The heroine of Charles Gounod’s French opera Sapho (1851) sings her last aria O My Immortal Lyre on a Greek cliff before plunging to her death. Sappho, the most famous poet of the ‘Lyric Age’ of Greece, in the 7th to 6th centuries BC, addressed passionate love poems to women.
This lecture uncovers what we know about the ‘real Sappho’, an aristocrat who lived between 630 and 570 BCE on the island of Lesbos and socialised in the lavish courts of upstart tyrants. This historical context in no way diminishes her songs’ astonishing immediacy and erotic power.
Professor Hall is Visiting Gresham Professor in Classics. She is a British scholar of classics, specialising in Ancient Greek Literature and cultural history. She is also Professor in the Department of Classics and Centre for Hellenic Studies at Kings College London.
From 2017-2018, she is also an Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellow on her project to widen access to classical subjects in state schools - it can be found here: http://aceclassics.org.uk/.
She has published twenty-five books on ancient Greek and Roman culture and its influence on modernity, including Inventing the Barbarian (1989), The Return of Ulysses (2008), Greek Tragedy: Suffering under the Sun (2010) and Introducing the Ancient Greeks (2014). She co-founded and remains Consultant Director of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford and is Chairman of the Gilbert Murray Trust.