Christian Gottlob Heyne

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Christian Gottlob Heyne. Painting by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1772)

Christian Gottlob Heyne (born September 25, 1729 in Chemnitz , † July 14, 1812 in Göttingen ) was a German scholar of antiquity .

Coming from a poor background, he worked after graduation as a tutor in Wittenberg and a copyist in Dresden .

From 1763 he was professor of eloquence and poetry at the University of Göttingen , where he worked until his death. During this time he also headed the university library , which he developed into a leading institution of its kind in Europe through reforms and inventory expansions. As secretary at the Royal Society of Science , he published the Göttingische Scholars advertisements , which helped to shape the scientific discourse of their time through reviews and advertisements. Heyne himself wrote more than 6000 reviews.

Through his teaching activities at the university, his publications and his correspondence with famous contemporaries such as Gotthold Ephraim Lessing , Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Joachim Winckelmann , he influenced intellectual development in the late 18th century and laid the foundation for comprehensive classical studies, in philology , History and archeology were combined.


Christian Gottlob Heyne. Oil painting by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein , around 1800

Heyne was born in Chemnitz as the son of a line weaver . After attending the lyceum in his hometown, he studied at the University of Leipzig from 1748 . The need drove him to work as a writer, the fruits of which, apart from a few translations, were initially adaptations of Tibullus and Epictetus . He continued his studies in Wittenberg, where he accompanied a young aristocrat as an educator in 1750. In 1753 he returned to Dresden and received the post of copyist at the library of Minister Brühl in Dresden. In 1760 he lost all his belongings in Dresden during a bombardment of the city. He then tried to earn his living by editing part of the Latin text for Lippert's Daktyliothek until he was appointed professor of rhetoric and successor to Johann Matthias Gesner in Göttingen in 1763 .

As early as 1764 he was given supervision of the university library, initially together with the previous director Johann David Michaelis , then as sole director. He quickly made it an important and exemplary institution. He organized an interlibrary loan for scholars from abroad and, in addition to new German publications, procured literature from abroad through correspondence with other scholars, not only French, English and American, but also Arabic and Oriental literature. When he took office, the library held 60,000 volumes. When he died it had grown to 200,000 volumes. For comparison: The University of Halle had only 12,000 volumes in 1780.

His successor was nominally transferred to Christoph Wilhelm Mitscherlich , who was professor eloquentiae until 1835 . The actual successor, however, is Karl Otfried Müller , who was appointed associate professor in Göttingen in 1819, was promoted to full professor in 1823 and, after the death of Georg Ludolf Dissens (1837; Dissen was Mitscherlich's nominal successor), to professor eloquentiae .

In 1760 he married the thirty-year-old Therese Weiß, the daughter of Leopold Sylvius Weiß , an important lutenist . A daughter from this marriage was the writer Therese Huber , one of the Göttingen scholarly daughters , known as the “ university ladies ”, who was married to the natural scientist Georg Forster , a friend of her father's, in her first marriage .

After his wife Therese died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1776, he married Georgine Brandes, daughter of Hofrat Georg Friedrich Brandes , in 1777 , who bore him six more children.

Heyne was buried in the Bartholomäusfriedhof in Göttingen. His funeral motto reads: quem dederat cursum fortuna peregit (“He has walked the path determined by fate to the end”).


Heyne is considered one of the most important masterminds of classicism . He initially emerged as a translator of works from Greek and Roman antiquity . Among other things, he translated Epiktet and Tibullus into German . Above all, Heyne was one of the first to grapple scientifically with Greek mythology . By incorporating knowledge from various areas of knowledge - such as linguistics and archeology - he became the founder of modern antiquity and mythology .

Reception and honors

Heyne's grave in 2013

Heyne is mentioned in Goethe's novel “ The Sorrows of Young Werther ”. There Werther reports that he has a Heynes manuscript on the study of antiquity.

The Graduate School for Humanities Göttingen (GSGG) annually awards the Christian Gottlob Heyne Prize for the best humanities dissertation of the past academic year [...] The prize is awarded to the most outstanding doctoral thesis that was written in the previous year at the Faculty of Philosophy or the theological faculty of the Georg-August-Universität. "

A bust of the scientist was exhibited in the auditorium of the University of Göttingen. It was destroyed by vandals in June 2009.

The Heyne Hall in the historical building of the Lower Saxony State and University Library in Göttingen is named after Heyne .

