs of the erotic poetry in the Archaic period.

LC: So I don’t know about you, Ellie, but that sounds pretty bisexual to me.

EB: It really does.

LC: And I have absolutely no stake in that.

EB: No, not at all. I love it. I love it though. The concept of sexuality doesn’t matter. If you’re in love with someone, you’re in love with someone. And that’s how–like things have gotten so much further away from that.

LC: Yeah.

EB: But if you look at Ancient Greece, there weren’t sexual identities. You just had deep desire for someone or you didn’t.

LC: Absolutely, I mean, definitely–and I think I touched on this in an earlier episode–something that I found really funny is just watching people online have conversations about, “Sappho was definitely a lesbian. Sappho was definitely bisexual. Sappho was definitely this.” And I’m like, “Guys, you don’t know! We don’t know.”

EB: Sappho would not have given herself a label.

LC: No. Well, I mean, we don’t know. But let’s say–

EB: But either way, even if she did we have no clue what it was.

LC: Absolutely. It’s not in any of what we have.

EB: Yeah, there’s no text saying, “I am Sappho and I am gay.” Like, that doesn’t exist.

LC: There is, “I am Sapphos and I am wet for this woman,” is basically what we have.

EB: Yes, “I am Sappho, I am overcome for love of a girl.” Like, we know those things. But we don’t really know, yeah. And because the Greeks had no conception of identities around sexuality, the idea of even being gay or bi or lesbian would have made no sense to them.

LC: And so we say Sappho is the OG lesbian. The reason that we say this is because the word “lesbian” came from Sappho being from the Isle of Lesbos. But it didn’t even come around until the Victorian Era, which is 2,000 years after Sappho even existed. And so the world was inspired by her and the Isle of Lesbos, but it really exists in a paradigm of thinking about gender and sexuality and identity that’s so different from Sappho’s time.

EB: Yeah. So it’s so interesting because, in that sense, even defining Sappho using our terms today doesn’t really make sense. But we do know very obviously that she was a woman writing poems about loving women. So what do these poems tell us?

MJ: Sappho, as a lover of women, is a tradition that comes from her poetry. There are, even in the fragments, a couple of references to her love of women. And that was taken up by ancient writers, who either presented her as an extreme lesbian, in our terminology, because the Greeks didn’t have any concept of what a heterosexual or lesbian or bisexual was. They don’t come into the dictionary until very late. So to the Greeks and the Romans, these terms mean nothing. So often we talk about Sappho’s same-sex desire, which sort of frees it from that lesbian category.

EB: So, we know about her poems, right? That her erotic songs about women include songs about women who left her, Fragments 16, 22, 68, 71, and 131. Ask me that again.

LC: Yeah, off the top of her head. That’s the lottery numbers for this week, by the way.

EB: Yes, please play those numbers.

LC: But if you win!

EB: Yeah, you have to join our Patreon.

LC: And she also has songs about women she still desires. So Fragment 1, which we’ve already heard, and Fragment 31, which will be coming up very soon. Very famous poem.

EB: Yes. And she also writes about some of her girlfriends, Anaktoria, Atthis, and Gongyla. And I have said this before: I would kill to see a dramaticized version of Sappho’s story where it’s just Sappho and these three girlfriends and the life that she lives with each of them and the differences.

LC: This is our next project, obviously.

EB: Right? Like I would love to see that.

LC: Of course.

EB: It’s like a reality show: Sappho’s Women. And they turn around, and like, “Anaktoria. She’ll blow your toga off.” I don’t even know if they were togas. I don’t know. I’m trying to make a weird catchphrase.

LC: But honestly, when I first heard the story of Sappho, my first instinctive response was, “What about ‘The L Word’ on the Isle of Lesbos in Ancient Greece?”

EB: Yes.

LC: And it’s just like, all the drama between the women and their little women parties.

EB: I love it.

LC: Yeah. So someone make that

EB: We heard about these parties in the first episode. I want to go to one. I want all three of Sappho’s girlfriends to be there, and she’s just bouncing around.

