German classicists

By Nikolaos, in 'General Latin Chat (English)', Aug 22, 2011.

  1. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    • Censor
    Why is it that so many works in or about Latin seem to be written by German authors, whereas Anglophones don't seem to be anywhere near as interested in the topic?

    (I'm about to ramble, you don't have to read from this point onward)

    I know I'm not imagining this - when I look up a Latin term, I tend to find more results in German than in English, my grammar was written by a German and was introduced to me by Evan der Millner (although I don't know whether he himself is German, or his ancestry), and our beloved Bitmap is German.

    Did Rome leave some profound mark in Germany that is unmatched elsewhere? Or is German culture less hostile toward studiousness (I ask this since meatheadedness seems to be the trend here, and the studious are simply "nerds") and broader in its concept of what is useful and practical?

    Could it be related to the fact that English is the current lingua franca, making it in the first place unlikely that an Anglophone would study a foreign language at all, and thence even less likely that one would be interested in a "dead" language?

    You really don't have to answer each question - my mind was wandering.
  2. socratidion Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    London
    I don't think it can be seriously denied that, historically, Germany takes first place in classical studies. Certainly in the 19th century, the rest of the world were just amateurs. Being a Brit myself, I like to think we occasionally give them a run for their money...
  3. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Varsovia
    Yes, there muſt be a reaſon. I myſelf know ſome Latinists, all of them hail from Deutſchland. The German Latin board e-Latein is full of well-educated claßiciſts, whoſe knowledge of antiquities is far beyond average.
  4. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena
    i don't know ... but here are a few thoughts.

    I dare say that this coincidence. Most German classicists stem from families which have an academic, classical background. My family has absolutely nothing to do with Ancient history or philology and I did not even learn Latin in school.

    She did leave such marks, although I can't say they are unmatched. It makes you wonder why immediate heirs of the Roman empire like France or Italy do not produce too much academical output in this respect.

    I also wonder why the interest in Latin does not go far beyond the mark of faulty and non-sensical tattoos in a country like the United States. The entire foundation of this country is so deeply rooted in the ideas of the antiquity - but there seems to be no real interest left for this matter.

    I don't really think so. That would an (arguably positive) stereotype. However, I don't really think that people differ too much around the world and I can't really confirm your assumption. My life would also be easier if my interests were centered around dancing and playing a musical instrument rather than abstract intellectual topics.

    I'm rather tired now ... I'll address the other stuff later
  5. Bestiola Speculatrix

    • Praetor
    • Praeco
    Could it have something to do with the Humboldt's Classical Curriculum and the reform of Prussian education? (Just following the lines of what Socratidion already had said). From what I've been told it has given Germans not only the primate in classical philology, but also in some other areas, like philosophy, science etc of that time. :noclue:

    We've also been told by our literature professor that in 19th century philology was one of the most favourite disciplines in the German education system (and wider). Eduard Norden, for instance, is still our major reference in studying Roman literature.

    There's even a reference about it in the Wiki about it being the Wissenschaft; also in Encyclopaedia Britannica
  6. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    Location:
    litore aureo
    Perhaps you will be the first in a new lineage ;)

    I do concur with Nickolaos about the excellence of the German classicists.

    It reminds me of Pliny's letter 1:13 and of Terence's prologue to Hecyra (Herewith an excerpt from the translation at Perseus)
    I again bring before you the Hecyra, which I have never been allowed to act before you in silence; such misfortunes have so overwhelmed it. These misfortunes your intelligence will allay, if it is a seconder of our exertions. The first time, when I began to act this Play, the vauntings of boxers, the expectation of a rope-dancer, added to which, the throng of followers, the noise, the clamor of the women, caused me to retire from your presence before the time. In this new Play, I attempted to follow the old custom of mine, of making a fresh trial; I brought it on again. In the first Act I pleased; when in the mean time a rumor spread that gladiators were about to be exhibited; the populace flock together, make a tumult, clamor aloud, and fight for their places:6 meantime, I was unable to maintain my place
    Akela likes this.
  7. Bitmap Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Cygnea, Gena
    I think you could argue like that when modern languages are concerned, but classics seem to be a different matter to me.

