lived c. 620-570 BCE
We don’t even know how much of her poetry Sappho actually wrote down. The ancients referred to her works as melê, “songs.” Composed to be sung to the accompaniment of a lyre—this is what “lyric” poetry meant for the Greeks—they may well have been passed down from memory by her admirers and other poets before being committed at last to paper. (Or whatever. One fragment, in which the poet calls on Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to come into a charming shrine “where cold water ripples through apple branches, the whole place shadowed in roses,” was scribbled onto a broken clay pot.) Like other great poets of the time, she would have been a musician and a performer as well as a lyricist. She was credited with having invented a certain kind of lyre and the plectrum.