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Women in Ancient Greek Literature

by Suha Choi, Michael Ferlisi, Riley Jahnle, Liam Mulvihill, Lauren Tran, Arden Williams, and Arjun Yerabothu

Women in Ancient Greek Literature

Instructor’s Note: During the second and third windows in Greek II, students read two ancient texts that offer a window into the lives of ancient Greek women of the Archaic period: the Hymn to Demeter and fragments of verses by the female poet Sappho. For the assignment on Sappho, students were asked to read, scan, and recite a fragment of Sappho’s poetry and then to imagine the complete poem this fragment might have once lived in, and compose a poem in five Sapphic stanzas in English. For the Hymn to Demeter students were asked to translate and analyze a portion of the hymn and, in a close reading of the text, to show how it contrasted with themes of heroism and masculine forms of agency found in Homer’s Iliad.

Part I: Sapphic Stanzas

Fragment 34
ἄστερες μὲν ἀμφὶ κάλαν σελάνναν
ἂψ ἀπυκρύπτοισι φάεννον εἶδος
ὄπποτα πλήθοισα μάλιστα λάμπη

Suha Choi, Fragment 34:
stars around the beautiful moon
hide back their luminous form
whenever all full she shines
on the earth leaking droplets of

clouds around the beautiful sun
cover up its hazy form
whenever all out she shines
on the earth, bringing drops, oh so

rocks around the beautiful pond
provide a cozy frame 
whenever I pass by she reflects 
my face and holds liquids of

soils around the beautiful lily
gently hug her in warmth
whenever she blossoms
into birth, infusing dues of

bad days around one good one
though mundane and ordinary
whenever it comes to me
I rejoice, thanking even the bad for 
one beauty at last.