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Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff

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Title: Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff  
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Subject: Hermann Usener, Friedrich Solmsen, Károly Kerényi, Mommsen family, List of 2007 Macropædia articles
Collection: 1848 Births, 1931 Deaths, Classical Philologists, Corresponding Members of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, German Classical Philologists, German Classical Scholars, German Military Personnel of the Franco-Prussian War, German Philologists, German Untitled Nobility, Honorary Members of the Ussr Academy of Sciences, Humboldt University of Berlin Alumni, Humboldt University of Berlin Faculty, Members of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Members of the Prussian House of Lords, People from Strzelno, People from the Province of Posen, Prussian Army Personnel, Recipients of the Pour Le Mérite (Civil Class), Textual Scholarship, University of Bonn Alumni, University of Göttingen Faculty, University of Greifswald Faculty
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Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff

Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff
Born (1848-12-22)22 December 1848
Markowitz, Province of Posen
Died 25 September 1931(1931-09-25) (aged 82)
Nationality German Empire
Fields Classical philology
Alma mater University of Bonn
Academic advisors Otto Jahn, Hermann Usener, Anton Springer
Notable students Pasquali

Enno Friedrich Wichard Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (22 December 1848 – 25 September 1931) was a German classical philologist. Wilamowitz, as he is known in scholarly circles, was a renowned authority on Ancient Greece and its literature.


  • Life 1
    • Youth 1.1
    • Studies 1.2
    • Conflict with Nietzsche and Wagner 1.3
    • Greifswald 1.4
    • Göttingen 1.5
    • Berlin 1.6
    • Teaching activities and memberships 1.7
    • Inscriptiones Graecae 1.8
    • World War I 1.9
    • Family 1.10
  • Achievements 2
  • Awards 3
  • Works 4
  • References 5
  • Sources 6
  • External links 7



Wilamowitz-Moellendorff was born in Markowitz (Markowice), a small village near Hohensalza (Inowrocław), in the then Province of Posen (at present part of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship), to a Germanized family of distant Polish ancestry. His father, a Prussian Junker, was Arnold Wilamowitz, of Szlachta origin and using the Ogończyk Coat of Arms, while his mother was Ulrika, née Calbo. The couple settled in a small manor confiscated from a local noble in 1836. The Prussian part of their name, von Moellendorf, was acquired in 1813, when Prussian field marshal Wichard Joachim Heinrich von Möllendorf adopted Ulrich's ancestors. Wilamowitz, a third child, grew up in East Prussia.

In 1867 Wilamowitz passed his Abitur at the renowned boarding school at Schulpforta.


Until 1869 Wilamowitz studied Classical Philology at the University of Bonn. His teachers, Otto Jahn and Hermann Usener, had a formative influence on him. Willamowitz's relationship with Usener was strained. He developed a lifelong rivalry with his fellow student Friedrich Nietzsche and a close friendship with his contemporary Hermann Diels. Together with Diels, he moved to Berlin in 1869, where he graduated as a Doctor of Philosophy cum laude in 1870. After voluntary service in the Franco-Prussian War, he embarked on a study tour to Italy and Greece.

Conflict with Nietzsche and Wagner

Before he even gained a professorial title, Wilamowitz was a main protagonist in a scholarly dispute about Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy that attracted much attention. In 1872–73, he published two unusually aggressive polemics (German: "Zukunftsphilologie", i.e. "Philology of the future"), which strongly attacked Nietzsche (then Professor at the University of Basel) and Professor Erwin Rohde (University of Kiel). Richard Wagner, whose views on art had influenced Nietzsche and Rohde, reacted by publishing an open letter and Rohde wrote a damning response. The issue at stake was the deprecation of Euripides, on whom Nietzsche blamed the destruction of Greek tragedy. Wilamowitz saw the methods of his adversaries as an attack on the basic tenets of scientific thought, unmasking them as enemies of the scientific method. His polemic was considered as Classical philology's reply to Nietzsche's challenge.[1]

At the age of 80 when Wilamowitz wrote his memoirs, he saw the conflict with Nietzsche less passionately, but did not retract the essential points of his critique. He stated that he had not fully realised at the time that Nietzsche was not interested in scientific understanding but rather in Wagner's musical drama, but also that he was nevertheless right to take position against Nietzsche's "rape of historical facts and all historical method".[2]


Wilamowitz in Greifswald (1878)

In 1875, he gained a professorial title for his study Analecta Euripidea. In the same year he gave his first public academic lecture in Berlin. In 1876 he was employed as Ordinarius (full professor) for Classical Philology at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität at Greifswald. During this period, he also married Marie Mommsen, the eldest daughter of Theodor Mommsen, and published Homeric Studies (Homerische Studien).


In 1883, he took a further professorial position at Georg Kaibel, a close associate from his student days and his successor at Greifswald.


