Sappho and Catullus Romantic Rejection

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Although Sappho and Catullus lived and worked in different time periods, their ideas on romantic rejection suggest each were victims of unrequited love. Both wrote about their cultural environment of where they lived, their ideas of society, its expectations and inequalities for both women and men as well as their different representations of love. They used their poetry to discuss the gender inequality of their societies and how unfair a society led by men really was in. It dictated the different views of love shown by women and men.

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Sappho and Catullus both discuss interactions between men and women and the rejection of women holding a high place in a society led by men. They give their views on the complicated, sophisticated nature of love between two people, along with the romantic rejection endured by women. Both Sappho and Catullus suggest that there are different forms of love and each represents and conveys a different type of love.

Sappho, a female poet, was born in the early 6th century B.C. on the Greek island of Lesbos, and was said to be the tenth Muse and a supreme poet of her time. Even though little is known about Sappho’s life, it has been said that she has a husband and daughter. Catullus, a Roman poet lived about 84-54 B.C. and was highly influenced by Sappho, opted to write about love rather than politics. In “Sleep, Darling” and “If Ever Anyone Anywhere” use figurative language and imagery in comparable and contrasting way to express the poets’ portrayal of love.

Sappho speaks of the love of a mother and a daughter in simple terms which enables a child to understand her words. “I have a small/daughter, called/ Cleis, who is/like a golden/flower” (Sappho 2-6) In comparable works, Sappho compares her own position of a man who sits beside the woman he desires. At one point, she states that this man “is allowed/To sit beside you” (lines 3-4). Catullus tries to mimic Sappho. The female narrator of the piece watches as a man sits with her beloved, a man “who sitting against you, endlessly/sees you and hears you” (lines 3-4). In contrast, there is a difference in each poet’s sentiments. Sappho complains that a man who is “allowed” to sit beside the beloved, while Catullus discusses that a man who just sits because this man led society where men have all of the power and dominate within a household. In “If Ever Anyone Everywhere”, Catullus uses more mature words that he feels are more impressive words for women. “for you have restored yourself, Lesbia, desired/restored yourself, longed for, unlooked for/brought yourself back/ to me.” (Catullus 7-10) Catullus shows how differently love can look and each show how love exists differently and how they express love.

Love is a literary device where the poets try to convey the truth of what emotion is through their works. The Goddess Aphrodite plays a role with the poets that men can choose whatever women they want without rejection and against their will. Women of the time do not have the same power as men to force the same situation upon men, therefore their love is seen differently. Women of this time feel frustration to being rejected by a man and being dismissed, however, specifically, men do not share in the same frustration because they are rarely dismissed because of their anatomy. Women were living in a society dominated by men and were forced to be obedient to them at all times. By writing of inappropriate love and the romantic rejection they are demanding to love who they will and do not want to feel inferior to their male counterparts.

Sappho stands by her feminine position, she thinks of love as the reason for life. For Sappho, love is a relative and that is more important than anything. Sappho arguably opposes romantic rejection. She believes that it is worth to risk everything for one’s love. The poetess finds that passion and love must be valued more than that of war. Sappho knows that her views are an opposing opinion of society and the opinions of others during the time period. Sappho feels that a woman’s role in society was sometimes forgotten and only exists to be the objects of love; however, Sappho is looking for so much more and that a person should decide on their own destinies. Catullus world focuses on words used to impress women. His poems deal with love in a romantic sense. Both Catullus and Sappho care for their love in different ways and show that there is more than a two-dimensional world that emotions of love are felt and not seen therefore, comes in a variety of forms.

Reading the works of both authors, they are both opposed to romantic rejection even though they have varying ways in the ways that their poems express it. I do believe that Sappho has a stronger opinion on the subject because she as experienced as experienced rejection of some kind just for being a woman. Sappho is opposed to the way that women are treated during this time period and cannot justify why man has the upper hand in relationship and is allow to choose a woman’s place within the relationship. Catullus shows a varying form of love in comparison to Sappho. He is also opposed to romantic rejection, but has not really experience in the same way. Being a man, he cannot possibly understand the same sense of rejection that Sappho feels, even though they have the same viewpoint and oppose being rejected.

Sappho and Catullus’ views on romantic rejection are similar to how most feel. Even though their pieces were written long ago, those feelings of self-worth, inclusion, and the sense of being loved unconditionally, have not changed. When you read each poets’ works, they are wanting love to exist no matter how it exists. We live in a different time period where women are treated much differently, but in some regard, are the rights of women really equal and do men still hold the control over relationships and how to choose them.

Sappho and Catullus had the right idea when they wrote about their cultural environment of where they lived, their ideas of society and its expectations on both women and men and the inequality of their society and how unfair this was. Both poets knew that they could use their poetry to discuss the gender inequality of their societies and how unfair a society led by men really was. In some places this way of thinking still exists today. Romantic rejection does not discriminate both men and women are vulnerable to it. If society would think like Sappho and Catullus do and choose love there would be a lot less disappointment in our world.

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Sappho and Catullus Romantic Rejection. (2019, Nov 05). Retrieved from