Sappho & the Spirituality of Poetry

Sappho's poetry relates in a variety of ways to issues associated with spirituality.  Modern terminology is often inadequate to the task of describing not just this aspect of her poetry but ancient poetry generally.

To some extent it is philosophical, but more properly should be termed theological.  This is true, for example, of the poetry of Parmenides, who is generally considered to be a philosopher but not a theologian.

This relates to why I became interested in Moretum and created the special section on this blog on The Black Goddess of Rome.

Here are some thoughts (with more to come) on how to define theology.

What was said by Heidegger about studying the poetry of Parmenides applies equally to the poetry of Sappho:

"[W]hat is said there continually deserves more thought . . .[it] nourishes the possibility of a transformation of destiny." (Moira, translated in Early Greek Thinking, Krell/Capuzzi, p101).

The recently discovered Sappho 58b is a profoundly philosophical poem that ironically resonates with modern philosophy more strongly than with what is known of ancient philosophy.

My analysis of this poem's philosophical implications can be found here.

Comments by M. L. West on the standard narratives of how ancient Greek philosophy developed and the relevance of Alcman to Pythagoras (Alcman and Pythagoras, Classical Quarterly (1967) (available online via JSTOR here)) are pertinent to understanding Sappho's relevance to Greek philosophy generally.

A detailed discussion of Plato's possible use of Sappho in Phaedrus can be found here