24 February 2023 - 24 February 2023
5:00PM - 6:30PM
In this public talk, the Durham Department of Classics & Ancient History's 5th annual LGBT+ History Month event, Dr Simona Martorana (former Durham PhD student, now at the University of Kiel) will explore queerness in the Roman receptions of Sappho. This talk will take place on Zoom only, and is free and open to all.
Roman fresco of a young woman holding a tablet and stylus, supposedly Sappho, from Pompeii. Naples National Archaeological Museum, Public domain, via
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Sappho’s status as a queer icon, both in classical scholarship and popular culture, is not a novelty. But to what extent does Sappho queer her Roman reception? How does Sappho destabilize normative gender roles within Latin literature and culture? While Roman receptions of Sappho – and early receptions of Sappho more broadly – have been increasingly investigated in recent years (Yatromanolakis 2007; Thorsen and Harrison 2019), the queerness of the ‘Roman’ Sappho would benefit from further analysis. After a short methodological section on my use of the term “queer” in relation to Sappho, I examine how the presence of Sapphic elements within Latin authors contributes to a reinvention and reconceptualization of gender categories. Catullus’ ‘Sapphic’ poems, Horace’s “manlike Sappho”, Vergil’s Sapphic echoes, and the Ovidian Sappho of Heroides 15 (among the others), all shed light on the fluidity, indeterminacy, and nonconformity of Sappho in the Roman world.