LC: She’d be like Shane walking into a bar.

EB: Yes, Sappho is for sure the Shane of Ancient Greece, and that’s what we’re sticking to.

LC: Coined it.

EB: But also, in none of the major fragments in which the persona is some manifestation of the poet Sappho has any hint of sexual interest in a man. So while we can speculate that outside of the poems maybe there was some interest in men, within the poems there’s quite a lot of desire for women.

LC: Just a bit.

EB: Just a bit.

LC: And we’ll be talking a bit more about her poetry next episode.

EB: Even Ovid said–you all know Ovid?

LC: I’ve heard of him.

EB: Ovid, my good friend. Even Ovid said, “What did Sappho of Lesbos teach, but how to love women?” And she’s still teaching us today.

LC: Yeah, and that’s the legacy you want.

EB: Yes. One of the reasons Sappho’s poems were so unique for their time, Diane and Marguerite told us, was that they help us question what we think about gender norms and how the power dynamic works between two lovers.

MJ: When people first look to her for a lesbian identity, they’re really disappointed because the poetry is really subtle. And she is not into describing sex. The ancients are really funny about describing the physical act of sex, they don’t really do that very often. They’re quite weird about it. And certainly in really foul literature, like satire, that you will get really gross depictions of sex. But Sappho, like most poets, just talks about her emotions and the love she has, and the effect people have on her. So, you know, the poems about Atthis and the girl in Fragment 31, whoever she was–she’s talking about how they make her feel. And that’s erotic, it’s not blatant sex on the page. So because there’s no hint about what they did together sexually, I think sometimes she disappoints. You have to read her at her own pace, and then you see the eroticism of a women’s world, a women’s environment that she’s evoking, and I think that’s far more sensual and erotic than if we had all the details about what her and Anaktoria got up to, or whatever.

DR: She comes in a context. She’s not just all by herself. She’s our earliest woman poet that we have from Ancient Greece. But she composed, you know, when people were used to lyric poetry, which means poetry sung to a lyre, and love poetry, erotic poetry. She didn’t make all this up. She does something very different with it. What Sappho does is she has the love lyrics, but they’re addressed to women, and they’re not hierarchical in the same way. Much of Greek sexuality among men has to do with active and passive, the lover and the beloved. And one, the word itself is active, the other is passive. Well, with women, you don’t have the exact–you don’t have that same thing. You have poems that seem to have much more having to do with mutual desire, mutual affection, the woman said, “We’ve suffered terribly, I leave you against my will. I told her go happily and remember me, you know how we cared for you.” So it’s not saying, “You know how I cared for you.” There is a community here. The lovely times we share doesn’t just mean “you and me, girl,” it means “us.” So there’s a community–a female community, a community of women–who cared for her, who cared for each other. And one’s leaving, and there’s Sappho comforting her and saying, “Let’s remember, you were part of us. We were there together. And with pure sweet oil for a queen, you anointed. And on soft beds, delicate, you quenched your desire.” The way I translated, “You quenched your desire,” that particular word in Greek, “quenched,” specifically means expelling your desire for something by satisfying it. Okay, so it’s used in Homer all the time of, like, they satisfied their desire for eating by eating. When it’s quenched your desire by satisfying it. So that’s why some people who say, “Oh, that just means–you quenched your desire on a bed means you’re sleepy and you went to sleep.” Yeah, I don’t buy it.

LC: So maybe we should have mentioned this a little earlier on in the journey. But Sappho’s poems aren’t pornographic. There’s subtlety in them, which is what Marguerite and Diane are sort of saying here.

EB: Well, I love that too because, as a woman who loves other women, if I read Sappho’s poetry, I can understand the subtleties.

LC: Mm.

EB: Because like Diane was saying, there’s the whole mutual desire and affection, there’s not that sense of ownership. It doesn’t have to be as graphic for you to understand the intimacy that exists in Sappho’s poetry.

LC: So Winkler has a great quote about this. They say, “She speaks as a woman to women. Her eroticism is both subjectively and objectively women-centered.” So she’s creating this alternate world of women in a very male-dominated and sex-segregated society.

