European Scholar


  • Image
  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1876-03-19
  • Born City: Magdeburg
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Oscar, a prosperous grain merchant, & Gertrude Löwenthal J.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1959-11-10
  • Death City: Berlin
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Married: Margarete von der Leyen (1875-1956), 1901.
  • Education:

    Study at Freiburg, 1894; Munich, 1894-5; service in Bavarian mounted artillery, 1895-6; Ph.D., Berlin, 1900; phil. habil., 1903.

  • Professional Experience:

    Privatdozent, Breslau, 1903-4; prof. extraord., Kiel, 1906; ordinarius in Latin, 1906-35; work and occasional teaching, Oxford, 1939-59.

  • Dissertation:

    "De Apollodori Atheniensis chronicles" (Berlin, 1900); "Marmoris Parit cum commentario bipartito editi specimen (Breslau, 1903) (Habilitation).

  • Publications:


    Apollodors Chronik. Eine Sammlung der Fragmente (Berlin, 1902 = Philologische Untersuchungen 16; reprinted New York, 1973); Das Marmor Parium herausgegeben und erklärt (Berlin, 1904); Die Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker. Teil I-Teil III C (Berlin & Leiden, 1923-1958); Hesiodi Carmina. Pars I. Theogonia (Berlin, 1930) (No more published.); Atthis. The Local Chronicles of Ancient Athens (Oxford, 1949; reprinted New York, 1973).

    Articles (Collected)

    Griechische Historiker (Stuttgart, 1956) (from Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie = GH; Abhandlungen zur griechischen Geschichtschreibung, ed. H. Bloch (Leiden, 1956) = AGGKleine philologische Schriften, ed. H. J. Mette. 2 vols. Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, Schriften der Sektion für Altertumswissenschaft 21 (Berlin, 1961) = KPS.

    Articles (Selected)

    “Die attische Konigsliste I,” Klio 2 (1902) 406-439. (No more published.); “Uber das Marmor Parium.” RhM NF 58 (1904) 63-107; “Zur Entstehung der römischen Elegie.” RhM NF 60 (1905) 38-105,320 = KPS 2.65-121; “Über die Entwicklung der griechischen Historiographie und den Plan einer neuen Sammlung der griechischen Historikerfragmente.” Klio 9 (1909) 80-123 = AGG 16-64; “Tibulls erste Elegie. Ein Beitrag zum verstandnis der Tibullischen Kunst.” RhM NF 64 (1909) 601-32; 65 (1910) 22-87 = KPS 2.122-206; review of The Ancient Greek Historians, by J. B. Bury. BPW 29 (1909) 419-29 = AGG 65-72; “Zu Hippokrates περὶ ἀέρων ὑδάτων τόπων,” Hermes 46 (1911) 518-67; “Hekataios von Milet,” RE VlI.2 (1912) 2667-750 = GH 186-227; “Hellanikos von Lesbos,” RE VIII.l (1912) 104-153 = GH 262-287; “Herodotos von Halikarnassos,” RE Suppl. II (1913) 205-520 = GH 7-164; “Drei Gedichte des Properz.” RhM NF 69 (1914) 393-413, 427-463 = KPS 2:216-265; “Studien zu den alteren griechischen Elegikern. (I. Zu Tyrtaios. II. Zu Mimnermos),” Hermes 53 (1918) 1-44, 262-307 = KPS 1:268-344; “Das Prooemium des Lucretius,” Hermes 56 (1921) 1-65 = KPS 2:8-64; “Griechische Geschichtschreibung,” Die Antike 2 (1926) 1-29 = AGG 73-99; “Thukydides und die Vorgeschichte des peloponnesischen Krieges,” NGG 1929, 1-34 = AGG 207-238; “Theognis.” SBBerl 1931, 90-180 = KPS 2:345-455; “Homerisches II. Die Einschaltung des Schiffkatalogs in die Ilias.” SBBerl (1932) 572-617 = KPS 1:54-106; “Homerisches I. Der Bios und die Person.” Hermes 68 (1933) 1-50 = KPS 1:1-53; “Die geistige Physiognomie der Odyssee.” Die Antike 9 (1933) 159-194 = KPS 1:107-138; “Der homerische Apollonhymnos.” SBBerl 1933, 682-751 = KPS 1:139-218; “Charon von Lampsakos,” S1FC n.s. 15 (1938, publ. 1939) 207-242 = AGG 178-206; “Die Überlieferung von Ps. Plutarchs Parallela Minora und die Schwindelautoren,” Mnemosyne ser. 4, 8 (1940) 73-144 = AGG 359-422; “Some Athenian Epigrams from the Persian Wars.” Hesperia 14 (1945) 157-211 = KPS 1:456-520; “Patrios Nomos:State Burial in Athens and the Public Ceremony in the Kerameikos,” JHS 64 (1944, publ. 1946) 37-66 = AGG 260-315; “The First Athenian Prose Writer.” Mnemosyne ser. 4, 13 (1947) 13-64 = AGG 100-143; “Diagoras ὁ ἄθεος,” Abhandlungen Berlin Akademie, Klasse für Sprachen, Literatur und Kunst, 1959, no. 3: 1-48.

