European Scholar

LACHMANN, Karl Konrad Friedrich

  • Image
  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1793-03-04
  • Born City: Braunschweig
  • Born State/Country: Germany
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1851-03-13
  • Death City: Berlin
  • Death State/Country: Germany
  • Education:

    Katharineum Gymnasium, Braunschweig; study (theology), Leipzig, 1809; Göttingen; Ph.D., Halle, 1814.

  • Professional Experience:

    Teacher, Friedrichs Werdersches Gymnasium, Berlin, 1816; Collegium Fridericianum, Königsberg, 1816-18; Extraordinarius in Classical & Germanic Philology, University of Königsberg, 1818-24; extraordinarius, Berlin, 1825-9; prof. ordinarius & director, Latin Section of Philological Seminar, 1829-51; Rector, 1843-4; meme. Royal Prssian Academy of Sciences, 1830.

  • Dissertation:

    “De critica in Tibulli carminibus recte instituenda.” (Halle, 1814); habilitation: “Observatioum criticarum capita tria” (Göttingen, 1815).

  • Publications:


    Observationum criticarum capita tria (Göttingen, 1815); Sex. Aurelii Propertii carmina emendavit et ad codd. meliorum fidem et annotavit Carolus Lachmann (Leipzig, 1816); Über die urspriingliche Gestalt des Gedichts von der Nibelungen Noth (Berlin, 1816); Sagenbibliothek des Skandinavischen AIterthums in Auszügen, mit litterarischen Nachweisungen von Peter Erasmus Müller (trans.) (Berlin, 1816);  De choricis systematis tragicorum Graecorum, (Berlin, 1819)Shakespeare's Sonnette (trans.) (Berlin, 1820); Auswahl aus den Hochdeutschen Dichtem des dreizehnten Jahrhunderts (Konigsberg, 1820); De mensura tragoediarum (Berlin, 1822); Specimina linguae Francicae (Berlin, 1825)Der Nibelunge Noth und die Klage (Berlin, 1826; 2d ed., 1841; 3d ed., 1851; 5th ed., 1878); Hartmann von Aue. Iwein. Notes by G. F. Benecke, Lachmann, and L. Wolff (Berlin, 1827; 2d ed., 1843; 7th ed. trans. Thomas Cramer, Berlin, 1981); Die Gedichte Walthers von der Vogekveide. (Berlin, 1827; 13th ed. edited by Hugo Kuhn, 1965); Q. Valerii Catulli Veronensis. (Berlin, 1829); Albii Tibulli libri quattuor (Berlin, 1829); Sex. Aurelii Propertii elegiae (Berlin, 1829)Shakespeare’s Macbeth (trans.) (Berlin, 1829); Novum Testamentum Graece (Berlin, 1831; 2d printing, 1837); Wolfram von Eschenbach (Berlin, 1833; 6th ed. edited by Eduard Hartl, 1926; 7th printing, 1952); Philipp Buttmann, Griechische Grammatik, enlarged by Lachmann (Berlin, 1833); Genesius (Bonn, 1834); Zu den Nibelungen und zur Klage, notes by Lachmann [Worterbuch von Wilhelm Wackemagel] (Berlin, 1836); Terentiani Mauri de litteris syllabis et metris liber (Berlin, 1836); Versuch über Dositheus (Berlin, 1837)Gotthold Ephraim Lessings sämmtliche Schriften (ed.) 13 vols. (Berlin, 1838-1840); Gregorius, eine Erzählung von Hartmann von Aue (ed.) (Berlin, 1838); Zwanzig alte Lieder von den Nibelungen (ed.) (Berlin, 1840)Gaii institutionum Commentarii quattuor, ed. J. F. L. Goeschenii, completed by Lachmann(Bonn, 1841); Ulrich von Lichtenstein mit.Anmerkungen von Theodor von Karajan (ed.) (Berlin, 1841); Novum Testamentum Graece et Latine, ed. with P. Buttmann, 2 vols. (Berlin, 1842-1850); Babrii fabulae Aesopeae Carolus Lachmann et amici emendarunt ceterorum poetarum choliambi ab Augusto Meinekio collecti et emendati (Berlin, 1845)Aviani fabulae (Berlin, 1845)Betrachtungen über Homers Ilias, ed. with additions by M. Haupt (Berlin, 1847); Die Schriften der römischen Feldmesser, ed. with F. Blume, A. Rudorff, et al., 2 vols. (Berlin, 1848-52); T. Lucretii Cari de rerum natura libri sex (Berlin, 1850)Carolus Lachmann in T. Lucretii Cari de rerum natura libros commentarius (Berlin, 1850); Minnesangs Frühling, ed. with M. Haupt (Leipzig, 1857; vol. 1, 38th ed., 1988; vol. 2, 36th ed., 1977; vol. 3, 30th ed., 1950).

