European Scholar

JAHN, Otto

  • Image
  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1813-06-16
  • Born City: Kiel
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Parents: Jacob, an attorney, & ? Trendelenberg J.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1869-09-09
  • Death City: Göttingen
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Education:

    Study at Schulpforte, 1830-1; Kiel, 1831-2; Ph.D., 1836; study at Leipzig, 1832-3; Berlin, 1833-5; travel and study in Denmark, France, Switzerland & Italy, 1836-9; study in Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin & Frankfurt, 1852-3.

  • Professional Experience:

    Prod. Kiel, 1839-42; Extraordinarius, Greifswald, 1842-5; ordinarius, 1845-7; ordinarius, Archaeology & dir. archeology museum, Leipzig, 1847-50; ordinarius, Bonn, 1855-67; deal, philosophical faculty, 1857; rector, 1858; ordinarius, Berlin, 1867-9. 

  • Dissertation:

    "Palamedes"(Kiel, 1836; publ. Hamburg: Prostat apud Perthes et Busser, 1836).

  • Publications:

    Books (Classical Philology)

    Specimen epigraphicum in memoriam Olai Kellermanni (Kiel, 1841); Auli Persii Flacci satirarum liber cum scholiis antiquis(with commentary) (Leipzig, 1843; reprinted Hildesheim, 1967); Censorini due die natali liber (Berlin, 1845; reprinted Hildesheim, 1965); Ciceros Brutus de Claris oratoribus (Leipzig, 1849; 2d ed., Berlin, 1856; 3d ed., 1865; 4th ed., 1877 revised by A. Eberhard; 5th ed., 1908 revised by W. Kroll; 7t ed., 1964 revised by B. Kytzler); D. Iunii Iuvenalis saturarum libri V, ex recensione et cum commentariis Ottonis Iahnii, vol. I: D. Iunii Iuvenalis saturarum libri V cum scholiis veteribus (Berlin, 1851)(Vol. II [commentary] was never published.)Auli Persii Flacci satirarum liber (Leipzig, 1851 (Editio minor without commentary.); Ciceros Orator. Appendix: De optumo genere oratorum (Leipzig, 1851; 2nd ed., Berlin 1859; 3d ed. 1869; new ed. 1913 by W. Kroll, reprinted 1964. French translation of the introduction in F. Gache and J. S. Piquet, Ciciron et ses ennemis littiraires (Paris, 1886); Iuli Flori epitomae de Tito Livio bellorum omnium annorum DCC libri II. (Leipzig, 1852); Periochae de T. Livio et Iulius Obsequens (Leipzig, 1853); Apuleii Psyche et Cupido (Leipzig, 1856; 2d ed., 1873 revised by A. Michaelis; 3d ed., 1883; 4th ed., 1895; 5th ed., 1905); Pausaniae descriptio arcis Athenarum (Bonn 1860; 2d ed., 1880 revised by A. Michaelis; 3d ed., 1901); Sophoclis Electra. (Bonn, 1861; 2d ed., 1872 revised by A. Michaelis; 3d ed., 1882); Platonis Symposium (Bonn, 1864; 2d ed., 1875 revised by H. Usener); Διονυσίου ἢ Λογγίνου περὶ ὕψους (Bonn, 1867; 2d ed., Leipzig, 1887 revised by J. Vahlen; 3d ed., 1905; 4th ed., 1910; 5th ed., Stuttgart, 1967 revised by H.- D. Blume); A. Persii Flacci, D. Iunii Iuvenalis, Sulpiciae saturae (Berlin, 1868; 2d ed., 1886 with the scholia vetera, edited by F. Biicheler; 3d ed., 1893; 4th ed., 1910 revised by F. Leo; 5th ed., 1932); Aus der Altertumswissenschaft. Populäre Aufsätze (Bonn, 1868).

