Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff

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Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff
Wilamowitz.jpg
Born (1848-12-22)22 December 1848
Markowitz, Province of Posen
Died 25 September 1931(1931-09-25) (aged 82)
Berlin
Nationality German Empire
Fields Classical scholars
Alma mater University of Bonn
Academic advisors Otto Jahn, Hermann Usener, Anton Springer
Notable students Jacoby, Mittelhaus, H. Fränkel, Schadewaldt, E. Fraenkel, Jaeger, Geffcken, Maas, Schwartz, Murray, Friedländer, Sykutris, Kranz, Pasquali

Enno Friedrich Wichard Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (22 December 1848 – 25 September 1931) was a German classical philologist. Wilamowitz, as he is known in scholarly circles, was a renowned authority on Ancient Greece and its literature.

Life[edit]

Youth[edit]

Wilamowitz-Moellendorff was born in Markowitz (Markowice), a small village near Hohensalza (Inowrocław), in the then Province of Posen (at present part of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship), to a Germanized family of distant Polish ancestry. His father, a Prussian Junker, was Arnold Wilamowitz, of Szlachta origin and using the Ogończyk Coat of Arms, while his mother was Ulrika, née Calbo. The couple settled in a small manor confiscated from a local noble in 1836. The Prussian part of their name, von Moellendorf, was acquired in 1813, when Prussian field marshal Wichard Joachim Heinrich von Möllendorf adopted Ulrich's ancestors. Wilamowitz, a third child, grew up in East Prussia.

In 1867 Wilamowitz passed his Abitur at the renowned boarding school at Schulpforta.

Studies[edit]

Until 1869 Wilamowitz studied Classical Philology at the University of Bonn. His teachers, Otto Jahn and Hermann Usener, had a formative influence on him. Willamowitz's relationship with Usener was strained. He developed a lifelong rivalry with his fellow student Friedrich Nietzsche and a close friendship with his contemporary Hermann Diels. Together with Diels, he moved to Berlin in 1869, where he graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy cum laude in 1870. After voluntary service in the Franco-Prussian War, he embarked on a study tour to Italy and Greece.

Conflict with Nietzsche and Wagner[edit]

Before he even gained a professorial title, Wilamowitz was a main protagonist in a scholarly dispute about Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy that attracted much attention. In 1872–73, he published two unusually aggressive polemics (German: "Zukunftsphilologie", i.e. "Philology of the future"), which strongly attacked Nietzsche (then Professor at the University of Basel) and Professor Erwin Rohde (University of Kiel). Richard Wagner, whose views on art had influenced Nietzsche and Rohde, reacted by publishing an open letter and Rohde wrote a damning response. The issue at stake was the deprecation of Euripides, on whom Nietzsche blamed the destruction of Greek tragedy. Wilamowitz saw the methods of his adversaries as an attack on the basic tenets of scientific thought, unmasking them as enemies of the scientific method. His polemic was considered as Classical philology's reply to Nietzsche's challenge.[1]

At the age of 80 when Wilamowitz wrote his memoirs, he saw the conflict with Nietzsche less passionately, but did not retract the essential points of his critique. He stated that he had not fully realised at the time that Nietzsche was not interested in scientific understanding but rather in Wagner's musical drama, but also that he was nevertheless right to take position against Nietzsche's "rape of historical facts and all historical method".[2]

Greifswald[edit]

In 1875 he gained a professorial title for his study Analecta Euripidea. In the same year he gave his first public academic lecture in Berlin. In 1876 he was employed as Ordinarius (full professor) for Classical Philology at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität at Greifswald. During this period, he also married Maria Mommsen, the eldest daughter of Theodor Mommsen, and published Homeric Studies (Homerische Studien).

Göttingen[edit]

In 1883, he took a further professorial position at Georg-August-Universität in Göttingen. Here, he continued to teach Classical Philology but also gave replacement lectures in Ancient History. His influence ensured the employment of his Greifswald colleague, Julius Wellhausen, in Göttingen. In 1891, he became vice-chancellor of the university, and he was appointed a member of Göttingen's Royal Academy of Sciences one year later. When Wilamowitz left Göttingen, he was succeeded by Georg Kaibel, a close associate from his student days and his successor at Greifswald.

Berlin[edit]

In 1897, with the support of his friend Diels, Wilamowitz was offered a position at the Royal Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität at Berlin, as successor to Ernst Curtius. He stayed until his retirement in 1921. In 1915 he was appointed chancellor of the university for one year. Together with Diels, he founded the Berlin Institute for Ancient Studies (Institut für Altertumskunde) in 1897. His public lectures on subjects of Classical antiquity, which took place twice a week, attracted large audiences.

Teaching activities and memberships[edit]

In 1891, Wilamowitz was elected a corresponding member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and he was a full member as of 1899. In 1902 he took the academy's presidency. As a member of the Göttingen academy, he strongly encouraged the publication of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. From 1897 he also worked as a member to the academy's Commission for Patristics. In 1894 he was elected full member of the German Archaeological Institute. He also was editor of the series Philologische Untersuchungen from 1880 to 1925.

