Study at Insterburg Gymnasium, 1861-9; Ph.D., Albertus-Universität, Königsberg, 1875; habil. (ancient history) 1878.
"Spinozas Lehre von den Idee" (Berlin 1875); "Die Lakedaimonier ihre Bundesgenossen. Bis zur Begründung der athenischen Seehegemonie" (Habil. diss. Königsberg, 1878; reiss. 1980).
- Professional Experience:
Privatdozent, history, Königsberg, 1878-9; extraordinarius, Kiel, 1879-81; Ordinarius, Kiel, 1881-97; dean, Philosophical Faculty, 1887-8; Göttingen, 1897-1920.
Der zweite athenische Bund und die auf der Autonomie beruhende hellenische Politik von der Schlacht bei Knidos bis zum Frieden des Eubulos (1874), 639-886; Die Grundzüge der Erkenntnistheorie und Metaphysik Spinozas (Berlin, 1875); Der zweite athenische Bund und die auf der Autonomie beruhende hellenische Politik von der Schlacht von Knidos bis zum Frieden des Euboulos. Mit einer Einleitung: Zur Bedeutung der Autonomie in hellenischen Bundesverfassungen. In Jahrbücher für klassische Philologie, Suppl. 7: (1873-5) 639–66; Forschungen zur griechischen Geschichte (Breslau, 1880); „Die griechischen Staats-, Kriegs- und Privataltertümer,“ Hdb. der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft (1887); Griechische Geschichte bis zur Schlacht von Chaironeia, 3 vols. (Gotha, 1893-1904; repr. 1967); Die griechischen Staats- und Rechtsaltertümer (Munich, 1892); Griechische Staatskunde, 2 vols., ed. H. Swoboda (Munich, 1920-6).
Among general histories of ancient Greece, two tower over all others and appear everywhere in scholarly literature: the Griechische Geschichte of Georg Busolt and that of Karl Julius Beloch.
Busolt studied ancient history in a period before Mommsen was instrumental in dividing ancient history from medieval history and wrote compendious works that do for the study of ancient Greece what Mommsen was doing for Rome and what his teachers had done for medieval Europe. Busolt was greatly influenced at Königsberg by medievalists like Wilhelm Maurenbrecher (1838-92) and the jurist Paul Laband (1838-1918), whose Das Staatsrecht des deutschen Reiches (1876-82; 1911-1914) likely inspired Busolt to accomplish something similar for the governments of the ancient Greeks. His chief influence, and the man to whom he dedicated his first book was the medieval historian Karl Wilhelm Nitzsch (1818-80), the chair of ancient and medieval history at Königsberg who furthered Busolt’s study of ancient methods of governance. The problems of discussing the various systems of the Greek city-states made Busolt’s task far more complex than the study of a unified Germany and Busolt began by studying the second Athenian naval league of 377 BCE, an attempt to organize Greek polities under a federal-like system, much as Germany had recently done. Busolt was chided in a review by G. Perrot for failing to include an analysis or even transcription of the league’s charter.
Königsberg’s most famous alumnus was undoubtedly Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and philosophy predominated at the University. Busolt devoted the next two years to ponder his understanding of the Greek political mindset while he studied under the philosopher Karl Rosenkranz (1805-79). A year in Italy and Greece (1875-6) on a grant from the Prussian Kultusministerium changed his focus from philosophy back to history for good. Back in Königsberg he completed his second book, a 480-page study of the Spartans which he used for his habilitation.
The publisher Emil Friedrich Matthias Perthes (1841-1910), who ran the family’s reference and textbook publishing company in Gotha from 1874, conceived a series, Handbücher der alten Geschichte, and approached Busolt to write a history of Greece to the triumph of Phillip II of Macedon at the Battle of Chaeronea, 338 BCE. Benedictus Niese (1849-1910) of Marburg, editor of Josephus, would continue the story to 120 BCE. Busolt’s métier was the handbook and he set to work producing what would ultimately become three volumes (the third volume alone, in two parts, was over 1600 pages) so crammed with notes on literary, epigraphical and numismatic evidence that it was not uncommon to find a page with one line of text and the rest of the page filled with references. “Leider, leider, lerider, muss man Quellen lessen” (Unfortunately one must read the sources.). The first volume (1885) was criticized for dating monuments of Mycenae and Tiryns following the date of the Dorian invasion, a dating which Busolt clung to in his subsequent volumes and revisions. He wrote on Greek constitutions for Müller’s Handbuch in 1877 and produced the second volume of his history the next year (1888).
He began work on inscriptions the next year and while working on the third volume of his history, revised volumes 1 and 2 in light of the rediscovery of Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens (1st ed., F.G. Kenyon, [London, 1891]) and Wilamowitz’s (1848-1931) Aristoteles und Athens, both of which caused him to revise his Staatsalterthümer as Die griechischen Staats- und Rechtsaltertümer (1892). (Busolt was among those who thought the constitution a fraud.) The decade 1893-1903 was remarkable for comprehensive narrative histories of Greece. 1893 saw the first volume of Busolt’s Geschichte, Benedictus Niese’s (1849-1910) Geschichte der griechischen und makedonischen Staaten, the second volume of Eduard Meyer’s (1855-1930) Geschichte des Altertums, Karl Julius Beloch’s (1854-1929) Griechischer Geschichte, and Robert von Pöhlmann’s (1852-1914) Geschichte de antiken Kommunismus und Sozialismus.
Beloch was invited to Göttingen just as Wilamowitz, who was instrumental in his appointment there, left for Berlin. By 1902 Busolt had harried his history to 350 BCE and in 1903 Niese finished the Macedonian period. He continued to revise his Staatsaltertümer which became the huge Griechischhe Staatskunde, to which he devoted nearly 1000 pages just to the years 431-404. His great gift was to make his history a narrative, bringing forth the characters, themes, dramatic sequences and authorial judgements of the story, not the mere facts. Truly stung by negative reviews of his earlier work by his friends Niese (of Lakedaimonier, Hist. Zeit. 43 (1880) 385-410) and Wilamowitz (Forschungen, DLZ 2 (1881) 971-3), and lacking the universal sweep of Meyer, he compensated by detailed references to all of his numismatic, epigraphical and literary sources. His gift was for the writing of useful handbooks of Greek history and many of them are still indispensible.
G. Perrot, Rev. crit. d’hist. et de litt., n.s. 2 (1876) 337-47; H. Bengston, Griech. Geschichte (Hb. der Akltertumswissenschaft 3, 4), (1977); J. Bleicken, Die Herausbildung der Alten Geschichte in Göttingen. Von Heyne bis Bus: 2 98-127  M.H. Chambers, Georg Busolt: His Career in His Letters Mnemosyne Supplements 113 (Leiden: Brill, 1990).
- Author: Mortimer H. Chambers