All Scholars

SOLMSEN, Friedrich Heinrich Rudolf

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  • Date of Birth: February 04, 1904
  • Born City: Bonn
  • Date of Death: January 30, 1989
  • Death City: Chapel Hill
  • Death State/Country: NC
  • Married: Lieselotte Salzer, 12 Mar. 1932.
  • Education:

    Study at Bonn, 1922; Heidelberg, 1924; Ph.D. Berlin, 1928; Cambridge, 1936; Ph.D. (hon.) Kiel, 1965; Bonn, 1968.

  • Dissertation:

    "Die aristotelische Methodenlehre und die spätplatonische Akademie" (Berlin, 1928); printed (Altenburg, 1928).

  • Professional Experience:

    Privatdozent Berlin, 1928-33; res. stud. Cambridge, 1933-7; prof, philos. Olivet (MI) Coll., 1937-40; asst. prof, to prof, class. Cornell, 1940-62; chair, dept. class. 1953-62; prof. inst. res. in the human. U. Wisconsin, 1962-4; Moses Slaughter prof, class, stud., 1964-74; vis. Paddison Prof. Class. U. North Carolina, 1974-5; adjunct prof, class. 1975-6; Guggenheim fell., 1947-8; Fulbright fell. (Frankfurt & Kiel), 1958-9; (St. Andrews) 1965; vis. prof. Heidelberg, summer 1968, 1973; Yale, 1972; corr. fell. Brit. Acad.; corr. mem. Germ. Arch. Inst.; mem. APhS; A A AS; Goodwin Award, 1972.

  • Publications:

    Die Entwicklung der aristotelischen Logik und Rhetorik (Berlin, 1929); Antiphonstudien: Untersuchungen zur Entstehung der attischen Gerichtsrede (Berlin, 1931); Plato's Theology (Ithaca, 1942); Hesiod and Aeschylus (Ithaca, 1949); Aristotle's System of the Physical World: A Comparison with His Predecessors (Ithaca, 1960); Cleanthes or Posidonius? The Basis of Stoic Physics (Amsterdam, 1961); Electro and Orestes: Three Recognitions in Greek Tragedy (Amsterdam, 1967); Ursprunge und Methoden der aristotelischen Poetik, trans. K. A. Benkendorff & R. Voretzsch (Darmstadt, 1968); Hesiodi Theogonia, Opera et Dies, Scutum (ed.), Fragmenta selecta, ed. R. Merkelbach & M. L. West (Oxford, 1970; 2d ed., 1983); Two Crucial Decisions in Herodotus (Amsterdam, 1974); Intellectual Experiments of the Greek Enlightenment (Princeton, 1975); Isis among the Greeks and Romans, Martin Classical Lectures 25 (Cambridge, 1979); articles published subsequent to Kleine Schriften: "Wilamowitz in His Last Ten Years," GRBS 20 (1979) 89-122; "Citations in their Bearing on the Origin of 'Aristotle' Meteorologica IV," Hermes 113 (1985) 448-59; "ἀλλ’ εἰδέναι χρὴ δρῶσαν: The Meaning of Sophocles Trachiniai 588-93," AJP 106 (1985) 491-6; " 'Aeneas Founded Rome with Odysseus'," HSCP 90 (1986) 93-110; "Lucretius' Strategy in De Rerum Natura 1," RhM 131 (1988) 315-23; "Abdera's Arguments for the Atomic Theory," GRBS 29 (1988) 59-73; "Classical Scholarship in Berlin Between the Wars," GRBS 30 (1989) 117-40.Kleine Schriften, 3 vols. (Hildesheim, 1968-82).

  • Notes:

    Friedrich Solmsen, a towering figure among classicists of his generation, brought to his brilliant career, which spanned six decades, several priceless advantages: his parentage, which provided him with his first scholarly example, his training in the rigorous tradition of the classical gymnasium, his exposure during his years at Berlin to the surviving giants of pre-World War I German philology, and—most decisive for the direction of his intellectual development—his studies with Werner Jaeger. It was Jaeger who exemplified the combination of philology and philosophy that offered the greatest scope to Solmsen's talents, Jaeger who encouraged his early focus on Aristotle's methodology and Plato's late dialogues. Solmsen's study in Chapel Hill at the time of his death contained, along with family portraits, a sketch of Jaeger as a young man and a photograph of him in his maturity.A moving reminiscence read at the Hellenic Center in Washington in 1988, to celebrate the centenary of Jaeger's birth, includes Solmsen's description of the impact of his teaching. "Once for all it must be said that to those not personally acquainted with him it is impossible to convey the magnetism and charm of his personality. One aspect which stands out . . . was his patience and quiet, unhurried tempo. This was as characteristic of his teaching as of conversations in his office . . . [where] one found him invariably relaxed and ready to give unstintingly of his time." And, describing what it was like to gather at Jaeger's house for an intensive study of the Nicomachean Ethics, Solmsen adds, "Everybody appreciated the rich and varied inspiration, conscious of an extraordinary widening of his horizon."What is uncanny here is the extent to which what Solmsen says of Jaeger was true of himself—the same magnetism and charm, the same patience, the same impression of infinite willingness to listen and advise, above all, the same sense of widened horizons for students who were welcomed to his house, whether in Cambridge, Ithaca, Madison, or Chapel Hill, where his wife, Lieselotte, herself a classical scholar at Berlin and Cambridge, presided over the tea table. Her support during the years when they fled from the Nazi terror and moved from one academic appointment to another was, after all,-the-most priceless of his advantages. It is unnecessary to mention Solmsen's prodigious record of publication, ranging with breathtaking virtuosity over all of Greek and Latin literature, but something may still be said about his legacy as a teacher. Not only did he instruct and inspire generations of students, but he bestowed what Gregory Vlastos called "his incredibly lavish gifts of scholarly guidance" on colleagues who sought his advice. Acknowledgments in prefaces and footnotes give some idea of the debt owed to Solmsen by the scholarly world, but his legacy is in fact incalculable.

  • Sources:

    W. M. Calder III, "The Berlin Graeca: A Further Note," GRBS 20 (1979) 393-400; Eckart Mensching, "Zur Berliner Philologie in der spateren Weimarer Zeit—iiber Friedrich Solmsens Berliner Jahre (1922-1933)," Latein und Griechisch in Berlin 33.2 (1989) 26-76 = Nugae zur Philologie-Geschichte (Berlin, 1990) 3:64-117; Helen F. North, APA Newsletter (Apr. 1989) 16-7; idem, Gnomon 61 (1989) 757-9; WhWh 1976-7:2954.

  • Author: Helen F. North