Christoph Cellarius

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Christoph Cellarius (from: Johann Christoph von Dreyhaupt : Description of the Saalkreis , 1750)

Christophorus Cellarius (real name Christoph Martin Keller ; born November 22, 1638 in Schmalkalden ; † June 4, 1707 in Halle an der Saale ) was from 1694 professor of rhetoric and history at the newly founded Friedrichs University in Halle (today Martin- Luther University Halle-Wittenberg ).

Through his publications he not only promoted Latin linguistics, but also geography, antiquity and history . With his three-volume Historia Universalis (1702) he made the division of historical studies into ancient , medieval and new history canonical. Previously, universal history was periodized according to the sequence of a total of four successive world empires .


Christophorus Cellarius attended the Lyceum in his hometown, where his father was superintendent , and studied classical and oriental languages, history, theology, philosophy, law and mathematics in Jena from 1656 and in Giessen from 1659 . He completed his studies in Giessen in 1666 with a master's degree in philosophy. In 1667 he was employed by Duke August as a professor for Hebrew language and ethics at the grammar school of Weißenfels . From 1673 he was rector there. The quality of his teaching and his learned treatises soon made him so well known that in 1673 he was rector of the grammar school in Weimar and in 1676 took over the management of the Zeitz collegiate school , which he gained a high reputation. In 1688 he was promoted to rector of the cathedral school in Merseburg .

When the Elector Friedrich III. von Brandenburg founded the University of Halle in 1694 , Cellarius was appointed professor of rhetoric and history. He wrote the statutes of the Philosophical Faculty and from 1696 headed the library and the teachers' seminar (Seminarium Praeceptorum) , which August Hermann Francke had founded. From 1697 he headed the first German philological seminar (Collegium elegantioris litteraturae) and was Vice-Rector of the university in 1697/98. Since the rush of students to the philological seminars was not very large at that time, there was enough time for him to earn merit through extensive writing. In December 1701 he was accepted as a foreign member of the then Royal Prussian Society of Sciences .


Cellarius left an extensive scientific work for posterity as the result of his teaching activities at high school and at the university. It can be assigned to three main focuses: A first group is centered on the subject teaching and includes writings on history, geography and antiquity. The second group is divided into works on the Latin language and was used for elementary Latin language teaching. The third group, which consists of editions by numerous Latin authors, served the same purpose.

On the first group: history, geography and antiquity

Cellarius' Historia universalis (title page of the 11th edition of 1753 published by Verlag Richter in Altenburg)

First and foremost, a compendium on general history should be mentioned, which was based on a thorough study of the sources and has a lasting significance to this day: in 1685 he had already published a Historia Antiqua on ancient history, which he then published in 1698 while he was working as a university professor a Historia Medii Aevi on the Middle Ages and in 1702 a Historia Nova on the New History followed. The latter included the 16th and 17th centuries. All three individual works were combined for the first time in 1702 to form a three-volume Historia universalis breviter ac perspicue exposita, in antiquam, et medii aevi ac novam divisa, cum notis perpetuis and published in Jena. The work is usually abbreviated Historia tripartita . It saw numerous new editions. They “prove that the work was applauded by contemporaries and subsequent generations”. The last, documented here on the title page, is the 11th edition with the subtitle: Ad nostra usque tempora continuata et summariis aucta . It was published by Verlag Richter in Altenburg in 1753 with an unchanged reprint in 1765.

Powerful effect was the Historia Universalis primarily by the fact that with her in the history of historiography , the periodization in antiquity , the Middle Ages and modern times established. Since then, this division of history has become canonical and is now regarded as an essential methodological prerequisite for an academic study of it. At least as a means of communication, these terms are indispensable in today's history, even if the division only refers to the European-Mediterranean area in the narrower sense. It also gives an evangelical view of the historical significance of the Reformation.

Cellarius' predilection for history and antiquity are also revealed by two works that were published posthumously: A realkundliches Breviarium (from 1748 'Compendium') antiquitatum Romanarum , Halle 1715 (below), i.e. an outline of the Roman antiquities, as well as the dissertations academicae varii argumenti , ed. by JG Walch, Leipzig 1712.

