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Friday, 20 April 2012 20:30

Sappho on the Social Graces

Written by 

art poetry music


Dear Sappho,

Would you go into detail regarding the arts and subjects taught in your school for women and girls on Lesbos? Were there structured classes and standard subjects? Were there personal lesson plans for each student at each level of comprehension? What were considered the most important courses?

Curious Teacher

Dear Teacher,

We taught music, poetry, art, social graces. health, critical thinking, philosophy and math. All subjects were started at the beginning of a girl’s course study and ended with her becoming a woman prepared to lead her own life. Each advanced as individuals in charge of their own lesson plans. What do you want to learn today?

Art, music and poetry were the most popular classes and seemed more like play than learning. Poets would memorize and quote histories, legends, Epics as well as all the major poets of our time. Music included singing and dancing as well as lute and flute, and the spoken word.

Critical thinking skills, and reasoning included ethics, morals, and the importance of being true to one’s self and ones community. No education was considered complete without the social graces or virtues, which included sincerity, etiquette, manners, communication, and codes of preferred social behavior. The social graces incorporate and integrate all the other subjects by giving them measures of expression, elegance, motion, and beauty of form.

In ancient Greece, we had a pantheon of divine beings to honor and worship. We wanted to be like them and we modeled our behavior on theirs. 

Aphrodite, Venus, Astarte are the divine feminine principle. Just as Eros, Adonis, and Zeus are the divine masculine principle. We wanted to teach our young women to act, feel, think, and reason in ways that promote wisdom, love, peace and health. This in turn would create and foster these same qualities into our lives and our community.

I’d have to say that critical thinking skills and the social graces are fundamental and intrinsic to any young woman’s development and virtue. Without critical thinking you just have fashion and deportment, which were inadequate goals for our girls. Without the social graces - love, art, music and poetry seem null and void. Our goal was to lead, mentor and educate the complete woman. Alas there is no proof that we succeeded beside our reputation, which has exceeded 2500 years in spite of a lack of historical evidence, I give credit to our social graces for that.



painting by Nadia Minic


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