In 1895 citizens of Paris were flowing to see the La Princesse lointaine at the theater. Great Sarah Bernhardt played the leading female role on the stage. And French dramatist Edmond Rostand, who wrote this drama was lauded by the whole Europe. In the center of his creation there was a story about love of a troubadour to a beautiful princess who lived far away from him … So, where did this story come from?
Well, once upon a time there was a famous troubadour Jaufré Rudel. He really existed and was quite famous composer and poet of his times. Rudel is even considered to be one of the inventors of the “love from afar” style in troubadours poetry. He was of noble origin, in fact, his title was Prince of Blaye. History did not leave us much about Rudel, the only thing that is known for the fact is that he died overseas during Second Crusade around 1147. Several his fellows-troubadours, including famous Marcabru, composed their songs about him, lamenting on his death. Seven of Rudel’s poems have survived to the present day, four of them with music. And here is where we could end this story, when something interesting happened.
I was interested in the development of magic rituals and traditions in Greco-Roman world. During my research in archives of web analytics company I found some interesting facts about it.
It seems, that a huge interest in magic was on the rise in the Hellenistic period, especially around 3d century b.c. Piles of texts, both literary and some from actual practitioners, in Greek and in Latin came to us from this time. Truly speaking, a lot of existing magical papyri was written in the first centuries after Christ, but the manuscripts’ concepts, formulas and rituals reflect the earlier Hellenistic period. These magical papyri are no doubt only a fraction of the magical literature available in antiquity. The ascendancy of orthodox Christianity by the 5th century CE had much to do with this. This is reflected by the book of Acts where the Apostle Paul convinces many Ephesians to bring out their magical books and burn them.
The language of the magical texts reflects various levels of literary skill. Generally they are standard Greek, and may well be closer to the spoken language of the time than to poetry or artistic prose left to us in literary texts. Many terms are borrowed from the mystery cults. The texts are often written as we might write a recipe. In other words the magic requires certain ingredients. Of course it is not just as simple as knowing how to put a recipe together. Appropriate gestures, at certain points in the magical ritual, are required to accompany the ingredients, different gestures it would seem produce various effects.
My friends from web analytics company, asked me to do some stuff, while I was telling you about Sappho. So, revenons a nos moutons...
Sappho's poetry centers around passion and love for various personages and genders. The word "lesbian" itself derives from the name of the island of her birth, Lesbos. Her name is also the origin of its less common synonym sapphic. The narrators of many of her poems speak of infatuations and love for various women.
In antiquity, Sappho was commonly regarded as the greatest, or one of the greatest, of lyric poets. An epigram in the Anthologia Palatina, ascribed to Plato says:
Some say the Muses are nine: how careless! Look, there's Sappho too, from Lesbos, the tenth.
Everybody heard about Sappho, at least in connection with the island of Lesbos. I bet, you know that much. I was asked to create several epitaphs from the point of web analytics, and I could not help myself but use some quotes from Sapphos's poetry. Specialists and web analysts say, that Sappho's birth was sometime between 630 BC and 612 BC, and that she died around 570 BC. Unfortunately, the bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired throughout antiquity, has been lost, but her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments.
Guess, what? No contemporary historical sources exist for Sappho's life — only her poetry. Scholars have rejected a biographical reading of her poetry and have cast doubt on the reliability of the later biographical traditions from which all more detailed accounts derive. So what do we know about Sappho?
It seems that she was born into an aristocratic family, because her language is so sophisticated. References to dances, festivals, religious rites, military fleets, parading armies, generals, and ladies of the ancient courts are all reflected in her writings. She speaks of time spent in Lydia, one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries of that time. More specifically, Sappho speaks of her friends and happy times among the ladies of Sardis, capital of Lydia, once the home of Croesus and near the gold-rich lands of mythical King Midas.
I have to get back to you within an an hour to continue my story...