Felix Dahn

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Felix Dahn, around 1889

Felix Dahn ( Ludwig Sophus Felix Dahn ; born February 9, 1834 in Hamburg , † January 3, 1912 in Breslau ) was a German legal scholar , writer and historian .


Illustration by Therese and Felix Dahn in an edition of the Gazebo (1894)

Felix Dahn was the son of the actor Friedrich Dahn and his first wife Constance Le Gaye . His younger brother was the actor Ludwig Dahn . He attended the Wilhelmsgymnasium in Munich . After graduating from high school , he began to study law and philosophy at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich . He temporarily moved to the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin and, back in Munich, became Dr. iur. PhD . Dahn's first marriage was the painter Sophie Fries (1835–1898), with whom he had a son. In 1867 Therese Freiin Droste zu Hülshoff , a niece of the second degree of the poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff , took lessons from him in Würzburg to refine her poetry. After an initial dislike on both sides, a stormy love developed between the then 22-year-old Catholic baroness and the eleven-year-old professor. Felix Dahn processed this love story as a writer in his work Are Gods? (1874). Against the strong resistance of both families, both married in 1873 after the Franco-Prussian War , in which Dahn had participated as Johanniter , in the castle church (Königsberg) . He had received a call there in 1872. The couple had no children, but had a marriage about which Felix Dahn wrote in 1894: “And I was also inexpressibly lucky to have found my Therese and finally fought for it. I don't think there can be a happier marriage than ours has been for twenty years ”. Therese ran a kind of literary salon , especially in Breslau, in which numerous scholars and those interested in art of her time frequented. After the death of her brother Werner, she kept the estate of her grandfather, the composer Maximilian-Friedrich von Droste zu Hülshoff , and had it brought to Hülshoff Castle . Honored as Senator hc of the University of Breslau, Therese Dahn died there. According to Felix Dahn, her character traits are indicated in the character of Hukberta in his novel The Bad Nonnen von Poitiers .

University professor

After completing his habilitation , he first taught German law in Munich. In 1863 he became associate professor and in 1865 a full professor at the Julius Maximilians University of Würzburg . Here he was also actively involved in university politics. It is said that it was thanks to a fiery speech by Dahn to the university senate that the Italian Feoli collection, which was on the brink of being bought for the Martin von Wagner Museum's antiquities collection, came about in 1872 . In 1872 he moved to the chair at the Albertus University in Königsberg . She elected him rector for the academic year 1877/78 . In 1888 he finally went to the Silesian Friedrich Wilhelms University in Breslau . In 1895/96 he was also its rector . Dahn also turned to history early on in his research . His main scientific work The Kings of the Teutons appeared in 11 volumes (1861–1909). In addition, thanks to his monograph Prokopius of Caesarea (1865) dedicated to Theodor Mommsen , Dahn is considered to be the founder of modern research on Prokopius of Caesarea . His works on late antiquity and the migration of peoples are better known today than those of his former Königsberg colleagues Wilhelm Drumann and Friedrich Wilhelm Schubert . In addition, Dahn published a barely manageable abundance of legal specialist literature, ranging from commercial to international law topics.


But Dahn was not satisfied with an academic career. As early as the 1860s, he was also the author of the garden arbor , which was by far the German-language magazine with the highest circulation at the time. In it he published numerous poems over many years. He was also a member of the politically influential circle of poets in Munich , which was under the aegis of Emanuel Geibel , and of its Berlin counterpart, Tunnel over the Spree . Dahn was also politically active in the Pan-German Association .

Dahn's popularity was based primarily on a historical novel that is one of the learned professorial novels that enjoyed extraordinary popularity during the founding years of the German Empire: A Battle for Rome (1876). Dahn describes the fall of the late ancient Ostrogothic empire in Italy in the period from the death of Theodoric the Great (526) to the defeat under King Teja (552). The novel, which corresponds only to a limited extent to the historical processes guaranteed by the sources, but shows strong and diverse references to the political events of its time, is one of the most influential literary works of the national liberal Gründerzeit nationalism , which is intent on creating historical meaning and has German mythic connotations . At the same time, however, there are already decidedly social Darwinist elements in combination with ethnic elements. The novel remained popular reading for decades and was extensively filmed in 1968 (with Orson Welles as Justinian I ).

Partly together with his second wife Therese, he also wrote a number of voluminous historical novels on early German history and collections of legends and mythological stories, almost all of which also vary the German theme. In the 1880s and 1890s he wrote an extensive polemic in verse and prose against the naturalistic writers, u. a. against Gerhart Hauptmann . His main historical work is the prehistory of the Germanic and Romanic peoples , published between 1880 and 1889 in four volumes. In it Dahn describes the development of the individual ethnic groups from their beginnings to the death of Charlemagne .

