Ernst Curtius

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Ernst Curtius

Ernst Curtius (born September 2, 1814 in Lübeck , † July 11, 1896 in Berlin ) was a German classical archaeologist and ancient historian .


Curtius was the son of Carl Georg Curtius (1771-1857) and his wife Dorothea Plessing. His brothers were the future pastor and theologian Paul Curtius (1808–1833), the Lübeck mayor Theodor Curtius (1811–1889) and the philologist and linguist Georg Curtius (1820–1885). The later Romanist Ernst Robert Curtius was his grandson.

Curtius attended school at the Katharineum in Lübeck . There he made friends with the later writer Emanuel Geibel . After graduating from high school in Easter 1833, Curtius began to study philosophy with Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker (classical studies) and with Christian August Brandis in Bonn . In autumn 1834 Curtius moved to Göttingen to join Karl Otfried Müller . With his overall picture of the cultural history of classical antiquity, Müller set the trend for Curtius.

From autumn 1835 Curtius worked for August Böckh at the University of Berlin . In 1837 Curtius was hired by his teacher Brandis to Athens . Curtius earned his living there as a tutor for the children of Brandis, including Dietrich Brandis . In this house he later made the acquaintance of Ludwig Ross , Heinrich Nikolaus Ulrichs and Eduard Gerhard .

From there Curtius undertook several trips through Greece and Italy with the geographer Carl Ritter . In 1838 he met again with Emanuel Geibel, who was also traveling to Greece at the same time. Together with Geibel, he tried to adapt various classical Greek writers. He traveled to the Peloponnese again with his teacher Müller , and when Müller died on this trip, he took him to Athens and buried him there at the Colonos .

At the turn of the year 1840/41 Curtius returned to Berlin and received his doctorate in December 1841 with Moritz Hermann Eduard Meier in Halle with the dissertation Commentatio de portubus Athenarum . After a trial period at the French and Joachimsthal Schools, Curtius completed his habilitation with Anecdota Delphica on inscriptions from Delphi (he began this work with Karl Otfried Müller). In the autumn of 1844 Curtius was appointed praeceptor (private tutor) of Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, who later became Emperor Friedrich III. ; at the same time he was promoted to associate professor at the University of Berlin .

In 1850 Curtius married Auguste Besser, the widow of the bookseller Wilhelm Besser, in Berlin . With her he had the son Friedrich Curtius . On January 10, 1852, Curtius gave a famous lecture in the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin about Olympia and actually initiated the first archaeological excavations at this location. In November of that year he was accepted as a full member of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin. When his wife died after a year of marriage, Curtius married Clara Reichhelm in 1853. With her he had the daughter Dora, who later married the geologist Richard Lepsius . In 1853 Curtius joined the Lawless Society in Berlin .

Curtius' house in Göttingen from 1856 to 1868 now houses the Göttingen Academy of Sciences

Between 1855 and 1867 Curtius worked as a professor at the Georg August University in Göttingen . When Eduard Gerhard died in Berlin in 1867 , Curtius was entrusted with a professorship in archeology as his successor. At the same time , he was in charge of the Antiquarium in the Altes Museum . In 1871 he became secretary of the academy's philosophical-historical class, which he remained until 1893. Due to his significant preparatory work, after the end of the war in 1871, the “private” archaeological institute was converted into a Prussian state institution, and in 1874 into a Reich institute. At the same time, the Reichstag decided to set up a department of this institute in Athens.

In 1875, under Curtius' direction, excavations began in Olympia, during which a Hermes by Praxiteles and many other sculptures were found. In addition to a few scientists, Curtius was supported by the architects Friedrich Adler and Wilhelm Dörpfeld . Curtius' collaboration with Johann August Kaupert also resulted from this work . In 1876 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences , in 1895 to the American Philosophical Society and in 1889 to the Royal Society of Edinburgh . For his scientific achievements, he was accepted on May 31, 1879 in the Prussian order Pour le Mérite for science and the arts .

Gravesite of Ernst and Clara Curtius in the old St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof in Berlin

Ernst Curtius died in Berlin on July 11, 1896 at the age of 82. He was buried in the Old St. Matthew Cemetery in Berlin-Schöneberg, Großgörschenstraße 12-14.


Incomplete list Curtius was an honorary member of the Berlin Association in the Association of German Student Associations . His grave has been dedicated to the city of Berlin as an honorary grave since 1958. In Berlin-Lichterfelde a street was named after him during his lifetime (1895), which branches off from Drakestraße today.


  • with Emanuel Geibel: Classical Studies. Bonn 1840.
  • Inscriptiones atticae duodecim. Berlin 1843.
  • Anecdota Delphica. Berlin 1843.
  • Acropolis of Athens. A presentation. Berlin 1844.
  • Naxos. Berlin 1846.
  • Peloponnese. Gotha 1/1851 - 2/1852.
  • Olympia. Berlin 1852.
  • Ionians. Berlin 1855.
  • Greek history. Berlin 1/1857 - 3/1861; several editions, e.g. B. 5th edition Berlin 1878-1880.
    • Part 1: From the primeval beginnings to the death of Pericles. Abridged edition: Deutsche Buchgemeinschaft, Berlin [1936], Bernina, Vienna, Leipzig, Olten 1936; Abridged edition, Phaidon-Verlag, Essen 1997, ISBN 3-88851-229-8
    • Part 2: The flowering and decay of Greece. Abridged edition: Bernina, Vienna, Leipzig, Olten 1936, German Book Association, Berlin 1936.
  • Seven maps on the topography of Athens with explanatory text. Gotha 1868.
  • Contributions to the history and topography of Asia Minor. Berlin 1872.
  • About the religious character of the Greek coins. Berlin 1872.
  • Ephesus. Berlin 1874.
  • Antiquity and the present. Berlin 1/1875 ( digitized and full text in the German text archive ) - 2/1882.
  • with Johann August Kaupert: Atlas of Athens. Berlin 1878.
  • with Friedrich Adler: excavations for Olympia. Berlin 1/1877 - 3/1878.
  • Curtius, Friedrich (Ed.): A picture of life in letters. Ernst Curtius. Berlin 1903.
  • Curtius, Friedrich (Ed.): Ernst Curtius. A picture of life in letters. New edition by Friedrich Curtius. First volume with two portraits. Second volume with two portraits. 2 vols., Berlin 1913. (In this edition - in contrast to the edition from 1903 - the relations between Ernst Curtius and the Prussian royal house, in particular the experiences of 1848, are presented more completely with new material; the communications from the Greek Youth letters.)


Web links

Wikisource: Ernst Curtius  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Ernst Curtius  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hermann Genzken: The Abitur graduates of the Katharineum zu Lübeck (grammar school and secondary school) from Easter 1807 to 1907. Borchers, Lübeck 1907. (Supplement to the school program 1907), No. 297.
  2. ^ List of members of the Berlin Academy .
  3. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed October 19, 2019 .
  4. The Order Pour le Merite for Science and the Arts. The members of the order, Volume I (1842-1881) , Gebr. Mann-Verlag, Berlin 1975, page 364.
  5. Marc Zirlewagen : Biographies of the clubs German students . BoD - Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2014