EB: She makes this erotic experience for women that’s completely outside of the patriarchy, which we are here for.

LC: We are here for.

EB: And her love poems are therefore more egalitarian. So that was our episode on homosexuality in Ancient Greece. We learned a lot. One of the biggest takeaways I got was that in Ancient Greece, it’s not really about identity. It’s more about the actions of homosexuality. But the actions of homosexuality–homosexual acts–have been around for a very long time, my friends.

LC: Indeed, they have. And I just somehow do not think that this is going to be satisfactory for all of those on Twitter, who are certain and cling to Sappho’s identity as whatever they’d like it to be. But, I mean, if you want to direct people to our podcasts in the future, go right ahead.

EB: Yes, we do not have an answer for Sappho’s identity is really what we’re saying. It’s up for interpretation, but the actions are for sure there.

LC: Yes. I’m really looking forward to diving more into Sappho’s poetry next episode.

EB: But for now, here’s a taste of what’s to come on Sweetbitter.

AK: Why do you think Sappho still matters today?

Diane Rayor: I mean, one thing is beauty is always important. So a good song, a good love poem, come on! And the way that it touches us now, that I can feel it.

Chris Mason: We don’t express ourselves without being influenced by Sappho. And that’s how I would explain what she taught us.

Jane Montgomery Griffiths: Sappho is the example of the torments and anxieties of jealous love.

Alex Purves: She’s so good. You really enjoy it because of the quality of her poems. I mean, it’s just sounds so ridiculous, but you pick up Sappho and you start reading her, and it’s just–she speaks to you. I mean, she speaks to me and I think that’s true of a lot of people.

LC: Thanks for listening to Sweetbitter. Our next episode will be released on the 12th of November. As always, stick around until the end of the podcast to hear our original song for Fragment 94, written and performed by us.

EB: And for this particular song, we just want to say, it’s going to be ridiculous and we are obsessed with it. So, you’re welcome.

LC: Yeah, it’s all for Halloween, so if you head over to our Instagram or Twitter, you might find Sappho’s three girlfriends performing this song in togas, is all I’m saying.

EB: Some Sappho-themed cosplay, you know, who doesn’t want that?

LC: Halloween, y’all.

EB: And if you’ve enjoyed the podcast, please subscribe, rate, and review us, it really helps. Or if you have the means, you can support us on Patreon. If you sign up before November 1st, which is in three days, you’ll get a free Sweetbitter tote bag designed by Istela Illustrated, who did our artwork. We’ll also be releasing bonus content, including extra episodes and downloads of our ridiculous songs.

LC: Yes, and we all need more of that in our lives. We’ve also been doing lesbian poetry readings with Alyse, so we’ve got one up for our patrons at the moment. You can also find us on Twitter and Instagram at @sweetbitterpod, or contact us on our website,

EB: Sweetbitter is an independent production by me, Ellie Brigida, Alyse Knorr, and Leesa Charlotte. Our artwork is by Istela Illustrated. Music by Lyre ‘n’ Rhapsody. Special thanks to Chris Mason and Old Songs, Marguerite Johnson, Jane Montgomery Griffiths, Sandra Boehringer, and Diane Rayor for sharing their love of Sappho with us. We would also like to thank Amy McCarthy, who translated Sandra’s interview, and Alison McCarthy, who assisted in conducting the interview in French.

LC: You can read more about our guests and where to find them on our website. It’s under the “About” tab, and you’ll find their Twitter handles and their bios and their beautiful faces there. We want to give a big thank you to our new Patreon supporters this week. We’re so overwhelmed. Erica, Elizabeth, Dakota, Em, Heather, Jean, Chris, Brittany, Majuba, Madison, and Mackenzie.

EB: That is so many names!

LC: So many names! And a special thanks to Philip who subscribed to our “Athena, Goddess of Wisdom” tier.

EB: You are a goddess, Philip. And now, our original, sexy song for Fragment 94, starring Sappho’s girlfriends.