Between 1882 and 1901 Dahn had Little Novels from the Migration of Nations in 13 volumes , and between 1890 and 1895 an autobiography of about three thousand pages in several volumes. In 1909 he wrote the booklet intended for the general public for the 1900 anniversary of the battle in the Teutoburg Forest . In the last years of his life he was committed to the construction of the Monument to the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig, although he did not witness its inauguration (on the 100th anniversary) in 1913. With an oeuvre totaling around 30,000 printed pages, Felix Dahn is one of the great writers .

Memberships and honors

From 1859 to 1863 he was a member of the Munich casual society . Around 1890 he also became an honorary member of the Ghibellina fraternity in Prague .

1912 in Vienna , the Felix-Dahn-Straße in the districts Währing and Döbling named after him.

There is a Felix-Dahn-Platz in Graz.

Dahn was also named after the streets in some German cities, such as Hamburg-Eimsbüttel , Stuttgart-Degerloch , Prien am Chiemsee, Würzburg and Frankfurt am Main .

Fonts (selection)

Single fonts

Felix Dahn
Title page of the work edition with an illustration by Johannes Gehrts
Cover of the book until death faithfully with Art Nouveau - ornaments
  • The kings of the Germanic peoples. The essence of the oldest kingship of the Germanic tribes and its history up to the feudal period . [12 volumes and register volume]. 1861–1911, SWB online catalog 002647524 .
    • First section: the time before the hike. The vandals . Fleischmann, Munich 1861. ( Digitized by Google Books).
    • Second Division: The Smaller Gothic Peoples. The Ostrogoths . Fleischmann, Munich 1861. ( Digitized by Google Books).
    • Third section: Constitution of the Eastern Gothic Empire in Italy . Stuber, Würzburg 1866. ( Digitized by Google Books).
    • Fourth section: Appendices to the third section. First appendix: The edicts of Kings Theodoric and Athalaric. Second Appendix: The Gothic Law in the Gothic Empire . Stuber, Würzburg 1866. ( Digitized by Google Books).
    • Fifth Section: The Political History of the Visigoths . Stuber, Würzburg 1870. ( Digitized by Google Books).
    • Sixth Division: The Constitution of the Visigoths. The kingdom of the Suebi in Spain . Stuber, Würzburg 1871. ( Digitized by Google Books).
    • Seventh volume: The Franks under the Merovingians. First division . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1894. ( digitized archive.org).
    • Eighth volume: The Franks under the Carolingians. Fifth Division . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1899. ( digitized archive.org).
    • Volume ninth: The Alemanni. First division . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1902.
    • Volume ninth: The Bavarians. Second division . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1905. ( digitized archive.org).
    • Volume 10: The Thuringia . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1907.
    • Eleventh volume: The Burgundy . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1908.
    • Volume 12: The Lombards . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1909.
    • Friedel Dahn (arrangement): Complete register for both editions . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1911.
  • Procopius of Caesarea . A contribution to the historiography of the Great Migration and the sinking Romans . Mittler, Berlin 1865, SWB online catalog 099922398 .
  • Are gods? The Halfred Sigskald saga. A Nordic tale from the tenth century . Cotta, Stuttgart 1874. ( Digitized by Google Books, 3rd edition, Leipzig 1878).
  • King Roderich . A tragedy in five acts . Hartknoch, Leipzig 1875. ( Digitized by the Bavarian State Library, Munich).
  • A fight for Rome . Historical novel . [4 volumes]. Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1876, SWB online catalog 061163538 . (Volume 1, 79th edition: Digitalisat Google Books; Volume 2: Digitalisat Google Books; Volume 3, 79th edition: Digitalisat Google Books; Volume 4, 3rd edition: Digitalisat Google Books).
  • The statecraft of women. A comedy in three acts . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1877. ( digitized from Google Books).
  • Armin. Heroic opera in five acts. [Text book], music by Heinrich Hofmann . Erler, Berlin 1878. ( digitized version of the Bavarian State Library).
  • Odhin's consolation. An eleventh century Nordic novel . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1880 ( digitized archive.org 4th edition).
  • The Schmidt from Gretna-Green. Great romantic opera in three acts . [ Text book] (= Breitkopf & Härtels text library , 200), music by Johannes Doebber. Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1880, SWB online catalog 356579476 .
  • The courier to Paris. Comedy in five acts . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1883, SWB online catalog 009917020 .
  • The crusaders. Story from the thirteenth century . [2 volumes]. Janke, Berlin 1884. ( digitized archive.org).
  • Faithful to death. Story from the time of Charlemagne . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1887.
  • World downfall. Historical tale from the year 1000 AD . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1889, SWB online catalog 108056929 .
  • Prehistory of the Germanic and Romanic peoples . [4 volumes] (= general history in individual representations . History of the Middle Ages , 2). Grote, Berlin 1881–1889, SWB online catalog 001675346 .
  • Small novels from the migration of people (13 volumes), Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1882–1901, SWB online catalog 091089549 .
    • Vol. I: Felicitas. Historical novel from the Great Migration (a. 476 AD) . 1882. online .
    • Vol. II: Bissula . Historical novel from the Great Migration (a. 378 AD) . 1884. online .
    • Vol. III: Gelimer . Historical novel from the Great Migration (a. 534 AD) . 1885. online .
    • Vol. IV: The Bad Nuns of Poitiers. Historical novel from the Great Migration (a. 589 AD) . 1885. online .
    • Vol. V: Fredigundis . Historical novel from the Great Migration (end of the 6th century) . 1886. online .
    • Vol. VI: Attila . Historical novel from the Great Migration (a. 453 AD) . 1888. New edition. 2019 .
    • Vol. VII: The Batavians . Historical novel from the Great Migration (a. 69 AD) . 1890. online .
    • Vol. VIII: Chlodovech . Historical novel from the Great Migration (a. 481–511) . 1895. New edition. 2011 .
    • Vol. IX: From Chiemgau. Historical novel from the Great Migration (a. 596 AD) . 1896. online .
    • Vol. X: Ebroin . Historical novel from the Great Migration . 1897. online .
    • Vol. XI: At the court of Mr. Karl. Four stories . 1900. New edition. online .
    • Vol. XII: Stilicho . Historical novel from the Great Migration . 1900. New edition. online .
    • Vol. XIII: The Father and the Sons. Historical novel from the Great Migration . 1901. online .
  • Julian the Apostate. Historical novel . [3 volumes]. Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1893–1894, SWB online catalog 091080924 .
  • Sigwalt and Sigrid. A Nordic story (fictitious) . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig around 1899. New edition. online .
  • Duke Ernst of Swabia. Story from the eleventh century . Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1902. New edition. online .
  • The Germans. Popular representations from history, law, economy and culture. Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1905, DNB 580830918 . online .

