North American Scholar

FRÄNKEL, Hermann Ferdinand

  • Image
  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1888-05-07
  • Born City: Berlin
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Maximilian, an archaeologist, epigraphist, and librarian & Johanna Benary F., daughter of Franz Ferdinand Benary, orientalist
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1977-04-08
  • Death City: Santa Cruz
  • Death State/Country: CA
  • Married: Lilli Fraenkel, 1915.
  • Education:

    Ph.D. Göttingen, 1915.

  • Professional Experience:

    Privatdozent Göttingen, 1920-5; study at German Institute of Archaeology, Athens, 1922; asst. Göttingen, 1923-5; ao. prof., 1925-35; acting prof, to prof, class., Stanford, 1935-53; lctr. Freiburg im Breisgau, 1955-60.

  • Dissertation:

    “De Simia Rhodio” (Göttingen, 1915).

  • Notes:

    Hermann Fränkel was one of the most reflective, original, and influential critics of Greek poetry in the 20th century. He contributed permanently to the interpretation of Greek poetry and thought, from Homer through the Greek poets and the pre-Socratics down to Apollonius Rhodius. He was fortunate from the start. He was born into a Gelehrtenmilieu. His father was the Berlin librarian, editor of the Argive inscriptions for IG, and friend and correspondent of Wilamowitz. His mother was the daughter of the Orientalist Ferdinand Benary. He was educated at Bonn, Berlin, and Göttingen. That meant that he heard the greatest classical scholars in the history of the discipline, men like Wilamowitz, Bücheler, Leo, and Pohlenz. His contemporaries too were the best of the best. He married the sister of one, Eduard Fraenkel.His dissertation was an exemplary specimen eruditionis. His Habilitationsschrift on the Homeric similes examined them in a way that had never been done before. Conservative philologists considered it too subtle. Only Wilamowitz defended him; but he remained for 15 years Extraordinarius at Göttingen and never received a call to a German university. After 1933 he was dismissed on racial grounds and gained a temporary post at Stanford in 1935, where he soon rose to permanent full professor and was long the colleague of another immigrant, Lionel Pearson. Provincial Palo Alto, where administrative duties were none and teaching minimal, provided him with the leisure to publish great books. His attention to the Archaic period continued and the pioneer work on Apollonius Rhodius began. Fränkel had early been urged by Wilamowitz to edit the neglected poet. The standard modern text with two volumes of critical and exegetical commentary resulted. This began the international renaissance of interest in Apollonius. In 1943 Fränkel became the only Californian ever to be Sather Professor. His lectures were a sort of autobiography by a scholar between two worlds. They were received critically: see Ronald Syme, Roman Papers 6 (Oxford, 1991) 35-6. He forgave the Germans after World War II in a way his brother-in-law could not and taught successfully at Freiburg im Breisgau for five years. His greatest student, Bruno Snell, said of his books “Classical studies are not really dead when they can still produce such works as his” (212)

  • Sources:

    William M. Calder III, “The Refugee Classical Scholars in the USA: An Evaluation of Their Contribution,” ICS 17 (1992) 153-73; Andrew R. Dyck, “Wilamowitz to Paul Friedlander on the Career of Hermann Fränkel,” Philologus 136 (1992) 136-9; K. von Fritz, Gnomon 50 (1978) 618-21; Bruno Snell, Gesammelte Schriften (Göttingen, 1960) 211-2; William M. Calder III, ANB 8:372.

  • Author: William M. Calder III