The “New” Fragments and Iconic Status of Sappho

We will explore just two of the innumerable aspects of the afterlife of Sappho, her iconic status amongst Lesbian women in mid-century San Francisco and recent controversies surrounding recent discoveries of fragments claimed to be poetry by Sappho.

Readings include:


Sampson, C. Michael. 2020. “Deconstructing the Provenances of P.Sapph.Obbink.” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 57: 143–69.
Valentine, Jody. 2009. “Lesbians Are from Lesbos: Sappho and Identity Construction in The Ladder.” Helios 35 (2): 143–69.

Optional Supplementals:

For further clarification of the details Sampson presents in his 2020 essay assigned for today, see his February 2021 piece: “Lovers of Sappho thrilled by ‘new’ poetry find, but its backstory may have been fabricated” published on the Conversation:

See also these articles (among many interesting pieces on this blog):

Nongbri, Brent. 2021. “A New Article on the (Ex-)Green Collection Sappho Papyri.” Variant Readings (blog). April 9, 2021.


—– 2021. “The Retraction of Dirk Obbink’s Sappho Chapter and the Question of Authenticity.” Variant Readings (blog). March 30, 2021.

And the Brill publication referenced therein:

Bierl, Anton, and André Lardinois, eds. 2016. The Newest Sappho: P. Sapph. Obbink and P. GC Inv. 105, Frs. 1-4: Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song, Vol. 2. The Newest Sappho: P. Sapph. Obbink and P. GC Inv. 105, Frs. 1-4. Brill.

Also, if we don’t have clear provenance for the “Newest Sappho” (or even the “New Sappho”) how do we know they aren’t forgeries?

Mazza, Roberta. 2020. “The Green Collection Saga Latest Developments: Some Thoughts and a Piece of News.” Roberta Mazza (blog). May 27, 2020.

Additional good reads:

•“Papyrology and Eurocentrism, Partners in Crime” by Usama A. Gad.

•”Oxford professor accused of selling ancient Bible fragments” by Peter Beaumont

•Sampson and Uhlig: “The Murky Provenance of the Newest Sappho

•Higgins, Charlotte. 2020. “A Scandal in Oxford: The Curious Case of the Stolen Gospel.” The Guardian, January 9, 2020, sec. News.

For a glimpse into the Songs of Bilitis by Pierre Louÿs and a bit more on how I got into studying the Daughters of Bilitis, (plus 10-min on the cult of Cybele at Rome, if you listen to the first interview as well), give a listen to:  Dr. Tom Sapsford’s Podcast “Everyday Aphrodite” featuring two interviews, the first with a very cool scholar and the second with me.


Today I’m joined by two guest speakers: first, the scholar, novelist, and activist Cheryl Morgan; and second Jody Valentine, Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics at Pomona College. Together, we will be exploring how modern gay, lesbian, and trans communities have seen their reflections, or something like them in antiquity, and how the ancient world has proved a source of inspiration and strength for social and political organization in the second half of the twentieth century.



Gender & Sexuality in Ancient Greece Copyright © by Jody Valentine. All Rights Reserved.

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