    Articles (Collected)

    Kleinere Schriften. 2 vols. Vol. 1 (German philology), ed. K. Miillenhoff; Vol. 2 (classical philology), ed. J. Vahlen (Berlin, 1876. Vol. 1 reprinted 1969; vol. 2 reprinted 1974).

  • Notes:

    The history of nineteenth-century philology abounds in important names, but Karl Lachmann is without doubt one of its most outstanding figures. Moreover, he achieved greatness in two different fields: classical and older Germanic philology.

    Lachmann intended to follow in the footsteps of his pastor father and began the study of theology at Leipzig, where he also sat in on a course of lectures in philology given by Gottfried Hermann (1772-1846). After one semester he transferred to Göttingen and devoted himself chiefly to philology. The predominant scholarly tendency at Göttingen, as it was exemplified by Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729-1812)—the study of history and of artifacts—had little attraction for him; his gifts and his inclinations led him to linguistic philology and textual criticism. Consequently, he attached himself chiefly to Ludolph Dissen(1784-1837), under whose direction he pursued the study of (among other things) rhythm and meter. These studies bore fruit in works that appeared years later: De choricis systematis tragicorum Graecorum (1819) and De mensura tragoediarum (1822).

    Following his doctorate, in 1815 he habilitated at Göttingen with a text-critical study on the Latin poets. After Napoleon’s return from Elba, Lachmann—as his American student B. L. Gildersleeve wrote (Atlantic 80 [September 1897] 338)—“dropped his Propertius to take up arms for his country” by joining the detachment of volunteer riflemen in Duderstadt, but his unit saw no action.

    In 1816 Lachmann went to Berlin. Here he passed the examination to qualify as an upper-level schoolteacher and accepted a position on the staff of the Friedrichs Werdersches Gymnasium. At the same time he habilitated at the University of Berlin with his edition of Propertius and with his famous treatise Über die ursprüngliche Gestalt des Gedichts von der Nibelungen Noth.

    His stay in Berlin was short; in the same year Lachmann took a position as an upper-level teacher at the Collegium Fridericianum in Königsberg, and in 1818 he became Extraordinarius for Classical and Germanic Philology at the University there. He interrupted his teaching in 1824 with a trip to inspect manuscripts in Wolfenbiittel, Kassel (where he visited the Brothers Grimm), Heidelberg, Munich, St. Gallen, and Eppishausen im Thurgau (where he visited Joseph Freiherr von Lassberg, who was at work on old German manuscripts). This journey laid the foundations for much of Lachmann’s later researches.

    In 1825 Lachmann was transferred, at his own request, to the Friedrich- Wilhelms Universitat in Berlin, where he became Professor Extraordinarius. Thus he moved to the city in which he was to work until his death on 13 March 1851. In 1829 he became Professor Ordinarius and Director of the Latin section of the Philological Seminar; one year later he was named member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences.

    When Lachmann came to Berlin his name was already well-known among scholars. Nevertheless, the period of his greatest creativity and importance—his more than twenty-five years in the rising capital of Prussia—was still before him.

    Lachmann’s sphere of influence was essentially limited to the University. Here, in addition to his teaching and research, he took on administrative duties. He was several times Dean of the Philosophical Faculty, and in 1843-44 he was Rector of the University. Apart from this, however, he was not so involved in administrative and organizational duties as was his colleague August Böckh, nor was he quite so predominant as the latter in the Prussian Academy. Yet Lachmann was one who sought and maintained ties with colleagues and friends. The scholar and teacher who was feared for his stern criticism was a decidedly social man, who always attended the meetings of a large number of clubs and societies. In daily intercourse, too, he appreciated opportunities for intellectual and professional conversation. These contacts were not without effect upon Lachmann’s scholarly work.

