Author(s): Stephen Harrison, Thea S. Thorsen
Sappho, a towering figure in Western culture, is an exemplary case in the history of classical receptions. There are three prominent reasons for this. Firstly, Sappho is associated with some of the earliest poetry in the classical tradition, which makes her reception history one of the longest we know of. Furthermore, Sappho’s poetry promotes ideologically challenging concepts such as female authority and homoeroticism, which have prompted very conspicuous interpretative strategies to deal with issues of gender and sexuality, revealing the values of the societies that have received her works through time. Finally, Sappho’s legacy has been very well explored from the perspective of reception studies: important investigations have been made into responses both to her as poet-figure and to her poetry from her earliest reception through to our own time.
However, one of the few eras in Sappho’s longstanding reception history that has not been systematically explored before this volume is the Roman period. The omission is a paradox. Receptions of Sappho can be traced in more than eighteen Roman poets, among them many of the most central authors in the history of Latin literature. Surely, few other Greek poets can rival the impact of Sappho at Rome. This important fact calls out for a systematic approach to Sappho’s Roman reception, which is the aim of Roman Receptions of Sappho that focuses on the poetry of the central period of Roman literary history, from the time of Lucretius to that of Martial.