Fragments of two previously unknown poems by seventh-century Greek lyric poet Sappho have been discovered on an ancient papyrus.
An anonymous private collector owned the papyrus, which dates back to the 3rd century A.D. He showed the tattered fragments to Dr. Dirk Obbink, a classicist at Oxford University, who recognized its significance and asked for permission to publish it. Dr. Obbink’s article will appear in a scholarly journal this spring but an online version of one of the poems is already available via the Guardian.
The first of the two poems mentions “Charazos” and “Larichos,” the names given to Sappho’s brothers in the ancient tradition. The second poem is a fragment of a piece about unrequited love.
This finding adds greatly to what is known about Sappho, whose work had previously, for the most part, been found on fragments written on ancient papyrus and through quotations by other authors. Out of a total of nine volumes’ worth of writing attributed to Sappho, only one complete poem had survived along with substantial portions of four others.
Sappho was born in about 630 BC and she is known for her delicate lyric verse, which is often directed at a female audience.