In 1897, with the support of his friend Diels, Wilamowitz was offered a position at the Royal Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität at Berlin, as successor to Ernst Curtius. He stayed until his retirement in 1921. In 1915 he was appointed chancellor of the university for one year. Together with Diels, he founded the Berlin Institute for Ancient Studies (Institut für Altertumskunde) in 1897. His public lectures on subjects of Classical antiquity, which took place twice a week, attracted large audiences.

Teaching activities and memberships

In 1891, Wilamowitz was elected a corresponding member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences and he was a full member from 1899. In 1902 he took the academy's presidency. As a member of the Göttingen academy, he strongly encouraged the publication of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. From 1897 he also worked as a member to the academy's Commission for Patristics. In 1894 he was elected full member of the German Archaeological Institute. He also was editor of the series Philologische Untersuchungen from 1880 to 1925.

Further, Wilamowitz taught as a guest lecturer in Oxford (1908) and Uppsala (1912), was a corresponding member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (1909) and the Scientific Society of Lund (1921).

Inscriptiones Graecae

During his presidency of the Prussian Academy, Wilamowitz achieved the continuation of August Böckh's and Adolf Kirchhoff's publication series, the Inscriptiones Graecae. Wilamowitz had a formative influence on the further development of that project, which he directed until his death.

World War I

Wilamowitz was an initiator of the memorandum Erklärung der Hochschullehrer des Deutschen Reiches ("Declaration by the University Teachers of the German Reich"), in which 3,016 signatories supported German participation in the First World War. Shortly after, he also signed the Manifesto of the Ninety-Three, from which he distanced himself later. In 1914, his son, Tycho von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, who was also active as a classical philologist, fell in the battle of Ivangorod. The memorandum appeared a few days later.


In 1878 he married Maria Mommsen, the eldest daughter of the famous ancient historian, Theodor Mommsen, whom he actively assisted in the completion of his Roman History.

Wilamowitz spent his last years in seclusion, suffering from severe kidney problems. He died in Berlin on 25 September 1931, having been in a coma for a short time. He is buried in his native village, along with his wife, Maria (1855–1936), and their only son, Tycho. He also had a daughter, Dorothea Freifrau Hiller von Gaertringen, wife of archaeologist Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen, who died on 24 March 1972.[3]


Wilamowitz is one of the central figures of 19th and 20th century Classical philology. As a great authority of the literature and history of Inscriptiones Graecae.

He also passionately supported the preservation of Classical education in the German school system.

Notable pupils of his include Felix Jacoby, Karl Mittelhaus, Wolfgang Schadewaldt, Eduard Fraenkel, Werner Jaeger, Johannes Geffcken, Paul Maas, Eduard Schwartz, Gilbert Murray, Paul Friedländer, Friedrich Solmsen and Johannes Sykutris.

In recent decades, the American scholar William M. Calder III has been publishing a series of important documents about and by Wilamowitz, including much of his correspondence with Diels, Eduard Norden, Mommsen, Paul Wendland, and others.



  • Griechische Literatur des Altertums
  • Einleitung in die griechische Tragödie
  • Homerische Untersuchungen (1884)
  • Die Ilias und Homer (1916)
  • Hellenistische Dichtung (1924)
  • Erinnerungen 1848-1914. Verlag von K. F. Koehler, Leipzig 1928. (Memoirs)


  1. ^ M. S. Silk & J. P. Stern, Nietzsche on Tragedy, Cambridge University Press, 1981 pp.90-106
  2. ^ Wilt Aden Schröder: "Fünf Briefe des Verlegers Eduard Eggers an Wilamowitz, betreffend die Zukunftsphilologie! und die Analecta Euripidea", in: Eikasmos 12 (2001:367-383) p. 373f.
  3. ^ Greek Literature: Greek literature in the classical period


  • Michael Armstrong, Wolfgang Buchwald, William M. Calder III.: Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff bibliography 1867−1990 (Hildesheim, Weidmann, 1991).
  • Braun, Maximilian, William M. Calder, III & Dietrich Ehlers, edd., "Lieber Prinz". Der Briefwechsel zwischen Hermann Diels und Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1869–1921) (Hildesheim: Weidmann, 1995).
  • Calder, William M. III and Bernhard Huss (еds), 'The Wilamowitz in Me': 100 Letters between Ulrich von Wilamovitz-Moellendorff and Paul Friedlaender (1904–1931) (Los Angeles: Charles Young Research Library, University of California, 1999).
  • Candio, Antonella, "Ein lebendiges Ganzes": la filologia come scienza e storia nelle "Coefore" di Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 2008) (Supplementi di Lexis, 57).
  • Norton, Robert E., "Wilamowitz at War", International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 15/1, (2008), pp. 74-97.

External links

  • Original texts by Wilamowitz on German Wikisource
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