    Two organizations were especially important to him: the Graeca (which was founded at the end of the eighteenth century) and the Gesetzlose Gesellschaft.

    In the Graeca, which Lachmann joined in 1824, persons interested in Greek culture—philologists and laymen—met weekly to read a Greek author. The Gesetzlose Gesellschaft was a social club whose members came together to enjoy relaxed, harmonious, intellectual conversation. Philipp Buttmann (1784-1829) had founded it; in 1840 Lachmann took the lifetime office of fifth “Zwingherr.”

    The exchange of ideas with members of these two organizations provided the stimulus for several of Lachmann’s scholarly works. Immanuel Bekker (1785-1871) and August Meineke (1790-1870), whose influential textual and philological methods were similar to Lachmann’s, were especially important in this respect, as was Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), who, inter alia, took no little interest in Lachmann’s researches on the New Testament. Lachmann finally produced his editio maior of the New Testament in partnership with Philipp Buttmann, Jr., whose father had been, until his death in 1829, Lachmann’s fellow member of the Graeca and the Gesetzlose Gesellschaft. Lachmann paid a final tribute of friendship to Buttmann, Sr., by producing the fourteenth edition of the latter’s Greek Grammar, a famous school text. A particularly close relationship was that with Clemens August Carl Klenze (1795-1838), Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Berlin. Lachmann had been his friend since their student days in Göttingen and, remaining a bachelor, lived as a member of his friend’s household until Klenze’s death in 1838. This connection with Klenze and with other jurists, such as Johann Friedrich Ludwig Goschen (1778-1837) in Göttingen, led to Lachmann’s intensive research on Roman legal texts, which produced, among other things, his work on Dositheus (1837) and his edition of Gaius. At Barthold Georg Niebuhr’s (1776-1831) request, Lachmann took part in producing the series of Byzantine writers that Niebuhr had founded, and he brought out the edition of Genesius; again, his edition of the Roman land surveyors went back to a suggestion by Niebuhr.

    In this manner Lachmann’s contacts with scholars outside his own field often provided the impulse for his scholarly works. During his years in Berlin, these contacts led him especially into work on Latin texts of a historical and antiquarian nature, and Lachmann thereby took up a sort of middle ground in the methodological quarrel between August Böckh (1785-1867) and Gottfried Hermann. Even before this, Lachmann had already experimented successfully with scholarly cooperation in his studies of Old and Middle High German poetry.

    The methodological and theoretical content of Lachmann’s scholarly work can be readily summarized in two expressions: the development of scientific textual criticism and the theory of epic.

    His critical examination of ancient and medieval texts came to be called “the Lachmann method.” This comprised recensio, carried out on scientific principles, i.e., the comparison of the various manuscripts of an author in order to construct the most reliable transmission of the text, by removing all errors, inconsistencies, and later interpolations. Recensio became thereafter the basic principle of textual criticism.

    This method of critical study of texts on the basis of examining the manuscript transmission was long considered to be Lachmann’s innovation; it was in fact a return to principles of textual study that had been advocated and practiced in the past, and a series of scholars took part in resurrecting it in the nineteenth century. Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824) had been the first to call for a return to textual study with the aid of the manuscripts, and scholars such as Karl Gottlob Zumpt (1792-1849), Johann Nicolai Madvig (1804-86), and Friedrich Ritschl (1806-76) had a large share in its further development. Yet Lachmann’s name deservedly remains associated with this renewal, particularly because of the unique energy and passion with which he insisted on returning to the manuscript tradition and sorting and then evaluating its components. As early as 1818, he criticized the neglect of the manuscripts in a review of Gottfried Hermann’s edition of Sophocles’ Ajax (in the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, 203 [November 1818] 249-250; reprinted in Kleine Schriften [Berlin 1876] 2:2-3.).

