All Scholars

SCHADEWALDT, Wolfgang Otto Bernhard

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  • Date of Birth: March 15, 1900
  • Born City: Berlin
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Wilhelm Otto Bernhard, a doctor, & Hulda Adelheid Agnes S.
  • Date of Death: March 10, 1974
  • Death City: Tübingen
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Married: Maria Karoline Meyer, 1928.
  • Education:

    Ph.D Berlin, 1924; habil., 1927

  • Dissertation:

    Monolog und Selbstgesprach. Untersuchungen zur Formgeschichte der griechischen Tragödie (Ph.D., Berlin, 1926; reprinted Berlin and Dublin, 1966); Der Aufbau des pindarischen Epinikion (Habil., Berlin, 1927).

  • Professional Experience:

    Asst., Deutsch Archäologsche Institut, Berluin. 1924-8; ordinarius, Königsberg, 1928; Freiburg, 1929-34; Leipzig, 1934-41; Berlin, 1941-50; Tübingen, 1950-68; memb., Akademien der Wissenschaften, Leipzig, 1934; Prussian Academy of Sciences, Berlin (1942); German Academy of Sciences, Berlin, 1946; Heidelberg, 1958; Vienna and Darmstadt; Order pour le mérite, 1962; Reuchlin Prize, 1963; Grosse Bundesverdienstkreuz, 1964; translation prize, Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung, 1965; Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, 1972.

  • Publications:


    Der Aufbau des Pindarischen Epinikion. Schriften der Königsberger Gelehrten Gesellschaft, geisteswiss, Klasse 5 (1928), Heft 3. Simultaneous publication: Halle 1928; reprinted Darmstadt, 1966); Die Geschichtsschreibung des Thukydides (Berlin, 1929); Iliasstudien. Abhandlungen der Sachsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse 43, 6 (Leipzig, 1938; 2d ed., Leipzig, 1943 (burned in the publishing house); 3d ed., Darmstadt, 1966); Von Homers Welt und Werk. Aufsätze und Auslegungen zur homerischen Frage (Leipzig, 1944; 2d ed., Stuttgart, 1951; 3d ed., 1959; 4th ed., 1965 [Each edition was expanded by the addition of further material.]); Legende von Homer dem fahrenden Sänger (Potsdam, 1947; reprinted Zürich, 1959); Sappho—Welt und Dichtung. Dasein in der Liebe (Potsdam, 1950); Griechische Sternsagen (Frankfurt, 1956; Danish and Japanese translations, 1963); Antike Tragödie auf der modernen Bühne (Heidelberg, 1957; Originally: Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jahresheft 1955-56); Homer: Odyssey (trans.) (Hamburg, 1958; 2d ed. revised, Zürich, 1966); Hellas und Hesperien. Gesammelte Schriften zur Antike und zur neuen Literatur (Zürich, 1960; 2d ed., greatly expanded and in two volumes, 1970); Goethestudien. Natur und Altertum (Zürich, 1963); Griechisches Theater (Frankfurt, 1964 contains translations of Aeschylus Persians, Seven against Thebes; Sophocles Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Electra; Aristophanes Birds, Lysistrata; Menander Epitrepontes); Der Aufbau der Ilias. Strukturen und Konzeptionen (Frankfurt, 1975)Homer: Iliad (trans.) (Frankfurt, 1975).

    Articles (Collected)

    Most of Schadewaldt’s more than 150 articles are reprinted in Von Homers Welt und Werk, Goethestudien, and Hellas und Hesperien.

  • Notes:

    After Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931) and Werner Jaeger (1888-1961), Wolfgang Schadewaldt was the twentieth century’s most important German Hellenist. Not only did he do pioneering work as a scholar (especially in his work on Homer) but his potent influence extended beyond scholarly circles into the sphere of the greater public, to whom he brought the words and thoughts of the Greeks in various forms. His merits were accordingly rewarded by membership in academies (Leipzig, Berlin, Vienna, Heidelberg, Darmstadt) and by honors of many different kinds (the Grand Cross of Merit with the Star of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Austrian Medal for Science and Art, the Orden pour le Mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste).

    Schadewaldt was brought up “in the old Berlin style,” as he himself said. He was deeply influenced as a schoolboy by his encounter with the thought and poetry of Goethe and after early attempts at the art of sculpture he turned to the study of classical philology, archaeology, and German literature at the University of Berlin. His teachers were Wilamowitz (already emeritus but still active in teaching) and Wilamowitz’s successor, Jaeger, whose endeavors to give new and modem horizons to the subjects of his study were fascinating to students.

    Both teachers determined the course of Schadewaldt’s entire philological endeavor. The presence of each is palpable in their student’s combination and integration of, on the one hand, the manner of approaching the text through careful observation and, on the other, the attempt to combine the methods of traditional philology with newer humanistic and philosophical categories.

