All Scholars

DRUMANN, Wilhelm Karl August,

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  • Date of Birth: June 11, 1786,
  • Born City: Dannstedt, Saxony
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Heinrich Philip, a pastor, and Sophie Margaret Gerberding D.
  • Date of Death: July 29, 1861
  • Death City: Königsberg
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Married: Sophie Henriette Selma Siemens, 1820.
  • Education:

    Study theology & philosophy, Helmstedt & Halle, 1805; Ph.D., Helmstedt, 1810; Habil. (ancient history), Halle, 1812.

  • Dissertation:

    “De ratione ac disciplina Romanorum literas artesque tractandi” (Ph.D., Helmstedt, 1810); “De tyrannis Graecorum” (Habil., Halle, 1812).

  • Professional Experience:

    Teacher, Pädagogium, Francke Foundations, Halle, 1810-17; extraord., Königsberg, 1817-21; librarian, 1820; ordinarius, 1821-55.

  • Publications:

    Ideen zur Geschichte des Verfalls der griechischen Staaten (1815); Versuch einer Geschichte des Verfalls der griechischen Staaten (1820); Historisch-antiquarische Untersuchungen über Aegypten (1823); Geschichte Roms in seinem Übergange von der republikanischen zur monarchischen Verfassung, oder: Pompeius, Caesar, Cicero und ihre Zeitgenossen, 6 vols. (1834–44; new ed. edited P. Groebe,1899-1929);); Grundriß der Culturgeschichte (1847); Geschichte Bonifacius des Achten. 2 vols. (1852); Die Arbeiter und Communisten in Griechenland und Rom (1860). 

  • Notes:

    Anyone in the 18th century who sought a thorough understanding of Roman history relied on three volumes: B.G. Niebuhr’s (1776-1831) history of the Republic, Römische Geschichte (1811-32) up to the middle of the third century, Drumann’s Geschichte Roms for the middle and late Republic, and Theodor Mommsen’s (1817-1903) Römische Geschichte (1854-60) for the sweep from the beginning of the Republic to its end. Drumann’s interest in ancient history began in his school days and his early interest in the emerging of a dominating central state like Athens and the collapse of smaller states around it (Ideen zur Geschichte des Verfalls der griechischen Staaten (1815); Versuch einer Geschichte des Verfalls der griechischen Staaten (1820)), influenced by his reading of FA. Wolf and Edward Gibbon. He moved on to an examination of the historical value of recent finds in Egypt (1823), but then set forth on his great history. The work picks up where the Niebuhr’s left off, employing a common approach set forth much later by Aby Warburg, namely that an era’s history is best studied through the biographies of its great men and not through recounting a parade of events. This suited Drumann’s interest in the elites of society and his belief that strong central authority was the best form of governance.  His command of his sources was virtually total, though Wilamowitz called its presentation “shapeless.” Nevertheless, although the sheer amount of information its six volumes contained would make it a fundamental source, the judgements he rendered on the basis of his research came under fire. Wilamowitz cites Drumann’s undue effect on Mommsen’s influential portrayal of Cicero, previously considered a positive figure (“a gross distortion, not to say a travesty, of the truth”). Drumann’s severely harsh portrayal of Caesar as an amoral autocrat has been elaborated by Christian Meier. The work gained new admirers following the revision by Paul Groebe. and it was the most was another matter that has been pursued in the case of Caesar by Christian Meier (b. 1929). In his lectures at Königsberg, he was given to adducing parallels between the ancient, medieval, and modern life and his history, like Grote’s, espouses a political viewpoint which directly or indirectly reflects on the author’s times, though. Drumann’s conservatism reappears in his study of ancient culture, in which he abandoned the biographical approach and distilled his views on culture into a two-volume, accessible guide. His later work drew him to a partisan study of Pope Boniface VIII (ca. 1230-1303), who involved the Vatican in temporal affairs, particularly foreign affairs. Drumann’s final work arose from his interest in contemporary political movements, a social history of workers and communists in ancient Greece and Rome. He wrote an autobiography which has been lost and at his death was at work on a study of women’s education in antiquity.

  • Sources:

    Sandys, 3:233; Wilamowitz, 155; Lohmeyer, ADB 5 (1877) 436-9; P.R. Franke, ADB 4 (1959) 140; Hans Kloft, Brill, 166.

  • Author: Ward Briggs