Gendered Love in Greek Lyrical Poems

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Greek lyrical poems address liveliest and interesting personal lines in the ancient world. While the poems existed between the periods of 7th – 9th C, the oral poetry yielded some lyrical poetry, with themes that are still used in society today. The lyric poets sung their songs accompanied by the lyre, which in modern society sounds like a guitar. The poets did express different themes such as fate, courage, immortality, love. Such topics significantly focused on the mainly important individual as such as leaders, noble people of the society, and if one was immortal. Every poet has, say experiences and influences that initiates specific themes in their poetic works. While the different poets expressively show devotion to lines that reflect as well as attract the world around them, Sappho and Anacreon present immortal verses that alleviate their themes worthy of poetry. Such ideas have been and will always remain influential in different centuries. Both Sappho and Anacreon through their poetry measure the intensity of sensation aroused though gendered love.

Sappho and Anacreon both express gender-based human emotions in their lyrical poetry. The two ancient poets present the theme love, in a manner that presents individual experiences. Even so, Sappho and Anacreon seem to have different ways and option to whom they express love, depending on gender. Sappho seemingly has a more significant relationship with Aphrodite, whom she describes as a goddess. In Sappho 1, the author is calling on Aphrodite to free her from her hardships. Such could mean that Sappho calls upon the goddess whom she believes maybe had the experiences similar to her own. She expressed her trust in a fellow woman, despite being a male god known as Eros whom she could as well use to fulfill her desires. That meant she thought that Aphrodite stood a chance to help her being a woman, who probably understood or had similar experiences as herself. ‘Come to me even now, and from my hardships free me and from my cares’ (Miller, 1996)

Similarly, it could be that Sappho seemingly seeks a kind of love that she believed only Aphrodite, a female goddess could offer. In a society full of varied experiences, different needs, people often go for what could sustain their needs. Sappho would have needed love and believed her needs could only be met not by a man but a fellow woman. For instance, in Sappho2, she is seducing Aphrodite to entice her desires and epiphany on earth. Such could tell that Sappho believed that her wishes in terms of love could only be fulfilled by the goddess. The feeling that the goddess is in a position to understand her needs better, and being able to provide the affection she desires, drives her theme. The poems reported her tastes, as well as wishes, which from the lines one could tell, she found fulfillment from seeing the goddess. While Sappho centrally expresses what love entails, she is probably in search of real and ideal love. Such derives from how she conjures the image of Aphrodite. Sappho sees beauty in the goddess which though her writings she appreciates. That shows how she believed that ideal and real love comes with the beautiful features that the goddess had. The society during that period associated beauty with women and this is what Sappho desired. As such, she saw the beauty and grace in Aphrodite and fulfilled her sensation. In addition to that, the 31st poem of Sappho express her jealousy when she sees Aphrodite with another man.

‘He seems to me, that man, almost a god-
The man, who is face to face with you,
Sitting close enough to you to hear
Your sweet whispering’ (Miller, 1996)

In the above stanza, Sappho is describing with jealousy how she sees Aphrodite with another man who looks like a god. While she states and describes this, she gets to recount her sense. Despite Aphrodite being in the arm of another man, Sappho staring at her saw love, which could mean she believed that the feeling of the real affection and emotional satisfaction lied with the goddess and not the man. As a result, Sappho associated with the goddess as she believed that her being of the same gender is in a position to understand her better and has the beauty which to her, defined love.

Anacreon as well expressed the theme love which in his poems is gendered. While Sappho seems to express her emotions towards Aphrodite, Anacreon focuses on Eros, a male god. His lyrics majorly involve him seeking solutions to his issues from Eros. He had the option of asking the help of Aphrodite but seemingly believed in the help Eros offered. The relationship between Anacreon and Eros; the god of desire seems to be dominating in his poems. That, however, does not mean he does not call on the Aphrodite. But the instance to which he seeks Aphrodite is very minimal. However, in most cases, he explores the intervention of Eros, the male god. Such brings to an understanding that Aphrodite finds love as well as a response from Eros, a man, who he believes to be able to provide a solution to his problems. Just like Sappho thought someone of the same gender had the power to meet her needs, her desires, Anacreon expressed the same notion in his poems, where he often expressed his association with Eros. Although both Sappho and Anacreon seem to trust both gods, each seems to feel more secure to express their gender-based love. One seems to think that the best love originates from someone who understands their needs, one of the same gender. Anacreon seems to relate love and passion with war. He seems to be loving and associating himself with Eros based on the aggressive moves that Eros make. For example, in his words, he describes Eros using violent-like words.

“Once more, like a blacksmith, Eros battered me with his huge axe and doused me in an icy torrent” (Miller, 1996)

That means the drive that Anacreon had was different. He believed definitely about love which could be expressed differently compared to Sappho’s work. Anacreon found a passion for love in war. In most cases, war associates with boys, and there is an admiration that arises when one shows aggressiveness. That is unlike Sappho whose love derived from beauty, the beauty of fellow women. Anacreon, therefore, finds attraction in the being that the Eros represented. Based on his description, it was war-like imagery that attracted him and fueled the kind of love he expressed. Such is what drives him to Eros, and not Aphrodite, who only characterized with beauty and grace. Both poets, Sappho and Anacreon, presents the theme of love in their works. However, how they express their affection differ in terms of gender. Both the poets seem to find love in the people they believe knows their emotional needs. Sappho finds pleasure in beauty, and grace that comes with a woman in society. As such, her poems are full of emotional expression projected towards Aphrodite, a female goddess. Based on her description, she believed that her love desires, as well as drives, were found in the goddess. That means her gendered love was driven by the belief that only a fellow woman would meet her needs. Anacreon as well had his drives for love in his poetic worked. While there were the two gods, he found satisfaction from the love of Eros, the god of desire. As a result, he often seeks refuge from him whenever he had issues. Anacreon describes Eros with warlike imagery and in the community then, and even today’s is associated, worth men. As such, he believes that only a fellow man could meet his love needs, his desires. As a result, from the poems, one can say that love is an emotional experience that one derives from his or her encounters, and believes in a person that can satisfy them. Thence, one usually intend to seek love from someone whom they think can best understand how they feel.

Greek lyrical poems, having originated for the ancient days, presented essential themes that are still valuable today. While the author majorly based their work on oral productions, they used lyre which contributed to the lyrics of such practices. The majority of the poets derived their influence from the Greek culture that was experienced at that moment. Even so, other forces came from personal experience which led to the individual lines that described their emotions. While several themes can be derived from the lyrical poems, the major one is love. Sappho and Anacreon present the themes love which they expressively show differences in terms of gender. Sappho is seemingly involved with the female goddess, Aphrodite whom she believes has all it takes to meet her desires. Anacreon on the hand meets her love desire form Eros, the god of desire whom he describes with warlike imagery. While the two may seem to express their love through their various poems, the drive for one to love to differ. Both find love in people they believe fully understand their human needs, which is people of the same gender.

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