Imagine that every copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio had been destroyed some 350 years ago. We might have heard tell of how great “Macbeth” once was on stage, but we couldn’t perform it ourselves. Without the First Folio, we’d be deprived of at least half of Shakespeare’s plays. No “Julius Caesar.” No “Tempest.” No “Twelfth Night.”
Scholars of ancient literature find themselves in such a predicament with the Greek lyric poet Sappho, born in the late seventh century B.C. Her fame lives, but few of her poems survive.