Sappho Love and Life on Lesbos (2015) 1h · Documentary · 6 May 2015
With a PhD in papyrology, Margaret Mountford goes in search of the truth behind the legend of Sappho, the most controversial writer of the ancient world and the first authentic woman's voice in western history. The sensational discovery of a lost papyrus containing the words to songs unheard for 1700 years sends Margaret on a journey of exploration. From the fragmentary documents, ruined temple architecture and surviving oriental jewellery, the programme conjures the real world of the woman, whose erotic writings gave us the words 'sapphic' and 'lesbian', after the island of Lesbos the place of her birth. Was she indeed the first lesbian, a priestess, prostitute, a stern schoolmistress or an aristocratic lady of leisure as readers over the centuries have variously alleged. Plus how each generation's view of the archetypal liberated woman of letters tells us as much about us and our fears and concerns as it does about her.
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