Entertainment & Arts

'Two new poems' by Greek poet Sappho recovered

An image of Sappho published in 1883
This artist's conception of Sappho was first published in 1883

A fragment of ancient papyrus given to an expert at Oxford University contains two previously unknown works by Greek poet Sappho, according to his findings.

US papyrologist Dr Dirk Obbink asserts they "clearly come from Sappho's first book", one of nine volumes the writer is believed to have written.

Only one of her poems survives intact, though fragments from others remain.

Renowned for her musings on love and desire, Sappho was born on the island of Lesbos between 630 and 612 BC.

The word 'lesbian' owes its derivation to Sappho, though her actual sexual orientation remains a matter of conjecture.

According to Dr Obbink, the first, largely complete work contains references to Charaxos and Larichos, the names given by the ancient Greeks to two of Sappho's brothers.

The second, fragmentary work, he continues, is a poem addressed to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and exhibits motifs and language familiar from Sappho's love poetry.

In an article to be published later this year, Dr Obbink declares that the pieces - written on papyrus from the third century AD - are "indubitably" Sappho works.

The papyrus, he goes on, probably came from the Egyptian city of Oxyrynchus and was given to him by an "anonymous owner" in London.

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