Work editions

  • Collected Works. Narrative and Poetic Writings . [2 series of 5 volumes each]. 2nd edition, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig 1921, DNB 560413327


  • Festive gift for Felix Dahn on his 50th anniversary as a doctor. Neudr. D. Edition Breslau 1905; Scientia-Verlag, Aalen 1979, ISBN 3-511-00881-6 .
  • Kurt Frech: Felix Dahn. The dissemination of ethnic ideas through the historical novel. In: Uwe Puschner , Walter Schmitz, Justus H. Ulbricht (eds.): Handbook on the “Völkische Movement” 1871–1918. Munich, New Providence, London, Paris 1996, ISBN 3-598-11241-6 , pp. 685-698.
  • Rainer Kipper: The Volkish Myth. "A Battle for Rome" by Felix Dahn. In: the same: The Germanic myth in the German Empire. Forms and functions of historical self-thematization. Vandenhoeck u. Ruprecht, Göttingen 2002 (= forms of memory , 11) ISBN 3-525-35570-X .
  • Stefan Neuhaus : “The highest is the people, the fatherland!” Felix Dahn's “A Battle for Rome” (1876). In: the same: literature and national unity in Germany. Francke, Tübingen u. a. 2002, ISBN 3-7720-3330-X , pp. 230-243.
  • Hans Rudolf Wahl: The Religion of German Nationalism. A study of the history of mentality on the literature of the Empire: Felix Dahn, Ernst von Wildenbruch, Walter Flex. Winter, Heidelberg 2002 (= New Bremen Contributions , 12), ISBN 3-8253-1382-4 .
  • Fritz Martini:  Dahn, Felix. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 3, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1957, ISBN 3-428-00184-2 , pp. 482-484 ( digitized version ).
  • Annemarie Hruschka, Heiko Uecker: Dahn, Felix . In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde V, 2nd ed., 1984, Sp. 179-185.
  • Bernd Schildt: Dahn, Felix (1834–1912) . In: Concise Dictionary of German Legal History I, 2nd edition, 2008, Col. 917.

Web links

Commons : Felix Dahn  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Felix Dahn  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Max Leitschuh: The matriculations of the upper classes of the Wilhelmsgymnasium in Munich , 4 vol., Munich 1970–1976, here vol. 4, p. 50.
  2. Dissertation: On the effect of the statute of limitations on bonds .
  3. a b Rector's speeches (HKM) .
  4. ^ Gustav Rohmer: The casual society in Munich 1837-1937. Printed as a manuscript , CH Beck'sche Buchdruckerei, Nördlingen 1937.
  5. ^ Helge Dvorak: Biographical Lexicon of the German Burschenschaft. Volume II: Artists. Winter, Heidelberg 2018, ISBN 978-3-8253-6813-5 , pp. 121-124.
  6. ^ Felix-Dahn-Straße in the Vienna History Wiki of the City of Vienna .