    "•i if* *

    Books (Archaeology)

    Vasenbilder (Hamburg, 1839); Die Gemälde des Polygnotos in der Lesche zu Delphi (Kiel, 1841); Telephos und Troilos. Ein Brief an Herrn Professor F. G. Welcker in Bonn (Kiel, 1841); Pentheus und die Mainaden (Kiel, 1841); Paris und Oinone (Greifswald, 1844); Archäologische Aufsätze (Greifswald, 1845); Die hellenische Kunst (Greifswald, 1846; revised version in Aus der Alterthumswissenschaft [see above]: 115-182; Peitho (Greifswald, 1846); Arch&ologische Beitrtige (Berlin, 1847); Prométhée(Paris, 1848); Ficoronische Cista (Leipzig, 1852); Beschreibung der Vasensammlung König Ludwigs in der Pinakothek zu München (Munich, 1854; Introduction (vol. 1) published separately, Leipzig, 1854); Kurze Beschreibung der Vasensammlung Sr.Maj. König Ludwigs in der Pinakothek zu München (Munich, 1854; 2d ed., 1871; 3d ed., 1875; 4th ed., 1887); Telephos und Troilos und kein Endue. Ein Brief an Herm Professor F. G. Welcker zum 16 October 1859 (Leipzig, 1859); Der Tod der Sophonisba auf einem Wandgemälde (Leipzig, 1859); Die Lauersforter Phalerae (Bonn, 1860); Römische Alterthümer aus Vindonissa. Mitteilungen der Antiquarischen Gesellschaft in Zurich. Vol. 14.4 (Zurich, 1862); Über bemalte Vasen mit Goldschmuck (Leipzig, 1865); De antiquissimis Minervae simulacris Atticis (Bonn, 1866); Die Entführung der Europa auf antiken Kunstwerken. Denkschriften der philosophisch-historischen Classe der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften XIX (Vienna, 1870); Griechische Bilderchroniken. Aus dem Nachlass des Verfassers herausgegeben und beendigt von Adolf Michaelis (Bonn, 1873).

    Books (Musicology)

    Leonore, Oper von Beethoven. Vollständiger Klavier-Auszug der zweiten Bearbeitung mit den Abweichungen der ersten (Leipzig, 1851); W. A. Mozart (Leipzig, 1856-59 [4 vols.]; 2d ed., 1867 [2 vols.]; 3d ed., 1889-91 revised by H. Deiters; 4th ed., 1905-07; 5th ed., 1919-21 revised by H. Abert; 6th ed., 1924; 7th ed., 1955-56. Life of Mozart by Otto Jahn. Translated by Pauline D. Townsend. With a preface by George Grove. 3 vols. London, 1882; 2d ed., 1891; reprinted New York, 1970); Gesammelte Aufsätze über Musik (Leipzig, 1866; 2d ed. 1867).

    Books (history of German Literature; Biography)

    Goethes Briefe an Leipziger Freunde (Leipzig, 1849); Ludwig Uhland (Bonn, 1863); Biographische Aufsätze (Leipzig, 1866)(Winckelmann; G. Hermann; L. Ross; Th. W. Danzel; L. Richter; Goethe.); Goethes Briefe an Christian Gottlob von Voigt(Leipzig, 1868); Eduard Gerhard. Ein Lebensabriss (Berlin, 1868); Goethe und Leipzig (Leipzig, 2d ed., 1909; 3d ed., 1910; 4th ed., Berlin, 1914 = Biographische Aufsätze: 286-372.

    Articles

    “Bassirilievi e le iscrizioni del monumento di Marco Vergilio Eurisace,” Annali dell’ Institute) di Correspondenza Archaeobgica10 (1838) 231-248; “Über das Wesen und die wichtigsten Aufgaben der archäologischen Studien,” Berichte iiber die Verhandlungen der Königlich Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig. Philol.-hist. Cl. (1848) 209-26; “Über die Kunsturtheile des Plinius.” Ibid. (1850) 105-42; “Über den Aberglauben des büsen Blicks bei den Alten.” Ibid. (1855) 28-110; “Die Wandgemälde des Columbariums in der Villa Pamfili.” Abh. kgl. bayer. Akad. Wiss., Philos.-philol. Cl. (1857) 231-84; “Priapos,” Jhb. d. Vereins v. Alterthumsfreunden i. Rheinlande 17 (1859) 45-62“Über Darstellungen griechischer Dichter auf Vasenbildem,” Abh. Kgl. Sachs. Ges. Wiss., Philol.-hist. Cl. (1861) 697-760;“Darstellungen antiker Reliefs, welche sich auf Handwerk und Handelsverkehr beziehen,” Ber. Verh. Kgl. Sachs. Wiss. Leipzig.,Philol.-hist. Cl. (1861) 291-374; “Einige antike Gruppen, welche Orestes und Elektra darstellen,” Ibid. (1861) 100-32; “Über Darstellungen des Handwerks und Handelsverkehrs auf Vasenbildem.” Ibid. (1867) 75-119; “Über Darstellungen des Handwerks und Handelsverkehrs auf antiken Wandgemalden,” Abh. Kgl. Sachs. Ges. Wiss. Leipzig, Philol.-hist. Cl. (1867) 236-318; “Die Cista Mystica,” Hermes 3 (1869) 317-34.

