Classical Philology

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Classical philology (also ancient philology ) is the philology that deals with the two languages ​​(regarded as “classical”), Latin and ancient Greek, as well as the literary evidence of Greek and Roman antiquity . It can be divided into Greek (Ancient Greek Philology) and Latin Studies ( Latin Philology ).

In contrast to Classical Philology, Neuphilology describes a number of subjects that deal with modern languages ​​and literatures.


While the word classical in the English-speaking area was related to the ancient Greek and Latin authors as early as the end of the 16th century, this use came about much later in the German-speaking area.

The oldest known document comes from Erduin Julius Koch around 1792 in Halle . The official designation “classical philology” for Latin and Greek studies appears for the first time in 1803 as “old classical philology” in the course catalog of the University of Dorpat . Karl Morgenstern is the first to use this term as “Prof. eloquence and classical philology, aesthetics and literature and art ”.

Classical languages

The languages ancient Greek and Latin are called classical languages in European culture ; they were the two administrative languages ​​common in the Roman Empire . These languages ​​were understood by all educated citizens of the Roman Empire and were used for communication and efficient administration of the various provinces with their respective regional languages. As a " classical Latin " here applies Latin from the late phase of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the principality , as authors like Cicero and Virgil "classical languages" exercised decisive influence, so as, strictly speaking, only the two administrative languages of the Roman Empire in the state of development in this time can be viewed. Authors from this period, such as Sallust , but sometimes also Seneca and Tacitus , are therefore also referred to as “classical authors”.

After the fall of the Roman Empire , the two languages ​​would presumably have lost their meaning without the meanwhile Christianization of Rome and would also have been replaced as written languages ​​by Italian, Middle Greek, etc. Since the Vulgate was declared as the binding version of the Bible by a council resolution , knowledge of Latin was essential for theological disputes. The Roman Catholic Church and the offices of the emperors of the Frankish and later the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation used Latin as the language of administration and court. In addition, it was colloquial language in the monasteries, which meant that Latin became the lingua franca of science, which was continued in the universities that were later developed.

In theological circles, Greek was of secondary importance outside the Byzantine Empire . It was only with humanism and the Renaissance that interest in Greek literature was awakened anew. Knowledge of Latin and Greek were also a central component of Philipp Melanchthon's study reform . This tradition continued in neo-humanism and in the idea of ​​the German grammar school , which was developed in Prussia by Wilhelm von Humboldt . