The ancient Greek poet Sappho and the first case report of the fight-or-flight response


Sappho has always been regarded as one of the greatest lyric poets of ancient Greece. Her famous poem Fragment 31 V., also known as the “Ode to Jealousy”, accurately describes the profound emotional reaction triggered by the sight of her beloved. The poet’s precise description of each sign and symptom triggered by this arousal makes Sappho 31 V., to the best of our knowledge, the first analytical description of the acute stress response, the so-called “fight-or-flight” response, in human history. Here, Fragment 31 V. is re-read from a medical point of view, correlating the ancient Greek lyric text, the corresponding medical terms, and the underlying catecholamine mechanism of action.

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We thank Sarah Jane Christopher for her linguistic revision of the text.

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Correspondence to Giampaolo Papi.

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Papi, G., Cuomo, V., Tedeschini, E. et al. The ancient Greek poet Sappho and the first case report of the fight-or-flight response. Hormones (2021).

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  • Sappho
  • Panic attack
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Autonomic nervous system
  • Catecholamines