    His dissertation, “Monolog und Selbstgesprach,” already displayed the twenty- four-year-old scholar’s complete mastery of the subject. The work deals with monologues, monodies, and soliloquies in tragedy. The lengthy treatment of Euripides would not have been possible without the work of Wilamowitz, who was the first to rehabilitate this poet among scholars. And it is with Wilamowitz that Schadewaldt, young as he was, again and again takes issue. That the seventy-eight-year-old Wilamowitz reviewed this book, the author’s first work, is astounding; even more astounding is the remark (which has since become famous) in Wilamowitz’s review: that he is “always ready to learn anew” (umzulemen stets bereit) (Deutsche Literaturzeitung 47 [1926] 854 = Kleine Schriften 1:466).

    Two years later Wilamowitz refers to “my colleague Schadewaldt” in the edition with commentary of Hesiod’s Erga(Berlin, 1928), a work that was the product of a joint seminar conducted by the two unequal partners.

    His Habilitationsschrift, “Der Aufbau des pindarischen Epinikion,” which was kept within a decidedly brief compass, was dedicated to Wilamowitz on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, yet it breathes an entirely different spirit from that of the master’s massive biographically oriented book on Pindar (1922). Schadewaldt’s aim is to isolate the conventional parts of the victory ode that come together to form the so- called “programme” and thereby to grasp the way the poet includes objective givens in his finished art. His results are still valid today.

    This is not true to the same degree of his book Die Geschichtsschreibung des Thukydides, in which Schadewaldt searched for new criteria for a division of Thucydides’ history into two layers, a division that is not tenable in this manner. In general, his early works, which were written under the influence of Jaeger and in which Schadewaldt aimed at a more elevated style, have not remained so persuasive as have the later works. This is particularly true of the essay, which Schadewaldt later regarded as superseded and did not reprint, contributed to Das Problem des klassischen und die Antike (1933), a collection edited by Jaeger, which comprised the papers delivered at the famous 1930 Naumburg Congress for Classical Altertumswis- senschaft. “We follow Werner Jaeger, who, in his profound and original reflections on the meaning of the concept of culture and the allied concept of classicism, has shown us the way,” he states in his essay (18). And Schadewaldt, pursuing this course, concludes (31): “Classicism is nobility of intellectual and spiritual humanity elevated to the law of form.” In a famous reply to Schadewaldt, who had sent him a copy of the paper, Wilamowitz vigorously rejected the whole notion of classicism.

    A series of smaller works on early Greek lyric, on the beginnings of historiography, and on Greek tragedy was followed by the real breakthrough of the Iliasstudien, in which Schadewaldt gave the deathblow to Homeric “analysis” in the old style. This work, which attained a level since unsurpassed in Homeric studies, used precise interpretation to reclaim the Iliad as a unified and organically developed poem. In the following years, work on Homer occupied the foreground of his studies, until the chaos attendant on the end of the war (including the burning of Schadewaldt’s library in an air raid) caused a hiatus.

    The postwar years, which in Berlin were especially rich in deprivations, brought with them a new beginning in many respects. This was a time of planning, during which arose the project of producing a Goethe lexicon, a work that began to appear very much more slowly than originally hoped. Furthermore, in studies on Winckelmann, Goethe, and Holderlin and their attitude toward the Greek spirit, Schadewaldt sought a new personal access to Hellenism by immersing himself in the thoughts of others.

    The book on Sappho, written in Berlin, remained incomplete, since the appendix, announced in the book, which was to contain references, notes, and the Greek text, never appeared; thus his new textual readings and restorations of lacunae must be understood through his translation (with a new but unfortunately unusable enumeration of the fragments). Immediately after the book appeared, the twenty-first volume of the Oxyrynchus papyri appeared (1951) that, with its new Sappho discoveries, brought forth so much additional material that considerable revision and correction to Schadewaldt’s book would have been necessary; but his temperament was not suited to such work.

    His Tübingen period (after 1950) was a time of largely untroubled work and influence, the scope of which was broadened to embrace the public at large. The basis for this was his feeling of security in the small university town, which had remained undamaged during the war. Thanks to a far-sighted policy of higher education, which in the early years received consistent support from the French military authorities, Tübingen in the postwar period managed to attract important scholars. Schadewaldt lived here as in an intimate polis, but he remained to the bottom of his heart a Berliner. His splendid essay “Lob Berlins” (“In Praise of Berlin,” 1961; reprinted in Hellas und Hesperien, 2d ed.: 787-808) is decisive proof of this.

    The breadth and fullness of his activities is reflected in Hellas und Hesperien, expanded to two volumes in its second edition. Its numerous chapters range over topics from Greek poetry and thought to Shakespeare, Gerhart Hauptmann, T. S. Eliot, Carl Orff, and Ingeborg Bachmann and to questions of modem technology and atomic physics.

