A Lyric Aristeia and a Lover’s Rout: Gender and Genre in Sappho 31
ἦ ἄρα σὺν μεγάλῃ ἀρετῇ ἐκτήσω ἄκοιτιν
ὡς ἀγαθαὶ φρένες ἦσαν ἀμύμονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
κούρῃ Ἰκαρίου, ὡς εὖ μέμνητ’ Ὀδυσῆος,
ἀνδρὸς κουριδίου. τῶ οἱ κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται
ἧς ἀρετῆς, τεύξουσι δ’ ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἀοιδὴν
ἀθάνατοι χαρίεσσαν ἐχέφρονι Πηνελοπείῃ.
Yet these glorious women are not the norm in epic. Penthesileia is one of the few female warriors whose courageous feats at Troy are immortalized (but memorialized on artwork like vase paintings, and not included in Homer’s epic). And even Penelope’s glory is dependent on her husband’s renown, since her kleos stems from her ability to further Odysseus’ fame. In complimenting Penelope, Agamemnon contrasts her with his own wife Clytemnestra: Clytemnestra’s treachery robbed him of the glory of a successful nostos, whereas Penelope’s loyalty made possible Odysseus’ glorious homecoming (Odyssey 24.199–202).  Thus Penelope’s glory is not completely her own, as it originates from her ability to create kleos for her husband.
ἔμμεν᾽ ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι
ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί-
καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ᾽ ἦ μάν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν
ὠς γάρ ἔσσ᾽ ἴδω βρόχε᾽ ὤς με φώνη-
σ᾽ ὀυδὲν ἔτ᾽ εἴκει,
ἀλλὰ καμ μὲν γλῶσσα ἔαγε, λέπτον
δ᾽αὔτικα χρῶς πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμακεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ᾽ οὐδὲν ὄρημμ᾽, ἐπιβρό-
μεισι δ᾽ ἄκουαι,
ἐκαδε μ’ ἴδρως κακχέεται, τρόμος δὲ
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίσας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ᾽ ὀλίγω ῾πιδεύης
φαίνομ᾽ ἔμ᾽ αὔται.
ἀλλά πὰν τόλματον, ἐπεὶ καὶ πένητα
He seems to me to be equal to the gods,
That man, whoever sits opposite you
And listens close by
To your sweet speaking
And pleasant laughing, it
Makes the heart in my chest fly
For when I look at you, even briefly,
Speaking remains in me not at all,
But my tongue stops working, straight away
A slender flame darts under my skin,
And there is no vision in my eyes, and
Drumming in my ears,
Sweat grabs hold of me, and trembling
Seizes all of me, and I am greener than grass
And I seem nearly dead to myself
But all is to be dared, because even a poor person
Initially, it may seem that the poem’s Speaker is precluded from glory and heroism because she cannot even look at the woman without experiencing such crushing anxiety that it manifests itself as physical weakness. However, in this essay, I argue that Sappho’s portrayal of the Speaker breaks from depictions of women that were predominant in epic. Using language characteristic of epic in a lyric poem, Sappho shows that, while women typically could not display strength or gain glory in war, they could achieve recognition for their accomplishments as lovers. 
τρὶς δέ οἱ ἐστυφέλιξε φαεινὴν ἀσπίδ’ Ἀπόλλων·
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ τὸ τέταρτον ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος,
δεινὰ δ’ ὁμοκλήσας προσέφη ἑκάεργος Ἀπόλλων.
According to Lorenzo Garcia, the “theme of ‘counting’” reminds readers that these heroes are weaker than the gods since “Diomedes and Patroklos each strive in turn against a god three times, but on the fourth time they are beaten back.”  The structure of this passage mirrors Diomedes’ initial hope to defeat the gods during his aristeia. Homer repeats τρίς at the beginning of two consecutive lines, yet shows that this hope is unrealistic by beginning the next line, which describes what happens on the fourth try (τὸ τέταρτον) with the adversative ἀλλ’. Homer makes the distinction between humans and gods explicit when Apollo tells Diomedes, μηδὲ θεοῖσιν / ἶσ’ ἔθελε φρονέειν (“Do not strive to have the same thoughts as the gods,” Iliad 5.440–441), using the phrase θεοῖσιν / ἶσ’ that resembles δαίμονι ἶσος.
αὐτὰρ ἔπειτ’ αὐτῷ μοι ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος.
Homer’s use of δαίμονι ἶσος here reveals that Diomedes needs deities’ help to become strong enough to fight a god. In the Iliad, it is beyond the power of mortals to become equal the gods on their own.
Πάτροκλος, τρὶς δ’ αὐτὸν ἀπεστυφέλιξεν Ἀπόλλων
χείρεσσ’ ἀθανάτῃσι φαεινὴν ἀσπίδα νύσσων.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ τὸ τέταρτον ἐπέσσυτο δαίμονι ἶσος,
δεινὰ δ’ ὁμοκλήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα
As with Diomedes, Homer states that Patroclus can rival the gods three times but will fail on his fourth attempt; his godlike abilities are short-lived. In fact, Patroclus suffers an even more pressing reminder of his mortality than Diomedes when, at the end of his aristeia, he is killed by Hector, aided by Apollo and Euphorbus. He can only be “equal to a god” for an instant, then he must confront his own mortality, an all too human characteristic. 
οἶος ἄνευθ᾽ ἄλλων, ἵνα μὴ τάχα πότμον ἐπίσπῃς
Πηλείωνι δαμείς, ἐπεὶ ἦ πολὺ φέρτερός ἐστι
Hector duels—and is killed by—Achilles despite his father’s warning. Although Hector says he might be able to triumph in the duel shortly before engaging Achilles in battle (Iliad 22.130), it surely comes as no surprise that Achilles vanquishes him given Achilles’ unparalleled strength and rage in the Iliad. Part of what makes Hector’s actions heroic is his fearless determination to battle Achilles when he knows he will likely not triumph. Hector, then, resolves to fight his foe even though the odds are against him, just as the Speaker keeps trying to speak with the woman even though she repeatedly fails. Even though the Speaker does not display the type of military prowess that Diomedes and Patroclus do—demolishing one’s enemies and reaching godlike pinnacles of power—she thus exhibits undaunted fearlessness in the face of likely defeat, a different brand of heroism but one also present in Homer.