Christian Meier

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Christian Meier (born February 16, 1929 in Stolp / Pomerania) is a German ancient historian . Meier taught from 1981 until his retirement in 1997 as Professor of Ancient History at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich .

Christian Meier speaks at the 2015 Academy Day in Berlin.


The son of a farmer and grandson of Paul Jonas Meier attended high schools in Stettin, Rostock and Hamburg. In 1948 Meier passed his Abitur in Hamburg and then studied history , classical philology and Roman law . In 1956 he received his doctorate in Heidelberg under Hans Schaefer . His habilitation took place in Frankfurt am Main in 1963. There he was a student of Hermann Strasburger and Matthias Gelzer . From 1964 he was a private lecturer in Freiburg i. B., followed by professorships for Ancient History in Basel (1966), Cologne (1968), again Basel (1973) and Bochum (1976). In 1981 he succeeded Siegfried Lauffer at the chair for “Ancient History with Special Consideration of Social and Economic History” in Munich, which he held until his retirement in 1997. In the academic year 1984/1985 Meier was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin .

Meier was chairman of the Association of German Historians from 1980 to 1988 and curator of the Historical College in Munich from 1981 to 1995 . Meier is also a co-founder of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and was President of the German Academy for Language and Poetry in Darmstadt from 1996 to 2002 . He is also a member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences . Since 1989 he has been a full member of the Academia Europaea .

Christian Meier is married to a Germanist.


Meier is one of the most famous historians in Germany of his generation, especially since he addressed the general public with some of his works. He has become known far beyond the specialist community through his two books Caesar and Athens. A new beginning in world history . The special thing about his approach was that his academic teacher Hans Schaefer and his school had already proclaimed the turning away from the classicist and identificatory perspective, which has been largely unreflected since the Renaissance , and which for centuries was based on the idea of ​​a direct accessibility of ancient culture based on a kinship and unbroken traditional context for the people of European modernity. Rather, antiquity appeared to Meier as the “closest foreigner”, whose understanding had to be worked out from scratch and could only be gained through a hermeneutic approach. His research focuses on classical Athens and the late Roman Republic , whose time of crisis and decline he described in his study Res publica amissa as a “crisis without an alternative”, meaning that the actors had no idea of ​​any other than the existing political order would have had. The consequence was that they destroyed them without intending to do so and without working specifically towards the establishment of a new political order. Rather, there was a consensus that the obvious crisis phenomena should be interpreted as the decline of the traditional order, which should be countered with the aim of restoring it. In this respect, for Meier the application of the concept of revolution in the sense of a revolution theory to the late republic does not make sense. Logically, Augustus could only present his reorganization, which resulted in the establishment of a monarchy, as a restoration of the old order (res publica restituta). In the historians' dispute he was ready to take an offensive position in order to clarify positions.

As a historian, he has the right to practice narrative historiography . Not everything can be told, and it is often more probabilities than facts (cf. Meier: Athen , Taschenbuchausgabe 1997, pp. 692 f.). Meier keeps looking outside the box in his field. He dealt with modern democracy and the politics of the Federal Republic of Germany (especially in the course of reunification ). As a passionate representative and promoter of historiography trained in Anglo-Saxon he combines a high scientific level with literary demands.

In 1998 he was awarded the Cicero Speaker Prize for his own eloquence . In his role as President of the German Academy for Language and Poetry, Meier was committed and critical of the topic of spelling reform . In 2003 , Eberhard Schöck presented Christian Meier with the Jacob Grimm Prize for his commitment to the German language . In 2009 and 2015 the Universities of Salzburg and Bern awarded Meier an honorary doctorate .

In 2004 he received the Ernst Hellmut Vits Prize from the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster (Westphalia). On 2 March 2006 Meier was the Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer , the Austrian Medal for Science and Art presents. In 2007 Meier was awarded the Reuchlin Prize, in 2009 with the Lichtenberg Medal , and in 2014 with the Bavarian Maximilian Order for Science and Art .

