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Friday, 30 December 2011 23:53

Why is Sappho called the Tenth Muse?

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sappho tenth muse


Dear Sappho,

Why is Sappho called the Tenth Muse? What qualities, attributes or gifts has she bestowed on humanity that would make her worthy of such a title?


Dear Curious,

The Muses were venerated as the Greek Goddesses of Arts and Sciences. They inspired artists, especially poets, philosophers, and musicians. They were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. From Muse words such as music, museum, and mosaic are derived. The Muses sat near the throne of Zeus and sang of the origin of the world and the glorious deeds of great heroes.

Sappho is a Greek poet who lived on the island of Lesbos and is considered the most famous female poet of antiquity. Most of Sappho’s love poems were addressed to women. She is the ancient feminine voice of love that still calls to us across the ages. However, only fragments of her work remain, leaving us to imagine the amusing possibilities.

According to Pausanias, there were three original Muses:

  • Aoide: song, or voice
  • Melete: practice, or occasion
  • Mneme, or memory

Sappho embodied all of these attributes. She sang in a clear poetic voice, of the occasions and practices of love in order to celebrate them and to remember them. Plato called Sappho the 10th Muse and her image was on coins. Her poems were accompanied by a lyre which gives us the origin of lyric poetry.

The subjects Sappho addressed in her poems included salutations to both the hymen and the bridegroom, prayers to Aphrodite, praises, and complaints of lovers.

She is not only the feminine voice of the Classical Age; she is the matron saint of lesbians worldwide.

It is unclear whether she created or perfected the meter of her day, now known as the “Sapphic” meter.

Few poems of hers have survived intact, and she was known principally through quotations found in the works of other authors until the nineteenth century. In 1898, scholars unearthed papyri that contained fragments of her poems. In 1914, in Egypt, archeologists discovered papier mâché coffins made from scraps of paper that contained the following verses:

“Some say horsemen, some say warriors,

Some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest

Vision in this dark world, but I say it’s

What you love best.


It’s easy to make this clear to everyone,

Since Helen, she who outshone

All others in beauty, left

A fine husband,


And headed for

Troy Without a thought for

Her daughter, her dear parents…

Led astray….


But that reminds me of Anactória,


She’s not here, and I’d rather see her lovely

Step, her sparkling glance and her face than gaze on

All the troops in Lydia in their chariots and

Glittering armor”

Her Evocations and Invocations of love and desire called to both the muses and the Gods and Goddesses of the pre-Christian world. Human poets and lovers heard the call and were inspired. That is why Plato called her the Tenth Muse, she inspires poets and lovers throughout the ages.




Lezbelib is the online magazine that helps LGBTQ+ women to stay updated with entertaining blogs and breaking news about LGBT rights.