  • Notes:

    Felix Jacoby achieved during his long working lifetime a colossal feat that will not be superseded for centuries, if ever: a collection of the fragments (that is, quotations in other writers) of the incomplete or lost Greek historians. In its current format this collection, Die Fragmente der Griechischen Historiker (Jacoby requested the abbreviation FGrHist), comprises seventeen volumes; yet it remains a torso for, since Jacoby’s final volumes on the historians of the non-Greek states (1958), no further installment has appeared. Beyond this immense work, he wrote dozens of articles for Pauly-Wissowa, among which the masterpiece is that on Herodotus: it is of book length and furnishes the most detailed analysis and survey of the vast canvas on which the first historian painted. Jacoby also edited a work of Hesiod and wrote many long articles on Greek literature and on Latin poetry. In the opinion of Robert Dundas, his colleague at Christ Church, Oxford, he was “the most learned man in Europe.”

    Jacoby was of a Jewish family but was baptized as a Protestant at age eleven. He attended the Pädagogium zum Kloster unserer lieben Frauen in his native city, Magdeburg, and studied first at the Universities of Freiburg im Breisgau and Munich, also serving one year in the Bavarian field artillery. His move to Berlin in 1906 brought about the decisive influence on his studies: here he wrote his dissertation, Apollodors Chronik, under Hermann Diels (1848-1922) and dedicated the work (published 1902) to him; but in the preface he thanks his “zweiten Lehrer,” Wilamowitz, for much useful criticism.

    In 1901 Jacoby married Margarete von der Leyen (1875-1956), who had a good classical education in a Gymnasium and attended lectures on classical philology in Berlin. She was to help him indispensably in his work on FGrHist. Jacoby now began work on his habilitationsschrift, the second book normally required from a scholar who wants to teach in a German university. At this time there was a position vacant in Breslau for a Privatdozent, a young scholar who lectured for minimal pay.

    Accordingly, on 7 May 1903, Wilamowitz wrote to Eduard Norden, then professor of classics in Breslau,

    Within the next few days Dr. Jacobi [sic], the author of the collection of the fragments of Apollodorus, will present himself to you in the hope that he may be able to achieve Habilitation in Breslau. ... He had already made fairly good progress in his studies here when I arrived [1897]: I first had a stronger personal influence over him when he submitted his dissertation, which 1 then accepted for my series, the [Philologische] Untersuchungen. I may well have turned him from purely historical studies more toward philology . . . [University of Göttingen Library]

    Jacoby thus went to Breslau in 1903 and gained his Habilitation there in the autumn of that year with an edition (published in 1904 and dedicated to Wilamowitz) of the Marmor Parium, an inscription preserving a chronicle of events in Greece compiled on Paros in 263 B.C. He reedited this text in FGrHist (239). His inaugural lecture in Breslau, after his Habilitation, was on Eratosthenes, the great scholar of the third century BCE, nicknamed “Beta” in antiquity because he ranked (at least) second in many fields of study; Jacoby edited his chronological writings as FGrHist 241.

