Aleka Kanellidou sings the song Atthida, a Greek song based on the poem Atthis by Sappho, the ancient Greek poet.
Sappho was one of the only well-known ancient Greek women poets. Born between 630 and 612 B.C., Sappho lived an affluent life where she spent her days on the isle of Lesbos, writing poetry and studying the arts. Sappho was what was known as a lyrist–a person who wrote poems to be accompanied in performance by a lyre player. Sappho wrote her own music. Her poems were emotional and personal, commonly dealing with her deep feelings for other women. Many people today consider her writings to be homosexual in nature and an example of early lesbianism, yet no one is sure whether she was displaying true sexual affection toward other women and was interesting in dating them, or she simply had strong nonsexual feelings for them.
The poems written to or for Atthis are considered a symbol of tenderness and pure love. Aphrodite, the goddess of love and sexuality, is ever present. In the poems of Sappho, she is not portrayed as a fearsome deity, but as a mentor and confidante.
Reading and listening to this poem we understand why the poet Anne Carson points out that it was Sappho who first described Eros as “bittersweet”. “No one who has been in love,” says Carson, “disputes her”. Desire is, after all, fraught with paradox: it is the zenith of human bliss, but its annihilating power destroys the illusion of human autonomy. Sappho admits her love for Atthis and reminds us still today how passion and love can be so inspiring.
The poem Atthis is set to music by Spiros Vlassopoulos and sung by a great artist, Aleka Kanellidou.