    Lachmann stated his position yet more clearly twelve years later in his 1830 “Rechenschaft” on the small “stereotype” edition of the New Testament (Theologische Studien und Kritiken 3.2 [1830] 817-845; reprinted in Kleine Schriften 2:250-272). He called for a text that ceased to rely on the received text and was based instead on “what had really been transmitted.” He declared that the philological criticism of the eighteenth century, “with the exception of the solitary and misunderstood figure of Bentley,” had been “random and desultory.” And, he added, the “mass of common critics” worked in this manner “even today.”

    Lachmann himself viewed his demands that attention be paid to the textual tradition as a return to principles of philological work that had previously been known and practiced. It was the prime task of recensio to establish the text as it had originally been transmitted, without any previous interpretation. In the foreword to his editio maior of the New Testament he wrote: “ex auctoribus, quod primo loco posui, id quod recensere dicitur, sine interpretatione et possumus et debemus.”

    Thus recensio laid the foundations for textual criticism by ascertaining and noting agreements and variants in the manuscript transmission. From this beginning one could draw conclusions about the connections and relationships between manuscripts and thus form judgments about errors, inconsistencies, and interpolations in individual passages of the text. Recensio,the first step in textual criticism, was followed by emendatio—the correction of errors and the restoration of the original text (originem detegere) as it had existed in the archetype of the manuscript transmission.

    The text-critical work based on these fundamental principles stands at the center of Lachmann’s researches. These researches are documented in the scholarly works he left behind, the overwhelming majority of which are editions of texts and discussions of text-critical problems. The Latin authors predominate, and by this preference Lachmann played an essential role in the renaissance of Latin philology in the nineteenth century.

    Lachmann quite early (1816) published his first critical edition: the elegies of Propertius. In this edition the beginnings of his text-critical principles are already visible. He set his face against rash emendatio and the numerous transpositions and alterations of the text to which it led—though he did not, to be sure, completely avoid falling into the same snares himself, above all in his novel and rather willful division of the books. Yet Lachmann’s work was a step forward in that he took as his basis the dependable Wolfenbüttel manuscript and consulted others, though only sporadically and as he saw fit.

    After a period in which Lachmann devoted himself with renewed enthusiasm to Old and Middle High German texts, the late 1820s saw further editions of ancient authors, especially of Roman poets.

    In 1829 his edition of Catullus appeared, which was unusual in that, contrary to his own principles, he did not go back to the original tradition of the oldest manuscript, the Codex Veronensis, but made do with Renaissance manuscripts. On the basis of these he posited a “line-number theory” and held that each page of the lost archetype of Catullus had contained thirty lines. This theory had great and lasting influence; indeed, Moriz Haupt (1808-74), in his Quaestiones Catullianae (1837), tried to work it out in detail. But subsequent research was obliged to abandon the theory as erroneous.

    In the same year Lachmann published editions of the Roman elegiac poets Tibullus and (in an editio minor) Propertius; these editions were the products of the continuation of earlier studies. As in the case of Propertius, the new edition of which was based on the results of the edition of 1816, Lachmann founded his work on Tibullus on the manuscript tradition. Although he did not succeed in selecting the best manuscripts of Tibullus, his edition was a considerable advance.

    Only two years later followed his editio minor of the New Testament (1831), which, however, still leaned quite heavily on the unsatisfactory texts of previous editions. Nevertheless, the new tendency in textual criticism can be detected here as well, especially since, in the above-mentioned (p. 251) essay, “Rechenschaft,” Lachmann made fundamental observations on the investigation and significance of the manuscript tradition.

    The editio minor was for Lachmann only the preliminary result of long years of research. Over a decade later (1842) the first volume of his editio maior appeared, and the second volume followed eight more years later (1850). The fundamental principle of his New Testament criticism was the abandonment of the textus receptus, the text that had been put together, quite arbitrarily, by Robertus Stephanus (1503-59) and the Dutch publishers the Elzeviers and that had already been sharply criticized by Richard Bentley (1662-1742). Lachmann’s goal was to restore the text of the New Testament as it had existed at the end of the fourth century. His great two-volume edition was an enormous step forward, despite the small number of manuscripts he was able to use.

    Besides his edition of the New Testament, he produced in these years a series of other editions, some of them of obscure authors. To a large degree they share the characteristic that the editor was able to make use of only one manuscript for each edition; thus, recensio was not possible, and the establishment of the text had to begin with emendatio. This was true of the edition (1834) of Genesius’ history of the Byzantine emperors, which existed only in a single Leipzig manuscript, and also of the grammatical textbook of Terentianus Maurus (1836); Lachmann based his edition of the latter on Georgio Galbiati’s editio princeps, which had, in turn, been based on a unique manuscript found in Bobbio and then lost again. It was true as well of the Institutiones of Gaius, which are preserved only in a single Verona palimpsest discovered by Niebuhr in 1836. Similarly, a unique manuscript, which had been discovered in a monastery on Mt. Athos, served Lachmann as the basis for his edition (1845) of Babrius, which he produced in conjunction with August Meineke.

    His work on Babrius led him to Avianus (1845), another poet of fables. In this case a wealth of manuscripts was available; Lachmann did indeed make use of them, but his handling of the textual transmission was too simplistic, and so the value of the edition, according to S. Timpanaro (1923-2000), resides only in a few good conjectures. The case is quite different in his editions of the Roman land surveyors (1848-52), which he produced together with Friedrich Blume and Adolf Rudorff (1803-73). Here Lachmann followed the oldest textual tradition to establish the text. His work has not yet been superseded, since the edition begun by Karl Thulin has not been completed.

    The high point of Lachmann’s text-critical research in classical philology was reached in his studies on Lucretius; these were both his last and his most extensive labors. The edition of the text appeared first (1850); it was followed immediately in the same year by the great commentary. It was in his edition of Lucretius that Lachmann first fully carried through his principle of tracing the textual transmission back to the archetype. In the commentary, his long years of textual study enabled him to trace parallels and echoes in details and to evaluate individual readings—observations that proved to be methodologically paradigmatic. Wilamowitz (Geschichte der Philologie; 59) characterized the work in a remark valid for his generation: “From it we have all learned text-critical method.” Lachmann’s commentary on Lucretius is still held to be an epoch-making masterpiece; though superseded in many respects, it still remains a basic and indispensable resource for classical philology, not only for text- critical method but also for many individual questions of language and meter.

    One of Lachmann’s most significant accomplishments was his application of the text-critical method of classical philology to Old and Middle High German texts. Here too his progress was not solitary; rather, scientific textual criticism in this area developed into a securely based and systematic method through the labors of four scholars working together: Georg Friedrich Benecke (1762-1844), Jacob Grimm (1785-1863), Wilhelm Grimm (1786-1859), and Lachmann. Their joint researches began long before Lachmann took his lifetime position at the University of Berlin.

    In contrast to classical philology, the textual study of Old and Middle High German poetry required preliminary labors. The problem was that the existing editions were based on manuscripts that did not precisely reproduce the language of the authors. Systematically established and strictly observed grammatical and metrical rules did not exist. But such rules had to be the foundation for judging the variant readings, and a comparison and evaluation of these would result in understanding of the genealogical relationships within the manuscript transmission and—the ultimate aim—the establishment of the original text.

    Benecke began these preliminary studies, and Lachmann carried on the work by collecting and examining the relevant materials. Through linguistic analysis he recognized the importance of rhymes, which provided insight into accentuation, meter, grammar, orthography, and the linguistic evolution of phonemes. Consequently, he used all available sources to construct an extensive inventory of rhymes as a tool in his researches.

    Similarly, he spent years in the study of meter. As the starting point for his researches into Middle High German meter he selected the Old High German Gospel Book of Otfried von Weissenburg (800-70), since the textual transmission of this work was relatively pure. Lachmann’s extended treatise “Zur althochdeutschen Prosodie und Verskunst,” analyzing Otfried’s Gospel Book with Jacob Grimm (to whom Lachmann had sent the manuscript in 1824, and who supplied notes, additions, and corrections), remained unpublished. Nonetheless, it laid the foundation for Lachmann’s first systematic studies, and provided a basis for his edition of Wolfram von Eschenbach (1170-1220). Despite considerable criticism aimed at the rules he had established, the extensive collection of material that supported these rules made him an authority in this field, and his accomplishment is still acknowledged today.