    A further major dimension of Schadewaldt’s public influence was his translations, which he himself justly described as an “integration of the entire business of philology” (Hellas und Hesperien, 2d ed.: 781). After his masterly prose translation of the Odyssey it was above all his translations of dramas that found a wide audience in radio, television, and the theater. Great directors like Gustav Rudolf Sellner (1905-90), Günther Fleckenstein (b. 1924), and Hansgünther Heyme (b. 1935) staged his translations in Darmstadt, Göttingen, Wiesbaden, Cologne, Stuttgart, and elsewhere. Especially with Heyme the most modern ideas of staging were united with the “documentary” style of translation (as Schadewalt called it), which, preserving the greatest possible literalness, makes no concession to easy understanding (and is similar in this to the translations of Hölderlin) and lays no small demands on the actors. Schadewaldt took an active part in the work of the theater; he was regularly present at rehearsals to discuss his concept of translation.

    He was also actively engaged in Carl Orff’s (1895-1982) musical settings of Greek tragedies (Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Prometheus Bound) and in their stage performances. In this way he became acquainted with Wieland Wagner (1917-66), who invited him to Bayreuth, where, in the context of the festival performances, he delivered his important lectures “Richard Wagner und die Griechen” (1961-65; printed first in the performance programs and reprinted in Hellas und Hesperien).

    All the while Schadewaldt clung firmly and with iron energy to philological scholarship. His works on the Aristotelian theory of tragedy as well as several works on the Odyssey are in the central tradition of philological research. To be sure, his analysis of the Odyssey has not met with acceptance. It was difficult to understand how the scholar who had impressively demonstrated the poetic unity of the Iliad now embraced arguments that, in the case of the Iliad, he had criticized and opposed and who insisted on viewing the Odyssey as the epic composition of two poets—namely Homer, the poet of the Iliad, from whom (he maintains) the nucleus of Odysseus’ homecoming is derived, and a poet “B,” who composed the Telemachy and various additions throughout the epic.

    As a result, one feels all the more grateful that it was granted to Schadewaldt to translate the Iliad and to complete his masterly book Der Aufbau der Ilias as his last works. His name thus will be forever linked with the study of the great Homeric epic.

    Schadewaldt’s academic career was a steep and rapid ascent. After his Habilitation in Berlin (1927), he was immediately called to Königsberg (1928) as Professor Ordinarius; only a year later he accepted a call to Freiburg; then in 1934 he transferred to Leipzig; his call to Berlin in 1941 would have been, under normal circumstances, the summit of a career in philology. The peculiar political situation of the divided Berlin (the old University of Berlin lies in the city’s eastern sector) impelled him to accept a call to Tübingen in 1950; he declined a further call to Basel in 1951. Thereafter he looked on Tübingen as his home, and it is in the Tübingen Waldfriedhof that he is buried.

    Schadewaldt was never interested in founding a “school.” He did, however, influence several well-known scholars. After his first period in Berlin, the important Homer scholar Wolfgang Kullmann (now Professor in Freiburg) was among his students, while his most outstanding students in Tübingen, Konrad Gaiser (1929-88) Schadewaldt’s successor at Tübingen, and Hans Joachim Kramer (1929-2015), Professor in Tübingen, gave new directions to the study of Plato, a field in which Schadewaldt was never involved. Hellmut Flashar (b. 1929), Professor in Munich, was his student both in Berlin and in Tübingen.

    Translated by Michael Armstrong

  • Sources:

    Dieter Bremer, “Wolfgang Schadewaldt (1900-1974),” Eikasmos 4 (1993) 321-2; William M. Calder, III, “Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff toWolfgang Schadewalt on the Classic,” GRBS 16 (1975) 451-7; ------. “Only Euripides: Wolfgang Schadewaldt and Werner Jaeger,” ICS 27-28 (2002-3) 177-96; H. Flashar, “Wolfgang Schadewaldt,” Gnomon 47 (1975) 731-6; ------, NDB 22 (2005) 495-6; K. Gaiser, [Obituary.] Jahrbuch der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften (1975) 92-7; A. Lesky, Orden pour le merité für Wissenschaften und Künste. Reden und Gedenkworte 12 (1974-75) 115-23; R. Rieks, “Wolfgang Schadewaldt (1900-1974) und Ernst Zinn (1910-1990),” Eikasmos 4 (1993) 323-6; W. Schadewaldt, “Lebensgang” and “Antrittsrede.” (1943) for the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin; “Antrittsrede” (1958) for the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. All three documents are reprinted in Hellas und Hesperien, 2d ed.: 780-7; Wolfgang Schadewaldt und die Gräzistik des 20. Jahrhunderts, ed. Thomas Alexander Szlesak (Leipzig: Olms, 2005).


    Synusia. Festgabe fiir Wolfgang Schadewaldt zum 15. Marz 1965. Edited by H. Flashar and K. Gaiser (Pfullingen, 1965); Das Altertum und jedes neueGute. Für Wolfgang Schadewaldt zum 15. März 1970, ed. K. Gaiser (Stuttgart, 1970).

  • Author: Hellmut Flashar