  • Notes:

    Otto Jahn was probably the most versatile of nineteenth-century German scholars of Altertumswissenschaft. As a philologist he produced many exemplary editions of ancient authors, several of them with commentary. As an archaeologist he placed the study of Greek vase-painting on a new scientific basis, and in the realm of iconography he put an end to the symbolist fantasies of Theodor Creuzer (1800-58) and Heinrich Panofka (1807-87). As a musicologist he wrote a model biography of Mozart, the first to be erected on a documentary foundation. Finally, he contributed to the study of German literature two collections of Goethe’s letters and a series of biographical essays and studies on the history of scholarship.

    Jahn was born on 16 June 1813, in Kiel. His father, Jacob Jahn, was a respected and successful attorney; his maternal grandfather, Adolf Trendelenburg, was Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Kiel. The house of Jahn’s parents was a center of the city’s musical life, and Jahn’s musical training went far beyond the dilettantism that was usual in the education of a young bourgeois. The decision not to make music his profession was finally made only during his student days at Berlin. It was with the intention of offsetting the musical ambitions of the boy of seventeen with the strict discipline of exacting philological instruction that his father sent him in 1830 to the famous Gymnasium at Schulpforte, where A. G. Lange (1778-1831), Christian Friedrich Neue (1798-post 1861), and K. A. Koberstein (1797-1870) were his teachers in Greek, Latin, and German. Lange welcomed the boy into his home and, though Jahn stayed at Schulpforte for only a year, his hospitable teacher remained a father figure to him forever (Briefe, 117).

    In 1831 Jahn returned to his hometown of Kiel and began to study philology at the university there. The director of the philological seminar—to which he was at once admitted—was Gregor Wilhelm Nitzsch (1790-1861); Jahn praises him forcombining a strict work ethic with an easy intercourse with his students (Biographische Aufsätze, 148-149). Johannes Classen (1805-1891), who later produced a commentary on Thucydides, was then a Privatdozent in Kiel; he directed Jahn’s attention to the Roman satirists, who were to occupy him for the rest of his life and would form the subject of the greater part of his philological work. In the autumn of 1832 Jahn went to Leipzig, where he was even more impressed by Gottfried Hermann’s personality than by his scholarly method. A year later he transferred to Berlin. Here he attended the lectures of August Böckh (1785-1867) but was more attracted to Karl Lachmann (1793-1851), whom he regarded as his real teacher in philology (Briefe, 115). It was in Berlin that Jahn first encountered the study of archaeology. Julius Ambrosch (1804-1856) introduced him to the study of vases (then still in its infancy), and the lectures of Eduard Gerhard (1795-1867) on the antiquities of the Berlin museums brought him into close contact with one of the founding fathers of archaeology as a scholarly discipline in Germany. Returning to Kiel in 1835, he took his doctorate there in 1836 with a dissertation on the myth of Palamedes. This dissertation reveals an extensive knowledge of the ancient sources without, however, displaying the interconnection of literary and archaeological data that characterized Jahn’s later works.

    With a travel stipend from the Danish government (Schleswig-Holstein was then under Danish rule), Jahn traveled to Paris in the autumn of 1837, busied himself chiefly with studying the manuscripts of Juvenal and Persius, and formed connections with French archaeological scholars. He entered into close friendships with Desire Raoul-Rochette (1790-1854) and Jean Joseph de Witte (1808-1889). In October 1838 he came to Rome; here his teacher was Emil Braun (1809-1856), a student of Karl Otfried Muller and at that time First Secretary of the Archaeological Institute. He introduced Jahn to the antiquities of Rome, assigned him the publication of this or that newly discovered monument (e.g., the tombstone of the baker Eurysaces near the Porta Maggiore), and brought home to the student of Hermann and Lachmann the importance of Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker (1784-1868). Finally, he directed him to the field of Latin inscriptions. Jahn acquired, with the financial support of the Berlin Academy, the epigraphic Nachlass of Olaus Kellermann (1805-1837), with the obligation to publish it. After travels to southern Italy and Sicily, Jahn came to Florence, where he met Karl Otfried Müller (1797-1840), who was on his way to Greece. Jahn returned to Kiel in the summer of 1839.

