Friedrich August Wolf
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Friedrich August Wolf
Friedrich August Wolf

Friedrich August Wolf (German: [v?lf]; 15 February 1759 – 8 August 1824) was a German Classicist and is considered the founder of modern Philology.


He was born in Hainrode, near Nordhausen. His father was the village schoolmaster and organist. In grammar school, he studied Latin and Greek as well as French, Italian, Spanish, and music.

In 1777, after two years of independent study, at the age of eighteen, Wolf went to the University of Göttingen. Legend has it that he chose to enroll in the department of "philology", despite the fact that the university had none. His enrollment was nonetheless accepted as submitted.[] At the time Christian Gottlob Heyne was a member of the faculty. Heyne excluded Wolf from his lectures, and criticized Wolf's views on Homer. Wolf was undeterred and pursued his studies through the university's library.[]

From 1779 to 1783, he taught at Ilfeld and Osterode. He published an edition of Plato's Symposium, and in 1783, he was awarded a chair at the University of Halle in Prussia.[]

It was in Halle (1783-1807), with the support of ministers serving under Frederick the Great, that Wolf first laid down the principles of the field he would call "Philology".[1] He defined philology as the study of human nature as exhibited in antiquity. Its methods include the examination of the history, writing, art and other examples of ancient cultures. It combines the study of history and language, through interpretation, in which history and linguistics coalesce into an organic whole. This was the ideal of Wolf's philological seminarium at Halle.

During Wolf's time at Halle he published his commentary on the Leptines of Demosthenes (1789), which influenced his student Philipp August Böckh. He also published the Prolegomena ad Homerum (1795), which led to accusations of plagiarism by Heyne.[2]

Medal Friedrich August Wolf 1840

The Halle professorship ended after the French invasion of 1806. He relocated to Berlin, where he received assistance from Wilhelm von Humboldt. He died on the road to Marseille, and was buried there. In 1840 a medal was struck in his honor.[3]

See also



  1. ^ Thompson Klein, Julie (1 February 2012). "1". Humanities, Culture, and Interdisciplinarity: The Changing American Academy. SUNY Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7914-8267-4. Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ Tate, Aaron Phillip (2010). "Herder, Heyne, and F.A. Wolf: An Homeric Controversy and its Relevance Today". SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1608207. ISSN 1556-5068.
  3. ^ S. Krmnicek und M. Gaidys, Gelehrtenbilder. Altertumswissenschaftler auf Medaillen des 19. Jahrhunderts. Begleitband zur online-Ausstellung im Digitalen Münzkabinett des Instituts für Klassische Archäologie der Universität Tübingen, in: S. Krmnicek (Hrsg.), Von Krösus bis zu König Wilhelm. Neue Serie Bd. 3 (Tübingen 2020), 69-71.
  4. ^ Friedrich Schleiermacher, "Ueber den Begriff der Hermeneutik mit Bezug auf F. A. Wolfs Andeutungen und Asts Lehrbuch", lecture delivered on 13 August 1829; published in Friedrich Schleiermachers sämtliche Werke III/3, 1838 (Schleiermacher makes reference to Ast's Grundlinien der Grammatik, Hermeneutik und Kritik (1808) and Wolf's Vorlesungen über die Enzyklopädie der Altertumswissenschaft (1831)); Richard E. Palmer, Hermeneutics, Northwestern University Press, 1969, ch. 6.


Further reading

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