    Lachmann likewise produced significant preliminary work in the area of grammar, but as early as 1819 the appearance of the first volume of Jacob Grimm’s German grammar put into his hands a fundamental tool for his researches that made his own systematic studies superfluous. He nevertheless continued to deal with grammatical questions within the framework of his own researches, and he shared his results with Grimm.

    After these preliminary studies the ground was prepared for editing works of literature. Beginning in 1825, Lachmann produced a series of editions, one after another. He began with a volume of Old High German selections: Specimina Linguae Francicae. In 1826 came the edition of Der Nibelunge Noth und die Klage, the poetical work to which he had devoted special attention for more than decade. Here he divided the manuscript transmission into three chief manuscripts (a division still accepted today): “A” (Hohenems/München), “B” (St. Gallen), and “C” (Hohenems/ Donaueschingen). His own edition of the text he based on “A,” which, in his view, came closest to the original text. In so doing Lachmann deviated from the principle he had himself laid down in 1817 (in the Jena Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, nos. 132-135; reprinted in Kleine Schriften 1:81-114)—namely, to use the existing manuscript tradition to restore the original text or at least a text that closely approached the original, and in his edition he restricted himself to removing scribal errors and blunders and to establishing a consistent orthography.

    His edition of the Nihelungenlied was followed by editions of other Middle High German poets: Hartmann von Aue, Iwein (in conjunction with Benecke, 1827; 2d ed., 1843); the poems of Walther von der Vogelweide (1827; 2d ed., 1843); the works of Wolfram von Eschenbach (1837); Hartmann von Aue, Gregorius (1838); Ulrich von Lichtenstein (with notes by Theodor von Karajan, 1841); and an anthology (edited posthumously by Moriz Haupt) of the Middle High German Minnesanger: Minnesangs Friihling (1857). He also produced a series of articles and book reviews, which are collected in the first volume of the Kleine Schriften.

    Lachmann’s editions of Middle High German poetry were regarded in their day as masterpieces, yet "they-also provoked criticism, especially inasmuch as he did not consistently abide by­—the principles of textual editing that he had himself established—the restoration of the original text or a close approximation to it. He was also criticized for positing a single fixed archetype at the beginning of a given textual transmission and for basing his editions on a single manuscript—conditions that, in the case of medieval poetry, cannot necessarily be assumed and that, in the case of the Nibelungenlied, do not obtain. Despite these too one-sided and (in the modern view) partially false ideas about the genesis and transmission of a text, still, many of his editions of medieval poets have continued to be republished and are in use at the present time. This is true of the Iwein and the Gregorius of Hartmann von Aue (ca. 1160-ca. 1220), the poems of Walther von der Vogelweide (ca. 1170-ca. 1230), and the works of Wolfram von Eschenbach and Ulrich von Lichtenstein (1200-75).

    Lachmann broke completely new ground in his attempt to apply the methods he had developed for the textual criticism of ancient and medieval authors to works of modern German literature, as he did in his edition of Lessing (1729-81). Although Lachmann could not take into account in his edition the possibilities of autograph, or at least authorized, transmission and thus disregarded essential factors in the textual criticism of modem authors, nevertheless his edition was the first step on the way to scientific textual criticism in this field. Moreover, certain of his principles, such as printing the works in the order of their original publication, are followed to this day.

    The powerful influence exerted by Lachmann’s text-critical method was virtually equalled by that of his theory of epic, which he developed first for the Nibelungenlied and then for the Iliad. Lachmann took as his starting point the revolutionary theses of Friedrich August Wolf: that the Homeric epics had originated in a preliterate period, had been composed in the memory, had been transmitted orally, and had received their fixed form only centuries later. The unity of Homer was thus called into question.