    At the beginning of the winter semester he took up the teaching duties to which his doctorate from Kiel entitled him. One of his first students was Theodor Mommsen (only a few years younger than his teacher), who supplemented his law studies by attending Jahn’s lectures on Juvenal and Persius and his archaeological classes. What the encounter with Jahn meant to the young Mommsen is revealed in his memoir written after his friend’s death: Jahn “opened for me the doors of scholarship and of society” (Briefwechsel, 360). The correspondence between the two (1842-1868) is among the most impressive exchanges between scholars that the nineteenth century can show.

    In 1842 Jahn was called to Greifswald as Professor Extraordinarius of Philology and Archaeology. In 1843 appeared his commentary on Persius—probably his most important achievement in philology. All later interpretation of Persius is based on this work (Knoche, Römische Satire, 86), and the fact that it was reprinted in 1962 shows that it is not yet entirely superseded. In 1845 came the edition of Censorinus, De die natali, a recension that for the first time placed the text on a solid foundation. After declining a call to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Jahn was appointed Professor Ordinarius in 1845. While at Kiel he had already followed the model of the philological seminar to institute the first archaeology classes in Germany. He also introduced such classes at Greifswald, and the practice of annual celebration of Winckelmann’s birthday at German universities, as was already the custom at the Roman Institute, goes back to him. The Berlin Academy’s long-projected plan for a Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum entered a new phase in 1845, when Savigny, then the Prussian Minister of Justice, asked Jahn to prepare a memorandum on means to complete the project. The Academy had previously planned to prepare a mere reprint of inscriptions from already available collections and publications, but Jahn’s scheme involved collecting the texts—including the large number of previously unpublished inscriptions—by personal inspection of the originals, which presupposed a sojourn of many years in Italy. Mommsen in particular was to join Jahn as editor. Jahn opposed a topographical classification of inscriptions (the scheme that Mommsen ultimately followed) and advocated a classification by subject (Harnack, Geschichte des königlich preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaft zu Berlin II, 505 ff.). Because of the intrigues of August Böckh—“Böckh and his Böcklein” (goats), as Mommsen called the opponents—the plan could not at first be carried out. But Jahn gave himself credit for having kept matters open until Mommsen could “enter upon the task which a favorable destiny had reserved for him” (Gerhard, 84).

    In 1847 Jahn was called to a professorship in Archaeology at the University of Leipzig, where, along with Gottfried Hermann and Moriz Haupt, he also lectured on philological subjects. During Jahn’s Leipzig period he produced commentaries on Cicero’s Brutus (1849) and Orator (1851), as well as editions of Persius (1851), Florus’ epitome of Livy (1852), and Julius Obsequens (1853). Most important, however, was the great edition of Juvenal with the scholia vetera (1851); the treatment of the textual transmission offered by this edition forms the essential basis of Juvenal criticism to this day (Knoche, Römische Satire, 96-97). The projected commentary on Juvenal was never written.

    In an address before the Leipzig Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften during the Leibnitz anniversary celebrations in 1848, Jahn presented his ideas on the nature and most important tasks of archaeology. He opposed Gerhard’s conception of archaeology as “monumental philology” and gave it an independent role as a science of art—a role that it could only fulfill, however, in close partnership with the other historical Altertumswissenschaften, especially philology (cf. Briefe, 93, 164, 175).

