Sappho (SA-foh), the Greek poet. Wearing the laurel wreath of victory from the Olympian contest of poetry and song, she returns to her island home bringing Phaon, with whom she has fallen deeply in love. When the young man falls in love with Melitta, Sappho, offended and troubled, accuses him of being a deceiver in love. Phaon’s reply that he now realizes it was her genius he loved rather than herself causes Sappho to reflect on her gifts. Deciding that her genius bars her from meeting the demands of ordinary mortal existence, she calls on the gods to receive her as she hurls herself into the sea.
Phaon (FAY-on), a young charioteer. Having a great admiration for the poems of Sappho, he falls in love with the poet when they meet at Olympia. He returns with her to Lesbos where, in spite of her love and consideration, the simple young man is uncomfortable in her luxurious surroundings. When he falls in love with Melitta, he realizes that it was Sappho’s genius he had loved at Olympia, not the woman herself.
Melitta (meh-LIH-tuh), Sappho’s beautiful young slave, who brings to Phaon the realization that it is the poet’s genius and not Sappho herself that he has loved.
Rhamnes (RAM-neez), Sappho’s elderly slave.