Connections: Sappho, Epic, and Women Singers in India and Beyond

Alcman and Sappho from vase painting

Many community members have been reading Gregory Nagy’s recent commentary about Song 44 of Sappho and the role of women in the making of epic on the Classical Inquiries website.

Below are some resources for additional study inspired by that post.

Primary Texts

Sappho (trans. Gregory Nagy), on the CHS website. Also, see Sappho 44 below.


Barbara Graziosi, “Homer and the definition of epic, Classics@Issue 3
Gregory Nagy, “Epic”
Shubha Pathak, Divine yet Human Epics: Reflections of Poetic Rulers from Ancient Greece and India


Ellen Greene and Marilyn B. Skinner, Classics@ Issue 4, The New Sappho on Old Age: Textual and Philosophical Issues
Gregory Nagy,  “The ‘New Sappho’ reconsidered in the light of the Athenian reception of Sappho”
Gregory Nagy, “Did Sappho and Alcaeus ever meet?”

Oral Epics and Women in India

Joyce Burkhalter Flueckiger “Appropriating the Epic: Gender, Caste, and Regional Identity in Middle India” in Epic Traditions in the Contemporary World.
Chris A. Gregory, “The Oral Epics of the Women of the Dandakaranya Plateau: A Preliminary Mapping”

Women’s Voices from Kazakhstan

Smithsonian’s Freer & Sackler Galleries, The Bardic Divas: Women’s Voices from Kazakhstan

Sappho 44 (“The Wedding of Hector and Andromache”), Trans. Gregory Nagy

…The herald Idaios came…a swift messenger
4 … and the rest of Asia … imperishable glory [kleos aphthiton].
5 Hector and his comrades [sun-(h)etairoi] led her, the one with the glancing looks,
6 from holy Thebe and … Plakia, they led her, the lovely Andromache
7 in ships over the salty
8 sea. Many golden bracelets and purple
9 robes…, intricately-worked ornaments,
10 countless silver cups and ivory.
11 Thus he spoke. And his dear father quickly leapt up.
12 And the news reached his dear ones throughout the broad city.
13 And the Trojans yoked to smooth-running carriages
14 the mules. And the whole ensemble climbed on,
15 all the women and maidens
And the unmarried men led horses beneath the chariots
and greatly…charioteers…
20 [lacuna]
21 looking just like the gods [ikeloi theois]
22 …holy
23 set forth into Troy…
24 And the sweet song of the pipe mixed…
25 And the sound of the cymbals, and then the maidens
26 sang a sacred song, and all the way to the sky
27 traveled the wondrous echo …
28 And everywhere through the streets…
29 Mixing bowls and cups…
30 And myrrh and cassia and frankincense were mingled.
31 And the older women cried out elelu.
32 Meanwhile all the men sang out a lovely high-pitched song,
33 calling on Apollo Pāōn, the far-shooter, master of playing beautifully on the lyre.
34 And they sang the song of Hector and Andromache, both looking just like the gods [theoeikeloi].