    Jahn worked successfully to have Mommsen called to Leipzig in 1849. For both men this was, according to their own testimony, the happiest period of their academic lives. They belonged to a sociable circle of friends—professors (Haupt), men of letters (Gustav Freitag), and publishers (Hartel, Hirzel, Reimer, Weigand)—whose political home was the Deutscher Verein,which occupied the bourgeois liberal middle in the Frankfurt Parliament. Jahn and Mommsen both took an active part in the political movements of 1848, first in their home province of Schleswig-Holstein and later in Leipzig. Here in 1849 the two friends, together with Haupt, joined in the agitation in Saxony for adoption of the imperial constitution drawn up by the Frankfurt Parliament. For this they were prosecuted, after the victory of reaction, for high treason. Jahn appealed the case and was acquitted, as were Mommsen and Haupt after repeated appeals, but nonetheless all three were dismissed from their professorships in 1850. Although the University soon tried to lure Jahn back, he rejected all compromise because of his feelings of solidarity with his two friends. It was all the more painful to him that he suffered longer and more grievously than they from the dismissal: Mommsen was called to Zurich in 1852 and Haupt to Berlin in 1853.

    During the Leipzig period Jahn (favored by the genius loci) was occupied with a number of important musicological projects. The founding of the Bachgesellschaft, which aimed to produce a historical-critical edition of the works of J. S. Bach, was due largely to Jahn’s initiative. Here, for the first time, the philological principles that had long been followed in critical editions of ancient texts were applied to the editing of music, and this methodology thereafter became the model for complete editions of the works of other great composers. When Wagner’s Tannhäuser was performed in Leipzig in 1853, followed by Lohengrin in 1854, Jahn discussed these music-dramas—dubbed “music of the future” in the propaganda of Wagner’s proponents—in critical reviews (Gesammelte Aufsätze über Musik, 64ff., 112ff.). Jahn’s criticism of Wagner later affected the course of philology, since Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy, used it as an excuse for an ugly polemic against Jahn. The possibility that Nietzsche hoped thereby to gratify not only Wagner but also his own teacher, Friedrich Ritschl (1806-76), does not excuse what he did. It was Nietzsche’s outburst against Jahn—or so said Wilamowitz in his later years (Erinnerungen, 129)—that provoked his own pamphlet against Nietzsche: Zukunftsphilologie! (“Philology of the Future!”).

    Now that Jahn had been reluctantly released from university duties, he was able to travel extensively, and in 1852-53 he journeyed to Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, and Frankfurt to collect and qxdmlne the Nachlafl of Mozart and Beethoven and to prepare his great book on Mozart. Originally planned as an introduction for a biography of Beethoven, the Mozart book grew into an independent work as the material multiplied. But before he could put this mass of material into shape, Jahn received from Munich a commission to catalogue the vase collection of Ludwig I, and this task occupied him in the years 1853-54. The introductory volume of the catalogue is an exhaustive discussion of the study of vases in its various aspects—history and subdivisions of the study, topography, evolution of styles, and iconography. A healthy skepticism in interpretation frees the paintings from all supposed connection with the mystery religions; interpretation is limited to factual description of content. Jahn’s Einleitung long performed the function of a handbook on the study of vases.

    Without Welcker’s knowledge, Ritschl had been carrying on negotiations with the Ministry in Berlin, and at the end of 1854 Jahn was called to Bonn; he took up his teaching duties in the summer of 1855. Jahn had always affirmed that, with call to Bonn as Welcker’s presumptive successor, one of his fondest dreams would be realized (Briefe, 91, 92). However, it happened under circumstances that were anything but gratifying and that hampered his work at Bonn from the outset. Jahn came to Bonn under the assumption that he had been called at Welcker’s desire or at least with his consent. Now he discovered that Welcker, who had been temporarily absent from Bonn, had been taken completely by surprise by the course of events and felt deeply insulted, believing that the creation of a new professorship of philology and archaeology was directed personally at him. Welcker’s sense of propriety forbade him to inflict on Jahn the anger and mortification that he felt. Jahn, for his part, did all hecould to let the grand old man see his veneration and his friendly feelings. It was Ritschl who had to bear the unpleasantness. Welcker broke off all ties with his longtime colleague and friend, by whom he felt he had been hoodwinked, while Jahn was intent on preserving his independence from Ritschl and took pains not to appear a member of his party. This conspicuous reserve—which was heightened by the difference in temperament between the two men—could not fail to annoy Ritschl and he took it to be ingratitude. Within a few months they were estranged (Briefe 95-96; Briefwechsel, 196); the ultimate results were mistrust and aversion. Yet their relations remained correct (Briefe, 197; Briefwechsel, 246); in particular Jahn, whatever his personal feelings toward his colleague, always acknowledged that the respect enjoyed by the Bonn Philological Seminar was chiefly due to Ritschl’s teaching. (Briefe, 174). Moreover, in their manner of conducting a seminar and in their methodological principles the two were clearly in agreement when it came to defending the formal orientation of essentially grammatical and text-critical training against instruction that concentrated on content, which the historians especially were demanding. Jahn’s teaching enjoyed considerable popularity among the students (Briefe, 166, 174). “Jahn possessed a great personal magnetism for young people. ... As a solitary man he felt, more than others, the need to maintain friendly and social relations with the students, to whom the treasures of his library, as well as his house, stood open in all generosity”—so judges a witness who is above suspicion (Otto Ribbeck, F. W. Ritschl 2:342). In 1857 the philosophical faculty elected Jahn their Dean, and in 1858 he was Rector of the University. Both these offices testify to the position of respect that Jahn had won among his colleagues within a short time.