The two geographical works of Cellarius were just as powerful as the Historia universalis : The Geographia antiqua iuxta et nova , Zeitz / Jena 1687 and the Notitia orbis antiqui sive geographia plenior ab ortu rerum publicarum ad Constantinorum tempora orbis terrarum faciem declarans , 2 volumes. Leipzig 1701–1706. Through both works Cellarius became the "founder of university geography lessons".

The second group: Latin studies

Even in the days when he was headmaster in Zeitz and Merseburg, located Cellarius had a name as an author of two linguistic-stylistic work in the tradition of Antibarbari made -literature: Curae posterior de barbarismis et idiotismis sermonis latini , Zeitz 1680, and Curae posteriores de barbarismis et idiotismis sermonis Latini , Jena 1687. In these two writings Cellarius turned against the numerous barbarisms and neologisms of late antiquity as well as of Middle and contemporary neo-Latin that had struck him while reading the texts. The idiomatically correct Latin language was close to his heart, for which he admittedly “almost exclusively on the book authority of the ant. Authors called. ”. He graded their authority according to the periodization of Latin literature according to the ancient metal ages. In the famous paper De Latinitatis mediae et infimae aetatis liber, sive Antibarbarus , Zeitz 1677, Cellarius drew on previous work and limited himself to warning against the incorrect use of individual words or phrases by means of alphabetically arranged vocabulary lists. In contrast, in the Curae posteriores , which are based on an independent examination of ancient literature, he opposed these verba damnanda lists of wrongly incriminated words and word combinations .

Cellarius' liber memorialis (Berlin edition 1738)

Three other works served the elementary Latin language lessons: An Orthographia Latina ex vetustis monumentis , Halle 1702 and - as a product of his Merseburg teaching activities - the book Latinitatis probatae et exercitae liber memorialis , Merseburg 1689, briefly called liber memorialis . This has greatly encouraged the study of the Latin language. The script has been translated into numerous languages. The third publication is a very successful little vocabulary, which is often accompanied by a grammar written in German and the title Easier Latin Grammatica . Merseburg 1689 (below), was printed.

The third group: edition of Latin authors

During his university career, Cellarius edited numerous Latin author texts: in addition to selected editions of Cicero's speeches (1678) and letters (1698), the Pliny letters (1693) and the historians C. Iulius Caesar , 1705 and Velleius Paterculus. All editions "do not bring any text-critical progress, but offer what is necessary for understanding the text in a clear form." The geographical maps, the several editions, e. B. that of Pliny were added.

Even if Cellarius is not assessed as an “original scientific personality” in the verdict of the latest research, “his compendium-like works had a not inconsiderable effect in school and university operations long after his death.” The pioneering for historical studies was and remains to this day new periodization of history into Old, Medieval and New History.

The significance of Christophorus Cellarius for the science of history

Before Cellarius' Historia tripartita , the sequence of empires was the common order principle , with more or less important variations . According to this, more than two millennia of world history was structured and understood ( doctrine of the four kingdoms ). Not only political and intellectual-historical events were chronologically fixed on this principle of order. It could also become a means of eschatological propaganda.

The origin of the old ordering principle of the succession of empires (imperial succession)

In its oldest form, the sequence of empires is limited to three: Assyrians - Medes - Persians . It is based on the structure of ancient oriental history with Herodotus (I 95 and I 130, 1) around the middle of the 5th century BC. BC, even earlier in Hellanikos von Lesbos (approx. 480–400) in his work Persika . Herodotus, the father of European historiography, allows this epoch, which he portrays dynastic-annalistically, to be followed by the phase of defensive struggles that the democratically composed Athens polis waged against the Persian Empire .

From the perspective of Athens, the succession of the three kingdoms remains an oriental matter. Only Alexander the Great expanded with the conquest of the Persian Empire around 330 BC. The old model of thought applied to the entire civilized world (Oikumene) . He was followed by the Romans after taking over the world, at the latest when Octavian (from 27 BC: Augustus ) conquered the Ptolemaic Empire in 30 BC. Since the Medes and Persians with their two successive world empires were soon united into one, the canonical sequence of four world empires (Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans) applied up to Cellarius . This concept is already very clearly reflected in Plutarch , de fortitudine 4, p. 317 F, the transition of world domination from Alexander to Augustus is also reflected in the self-testimony of the emperor ( Res gestae , chap. 34: potitus rerum omnium for attained universal power” ).