    Lachmann took up Wolf s theory of the multiple authorship of the Homeric epics and applied it in a modified form to the Nibelungenlied in the above-mentioned 1816 treatise Über die ursprüngliche Gestalt des Gedichts von der Nibelungen Noth. The novelty in Lachmann’s use of Wolf’s ideas was that, unlike Wolf, he did not base his discussion on external evidence about the poem’s genesis; rather, he detected and analyzed omissions and contradictions in the poetry itself. Such inconcinnities could not go back to the poet himself; Lachmann maintained, therefore, that they were proof that inept adapters had been at work. According to Lachmann’s investigations, the text consisted of “a still visible union of individual ballad-like lays” (“romanzenhafter Lieder”). Lachmann posited twenty of these lays; they had arisen as folksongs in the period 1190-1220 and could still be detected by certain formal, especially metrical, criteria. According to Lachmann, these individual lays had been arranged and suitably joined together by a later “Diaskeuast.”

    Having first dissected the Nibelungenlied into individual lays, Lachmann returned years later to the starting point provided by Wolf: the question of the origin of the Iliad. In a study delivered in two parts before the Berlin Academy of Science in 1837 and 1841 (published in 1847 as a single work, Betrachtungen über Homers Ilias, with additions by Moriz Haupt), he sought to trace in the epic as we have it inconsistencies, gaps, and seams, and he came to the conclusion that the Iliad in its present form consisted of sixteen individual lays, which, even after the redaction under Peisistratus, could still be detected.

    Lachmann’s analysis of epic poetry, based on Wolf, was closely connected with the thought and feeling of the age. His conception of a poem evolving through the creative energies of the “Volksgeist” was especially influenced by Romanticism.

    Lachmann’s theory of epic had great influence. There was agreement but also—especially in regard to his dissection of the Iliad—passionate rejection. Even such a man as Jacob Grimm, with whom Lachmann worked closely in his studies of medieval poetry, did not accept his analysis of Homeric epic. In the subsequent course of the discussion set in motion by Lachmann, scholars moved further and further away from his ideas—ideas that did not, any more than did the strictly Unitarian position, lead to any ultimate solution.

    Nevertheless, the immense influence of Lachmann made itself fully felt only after his death, especially in the predominant position taken thereafter by a philology that restricted itself exclusively to textual researches. The study of artifacts, as practiced by August Böckh and Karl Otfried Müller (1797-1840), was relegated to the background. An essential role in this process, and in the exaltation of Lachmann to his outstanding position, was played by Moriz Haupt, his friend and successor in the Berlin professorship, who displayed admirable devotion in disseminating, expanding, and passionately defending his master’s teachings. Haupt agreed with Lachmann in his philological methodology as well as in uniting classical and Germanic philology. This is apparent in the fact that he followed through to press new editions of many of Lachmann’s works.

    Among Lachmann’s successors in Germanic philology, especially deserving of mention is Karl Müllenhoff (1818-84), who in 1864 became Professor of Older German Philology at the University of Berlin and used Lachmann’s methods in his work in this field.

    In his Grundriss der klassischen Philologie, Alfred Gudeman (1862-1942) introduced the section on Lachmann with the words, “One of the greatest textual critics of all time.” This judgment, formulated before the turn of the century, was still completely under the influence Lachmann exercised in the second half of the nineteenth century. With the revival of universal-historical Altertumswissenschaft—a revival connected with the names of Mommsen and Wilamowitz—textual philology lost its predominant position and became only one branch of a science that aimed at the investigation of classical antiquity in all its aspects. Lachmann thus retreated somewhat into the background, though his accomplishments were never depreciated. Some even gave him historical credit for the fact that the formerly opposed tendencies of Böckh and Gottfried Hermann did come together. In modem discussion, too, Lachmann’s significance is undisputed; this is true not only in classical philology but also in older Germanic philology. George Goold wrote that “Lachmann’s Lucretius was the most epoch-making edition of the nineteenth century.” Thus Karl Lachmann deservedly lives on as one of the heroes in the history of both disciplines.

    Translated by Michael Armstrong

  • Sources:


    J. Kühnel, “Karl Lachmann,” NDB 13 (Berlin, 1982) 371-4; Karl Scherer, “Karl Lachmann,” ADB 17 (Leipzig, 1883) 471-81.


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  • Author: Wolfhart Unte