The New Sappho Poem: a Student Commentary

As part of an in-class, group assignment, I had my Greek Lyric class collaborate on writing a commentary on the new Sappho Poem. The students had to read Obbink 2014 (below), scan the poem, translate it, and then we went through and marked the sections which needed to be commented upon. The students worked in groups to create a commentary geared towards students who primarily know attic Greek. The translation below the commentary is mine. We welcome suggestions and additions.

The New Sappho (Aka “Brothers Poem”)

ἀλλ’ ἄϊ θρύληϲθα Χάραξον ἔλθην
νᾶϊ ϲὺµ πλέαι· τὰ µέν̣, οἴο̣µα̣ι, Ζεῦϲ
οἶδε ϲύµπαντέϲ τε θέοι· ϲὲ δ’ ̣οὐ χρῆ
ταῦτα νόειϲθαι

ἀλλὰ καὶ πέµπην ἔµε καὶ κέλ{η}`ε΄ϲθαι
πόλλα λί̣ϲϲεϲθαι̣ βαϲί̣λ̣η̣αν Ἤ̣ραν
ἐξίκεϲθαι τυίδε ϲάαν ἄγοντα
νᾶα Χάραξον,

κἄµµ’ ἐπεύρην ἀρτ̣έ̣µεαϲ· τὰ δ’ ἄλλα
πάντα δαιµόνεϲϲ̣ιν ἐπι̣τ̣ρόπωµεν·
εὐδίαι̣ γ̣ὰρ̣ ἐκ µεγάλαν ἀήτα̣ν̣
αἶψα πέ̣λ̣ο̣νται·

τῶν κε βόλληται βαϲίλευϲ Ὀλύµπω
δαίµον’ ἐκ πόνων ἐπάρ{η}`ω΄γον ἤδη
περτρόπην, κῆνοι µ̣άκαρεϲ πέλονται
καὶ πολύολβοι.

κ̣ἄµµεϲ, αἴ κε τὰν κεφάλα̣ν ἀέρρη
Λάρι̣χοϲ καὶ δήποτ’ ἄνη̣ρ γένηται,
καὶ µάλ’ ἐκ πόλλ{η}`αν΄ βαρ̣υθύ̣µιάν̣ κεν
αἶψα λύθειµεν.

h/t to Armand D’Angour for some improvements to the commentary


1. Ἄϊ: take as ἀεί, “always”, while scanning the meter is
read as short-long

Θρύληϲθα: θρυλεω- to blabber or chat incessantly. 2nd, singular, preset, middle,
indicative  of θρύλημι, the Aeolic form of θρυλέω.

Χάραξον: Sappho’s brother, referenced by both Herodotus and Posidippus, inclusion
of this name aided in the identification of this poem

ἔλθην: Aeolic aorist infinitive of ἒρχομαι

2. Ϲὺµ: Aeolic form of συν, compare with Latin cum

Πλέαι: adjective, ship full, to not be confused with πλέω (“to sail”)

τὰ µέν̣…ϲὲ δ’: correlative structure; τὰ µέν pronomial use

οἶδε: 3rd singularindicative active of the verb οἶδα, to know

5. Πέµπην: infinitive used as imperative
Κέλ{η}`ε΄ϲθαι: from κέλομαι ; infinitive used as imperative

7. Τυίδε: Aeolic for τῇδε
Ϲάαν: alternative form of adjective “σως”; contract for σόος, σοῦς

8. Νᾶα: aeolic form for accusative singular of ship “ναῦς”

9. κἄµµ’:και + ἄμμε, Aeolic form of Attic ἣμιν
ἐπεύρην: Aeolic aorist infinitive of ἐφευρίσκω

10. Ἐπι̣τ̣ρόπωµεν: hortatory subjunctive

11. µεγάλαν ἀήτα̣ν̣: Aeolic genitive plural form, large gales (of wind). Final syllables
should be scanned as a long

12. πέ̣λ̣ο̣νται: 3rd, plural, present, middle, indicative from πέ̣λ̣ω, an Aeolic equivalent
to εἰμί and γίγνομαι

13. Τῶν κε: genitive used substantively, i.e. “of whomever”; correlative with the κῆνοι in line 15. Obbink (2014) takes it as a relative pronoun used as a genitive of possession.

Βόλληται- Aeolic form of the Attic Βούληται

Ὀλύμπω: genitive, singular, masculine; alternate genitive ending where the -οιο
ending in the uncontracted Ὀλύμποιο is shorted to -ω instead of -ου.

14. Ἐπάρ{η}’ω’γον: a later correction of the manuscript reading of “ἐπάρηγον,” an
unaugmented 1st singular or 3rd plural imperfect form from ἐπάρηγω, to “ἐπάρωγον,”a noun in this context used as a predicate accusative meaning “as a helper.”

17. Κ̣ἄµµεϲ: Aeolic for Attic ἡμεῖς. κἄµµεϲ: Aeolic for καὶ ἡμεῖς (with crasis i.e. stuck together like κἄµµ’ in line 9).

17. αἴ κε: general clause; the protasis is a future more vivid, while the apodosis is a
future less vivid, resulting in a “future more or less vivid”; modal particle in the
apodosis denotes a hyper-unreal situation

17-20. Ἀέργη corrected to ἀέρρη as the former is not attested. ἀέρρη = αἴρῃ ‘raises’ (pres. subj. of the Aeolic equivalent)  third person singular, present subjunctive active. Double-rho form appears in Sappho,
fr. 111.3: ἀέρρετε τέκτονες ἄνδρες·


“But you are always saying that Kharaksos

Is coming with a full ship. These things, I think,

Zeus knows along with the rest of the gods. But it is not right

That you consider them.


Instead, both send me and order me

To plead much with queen Hera

That Kharaksos comes here

Leading a safe ship


And finds us all safe. Let’s entrust the rest of it

To the gods. For days of fair weather

Come quickly from

Great gales.


For whomever the king of Olympos

Wishes to set a god as a helper from toils,

Those people are blessed

And very wealthy.


And we, if Larikos should ever raise his head

And then in some way become a man,

We would be quickly relieved of our

Great heaviness of heart.”



Allan, William, and Laura Swift. “Introduction to “Moralizing Strategies in Early Greek Poetry”.” (2018): 3-6.

Bettenworth, Anja. “Sapphos Amme: ein Beitrag zum neuen Sapphofragment (Brothers Poem).” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 191 (2014): 15-19.

Bierl, Anton, and André Lardinois. The newest Sappho. P. Sapph. Obbink and P. GC inv. 105, frs. 1-4. Vol. 392. Brill, 2016.

Burris, Simon Peter, Fish, Jeffrey and Obbink, Dirk D.. “New fragments of Book 1 of Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 189 (2014): 1-28.

Danielewicz, Jerzy. “Early Greek lyric and Hellenistic epigram: new evidence from recently published papyri.” The Journal of Juristic Papyrology 43 (2013): 263-275.

Gribble, David. “Getting ready to pray: Sappho’s new « brothers » song.” Greece and Rome Ser. 2 63, no. 1 (2016): 29-68. Doi: 10.1017/S0017383515000248

Lardinois, André. “Sappho’s Brothers Song and the Fictionality of Early Greek Lyric Poetry.” BIERL, A. y LARDINOIS, A.(Eds.) (2016): 167-187.

LIBERMAN, GL. “Reflections on a New Poem by Sappho concerning her Anguish and her Brothers Charaxos and Larichos.” Reception of Greek Literature 300 BC-AD 800: Traditions of the Fragment (2015).

Martin, Richard P. “Sappho, Iambist: abusing the brother.” Bierl, A. y Lardinois, A.(Eds.) (2016): 110-126.

Mueller, Melissa, “Re-Centering Epic Nostos: Gender and Genre in Sappho’s Brothers
Poem,” Arethusa 49 (2016) 25-46.

Nagy, Gregory. “A poetics of sisterly affect in the Brothers Song and in other songs of Sappho.” Bierl, A. y Lardinois, A (2016): 449-492.

Neri, Camillo. “Il « Brothers Poem » e l’edizione alessandrina: (in margine a « P. Sapph. Obbink »).” Eikasmos 26 (2015): 53-76

Obbink, Dirk. “Interim notes on « Two new poems of Sappho ».” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 194 (2015): 1-8

Obbink, Dirk. “Provenance, Authenticity, and Text of the New Sappho Papyri.” Society for (2015).

Obbink, Dirk D.. “Two new poems by Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 189 (2014): 32-49.

Velasco López, María del Henar. “La súplica a Hera en el « Poema de los Hermanos » de Safo.” Emerita 84, no. 2 (2016): 343-351. Doi: 10.3989/emerita.2016.17.1520

Image result for new sappho

3 thoughts on “The New Sappho Poem: a Student Commentary

Leave a Reply