    Incidentally, English seems to be taking over as the most common language in classical scientific publications. A few years (maybe decades) ago, a good classicist would have had to have good knowledge of German (and also French I think) ... nowadays, a publication in German will not even get read anymore

    You sure do. The Oxford editions of classical texts are probably the best editions that are currently around and I have a very nice book by de Ste Croix on the origins of the Peloponnesian War in my bookshelf :)

    Considering the outstanding knowledge of dead language - Latin and Greek were second nature and they were accompanied by excellent knowledge of even 'deader' languages - that some scholars had in the 19th century (not only in Germany!), I sometimes happen to think that today's scholars are mere amateurs as well.

    To be fair, e-latein if an Auftrian board, but it obvioufly haf a lot of very experienced uferf who come from Germany. Let'f fay it'f a "German-fpeaking" board.

    Personally, I tend to think that the limited prospects of political participation (and the failure of any attempt to achieve such goals) in the 18th and 19th century caused the German bourgeoisie to resort to different domains, like education and later (with the upcoming industrialisation) also economy. That's why we were known as the country of poets and thinkers and lateron also as a country of great inventors... but that may be an unfounded claim
    Akela likes this.
  8. simplissimus Member

    I once took a college course in the history of German culture. One of the underlying theses of the teacher’s lectures was that, whatever the European Zeitgeist – and it is no accident that “Zeitgeist” has become the international term for the concept – the Germans would push it to extremes. One of the examples he gave was gardens: he talked about the German princelings tearing up their Versailles-type symmetrical formal gardens to go to the newly-fashionable “English garden,” with its pseudo-natural look. Some even built up caves and hired hermits to live in them.

    The enthusiasm for classical times was everywhere in the 1700s and early 1800s. In America, Washington was being compared to Cincinnatus. (I wonder how many Americans today would understand the reference?) In Russia, a leading poet called the Empress Anna Ivanovna “imperatrix” in a laudatory ode, and was brought in for interrogation by the political police, who didn’t understand it and thought it might be a clandestine insult. The British were studying the Greek and Latin classics as a normal part of a proper education, and Lord Elgin spent his fortune to buy up the Parthenon friezes from the Turks, who were baking old marble for stucco.

    I suspect that the Germans were even more deeply focused on classical times. I know of no one in any other country who had the influence of Johann Winckelmann in calling the attention of his fellow countrymen to Greek and Roman art. His influence led to such a strong influence of the classics in Germany that people referred to “the tyranny of Greece over Germany.” In the literature of the period, one character would address another as “Spectabilis Herr Doktor” or “Herr Studiosus.” I presume that this reflected the actual practice of the times. German student songs often put in Latin phrases, and, of course, the international student song, Gaudeamus igitur, derives from this period, with only the jocular reference to the devil as “antiburschius” to betray its German origin. (A “Bursch” is a member of a fraternity, which was a more serious organization in Germany at the time than it is in the United States today.)

    I offer that thought as a topic for you folks to consider.
    Akela likes this.
  9. Godmy A Monkey

    • Civis Illustris
    Location:
    Bohemia
    One of my teachers likes to refer stories how some german nazis used to recite to educated jews the Iliad in Greek (Before they executed them).
    (And therefore he is showing us that being a classicist has nothing to do per se with the true humanistic (moral based) approach to others and that the old idea -having roots also in Germany- that studying classics will make a better society is an utopy.)
    Akela likes this.
  10. Akela dat affluenter

    • Princeps Senatus
    Location:
    BC
    Have things truly changed this much? Modern language (1 or 2) is still an admission requirement at my alma mater. The usual options were always German, French and Italian. This time around, they do not list any of the above, stating a vague "modern language requirement".

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