    In his first years at Bonn, Jahn completed his monumental biography of Mozart (1859) and produced a series of useful editions of texts, which had grown directly out of the needs of academic instruction: the elegant little volume, seeming to beckon to the reader, which contains Apuleius’ tale of Amor and Psyche (1856); Pausanias’ description of the Acropolis (1860); and the Electra of Sophocles (1861), including a collection of testimonia on the poet’s life and work that was superseded only by Radt’s collection of the fragments of Sophocles (Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta IV [Gottingen, 1977]).

    Although Ritschl and Jahn also gave lectures and reading classes in Greek literature, the greater share of their philological work was in the field of Latin. Jahn’s efforts to recruit a respected Hellenist (he had in mind his friend Hermann Sauppe [1809-1893] in Göttingen) are thus understandable (Briefe, 177-178). Jahn’s fear that Ritschl would reject the suggestion—and no doubt also his fear of his colleague’s tactical skill, to which he did not feel equal (“a past master of university intrigue”—Mommsen to Henzen, Briefwechsel, 331n4)—induced Jahn to negotiate with the Berlin government for Sauppe’s appointment without consulting Ritschl (Briefwechsel, 333). His action bears certain similarities to Ritschl’s behavior toward Welcker at the time of Jahn’s own appointment. In the spring of 1865, Jahn seemed finally to have reached his goal. Having received a preliminary inquiry from Vienna, Jahn informed Berlin that he would remain at Bonn if Sauppe were appointed, whereupon the Ministry accepted this condition and offered the post to Sauppe. But Sauppe, who had already agreed to accept the post if it were offered, now declined it. Only now did the Bonn faculty—and Ritschl, who was then Dean—learn of the affair, since the Ministry had not previously consulted them, and “the storm” (Mommsen) burst over Jahn’s head.

    It was to become the most famous quarrel between philologists in the history of modem scholarship, and the exchange between Nietzsche and Wilamowitz furnished the concluding satyr play. The report of Sauppe’s refusal called forth from Jahn’s opponents indignation and gleeful malice, while his friends felt embarrassment and bewilderment. For, aside from the disgrace, even those well-disposed toward Jahn had to admit that his behavior and the means he had employed were a breach of courtesy between colleagues. But the campaign of slander that was immediately launched by some of Ritschl’s supporters with the aim of defaming Jahn’s moral character evened the balance of blame. While the faculty, with few exceptions, understandably took the part of their Dean, the majority of the students, “among them nearly the whole of the Seminar” were partisans of Jahn (Erwin Rohde to his parents, 27 June 1865). Nietzsche too sided with Jahn (Colli-Montinari, eds., Briefe No. 467); during his year as a student at Bonn, he had attached himself to Jahn (Ibid., no. 463, 464), and his departure from Bonn had nothing to do with the quarrel between Jahn and Ritschl (Ibid., no. 466).

    The tactlessness of the Ministry, which published the sharp rebuke it issued to Ritschl for his official conduct as Dean in the affair, had meanwhile transformed a local Bonn University quarrel into a political scandal of widespread interest; it led to an attack on Bismarck’s government by the liberals in the Prussian Landtag. Jahn found it all depressing. In spite of his personal integrity and his honorable intentions in trying to have an additional professorship of Greek created (Briefe, 218), his position was, for the moment, precarious. And the situation was paradoxical: in Parliament the liberals (Jahn’s party) took up the cause of the archconservative Ritschl, while the liberal Jahn seemed to have joined forces with the “Junker Ministry.” When Ritschl submitted his resignation from the Prussian civil service and left Bonn the next semester to accept the Saxon government’s call to Leipzig, it was not, as a pamphlet by one of Ritschl’s students prophesied, “the end of the Bonn school of philology”; but Jahn was sensible of the magnitude of the loss the University had sustained, and he suffered from the expectation that he would be held responsible for it (Briefwechsel, 304). Ritschl, on the other hand, could present himself to the public as the victim of the ingratitude of the state and of his colleague, and of a Holstein nepotism as well: the Bonn University curator Beseler was Jahn’s cousin, and Olshausen, the responsible officer in the Ministry, was his childhood friend. In contrast to Ritschl’s more robust nature, which allowed him to declare himself the moral victor with an easy conscience, Jahn, perpetually tormented by scruples and self-doubts, felt compelled again and again to resort to self-justifications, to which no one would listen. It was a conflict in which there were only defeats and no victories.

    “He is incredibly unhappy,” said so unsentimental a character as Mommsen—on another occasion—of Jahn (Briefwechsel 359). He was a man who needed friendship and was to a high degree capable of friendship; but the strokes of fate, human disappointments, and his own mistakes had transformed him into a lonely man who had given up on himself (Briefe, 222-225; Briefiuechsel, 360). Jahn’s guilelessness, his eagerness to admire, and his expressions of gratitude were often exploited, even by his friends; Haupt’s contemptuous remarks about him require the interpretation of a psychologist. His few years of teaching in Bonn after Ritschl’s departure were overshadowed by the onset of lung disease. But to the last he fought against his own physical decline, producing work after work—among them the edition of pseudo-Longinus Περὶ Ὕψους, which, in Vahlen’s re-edition, has not yet been superseded, and above all the completely rewritten second edition of the Mozart biography, now in two volumes instead of four. In 1867 he declined a call to Berlin as Eduard Gerhard’s successor and the offer of a one-year journey to Italy for study and recuperation, because he was well aware of his condition and wanted to use the short time remaining to him to complete the projects he had planned. On 9 September 1879, Jahn died in Göttingen in the home of the parents of Eduard Schwartz, whose mother was Jahn’s niece. The library he left behind, one of the greatest private scholarly libraries of the nineteenth century, comprised more than 30,000 volumes. The ex libris with the motto Inter folia fructus was a gift from Ludwig Richter, given in gratitude for an essay Jahn had written about him (Biographische Aufsätze, 221ff.).

    Agreement seems to exist among musicologists that Jahn’s biography of Mozart is the most important work on music history written in the nineteenth century. The dedication of the Köchel-Verzeichnis to Jahn is a monumental evidence of this evaluation. Applying historical and philological methods to the examination of written sources for the purpose of portraying the life and work of a great composer was a pioneering achievement that served as the model for other biographies of composers; in the case of Mozart, Jahn’s Life was superseded only in the 1920s—in a revision of Jahn’s text (Abert, ed. [5th ed.J, 1919; 1921).

    A just appraisal of Jahn’s influence on Altertumswissenschaft is much more difficult to formulate. This is partly because of the extreme diversity of his works, thematically as well as bibliographically; unhappily, no collection of his Kleine Schriften has ever been published. But the difficulty also lies in the nature of his researches. Jahn’s scholarly interests lay in the concrete particular, not in the general. Speculation and systematization were not for him. He was concerned to portray descriptively the multiplicity of phenomena, with each in its historical context. In philology this meant, above all, producing a text as authentic as possible by examination of the textual transmission and interpreting the text by means of commentary. In archaeology it meant exact description, as well as collection, of the monuments (the idea of a corpus of sarcophagi goes back to Jahn). In the history of scholarship it meant biographic portrayal of its great figures. In mythology the concern was no longer with hypotheses on the original meaning of a given myth but rather with the exact understanding of its concrete portrayal in individual texts and monuments. The purposeful union of archaeology and philology was, for Jahn, entirely at the service of interpretation as the true goal of both disciplines. But it also provided access to the daily life of antiquity as a new subject of historical research, and this benefited literary and iconographic interpretation equally with the history of religion (“Über den Aberglauben des bösen Blickes”) and the portrayal of commerce and handicrafts in the visual arts.