More than 200 years after his death, Heyne's grave is still in the Bartholomäusfriedhof opposite the humanities center of the university. The impressive tomb, however, is clearly marked by time and is falling apart.

Works (selection)

  • Introduction to the study of antiquity: or outline of an introduction to the knowledge of old works of art / for use in his lectures, designed by Chr. Gottl. Heyne . Göttingen / Gotha 1772 ( digitized and full text in the German text archive )
  • Opuscula academica . 6 vols. Göttingen 1785–1812. Reprinted by Olms, Hildesheim 1997
  • Edition of Homer's Carmina . 9 vols. Leipzig 1802-1822.


  • Arnold Heeren : Christian Gottlob Heyne, presented biographically , Göttingen 1813
  • Conrad BursianHeyne, Christian Gottlob . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 12, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1880, pp. 375-378.
  • Ernst Barth: Christian Gottlob Heyne, a great son of old Chemnitz. in: Sächsische Heimatblätter , issue 1/1962, pp. 1–12
  • Ulrich SchindelHeyne, Christian Gottlob. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 9, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1972, ISBN 3-428-00190-7 , pp. 93-95 ( digitized version ).
  • The foreman of Georgia Augusta. Christian Gottlob Heyne on his 250th birthday. Six academic speeches. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1980. (Göttinger Universitätsreden, 67) ISBN 3-525-82619-2
  • Klaus-Gunther Wesseling:  HEYNE, Christian Gottlob. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 18, Bautz, Herzberg 2001, ISBN 3-88309-086-7 , Sp. 635-655.
  • Fee-Alexandra Haase: Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729–1812), bibliography on life and work , Heidelberg: Palatina 2002. ISBN 978-3-932608-19-3
  • Martin Vöhler : Christian Gottlob Heyne and the study of antiquity in Germany . In: Glenn W. Most (Ed.): Disciplining classics - ancient studies as a profession . Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2002. (Aporemata, 6) ISBN 3-525-25905-0 . Pp. 39-54.
  • Marianne Heidenreich: Christian Gottlob Heyne and the ancient history . KG Saur, Munich - Leipzig 2006. ( Contributions to antiquity , 229) ISBN 3-598-77841-4 . - Review by: Ulrich Schindel , Göttinger Gelehre Anzeige 258 (2006), pp. 254–261; Matthias Willing, H-Soz-u-Kult 2007 [1]
  • Daniel Graepler - Joachim Migl (ed.): The study of beautiful antiquity: Christian Gottlob Heyne and the emergence of classical archeology. Exhibition in the Paulinerkirche Göttingen February 11–15. April 2007. Göttingen: Lower Saxony State and University Library Göttingen, 2007
  • René Sternke: Cabal and Criticism. The Ilias malorum against Christian Gottlob Heyne in May 1803 . In: Martin Mulsow (Ed.): Criminals - Freethinkers - Alchemists. Spaces of the Underground in the Early Modern Age , Cologne et al. 2014, pp. 597–616
  • Heinz-Günther Nesselrath , Balbina Bäbler (editor): Christian Gottlob Heyne. Work and performance after two hundred years . Berlin / New York 2014 ( Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen . New part 32)
  • René Sternke, Klaus Gerlach (Eds.): Karl August Böttiger. Correspondence with Christian Gottlob Heyne . Berlin 2015
  • Julia Kurig: New humanism as a secular movement? Education, philology and religion using the example of Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729–1812). In: IJHE history of education. International Journal for the Historiography of Education 1, 2019, pp. 66–84.

Web links

Commons : Christian Gottlob Heyne  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Christian Gottlob Heyne  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Eckart Kleßmann: Universitätsmamsellen. Frankfurt am Main 2008, pp. 87f.
  2. About their connection Richard Foerster : A famous wedding in Upper Lusatia . In: Oberlausitzische Heimatblätter 1920, No. 27/28.
  3. Virgil Aeneid IV.653.
  4. Goethe: The sufferings of young Werther , Reclam 2006, p. 11/12.
  5. (accessed on July 26, 2013).
  6. (accessed on July 26, 2013).
predecessor Office successor
Johann Matthias Gesner Professor of poetry and eloquence at the University of Göttingen
Christoph Wilhelm Mitscherlich
Johann David Michaelis Director of the Göttingen University Library
Jeremias David Reuss