SULLAM, SARA COPIA (COPPIO):
Italian poetess; born in Venice 1592; died there Adar 5 (Feb. 14); 1641; eldest daughter of Simon and Rebecca Coppio. Her father was a man of culture, who enjoyed the respect of the community in which he dwelt. At his death, when Sara was not quite fifteen years old, she could read the Latin and the Greek classics, the Holy Scriptures, and Spanish literature, each in its original tongue, and she had already won local fame for her poems in Italian. To these attainments were added charm of person, a voice of unusual sweetness, musical ability, the gift of improvisation, and such exquisite social graces that she became the leader of a salon.
Leon of Modena dedicated to Sara his translation of Solomon Usque's Spanish drama "Esther." An epic poem bearing the same title, and written by the Genoese monk Ansaldo Cebà, was the cause of much trouble for her. The work aroused not only her admiration for but also her gratitude toward a non-Jewish author who glorified a Jewish heroine. This sentiment she communicated in writing to Cebà, who was filled with ambition to win his correspondent for the Church. An exchange of letters ensued (1618-22); but though Sara was persuaded to read the New Testament, she remained firm in her allegiance to Judaism. Cebà's letters to Sara were published in 1623; but her answers were suppressed, probably at the bidding of the Inquisition.
In 1621 a frequenter of her salon, the priest Baldassar Bonifaccio, accused her, in a pamphlet, of having denied the dogma of the immortality of the soul, a crime for which the Church decreed extreme penalties. Sara hastened to defend herself in a "manifesto," dedicated to her father's memory, the only one of her works published separately by her. This reply displays powers of sarcastic refutation, and the clear, logical thinking for which Sara was noted. Several Italian poems of hers have been printed.
Sara was married in 1614 to Jacob Sullam, a wealthy and well-educated Venetian. The epitaph upon her tomb is supposed to have been written by Leon of Modena.
- A. F. Rio, Les Quatre Martyrs, pp. 79 et seq., Paris, 1856;
- M. A. Levy, Sara Copia Sullam, in Jahrbuch für die Gesch. der Juden und des Judenthums, iii. 65 et seq.;
- Grätz, Gesch. x. 146-148;
- Geiger, Jüd. Zeit. vii. 178-183;
- Ernest David, Sara Copia Sullam, une Héroïne Juive au XVIIe Siècle, Paris, 1877;
- Kayserling, Die Jüdischen Frauen, 1879, pp. 159-170;
- Nahida Remy, Das Jüdische Weib, n.d., pp. 170-184;
- Karpeles, Jewish Literature and Other Essays, 1895, pp. 124-128.