The oldest concept of the three kingdoms in the so-called. Was introduced axis time of Cyrus II. , The Great (559-529 v. Chr.), Of the Persians by the supremacy of the Median king Astyages , their liege lord, freed and the Persian Empire of the Achaemenid reasoned. This probably happened after the conquest of Babylon in 539 BC. Chr .; because the fitting of the cuneiform fragment 2504 of the Nies Collection into the Cyrus cylinder inscription by P.-R. Berger 1975 = Borger 1984 proves:

  • In the already known cylinder text, Cyrus is chosen by the god king of Babylon, Marduk , after taking the city without a fight for world domination.
  • In the new accompanying text fragment, Cyrus explicitly refers to the last important Neo-Assyrian world ruler Ashurbanipal (669 to approx. 627 BC) as his "predecessor" by bypassing Babylonian traditions .

This belonged to the Sargonid dynasty . Since Sargon II (722–705 BC) it has historically justified its claim to world domination by consciously leaning on the model of Sargon I (2340–2284 BC) of Akkad. He was considered the legendary Ninus Assyriorum and son of the king of the gods Bêl (= Assur ) according to Roman universal historians as the first world ruler of ancient times .

Indeed, from Mesopotamia , today's Iraq, he founded the first great empire in world history in the Middle East, which at times stretched from southwest Iran to Syria , Lebanon and Asia Minor ( Cappadocia ). Administratively it was divided into provinces with dependent governors at the top. This first central state of Mesopotamia was renewed by his grandson Narâm-Sîn (2254–2218 BC). He called himself "Consort of the (queen of the gods) Ishtar Annunitum" . In this role he put the divine determinative in front of his name, was depicted on his famous victory stele with the crown of horns, the symbol of divinity, and was the first ruler of Mesopotamia to be worshiped as the "god of Akkad" . In the later tradition, Sargon I was already considered the goddess's favorite and the entire period of the empire created by him and enlarged by his grandson through further conquests was the “period of office” or “reign” of Ishtar.

Since then, the concept of "world domination" has been in place in the Middle East - as in the North African pharaonic state of Egypt since the beginning of the Old Kingdom around 2700 BC. - inextricably linked to a ruler cult, at the center of which stands the God-King as the son and human incarnation of the Creator God , who claims divine worship from the subjects. This legacy of the ancient oriental "rule of creation", according to which earthly rule should depict the cosmic rule of the Creator and King of the Gods and thus legitimize itself, then Cyrus the Great and his successors took over. They merely replaced the Assyrian pantheon of gods with their own with Ahura Mazda at the head and the goddess Anâhitâ as the successor of the Ishtar.

After these considerations, it is no longer surprising that the author of the Book of Daniel , which was published between 167 and 163 BC. BC, one of his prophecies (10.1), which uses the image of the four kingdoms , moved to the reign of Cyrus the Great.

The sequence of the four world empires of antiquity as the ordering principle of the Middle Ages and early modern times

The succession of the empire through the transfer of the seat of hegemonic power from the Assyrians to the Persians, from these to the Greeks by Alexander the Great and from the Greeks to Rome, corresponds at the level of the gods to the transfer of rule over the pantheon of gods from Marduk to Ahura Mazda , then to Zeus and finally to Jupiter .

When “monotheistic” Christianity had become the sole state religion with compulsory belief under Emperor Theodosius I in 391/92 AD, Christ took the place of Jupiter in the succession of the gods. Therefore - unlike in the previous pagan "henotheistic" religions - a further development of the four kingdoms in the Christian Middle Ages and in modern times was excluded. Even Emperor Justinian I is often viewed as the last Roman emperor of the Eastern Roman imperial throne and the (527-565 n. Chr.), Konstantin Opel to the capital of the whole Mediterranean region as a political, legal and cultural unity arose, had set itself the goal to make the empire (empire ) correspond to the Christian oikumene (world).

