European Scholar

BLASS, Friedrich

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  • Date of Birth: 1843-01-22
  • Born City: Osnabrück
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Friedrich Wilhelm, a merchant, and Auguste Jaging B.
  • Date of Death: 1907-05-03
  • Death City: Halle
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Education:

    Study at Göttingen & Bonn, 1860-3; LL.D., Dublin, 1892

  • Dissertation:

    “De Dionysii Halicarnassensis scriptis rhetoricis” (Bonn, 1863). 

  • Professional Experience:

    Lecturer in several gymnasia, and University of Königsberg professor extraordinarius, Kiel, 1876-81; ordinarius, 1881-92; professor, Halle 1892-1907.

  • Publications:

    Die griechische Beredsamkeit von Alexander bis auf Augustus (1865); Die antische Beredsamkeit, 3 vols. (1868-80; 2nd ed. 1887-98); Attic Orators with the exception of Lysias & Isaios Teubner ed.(1872-9) Vitae of Plutarch (1872-84); Andocides (1880); Antiphon (1891); Hyperides (1881, 1894), Demosthenes (Dindorf’s ed. 1885); Isocrates (1886); Eudoxus of Cnidus (1887) Deinarchus (1888); Demosthenes (Rehdantz’s ed. 1893); Aeschines (1896); Lycurgi Oratio in Leocratem (1920); Demosthenes De Corona (1890); Aristotle Ἀθηναίων πολιτεία (1892; 4th ed. 1903); Bakchylides (1898, 3rd ed. 1904), commentaries to Aeschylus, Choephoroi (1906); Eumenides (1907); Über die Aussprache des Griechischen (1888; Eng. trans. W.J. Purton, 1890); Grammatik des neuestam. Griechisch (1888, 1921 by Debrunner); Palaeography, Hermeneutics, and Tectcriticism (1886; new ed. Theodor Birt); Die Rhythmen der attischen Kunstprosa (1901) Die Rhythmen der asianischen und röm. Kunstprosa, 2 vols. (1901-3); Die Interpolationen in der Odyssee (1904).“Hermeneutik und Kritik,“ Paläographie, Buchwesen, und Handschriftenkunde“ in Muller’s Handbuch der klassischen Altertumswissenschaft, vol. 1, (1891), Ausführliche grammatik der griechischen Sprache 4 vols. (1890-1904); Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch (1902; Eng trans. H. St. John Thackeray, 1905); Aeschylus Choephoroi, (1906).

  • Notes:

    In an era and a nation marked by prodigious scholarship, Friedrich Blass must rank as one of the most productive classical scholars of his day: Thomas Day Seymour reckoned that Blass produced one volume a year over a career of 44 years and in 1909 wrote, “No living classical scholar, I think, has published so many volumes, covering so large a part of the field of Greek philology.” Among the many serviceable resources he provided for classicists are his revision of part I of Kühner’s Greek grammar (part II by Bernard Gerth), his grammar of the New Testament, and his comprehensive articles for Müller’s Handbuch. His skills and range as a textual critic are on display in his editions of works from Aeschylus’s Choephoroe (his last work) to Aristotle’s Athenian constitution, eight of Plutarch’s Lives, Bacchylides, the Acts of the Apostles, and his minor editions of Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, and Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews. His skill as a papyrologist is evident in his arrangement of the Bacchylides remains and the fragments of the Athenian constitution. He was chief adviser to Grenfell and Hunt in their Egypt Exploration Fund and he edited the inscriptions from Corinth for the SDGI. His treatise on Greek pronunciation and Grammar of New Testament Greek were translated into English.

    Blass is best known for his lifelong contributions to the study of the Attic Orators, beginning with his dissertation, completed at the age of 20. A pupil of Hermann Sauppe (1809-93) at Göttingen and Friedrich Ritschl (1806-76) and Otto Jahn (1813-69) at Bonn, Blass wrote the history of Greek oratory from Alexander to Augustus at the age of 25. The greatest of his works is the four-volume Die Attische Beredsamskeit (1868-80), which he continually revised over a period of nearly thirty years. His study of ancient rhetoricians greatly influenced his editing of texts (mostly for Teubner), which he turned to later in his career. He edited all of the Greek orators except Lysias and Isaeus. In the eyes of some reviewers he also relied too much on the authority of ancient writers on rhetoric who cited his authors and depended on his theories of prose rhythm as decisive in choosing his readings. Neither approach was followed by his later contemporaries. He revised Rehdantz’s edition of nine orations of Demosthenes and edited the De Corona himself, in the course of which he is said to have memorized the entire speech. 

     A warm and generous personality, Blass was friends with English scholars like J.E. Sandys (1844-1922), Churchill Babington (1821-89), and Richard Jebb (1841-1905). His friendship with J.P. Mahaffy (1839-1919) may have led to his honorary degree from Dublin. He also admired the American William Watson Goodwin (1831-1912) and according to Oscar Broneer, would have students come to his desk and put their hand on Goodwin’s Syntax of the Moods and Tenses of the Greek Verb (1859) and say, “Now you have touched greatness.”

    C.D. Adams wrote, “Plain, almost uncouth, in outward appearance, he was yet a perfect gentleman.” Mahaffy said that Blass “was not like other men, but was worthy to stand with those great men of old whose learning was all the nobler because their life was purer, and who combined the love of knowledge with the fear of God.” In the words of Sandys, “He was a man of a large heart and of a calm and sober temper; and he was ever ready, with an absolute unselfishness, to place the results of his learning and of his acumen at the service of others. The expression of his face may be described as earnest and resolute, but not unkindly; while the beauty of his character will prompt his friends in this country to remember him as ἀνὴρ καλός τε κἀγαθός καὶ τοῖς φίλοις παθεινός.”

  • Sources:

    J.P. Mahaffy The Academy  (16 March 1907) J.E. Sandys CR (May 1907); C. Robert, Chronik der Universität Halle (1906-7) 22-6; W. Crönert, BBJ 32 (1909) 1-30, bibl. 30-2; Charles D. Adams, CJ3,2 (1907) 80; T.D. Seymour, CP 2,3 (July 1907) 334; Broneer quotation: W.M. Calder, “Die Geschichte der klassischen Philologie in dem Vereinigten Staaten,” Jahrbuch für Amerikastudien 11 (1966) 213-40.

  • Author: Ward Briggs