Sappho: Poems and Fragments

Sappho: Poems and Fragments Character List


A friend and lover of Sappho who is referenced in several fragments, most extensively in “Fragment 96.” She appears sometimes as Sappho’s beloved but sometimes as the grieving lover of another woman, which has led to much speculation about the nature of their relationship.


In “Fragment 16,” the speaker compares her to Helen of Troy and mourns her parting. She was likely a lover of Sappho.


Theben woman married to Hektor. Greek mythological figure who also appears in The Iliad.


The Greek goddess of love to whom much of Sappho’s poetry is devoted or dedicated. Sappho characterizes her as immortal, powerful, cunning and beautiful. She is sometimes identified as Kypris, a name which comes from Kypros, or Cyprus, where Aphrodite was born.

The Beloved

Many of Sappho’s poems center around an unnamed woman who is beloved. Often, these women are addressed in the second person by the speaker and are the object of her affections, but not always— “Fragment 96,” for example, centers around the departed lover of a woman named Atthis.


The Greek goddess of the Dawn, also named Eos. She fell in love with the mortal Tithonos.


Hektor was a Prince of Troy and the greatest Trojan warrior, married to Andromache. He is killed by Achilles as revenge for the death of Patroclus, Achilles’ lover. He is a Greek mythological figure who also appears in The Iliad.

Helen of Troy

She left her Spartan husband, King Menelaus, and fled to Troy to be with Paris, a Trojan prince. In retribution, Menelaus and his brother declared war to reclaim her, thus beginning the Trojan War. She is a Greek mythological figure who also appears in The Iliad.


Idaios is a swift Trojan messenger who also appears in The Iliad.


See "Aphrodite"


Greek god today more widely known as Apollo. Sappho celebrates him as the god of the lyre, a kind of harp.


King of Troy and Hektor's father. He is a Greek mythological figure who also appears in The Iliad.


Sappho references herself by name in several poems. Together, these poems outline her character as a bereaved lover, a frequent pursuer of women, and a devotee of Aphrodite. It’s important to differentiate Sappho as speaker and character from Sappho the poet. Sappho the poet may write with a different perspective, or from another time, from the persona she represents in her poetry. The person described in the various fragments which feature her isn't perfectly cohesive—for example, the "Sappho" who chases woman after woman in "Fragment 1" seems very different from the Sappho who urges a departing lover to dwell in memory in "Fragment 94." In this guide, the name of the character “Sappho” is in quotation marks to indicate where the name is a quotation from the poem, and to distinguish this character from the voice of the poet herself, whose perspective is often more complicated.

The Speaker

Although Sappho is sometimes named as the speaker, many of the fragments are more nebulous. Scholars have speculated that some works are written in the voice of various epic heroines, and others may have been written for a group, or to mimic the voices of the poet's friends.


In Greek mythology, Tithonos was a beautiful prince who the goddess of the Dawn fell in love with. She asked Zeus to grant him immortality, but forgot to ask for eternal youth. Tithonos thus aged forever, eventually growing so shrunken and wrinkled that he turned into a grasshopper.