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Lesbian Sappho Revisited

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Chapter Summary

Sappho lived in a time and society in which no strict opposition between homosexuality and heterosexuality was recognized but rather between marital love, the domain of Hera, and erotic passion, the domain of Aphrodite. This chapter examines the Spartan evidence for sexual relationships between women, which are often adduced as a close parallel to Sappho's situation, and, subsequently, the other Greek anthropological evidence. It discusses Sappho's own poetry and testimonia. The chapter argues that Sappho in her poetry speaks for her community about love in general and about the beauty of young women without herself having been involved in sexual relationships with these young women. It also argues that no convincing evidence for female homosexual relationships can be found in Alcman's partheneia fragments, in Greek mythology, or in anthropological studies of young women's coming-of-age rituals.

Keywords: lesbian Sappho; partheneia; Spartan



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