The Imperium Christianum of Emperor Charlemagne has been in effect since his coronation in St. Peter's Church in Rome by Pope Leo III. on December 25, 800 AD as a continuation of the Roman Empire. Since Pope Innocent III. (1198–1216) interpreted as translatio imperii (= imperial succession) to the Franks . The coronation of Otto the Great as emperor in 962 AD accordingly meant the transfer of the Roman Empire to the "Germans".

From 962 the fourth (Roman) world empire gradually developed into the Holy Roman Empire (Latin: Sacrum Romanum Imperium ). Since the 15th century, the addition of German nation (lat. Nationis Germanicae ) gradually gained acceptance (Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation) .

The term Imperium Romanum is first documented in 1034 under Konrad II . It is characterized as the Sacrum Imperium in documents from Emperor Frederick I from 1157 to emphasize the sacred dignity of the Holy Church (sancta ecclesia) based on Justinian's Roman imperial law . Since the 11th century, the western empire has been seen as the exclusive successor to the Imperium Romanum: This came to the Franks in 800 through Translatio imperii a Graecis ad Francos , and in 962 to the Germans through another translation. The phrase Sacrum Romanum Imperium became commonplace in documents since 1254, while the addition “German nation” was only added in the 15th century to propagate the national claim of the German emperors to the legacy of the Roman Empire. The translation theories largely determined the conception of empire until the 17th century.

Cellarius survived the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and was only dissolved in 1806.

The introduction of a new periodization of history into old, medieval and new history that is still valid today

Thus, more than two millennia of world history was grasped in the awareness of an inner unity of ancient, medieval and modern times and the continuation of the world empire idea based on the model of an ancient oriental-Persian concept of the succession of world empires with corresponding succession in the heaven of gods. This principle of order was based on the continuity and unity of history. It was only Cellarius who succeeded in redistributing history into ancient, medieval and modern times to override the old principle of order. Therein lies his great merit, which justifies tearing him from oblivion and keeping him a lasting memory. The question of why he replaced the very old periodization with the new one cannot be conclusively answered. It is only certain that Cellarius in the introduction to his Historia Tripartita (reprinted from 1753, p. 4 ff.) Attributed the old periodization scheme according to world empires in the order of Assyrians, Medes and Persians to the ancient historian Ktesias of Knidos , and the further succession in the world empire of Alexander the Great and the Diadochi finally taken over by the Romans and the Christianized world empire of the late Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (a. OS 7-11). This periodization scheme seemed to him to be outdated by Luther's Reformation movement (a. OS 11), so that he wanted to replace it with his new division into Old, Medieval and New History - free of the implications of the world empire ideology of an authoritarian, Christian-Catholic universal monarchy ( see also OS 11 f.).

His principle of order, as indispensable as it is today for the study of history, of course - and that is the other side of the coin - emphasizes the dividing zones of history. But just reflecting on both concepts of periodization leads to the correct realization that in history the aspect of discontinuity and contrast is at least as important as that of continuity. Viewed from this perspective, ancient history and medieval history as “the closest foreigner” to modernity can and must continue to make an indispensable contribution to a deeper understanding of the present. In addition, it should be remembered with Alfred Heuss that “the contrast between ancient times and the Middle Ages only makes sense as far as the Roman Empire and its border areas extended, i.e. for Europe, Asia Minor, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and Egypt and North Africa. Beyond this area, however, wherever the effect of this great European-West Asian turnaround was not sufficient, it cannot claim any shadow of a justification. "


