Sappho's Fragment 44

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Fragment 44 is one of the most complete remnants of the work of Sappho, a female poet living in Lesbos during the 7th century B.C. In this fragment Sappho imitates Homer’s poetic style as well as his themes, such as the wedding of the Trojan prince Hector to Andromache. Though a scene never illustrated in Homer's verses, this poem is an allusion to the wedding he briefly reminisces in Book 22 of the Iliad.

Poem Text[edit]

Anne Carson made the following English translation of Fragment 44.[1]
(Ellipses indicate missing words or verses.)

... Kypros ...
herald came...
Idaos... swift messenger
and of the rest of Asia... imperishable fame.
Hektor and his men are bringing a glancing girl
from holy Thebe and from onflowing Plakia—
delicate Andromache on ships over the salt
sea. And many gold bracelets and purple
perfumed clothes, painted toys,
and silver cups innumerable and ivory.
so he spoke. And at once the dear father rose up.
And news went through the wide town to friends.
Then sons of Ilos led mules beneath
fine-running carts and up climbed a whole crowd
of women and maidens with tapering ankles,
but separately the daughters of Priam...
and young men led horses under chariots
... in great style
... charioteers
... like to gods
... holy all together
set out ... for Ilios
and sweetflowing flute and kithara were mingled
with the clip of castanets and piercingly then the maidens
sang a holy song and straight up the air went
amazing sound...
and everywhere in the roads was...
bowls and cups...
myrrh and cassia and frankincense were mingled.
And all the elder women shouted aloud
and all the men cried out a lovely song
calling on Paon farshooting god of the lyre,
and they were singing a hymn for Hektor and Andromache
like to the gods

Connections to Homer and Greek myth[edit]

This poetic fragment acts as a narrative continuation of Homer’s Iliad, being a story intwined with, yet not directly included in, the Trojan War saga.[2] Sappho’s verses do nothing to change the overall scheme of the war saga, yet simply add another picaresque moment of narrative displacement similar to those frequently present in Homer’s narration. In place of the Sapphic meter for which she is best known, Sappho adopts Homer’s dactylic meter in addition to his diction, spellings, and uses of imagery. She also intersperses certain details from her own time such as the cassia and myrrh.[3] Sappho thus imitates Homer while contemporaneously enriching his style.

Sappho treats the wedding scene and the pervading theme of love with a sensuous delicacy absent from those works dealing in cruel and masculine themes.[4] The tone of the poetic fragment emphasizes a mood of joyous anticipation for the domestic festivity about to take place. Just as Homer included domestic illustrations of daily life for the Trojans in Book 22 of the Iliad, Sappho similarly depicts a jubilant scene which would have been of social prominence for her culture in Lesbos. Much passion and social attention, for instance, were paid to the ceremonies surrounding a bride.[5] The tone of this fragment also asserts Sappho’s characterization of females, a prominent motif in much of her work. As enumerated in Sappho’s visual imagery, an emphasis on lightheartedness and frivolity along with indulgence in ornaments and furnishings belies her characterization of the female persona.[6]


  1. ^ Carson, Anne. If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho. Vintage Books: New York, 2002. pg. 89-91.
  2. ^ Ibid., 366.
  3. ^ Ibid., 366.
  4. ^ Rutherford, Richard. Classical Literature: A Concise History. Wiley-Blackwell, 1991. pg. 151.
  5. ^ Ash, Rhiannon and Alison Sharrock. Five Key Classical Authors. Routledge: New York, 2002. pg.27.
  6. ^ Lesky, Albin. A History of Greek Literature. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.: Indianapolis, 1996. pg. 27.