    Jahn’s oldest student was Mommsen; his youngest was Wilamowitz. These two were also his most important students, and both went far beyond their teacher. He directed the former to the study of Latin inscriptions; his influence on the latter was greater than is generally supposed. It is seen in the concept of a reconciliation between philology as a linguistic study (Hermann, Lachmann) and as a historical study (Böckh, K. O. Müller, Welcker), and in the preference given to single-work interpretation connected with a commitment to putting the individual phenomenon into its historical context; but it also appears in the new appreciation of Hellenistic poetry (Wilamowitz, Geschichte der Philologie, 68) as well as in the art of the essay on subjects in the history of scholarship. Though Wilamowitz liked to invoke the name of Welcker, he was a student of Jahn. As for archaeology, Jahn helped to establish it as a university discipline. At the same time, his insistence that the archaeologist be also a student of philology remained valid into the period after the Second World War. His archaeology students included his nephew Adolf Michaelis (1835-1910), Eugen Petersen (1836-1919), Otto Benndorf (1838-1907), Karl Dilthey (1839-1907), Wolfgang Helbig (1839-1915), and Carl Robert (1850-1922). Helbig’s Wandgemdlde der vom Vesuv verschiitteten Stfidxe-Campaniens (1868) is unthinkable without Jahn, and Robert’s Hermeneutik der Archäologie (1919) still betrays Jahn’s influence. Almost all of these scholars also wrote philological works. By taking into account the phenomena of daily life in antiquity, including popular beliefs and superstitions, and by reappraising Hellenistic poetry, Jahn founded the philological tradition of the “Bonn School,” the influence of which ranges from Hermann Usener and Adolf Brinkmann (1863-1923) to Hans Herter (1899-1984).

    Translated by Michael Armstrong

  • Sources:

    C. Bursian, Geschichte der classischen Philologie in Deutschland. (Munich & Leipzig, 1883, 2:1070-80; W.M. Calder, III, “Why Did Wilamowitz Leave Bonn? The New Evidence,” RhM 130 (1987) 366-84; W. M. Calder, III, H. Cancik, & B. Kytzler, Otto Jahn (1813-1869): Ein Geisteswissenschafder zwischen Klassizismus und Historismus (Stuttgart: Steiner, 1991);  G. Gruber,“Die Mozart-Forschung im 19. Jahrhundert,” Mozart-Jahrbuch (1980-3) 10-17; K. Halm, “Otto Jahn,” Sb. kgl. bayer. Akad. Wiss. (I. Cl.) (1870) 393-402; T.A. Henseler, “Das musikalische Bonn im 19. Jahrhundert,” Bonner Geschichtsblätter 13 (Bonn, 1959) 259-65; P.E. Hübinger, “Heinrich von Sybel und der Bonner Philologenkrieg,” Historisches Jahrbuch 83 (1964) 162-216; A.H. King, “Jahn and the Future of Mozart Biography,” in Mozart in Retrospect (London, 1955; 3d ed., Oxford, 1970) 66-77; E. Langlotz, “Otto Jahn,” iBonner Gelehrte. Beitrage zur Geschichte der Wissenschaften in Bonn. Phibsophie und Altertumswissenschaft. 150 Jahre Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Bonn 1818-1968 (Bonn, 1968) 221-6; G. Luck, “Otto Jahn,” ibid. 144-64; A. Michaelis, “Otto Jahn,” ADB 13 (1881) 668-86; A. Michaelis & E. Petersen, “Otto Jahns Leben,”Otto Jahn in seinen Briefen, ed. E. Petersen (Leipzig, 1913) 1-52; Theodor Mommsen, “Otto Jahn,” Archaeologische Zeitung 27 (1869) 95-96 = Reden und Aufsätze (Berlin, 1905): 458-61 = Briefwechsel, 362-4; J. Pulver, “Otto Jahn.” The Musical Times(1913) 237-9; L. Wickert, Theodor Mommsen, 4 vols. (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1959-80); U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff,Erinnerungen (2d ed. Leipzig, 1929) 84-7. 

    Letters

    Otto Jahn in seinen Briefen, ed. E. Petersen (Leipzig, 1913); Theodor Mommsen-Otto Jahn. Briefwechsel 1842-1868, ed. L. Wickert (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1962) (With 21 newly found letters at Philologus 127 (1983) 262-83.

  • Author: Carl Werner Müller