The word ‘lesbian’ is derived from the poems of Sappho, a Greek lyric poet, born in the town of Eresos in Lesbos, an island in the northeastern Aegean Sea. The island of Lesbos is also known as Mytilini after its capital. It has an area of 630 sq miles (1,632 sq km) with 199 miles (320 km) of coastline, making it the third largest Greek island. The narrow Mytilini Strait separates the island from Turkey.
Sappho was born sometime between 630 and 612 BC, and died around 570 BC. Little is known for certain about her life. The Alexandrians included her in the list of nine lyric poets and Plato even exalted her to the position of a Muse. The bulk of her poetry, which was well known and greatly admired through much of antiquity has been lost; however, her great reputation has endured through surviving fragments.
Sappho composed her poems with powerful emotional content directed toward other women. Now, the term ‘lesbian’ refers to a female who is sensually attracted to other women, and at times is romantically and carnally involved with them. It is also used with respect to sexual identity or sexual conduct, irrespective of sexual orientation. Lesbian is an adjective applied to characterize or associate nouns with female homosexuality.
Since the term ‘lesbian’ is associated with the Island of Lesbos, tourists with lesbian orientation visit the island and especially the town of Eresos, the birthplace of Sappho.
Sappho’s “Ode to a Loved One”
LEST as the immortal gods is he,
The youth who fondly sits by thee,
And hears and sees thee, all the while,
Softly speaks and sweetly smile.
‘Twas this deprived my soul of rest,
And raised such tumults in my breast;
For, while I gazed, in transport tossed,
My breath was gone, my voice was lost;
My bosom glowed; the subtle flame
Ran quick through all my vital frame;
O’er my dim eyes a darkness hung;
My ears with hollow murmurs rung;
In dewy damps my limbs were chilled;
My blood with gentle horrors thrilled:
My feeble pulse forgot to play;
I fainted, sunk, and died away.
- Lesbos (en.wikipedia.org)
- Sappho (en.wikipedia.org)
- Lesbian (en.wikipedia.org)
- Sappho – Ode to a Loved One (poemhunter.com)
- Great News, Citizens of Lesbos! Two New Sappho Poems Found (jezebel.com)
- Lesbos islanders battle for Lesbian name (news.bbc.co.uk)
- Unknown Sappho poems discovered? (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Herstory: Sappho (handbagfetish.wordpress.com)
- A New Sapphic Poem ~ Wading into the Morass (rogueclassicism.com)