European Scholar

CELTES, Conrad

  • Date of Birth: 1459-02-01
  • Born City: Wipfeld, near Würzburg
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Date of Death: 1508-02-03
  • Death City: Vienna
  • Death State/Country: Austria
  • Education:

    B.A., Cologne, 1479; M.A., Heidelberg, 1487.

  • Professional Experience:

    ;Lecturer, Erfurt, and Leipzig, 1485-7, Poeta laureatus, 1487; Study in Italy, 1487-9; study (astronomy) in Krakow, 1489-91; prof rhetoric & poetics, Ingolstadt, 1491-2, 1494-5; Rector, Cathedral School, Regensburg, 1492-3; princely tutor, Heidelberg, 1495-6; prof. rhetoric & poetics, Vienna, 1497-1508; director, Collegium poetarum et mathematicorum, 1502-8. 

  • Publications:

    Ars versificandi et carminum (Leipzig 1486); Panegyris ad duces Bavariae. Oratio in gymnasio Ingelstadio habita (Augsburg 1492; ed. J. Gruber, 2003); Tacitus Germania (1500); Amores (1502); Fünf Bücher Epigramme von Konrad Celtis, ed. K. Hartfelder (1881; repr. 1963); Der Briefwechsel des Konrad Celtis, ed. H. Rupprich (1934); Quattuor libri Amorum secundum quattuor latera Germaniae (1502); Germania generalis, ed. F. Pindter (1934); Libri Odarum quattuor cum Epodo et Saeculari carmine (1513; trans. and ed., E. Schäfer (2012).

  • Notes:

    Born Konrad Pyckell (or Bickel) Celtes was born Konrad Celtes. Celtis was instructed in Italian humanism by Rudolf Agricola (1443-85) and Johan von Dalberg (1445-1503), Bishop of Worms, while studying at Heidelberg and signified his commitment to his study by adopting the Latin name Conradus Celtis Protucius He supported himself with lectures on Plato until he had sufficient funds to travel. In order to improve his Greek, he traveled to Italy where he lived at Ferrara with Battista Guarino (1435-1513), at Padua with Marcus Musurus (1470-1517), at Rome with Junius Pomponius Laetus (1428-98), and in Florence with Marsilio Ficino (1433-99). The Italian humanism led in part by these men incubated in Celtes the desire to create a similar movement in Germany, but he determined to expand the elements of humanism to include the natural sciences. To this end, he devoted two-years of study of mathematics and astronomy. When he returned to Germany he published his first work, Ars versificandi et carminum, which resulted in an introduction to Friedrich III, who named him the first German poeta laureatus in 1487. Celtes proposed a program in his “Ingolstadt Address,” that reasserted Germanic humanism based on the Italian study of philosophy, rhetoric, and literature but with the addition of natural sciences, especially mathematics, astronomy, geography, and topography in an effort to return German humanism to the preeminence it enjoyed during Medieval times. 

    As a poet, Celtes deliberately imitated and was thus compared with Horace in the perfection of his versification and subject matter. As Horace was a champion of Augustan Rome, so Celtes extolled the Germany of his time in his volume of Odes, a book of Epodes, and a Carmen saeculare.

    Later in life he became, in Sandys’ memorable phrase, “the knight-errant of humanism in Germany.” He studied in Poland with the emigré Filippo Buonaccorsi (1437-96), with whom he established in 1488 the Sodalitas Litterarum Vistulana, an academic association based in Cracow on the model of the Rome Academy, which took particular interest in mathematics, astronomy and the natural sciences. Celtes went on to establish similar sodalities in Hungary and in Mainz in 1491, with his teacher Dalberg as president.  Its members included Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) and Wilibald Pirkheimer (1470-1530) and Albrecht Dürer (1471-1538). When he moved to Vienna in 1497, he established the Collegium poetarum et mathematicorum.

    To further his mission to return Germany to the forefront of humanistic inquiry, he planned a historical and geographical study of Germany along the lines of Flavio Biono’s Italia illustrata. He began with a pamphlet that described the history and topography of Nuremberg (1495) and followed it with an edition of the Germania of Tacitus, to which he appended his own hexameter poem, De situ et moribus Germaniae. His large study, titled Germania illustrata was never completed. He did, however, complete his Amores (1502), in four books representing the four districts of Germany. The poem blends elegiac themes with the history and topography of Germany. He published editions of Hroswitha of Gandersheim and the Ligurinus of Gunther of Pairis (1150-1220).  His lasting legacy is as the first champion of the renewal of German humanism and catalyzer of younger scholars who carried on his vision.

  • Sources:

    Sandys, 2:259; U. Auhagen et al. (ed.), Horaz und Celtis (2000); C. Cardelle de Hartmann, Die Roswitha-Edition des Humanisten Konrad Celtis, in Schrift–Text–EditionFestschrift für H. W. Gabler, ed. C. Henkes et al.  (Göttingen, 2003) 137-47; Christopher B. Krebs, Negotiatio Germaniae. Tacitus’ Germania und Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Giannantonio Campano, Conrad Celtis und Heinrich Bebel Hypomnemata 158 (2005) 190-225; G. M. Müller, Die Germania generalis des Conrad Celtis (2001); G. M. Müller, “Germania illustrata,” in EdN 4 (2006) 555-7; Jörg Robert, Konrad Celtis und das Projekt der German Dichtung. Studien zur humanistischen Konstitution von Poetik, Philosophie, Nation und Ich (Tübingen, 2003); Hans Rupprich, NDB 3:182 & 20:474 & 22: 601; Schäfer, Eckart (ed., trans.), Conrad Celtis: Oden/Epoden/Jahrhundertlied: libri odarum quattuor, cum epodo et saeculari carmine (1513) (Tübingen, 2008); F. J. Worstbrock, “Konrad Celtis. Zur Konstitution des humanistischen Dichters in Deutschland,” in Literatur, Musik und Kunst im Ubergang vom Mittelalter zur Neuzeit, ed. H. Boockmann et al. (1995) 9-35.

  • Author: Ward Briggs