All Scholars

HEYNE, Christian Gottlob

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  • Date of Birth: September 25, 1729
  • Born City: Chemnitz, Saxony
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: a weaver
  • Date of Death: July 14, 1812
  • Death City: Göttingen
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Married: Therese Weiss (1761-75); Georgine Brandes (1777-1812)
  • Education:

    M.A. (law), Leipzig, 1752.

  • Professional Experience:

    Copyist, library of Count Brühl, Dresden, 1753-60; tutor, household of Frau von Schönberg & land-steward to Baron von Löben, Lusatia, 1761-2; Prof. Eloquentiae et Poeseos, Göttingen, 1763-1812; dir. University Library, 1763-1812; ed. Göttiingische Gelehrte Angeigen 1770-1812; Secretary, Academy of Sciences, 1770-1812.

  • Publications:


    Charitons Liebesgeschichte des Choreas und der Callirrhoe. Translated from the Greek (Leipzig, 1753); Albii Tibulli quae exstant carmina (Leipzig, 1755; 3d ed., 1798; 4th ed. revised and enlarged by C. F. Wunderlich with supplement by L. Dissen, Leipzig, 1817-19; reprinted Hildesheim, 1975); Epicteti enchiridion. Dresden and Leipzig, 1756; Warsaw and Dresden, 1776; Allgemeine Weltgeschichte von der Schopfung bis auf die gegenwilrtige Zeit. . . ausgefertigt von Wilhelm Guthrie und Johann Gray.Translated from the English, vols. 1-4, 6-7, (Leipzig, 1765-72); P. Virgilii Maronis opera. Vols. 1-4. Leipzig, 1767-75; 3d ed., London, 1793; Leipzig, 1803; vols. 1-6, 3d ed., Leipzig, 1797-1800; vols. 1-5, 4th ed. revised by G. P. E. Wagner. Leipzig and London, 1830-41; reprinted Hildesheim, 1968); Pindari Carmina (Göttingen, 1773. Vols. 1-3. Göttingen, 1798; 2d ed., Leipzig,1817); Apollodori Atheniensis bibliotheca. (Text: Göttingen, 1782. Commentary: vols. 1-3. Göttingen, 1783; Text: 2d ed. in 2 vols. Göttingen, 1803; reprinted Hildesheim, 1972); Homeri carmina. Vols. 1-9 (Leipzig & London, 1802-22).


    “Einleitung,in das Studium der Antike,“ Göttingen und Gotha, 1772"Lobschrift auf Winckelmann.” ;Kassel1778"Sammlung antiquarischer Aufsätze." Theil 1-2. (Leipzig, 1778-9); "Opuscula Academica" Vols. 1-6 (Göttingen, 1785-1812).

    Further articles in:

    Deutsche Schriften von der königlichen Societät der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Vol. I. (Göttingen, 1771); Novi Commentarii Soc. Reg. scient. Götting. Vols. 1-8. (Göttingen, 1770-8); Commentationes Soc. Reg. scient. Götting. recentiores. Vols. 1-11 (Göttingen, 1808-13).

    Reviews in:

    Göttingische Anzeigen von Gelehrten Sachen (Göttingen, 1763-1812).

  • Notes:

    Among German philologists it was Heyne who laid the foundations for the development of a modern study of antiquity. Heyne was born in Chemnitz (today Karl-Marx-Stadt in Saxony in the German Democratic Republic), since his father, a linen weaver, had been driven out of Silesia for religious reasons. As the weaver’s trade in Saxony in those preindustrial times was chiefly a cottage industry, Heyne’s family lived in extreme poverty; only with the help of godfathers and relations could he scrape together the money to pay for a relatively limited education at the town Latin School in Chemnitz. In 1748 he went to the University of Leipzig, where, to the extent his complete lack of funds permitted, he attended Johann August Ernesti’s (1707-81) philology lectures and those by Johann August Bach (1721-58) on law and ancient history. Bach awarded him the Master’s degree in 1752, but his poverty condemned him to autodidacticism, and he carried on the greater part of his studies independently.

    In 1753 he received a subordinate post as copyist in the library of the Saxon Minister of State, Count Brühl, in Dresden. There he first became acquainted with the evidence of ancient art as a complement to the literary tradition and there, in addition, he met Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-68), who was also working in Brühl’s library. In this period he published his first editions—Tibullus and Epictetus—which established his fame as a philologist, and also his translation of the romance of Chariton. Driven out of Dresden by the disturbances of the Seven Years’ War between Prussia and Austria (1756-1763), he eked out an existence by producing ephemeral translations for the booksellers and working as a private tutor (“Hofmeister”) in well- to-do families.

    In 1763 he was freed from this misery by a call, engineered by the Leyden philologist David Ruhnken (1723-98), to the “Enlightenment” University of Göttingen, which had been founded only twenty-five years earlier but had already taken a leading place (with Halle) among German universities. As successor to Johann Matthias Gesner, Heyne became Professor of Poetry and Eloquence as well as director of the Seminarium Philologicum (founded by Gesner in 1737), librarian of the University Library with its lavish holdings, and member of the Academy of Sciences.