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Web links


  1. Members of the previous academies: Christoph Cellarius (Keller). Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences , accessed on March 6, 2015 .
  2. a b Beck: Cellarius, Christophorus. In: The New Pauly. Supplements Vol. 6. 2012, pp. 210–212, here p. 210.
  3. Heuss: Introduction. In: Propylaea World History. Vol. 2, 1962, 18 f. and Beck: Cellarius, Christophorus. In: The New Pauly. Supplements Vol. 6. 2012, pp. 210–212, here p. 210
  4. ^ Walter: Periodization. I. Term. In: The New Pauly. Vol. 9. 2000, Col. 577.
  5. a b c Beck: Cellarius, Christophorus. In: The New Pauly. Supplements Vol. 6. 2012, pp. 210–212, here p. 211.
  6. Beck: Cellarius, Christophorus. In: The New Pauly. Supplements Vol. 6. 2012, pp. 210–212, here p. 211 and Beck: Antibarbari Halenses. In: Wolfram Ax (ed.): Of elegance and barbarism. Latin grammar and style in the Renaissance and Baroque periods (= Wolfenbütteler Forschungen. Vol. 95). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2001, ISBN 3-447-04493-4 , pp. 255-277.
  7. Fuchs: The spiritual resistance against Rome in the ancient world. 1964 and Flusser: The Four Empires in the Fourth Sibyl and the Book of Daniel. 1972.
  8. ^ Felix Jacoby (ed.): The fragments of the Greek historians. (FGrHist). Part 3: History of cities and peoples (horography and ethnography). C: Authors from individual countries. No. 608a-856. Volume 1: Egypt - Geten. No. 608a-708. Brill, Leiden et al. 1958, No. 687 a, No. 1 and 6.
  9. ↑ on this Calmeyer: Fortuna - Tyche - Khvarnah. In: Yearbook of the German Archaeological Institute. Vol. 94, 1979, pp. 347-365.
  10. ^ Pritchard (ed.): Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. 1969, p. 315 f.
  11. Velleius Paterculus I 6.6; Justinus I 1.
  12. ^ Fadinger: Sulla as "Imperator Felix" and "Epaphroditos" (= "Darling of Aphrodite"). In: Ehrhardt et al. (Ed.): Resistance - Adaptation - Integration. 2002, pp. 155–188, here p. 170 A. 66 with the sources and other literature.
  13. Plutarch , Themistocles 27,2–5 in connection with Herodotus 1,131–132 and 1,181–182; in addition u. a. Fadinger: Greek tyranny and the ancient Orient. In: Raaflaub et al. (Ed.): Beginnings of political thought among the Greeks. 1993, pp. 263-316, here pp. 288 ff. And 294 ff .; on the type of “rule of creation” in ancient Egypt: Assmann: Maʾat. 1990, p. 243.
  14. On the ancient oriental concept of the succession of world empires in the context of the Historia tripartita of Cellarius see Metzler: Reichsbildung und Geschistorbild bei den Achaemenids. In: Kippenberg (Hrsg.): Seminar: The emergence of the ancient class society. 1977, pp. 279–312, here pp. 279 ff., Especially p. 285 ff. And Fadinger: Sulla as “Imperator Felix” and “Epaphroditos” (= “Darling of Aphrodite”). In: Ehrhardt et al. (Ed.): Resistance - Adaptation - Integration. 2002, pp. 155–188, here pp. 166 ff .; on the iconography of the "four monarchies" Kramer: The four monarchies. In: Keramos. H. 28, 1965, pp. 3–27, here p. 3 ff.
  15. Weber-Schäfer: Introduction to Ancient Political Theory. Part 1. 1976, 41 ff.
  16. See in detail Art: Imperium. In: The New Pauly. Vol. 14. 2000, Col. 577-586 and Fisch: Imperialismus II. In: Brunner et al. (Ed.): Basic historical concepts. 2004, p. 171 ff .; fundamentally still Schramm: Kaiser, Rome and Renovatio. 1957 and Goez: Translatio Imperii. 1958.
  17. In fact, Ktesias took over from Herodotus the basic pattern of a periodization of the history of the Near East according to a succession of great empires, but he made this principle much more consistent; on this in detail Robert Rollinger : Ktesias' Medischer Logos. In: Josef Wiesehöfer , Robert Rollinger, Giovanni B. Lanfranci (eds.): Ktesias' world. = Ctesias' World (= Classica et Orientalia. Vol. 1). Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-447-06376-0 , pp. 313-350, here pp. 315 f. with A. 19.
  18. Hölscher: The closest foreigner. 1994, p. VI; see. also Meier: history, antiquity and political education. In: Schmidt-Sinns (Red.): Historical teaching in the field of politics. 1973, pp. 40–76, here p. 46 and Deininger: Theses on the selection problem of historical subject areas in the school curriculum: Antiquity. In: Fürnrohr: History didactics and curriculum development. Vol. 1. 1974, pp. 185-194, here p. 187.
  19. Heuss: Introduction. In: Propylaea World History. Vol. 2. 1962, 18 f., Here p. 19.

Web links

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This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on September 5, 2006 .