Often when we have one of those hair-pulling days at work, it’s tempting to dream about changing jobs, maybe jumping ship to a competitor. Doing the same work somewhere else seems like the most practical next step. But perhaps we can take a career lesson from one of history’s successful women poets.
Consider the poetess Sappho, who managed to thrive in a very interesting career in the 7th century BC. It’s astounding that this woman’s name still rings familiar to us, given that only fragments of her work remain on centuries old parchment.
Have a listen to what the lyre sounded like while you learn a little bit more about Sappho.
It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle
Sappho ran what some historians describe as a finishing school for girls, which evolved into a Greek salon dedicated to the worship of Aphrodite and Eros, with herself as the high priestess. Imagine living the life of a poetess, with a gaggle of women who you mentor, entertaining and making merriment with the strum of a lyre and witty rhymes. This was a respected career, where she was esteemed by one of the world’s greatest philosophers Plato, called by him “the Tenth Muse” (the nine being Zeus’s daughters themselves).
This woman was essentially a wedding singer, songwriter and philosopher, about whom later generations would gossip, develop their own legends, and also name lesbianism after the island where she lived (Lesbos). Her life is fairly mysterious given the little information about her that can truly be verified. For example she references a daughter Cleïs, and was supposedly married. Her brother may have been a pirate, and her family was exiled to Sicily due to some political reasons not quite known. ThatHistoryNerd dives into the Sappho research, check it out to learn more.
While she is most famous for her poems about love and heartbreak, and of course the love of her fellow woman, she also wrote about nature, drops some snarky shade about her friends, and ponders the gods, goddesses and the beautiful moon.
It’s time we re-normalize the job description of Lady Poetess, matron of the Aphrodite-worshipping finishing school, band-leader for the lyric-dropping band of minstrels. Sappho was not afraid to speak her mind, and spent her time inspiring the next generation of ladies while writing poetry that would live over 2,000 years after her death.
You can read some of Sappho’s poetry fragments for free at your library or by borrowing the book virtually through the Internet Archive, which is a great source of older books that anyone can borrow online.