M. Parker

MISZELLEN free ebook

Sappho 132 (Voigt)
(I have a beautiful child, who has a form like golden flowers, beloved Kleis, for whom I [would not take] all Lydia nor lovely . . .)
A great scholar not so long ago wrote:
I would not reject the suggestion that Sappho’s feelings for Kleis, asimagined in fragment 132, were given a consciously lesbian coloring . .
Indeed, taking it a step further, this “child” (pais) may be simply another metaphor for clitoris (Kleis/kleitoris).1 This suggestion has recently met with approval.2 That is, the claim is made that Sappho expected her readers on encountering the Lesbian proper name Kl°iw to think of the Attic word kle¤w, which in turn was to suggest the word kleitor¤w. One can already see the problems in this concatenation. The accidental resemblance of Kl°iw to kleitor¤w is a good example of where a little learning is a dangerous thing.
Four brief points. 1) To take the last link first, kle¤w (and its forms in other dialects) is never used to mean ‘clitoris,’ or indeed any part of the body other than the collarbone (Hom. Il. 8.325, etc., whence English ‘clavicle’). None of the other derivatives of kle¤w, nor any other word built to the same root, means ‘clitoris.’ The word kleitor-¤ w itself, a feminine agent noun with the rare compound suffix -tor-¤w,3 is clearly a part of the late technical medical vocabulary, attested only once (apart from the lexicographers), and at least six centuries after Sappho (Ruf. Onom. 111).4 free ebook