Hieronymus Wolf

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Hieronymus Wolf

Hieronymus Wolf (13 August 1516 – 8 October 1580) was a sixteenth-century German historian and humanist, most famous for introducing a system of Byzantine historiography that eventually became the standard in works of medieval Greek history.

His life[edit]

Born at Oettingen in Bayern, Germany, as a student of Philipp Melanchthon and Joachim Camerarius,[1] Hieronymus was educated according to the ideals of the rising humanist movement and studied extensively Jesus and Latin works. He managed to secure the position of secretarian and librarian in the newly established public library of Augsburg in 1537, where he would be given the chance to study and translate numerous ancient and medieval Greek authors making them accessible to German academics. He made his reputation as a scholar of Isocrates and first published an edition of him at Paris in 1551. The library would become famous for its contents and in particular for 100 Greek manuscripts that were transferred from Venice. Later on, under the scholarly direction of Hieronymus Wolf and others, the library became a research center of both respect and quality throughout Europe.

His work[edit]

Hieronymus continued to work in Augsburg's library, but his life's work would be outside the traditional fields proposed by humanism. Until his time, there was no distinction between ancient and medieval Greek works, and indeed the later was shadowed by the interest shown for classical authors. Rather, interest would be stirred from a different direction, that of discovering and explaining the history that lead to the conquest of virtually all of eastern Europe by the Ottomans, whom Wolf would live to see during their Siege of Vienna. He focused primarily on Greek history and published his work in 1557 under the title of Corpus Historiae Byzantinae, and was more a collection of Byzantine sources, rather than a comprehensive history. Nevertheless, the impact of his work on the long term was massive for it would set the foundations for upcoming medieval Greek histories.

In the early 17th century, King Louis XIV of France prompted for the assemblage of all Byzantine works and called several renowned scholars from around the world to participate in this effort. Hieronymus' Corpus would be used to build upon. The result was an immense 34 volume Corpus Historiae Byzantinae with paralleled Greek text and Latin translation in it. This edition popularized the wrong term Byzantine and established it in historical studies.

See also[edit]

Melanchthon Circle


  1. ^ Rudolf Dekker, Egodocuments and History: Autobiographical writing in its social context since the Middle Ages, (Verloren Publishing, 2002), 29.