    Upon taking up his duties, Heyne busily immersed himself in literary and editorial work. From 1763 on there appeared an unbroken series of so-called programs and prolusions, which he, as Professor Eloquentiae et Poeseos, was obliged to produce for solemn academic occasions (one hundred thirty-five in all, by 1809); from 1770 to 1813 he prepared the Academy’s forty-seven proceedings and until 1811, twenty eulogies. In addition to this he produced an unending sequence of reviews for the Göttingische Gelehrte Angeigen, of which he became editor in 1770; by 1812 he had published several thousand reviews. Beside this mass of opuscula are his chief works: a History of the World from the Creation to the Present Time (translated from the English, 1765-72) and editions with commentary of Virgil (1767-75), Pindar (1773), and Homer (1802-03), as well as his edition of the Bibliotheca of Apollodorus (1782).

    Comparable to this indefatigable scholarly productivity were his important achievements in scholarly administration. Heyne became Secretary of the Academy in 1770 and immediately put through a successful reorganization; the Academy, which had remained torpid since Haller’s departure, was spurred on to renewed scholarly productivity. As librarian he achieved extraordinary results by organizing an acquisition program on an international scale. As a result, the holdings increased during his tenure of office from 60,000 to 200,000 volumes. But his greatest accomplishment as librarian was in setting up an alphabetical author catalogue (1776-1789), which became the model for many European libraries and is still used. He also left his mark on secondary education: His plans for school reform in the Electorate of Hannover, as well as the systematic philological and pedagogical training of future Gymnasium teachers in his Seminarium Philologicum, decisively influenced education at the Gymnasium level in northern Germany. His intimate and confidential relationship over the years with successive University administrators gave him a lasting influence on the appointments and the organizational development of the University, so that he became, as it were, the director behind the scenes. Thus, it was not chance, but rather Heyne’s authority and his acquaintance with Napoleon, which dated back to 1803, that thwarted the new French officials of the Kingdom of Westphalia in their plans to close the University of Göttingen.

    In spite of numerous invitations—among them an offer from Copenhagen to reorganize the University there and the entire educational system of Denmark (1789)—he did not leave Göttingen. After 1755 he lived with his large family in an imposing house on the Leine canal; the house still exists (Papendiek, No. 16). In 1809 he retired from his professorship, but he retained his other posts until his death. At the end of his life he was a member of thirty learned societies in Germany and abroad: Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Moscow, Munich, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, and Utrecht, among others.

    Heyne’s importance in the history of scholarship lies in his having replaced an antiquarian polyhistorism, as it had hitherto been practiced, with a conception of the study of antiquity that aimed at a universal reconstruction of the literary, historical, and cultural life of the ancient world and also brought the knowledge thereby gained into relation with the present. This was visible even in the style of his academic teaching. His interpretative lectures dealt primarily with the poets (Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Apollonius Rhodius, Callimachus; Lucre- tius, Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Statius), and here he was always concerned not only with the elucidation of the sense of the words and the pertinent factual background of the poem but also with the immediate perception and appreciation of its aesthetic beauty. “Nun kommt der Tichter” (“now comes the poet”) was his constant remark when he felt that he had sufficiently clarified the verbal meaning and the factual data and set himself to fathoming the venustates of the text and their causae. But his far- famed archaeological lectures, too, which were delivered in the midst of a collection of plaster casts collected to illustrate his remarks and which attracted such listeners as the Humboldt brothers and the Schlegel brothers, were chiefly concerned with “formation of taste,” “perception of the beautiful,” or quite generally “refinement and illumination of the understanding.” These lectures were intended particularly for future travelers to Greece or Rome, so as to prepare them for authentic acquaintance with the works of ancient visual art. And the Seminarium Philologicum, finally, aimed in a similar fashion at a lively immersion in ancient literature; the members “exercise themselves and are guided in interpretation, Latin composition, speaking, and debate and must themselves, one after another, construe an ancient author grammatically and critically, and finally each must compose and defend a well-written Latin essay on a subject pertinent to this kind of scholarship.” This school produced philologists like Friedrich August Wolf and Karl Lachmann and poets like Ludwig Holty and Johann Heinrich Voß.

    The same striving for universality and relevance to the present is visible in Heyne’s opera and opuscula. The strength of his editions of the poets lies in his firmly grounded aesthetic judgement. Again and again the poets’ expressions are paraphrased in sober prose that brings into relief the poetic turn of phrase. “The constant emphasis on the transformation of factual content into poetry is the salt that everywhere permeates this mass of commentary” (Friedrich). And among his manifold opuscula on literature, history, constitutional law, mythology, archaeology, and numismatics, each with its concise survey of the subject matter and the present state of knowledge, there is scarcely one that fails to employ reflections on the present to gain new perspectives on the study of the past.

    Heyne’s influence on modern classical philology lies in his having broadened philology’s outlook in all directions. Not only history and its subdisciplines, such as epigraphy, constitutional and legal history, mythology, and the archaeology of art, but also numismatics and Etruscology are fields that in Heyne’s scholarly practice first take shape as integral parts of a universal study of antiquity.

    Heyne put his new principles into effect chiefly in the day-to-day practice of research and teaching rather than by embodying them in a systematic theoretical concept. As a result, his achievement, from the point of view of the history of philology, was thrown into the shade by Friedrich August Wolf s and August Böckh’s works on methodology. But Heyne’s influence was not limited to professional scholarship. By teaching his students to see the ancient world in perspective, by focusing on the existential connection between antiquity and the present, he brought the “humaniora,” which had previously been the scholarly preoccupation of a minority, into the general consciousness of his age. He was thus able to set free the impulses that two generations later led to the intellectual movement of neo-humanism that dominated the German-speaking countries.

    Translated by Michael Armstrong

  • Author: Ulrich Schindel