    Jacoby was already making a reputation through his articles for Pauly-Wissowa, published from 1905 onward (the first longer one was on Euhemerus of Messene); in 1906 he was called to Kiel (as a Latinist) as Professor Extraordinarius and became Ordinarius on 23 January 1907. He remained in Kiel (declining a call to Hamburg in 1927) until his retirement in 1934. He had about a dozen Ph.D. pupils, all in classical philology. One of his few female pupils was Rose Zahn (Die erste Periklesrede [in Thucydides] [Borna-Leipzig, 1934]), whose narrative he often entertainingly interrupts with notes signed “Jac.” He lived in Kitzeberg, across the harbor from Kiel, and had to take a ferry into town to reach the university. When the weather was bad or he had urgent work to do he would telephone his assistant (a pupil, Marie Wiinsch) and announce that “das Schifflein fahrt heute nicht”; this “little boat” was commemorated in the title of the Festschrift presented to him in 1956, Navicula Chiloniensis.

    On 6 August 1908 Jacoby spoke at an international congress of historical studies in the Philharmonic, Berlin, about his plan for a new collection of the fragments of the Greek historians. In the next year he published a long paper surveying the development gf Greek historiography and outlining his program. The final form of the immense FGrHist differed in details from the scheme he presented here (123), but the principle remained the same. Jacoby cut through to the proper method, namely to edit the historians according to the development of historiography and the type or form of a given historian’s work. Thus, the large groupings are genealogy and mythography, histories limited in time, and histories limited by states (historians of several states, historians of a single state—above all, the historians of Athens or Atthidographers—, and ethnographers of non-Greek states). Only through this method are the lines of development apparent.

    Along the path to the first volume, Jacoby published the most important of his articles for Pauly-Wissowa: on Hecataeus, Hellanicus, and Herodotus (1912-1913). During the Great War, he was called to active service, as he wrote to Johannes Kirchner (22 November 1915), in a note of thanks for the gift of a fascicule of Inscriptiones Graecae II, 2d ed. [Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Sammlung Darmstadt 1878, 2f., once wrongly assigned to Georg Busolt]:


    Dear Professor, I ought to have thanked you a long time ago for your nice gift. But instead of having more free time because of the small number of students, I have sunk myself so deep in my historians that I have found time for nothing else. But now I am taking the Attic inscriptions as reading matter with me to Hamburg, where 1 am going to get some practice in on my rusty skills in riding, in connection with my being called up for service. With cordial thanks and sincere greetings, I remain your sincerely grateful


    In the war Jacoby was a private; he became ill and was discharged on grounds of health. After the war, in 1923, the first volume of FGrHist (nos. 1-63) appeared, containing the major figures Hecataeus (1) and Hellanicus (4). The texts, divided into T(estimonia) (the references in other writers to the separate historians) and F(ragmente), after the manner of Jacoby’s master, Diels, in his edition of the fragments of the presocratic philosophers, all have a brief critical apparatus. Jacoby also began the practice, which he continued through all the volumes, of printing in parallel columns fragments that occur in similar form in more than one source; this exposes immediately the variations within the citation of fragments and makes clear the dependence of later writers on the historians under study. The second huge Teil (historians of certain periods) appeared in 1926-1930.

    But now the progress of the mighty work collided with the politics of the Nazi epoch. Any study of Jacoby must, with sympathy and caution, use whatever sources are available to recover his activities during the period. All who knew Jacoby testify to his conservative politics and lifestyle. The late Gerhard Müller, a student of Jacoby in Kiel and later professor in Münster and Giessen, informed me that Jacoby shared for a time the optimism of many Germans over the proclaimed policies of the Nazi party, which he saw as reviving discipline and stability. He even advised his students to enter the party in order to bring into it reasonable and honest young men; were he not of a Jewish family, he said, he would enter it himself. He maintained this misguided optimism into 1933 and perhaps even 1934. But then neither his being a baptized Protestant nor his sympathy for the professed ideals of the Nazis could save his position. He taught until summer semester 1934, when he was forced by anti-Semitic regulations to take leave; seeing that his future at Kiel was hopeless, he accepted the inevitable and applied for retirement. He then moved to Finkenkrug, a northwestern suburb of Berlin.

