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Bettany Hughes – Sappho on BBC Radio 4’s Great Lives

August 9, 2010

Our heroine Bettany Hughes keeps us engaged with the ancient world as we get sand between our toes during the long days of August. She is Matthew Parris’ guest on his wonderful BBC Radio 4 programme Great Lives on 10 August at 1630 hours GMT (repeated on 13 Aug at 2300 hours) – and now I have heard it I can say it is very good and worth a listen.

The Greek poet Sappho has been described as everything from a great intellectual to little more than a vamp. Hard facts about her life are in short supply – we know that she lived on the island of Lesbos over two and half thousand years ago, and fragments of her poetry still survive. The best examples deal with the language of desire, but whether she really was a lesbian (with a small l) is less clear. Historian Bettany Hughes is as obsessed with who Sappho might be, as with whom the fragmentary evidence suggest she was. “This lack of facts has not stopped people making up stories about her,” writes expert Peggy Reynolds. “Sappho is not a name, much less a person. It is, rather, a space.” An enigmatic choice for presenter Matthew Parris to decipher.

More details about the programme on its website here.

Listen again on BBC iPlayer here.

Subscribe to the podcast so you don’t miss the programme here.

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