Further, Wilamowitz taught as a guest lecturer in Oxford (1908) and Uppsala (1912), was a corresponding member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (1909) and the Scientific Society of Lund (1921).

Inscriptiones Graecae[edit]

During his presidency of the Prussian Academy, Wilamowitz achieved the continuation of August Böckh's and Adolf Kirchhoff's publication series, the Inscriptiones Graecae. Wilamowitz had a formative influence on the further development of that project, which he directed until his death.

World War I[edit]

Wilamowitz was an initiator of the memorandum Erklärung der Hochschullehrer des Deutschen Reiches ("Declaration by the University Teachers of the German Reich"), in which 3,016 signatories supported German participation in the First World War. Shortly after, he also signed the Manifesto of the Ninety-Three, from which he distanced himself later. In 1914, his son, Tycho von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, who was also active as a classical philologist, fell in the battle of Ivangorod. The memorandum appeared a few days later.

The celebrated tale of Wilamowitz's whirring, rotating stainless-steel clockwork left thumb, his "jolly stiff little fellow" (as he is said to have called it), the prosthesis installed as the result either of his unfortunate injury under artillery barrage during the Franco-Prussian War or of his desperate self-mutilation to avoid further military service during the Great War (which could hardly have been so, given that he was 65 years old at the outbreak of that war), shows signs of being perhaps an apocryphal invention and, until finally verified with appropriate documentation, should probably be disregarded by serious scholars.

Family[edit]

In 1878 he married Maria Mommsen, the eldest daughter of the famous ancient historian, Theodor Mommsen, whom he actively assisted in the completion of his Roman History.

Wilamowitz spent his last years in seclusion, suffering from severe kidney problems. He died in Berlin on 25 September 1931, having been in a coma for a short time. He is buried in his native village, along with his wife, Maria (1855–1936), and their only son, Tycho. He also had a daughter, Dorothea Freifrau Hiller von Gaertringen, wife of archaeologist Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen, who died on 24 March 1972.[3]

Achievements[edit]

Wilamowitz is one of the central figures of 19th and 20th century Classical philology. As a great authority of the literature and history of Ancient Greece, Wilamowitz took a stance against traditional methodology and textual criticism. As a representative of Postclassicism, he concentrated less on literary history but rather aimed to extract biographical information on the respective authors from the preserved texts. Thus, he employed historical perspectives to serve philology. Apart from his seminal general works (Greek Literature from Antiquity, Hellenistic Poetry), he published numerous detailed studies of Euripides, Homer, Aeschylus, Pindar and Aristotle. As a scientific organiser, he was also responsible for the publication of important standard-setting source material publications, such as Inscriptiones Graecae.

He also passionately supported the preservation of Classical education in the German school system.

Notable pupils of his include Felix Jacoby, Karl Mittelhaus, Wolfgang Schadewaldt, Eduard Fraenkel, Werner Jaeger, Johannes Geffcken, Paul Maas, Eduard Schwartz, Gilbert Murray, Paul Friedländer, Friedrich Solmsen and Johannes Sykutris.

In recent decades, the American scholar William M. Calder III has been publishing a series of important documents about and by Wilamowitz, including much of his correspondence with Diels, Eduard Norden, Mommsen, Paul Wendland, and others.

Awards[edit]

Works[edit]

  • Griechische Literatur des Altertums
  • Einleitung in die griechische Tragödie
  • Homerische Untersuchungen (1884)
  • Die Ilias und Homer (1916)
  • Hellenistische Dichtung (1924)
  • Erinnerungen 1848-1914. Verlag von K. F. Koehler, Leipzig 1928. (Memoirs)

References[edit]

  1. ^ M. S. Silk & J. P. Stern, Nietzsche on Tragedy, Cambridge University Press, 1981 pp.90-106
  2. ^ Wilt Aden Schröder: "Fünf Briefe des Verlegers Eduard Eggers an Wilamowitz, betreffend die Zukunftsphilologie! und die Analecta Euripidea", in: Eikasmos 12 (2001:367-383) p. 373f.
  3. ^ Greek Literature: Greek literature in the classical period

Sources[edit]

  • Michael Armstrong, Wolfgang Buchwald, William M. Calder III.: Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff bibliography 1867−1990 (Hildesheim, Weidmann, 1991).
  • Braun, Maximilian, William M. Calder, III & Dietrich Ehlers, edd., "Lieber Prinz". Der Briefwechsel zwischen Hermann Diels und Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1869–1921) (Hildesheim: Weidmann, 1995).
  • Calder, William M. III and Bernhard Huss (еds), 'The Wilamowitz in Me': 100 Letters between Ulrich von Wilamovitz-Moellendorff and Paul Friedlaender (1904–1931) (Los Angeles: Charles Young Research Library, University of California, 1999).
  • Candio, Antonella, "Ein lebendiges Ganzes": la filologia come scienza e storia nelle "Coefore" di Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 2008) (Supplementi di Lexis, 57).

This article incorporates information from this version of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

External links[edit]