    Jacoby continued work on the Fragmente, but his Jewish origins blocked further publication in Germany. He was later forbidden to use libraries in Berlin, and there is little doubt that he would have been imprisoned in due course, perhaps killed (although some Jews married to non-Jewish women were spared). This persecution, and a violent invasion of Jacoby’s house by five Nazis thugs during the “Kristallnacht” (9-10 November 1938), induced in him a willingness to leave Germany. On 3 December 1938 the Dean (then A. T. P. Williams [1888-1968]) and Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford, wrote to him, with delightful British understatement, that they “wish to enable you to continue your important work on the fragments of the Greek historians as soon as possible here in Oxford where conditions seem to be particularly favourable for carrying on such an undertaking” (letter from The Governing Body of Christ Church, Oxford). One of the agents behind this invitation was Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), himself a baptized Jew, who had already taken refuge in Oxford and held the chair of Latin. At first Jacoby was refused permission to leave, but through the discreet intervention of Werner Otto von Hentig (1886-1984), an official in the Foreign Office who assisted other Jews in emigrating, he was allowed to move. He and his wife reached Oxford in April 1939 and were naturalized in 1948.

    Their financial situation was difficult: a grant of £180 was arranged, and for months they lived in two furnished rooms in Crick Road. Later they found a home at 6 St. Margaret’s Road. There he and his wife sat at two desks facing each other and worked on the Fragmente. Jacoby held no official position at Christ Church and was seldom seen outside his college or his home. Oxford scholars remember him as short, upright, and bristling in a military way, extremely German in manner.

    In 1940 the firm of Brill published the first installment of volume III of FGrHist and continued through the last volume so far published. In these years appeared the massive crowning stone of the whole structure, as Jacoby reached the Athenian local historians. In 1949 he published his only large synthetic book, Atthis, an introduction to his commentary on the Atthidographers. This part of the commentary appeared in English as a huge two-volume Supplement to FGrHist III b (“What a book!”—A.W. Gomme). Jacoby later found it possible to return to Germany, owing largely to the unblocking of his salary. On 25 February 1956, just before his leaving, Oxford created him D. Litt. honoris causa. Soon after returning to Germany, Frau Jacoby died (21 March 1956), two days after Jacoby’s eightieth birthday. Jacoby now lived with his son in Archivstrasse in West Berlin until his death.

    FGrHist is Jacoby’s monument; no other name in the field of Greek historiography can be mentioned beside his. Yet his interests in philology, attested above all by his work on Latin elegists, are in danger of being overlooked in the shadow of the Fragmente. He is said to have asked, “Why do these people in Oxford think I’m a historian?” Wilamowitz brought him nearer to philology, and in a letter to the sons of his pupil and friend Julius Stenzel (1883-1935) he wrote, “I live more and more with two departed ones in perpetual spiritual connection—with Wilamowitz and with your father” (shown to me by Joachim Stenzel).

  • Sources:


    "Verzeichnis der Schriften Felix Jacobys 1900-1956." Abhandlungen zur griechischen Geschichtschreibung, ed. H. Bloch (Leiden, 1956) 1-15.


    A. Andrewes, The London Times, 20 November 1959, 16; E. Mensching, “Texte zur Berliner Philologie-Geschichte. VI: Felix Jacoby (1876-1959) und Berliner Institutionen 1934-1939,” in his Nugae zur Philologie-Geschichte II (Berlin, 1989) 17-59 (On Jacoby’s retirement and emigration.); U. Schindel,“Felix Jacoby.” NDB 10 (1974) 252-3; W. Theiler, “Felix Jacoby,” Gnomon 32 (1960) 387-91; International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Emigres 1933-1945. Vol. 2, part 1: The Arts, Sciences, and Literature, ed. H. A. Strauss & W. Röder (Munich, New York, London, Paris, 1983) 560.


    No collection has been published, but letters are housed in Universitätsbibliothek, Kiel; Universitätsbibliothek, Göttingen; Bodleian Library, Oxford; Corpus Christi College, Oxford; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich.

  • Author: Mortimer Chambers