Johannes Irmscher

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Johannes Irmscher (born September 14, 1920 in Dresden , † May 23, 2000 in Rome ) was a German classical scholar. Irmscher was one of the most important classical scholars and above all a scientific organizer for this area in the GDR .

Gravestone in the Evangelical Cemetery Berlin-Rosenthal


Johannes Irmscher joined the NSDAP as a schoolboy in 1938 and passed his Abitur in 1939. In the same year he began studying Classical Philology , Byzantine Studies and Neo-Greek Studies at the University of Leipzig . As early as 1940 he had to interrupt his studies because he was drafted into the Wehrmacht . There he served until the end of the war in 1945. After the war he was still head of the library of artists in Berlin in 1945 and remained so until 1946. In December 1947 he received his doctorate with a thesis on the wrath of the gods with Homer at the Berlin University research assistant and in the same year research assistant of the commission for the late antique religious history of the DAW. His habilitation took place in 1951 on the subject of Iakobos triboles poiemata , after which Irmscher became a lecturer in classical philology. Since September 1953 he has been teaching classical philology, Byzantine and neo-Greek studies as an honorary professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin (HUB). From 1955 to 1963 Irmscher was managing director, from 1964 to 1969 director of the Institute for Greco-Roman Antiquity at the DAW. After the academy's restructuring, in 1969 he became director of the Greco-Roman Cultural History department at the Central Institute for Ancient History and Archeology . Between 1958 and 1968 Irmscher was also director of the Institute for Byzantine Studies at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg . In 1985 he retired.

Irmscher had been a corresponding member of the GDR Academy of Sciences since 1973, a full member since 1990 and later a member and vice-president of the Leibniz Society . Johannes Irmscher also made particular contributions to the collaboration between GDR researchers and international science. In numerous honorary functions, for example as long-time president of the Winckelmann Society , he made a significant contribution to the interdisciplinarity of classical studies. He was also a member of the Presidium of the GDR Historian Society and became an honorary member in 1989. In 1966 Irmscher was awarded the Bronze Patriotic Order of Merit, in 1985 the National Prize of the GDR , III. Class. Johannes Irmscher also excelled as a translator of Greek historians ( Xenophon ) and philosophers ( Plato ).

Irmscher also used his diverse international contacts as a contributor to the State Security Service of the GDR , for whom he had worked as an unofficial employee since 1958 ("IM Johannes"). The focus was on gaining information about the People's Republic of Albania and establishing relationships with personalities in Albania after Albania left the Warsaw Pact .

Irmscher died unexpectedly in 2000 in Rome, where he was taking part in a scientific conference, as a result of a stroke. He was buried in the Evangelical Cemetery in Berlin-Rosenthal.


Johannes Irmscher was one of the most prominent representatives of ancient studies in the GDR. He made a name for himself not only as a researcher, but also as a science organizer and in popularizing scientific results in the GDR and far beyond its borders. His scientific interests ranged from Homer to late antiquity, from the history and culture of the Byzantine Empire to the afterlife of antiquity in European culture. His publications are very numerous; the German National Library alone has over 100 publications. Before the academy reform of 1968, Johannes Irmscher rendered great services to the consolidation, expansion and profiling of ancient studies research at the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin (DAW; later the Academy of Sciences of the GDR [AdW]) as long-term director of the institute for Greco-Roman antiquity. After being largely disempowered in 1968, he remained director of the Greco-Roman cultural history department of the Central Institute for Ancient History and Archeology (ZIAGA). Irmscher paid particular attention to the work on the corpora, edition series and journals of the academy, which were in the tradition of the 19th century (for example the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum ) as well as the establishment of numerous series and journals.

Fonts (selection)

  • Practical introduction to the study of classical studies (editor), Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1954
  • Introduction to Byzantine Studies , Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1971 (Collection Akademie-Verlag 21)
  • Socrates. An attempt at a biography , Reclam, 3rd edition, Leipzig 1982
  • Introduction to the classical studies of antiquity. An information book (editor), Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1986
  • as publisher: Lexicon of antiquity . Bibliographisches Institut, 2nd edition Leipzig 1977; 9th edition, ibid. 1987.
various editions both in the GDR and in the FRG; very popular standard work, also available as CD-ROM version.


  • Lothar Mertens : Lexicon of the GDR historians. Biographies and bibliographies on the historians from the German Democratic Republic. Saur, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-598-11673-X , pp. 310-311.
  • Isolde Stark : The unofficial activity of Johannes Irmscher for the state security of the GDR. In: Halle contributions to contemporary history. 5 (1998), ISSN  1433-7886 , pp. 46-71.
  • Francesco Salerno (Ed.): "Res venit ad Triarios" - Omaggio a Johannes Irmscher. Jovene, Naples 2002 (Index, Vol. 30).
  • Andreas Wacke : East-West-Relations of Legal History and Classical Studies Representatives after the End of the Second World War. Johannes Irmscher (1920–2000) as a secret informant for the GDR State Security Service. In: Orbis Iuris Romani 9 (2004), ISSN  1211-3425 , pp. 245-267.
  • Jan Wielgohs:  Irmscher, Johannes . In: Who was who in the GDR? 5th edition. Volume 1. Ch. Links, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-86153-561-4 .
  • Matthias Willing: Ancient historical research in the GDR. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-428-07109-3 ( Historical Research 45), (see index).

Web links


  1. ^ Isolde Stark : The unofficial activity of Johannes Irmscher for the state security of the GDR. In: Hallische Contributions to Contemporary History 5 (1998), pp. 46–71.