In 2015 Meier donated his private archive (manuscripts and correspondence) to the German Literature Archive in Marbach , including correspondence with Carl Schmitt and Richard von Weizsäcker .


Many of Meier's works have been translated into other languages ​​and have appeared in several new editions. The Siedler-Verlag has published a new edition of his Caesar biography and his Athens book in his honor. Meier wrote numerous encyclopedia and magazine articles. He is also the editor of several compilations and a scientific advisory board for the magazine Damals .

In selection (otherwise see web link):

  • Res publica amissa. A study on the constitution and history of the late Roman Republic: Steiner, Wiesbaden 1966 (at the same time: Frankfurt am Main, University, habilitation paper, 1962).
  • Origin of the term democracy. Four prolegomena to one historical theory. (= edition suhrkamp , volume 387) Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1970.
  • The emergence of the political among the Greeks. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-518-07505-5 .
  • The impotence of the almighty dictator Caesar. Three biographical sketches (= Edition Suhrkamp. Volume 1038 = New Series, Volume 38). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am in 1980, ISBN 3-518-11038-1 .
  • Caesar. Severin and Siedler, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-88680-027-X .
  • The Political Art of Greek Tragedy. Beck, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-406-33392-3 .
  • with Paul Veyne : Did the Greeks know democracy? 2 studies (= Small Library of Cultural Studies , Volume 2). Wagenbach, Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-8031-5102-3 .
  • German unity as a challenge. Which foundations for which republic? Hanser, Munich a. a. 1990, ISBN 3-446-16124-4 .
  • The nation that doesn't want to be. Hanser, Munich and others 1991, ISBN 3-446-16398-0 .
  • The role of war in classical Athens (= Writings of the Historical College , Documentations Volume 6) . Munich 1991 ( digitized version ).
  • Athens. A new beginning in world history. Siedler, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-88680-128-4 .
  • Parliamentary democracy. Hanser, Munich and others 1999, ISBN 3-446-19656-0 .
  • From Athens to Auschwitz. Considerations on the state of history (= Krupp lectures on politics and history at the Institute for Cultural Studies in the Science Center North Rhine-Westphalia , Volume 2). Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-48982-6 .
  • as editor: Language in need? To the situation of today's German. Wallstein-Verlag, Göttingen 1999, ISBN 3-89244-341-6 .
  • Culture for the sake of freedom. Greek beginnings - beginning of Europe? Siedler, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-88680-923-3 (forms the first part of Meier's contribution to the history of settlers in Europe. ).
  • The commandment to forget and the inevitability of remembering. The public dealing with a bad past. Siedler, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-88680-949-3 .
  • The historian and the contemporary. An interim balance. Siedler, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-8275-0048-9 .


  • Christian Meier: Chair Christian Meier. 1.3.1981-31.3.1997 . In: Jakob Seibert (Ed.): 100 Years of Old History at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich (1901-2001). Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-428-10875-2 , pp. 183-195 (self-description of teaching and research activities in Munich).
  • Monika Bernett , Wilfried Nippel , Aloys Winterling (eds.): Christian Meier for discussion. Author colloquium at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld. Steiner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-515-09148-0 .

Web links

Commons : Christian Meier  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. see list of fellows at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin
  2. Group 1: History , accessed on July 3, 2013.
  3. Membership page at Academia Europaea .
  4. ^ A b c Verena Auffermann : Christian Meier New President of the Academy for Language and Poetry. In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . October 14, 1996, p. 4.
  5. Helmut Glück , Walter Krämer , Eberhard Schöck (Ed.): German Language Culture Prize 2003 - Speeches and Speeches . Paderborn 2003, ISBN 3-931263-45-2 .
  6. News in brief from December 14, 2015: Private archive given away: Documents from historian Meier for Marbach ( Memento from December 20, 2015 in the Internet Archive )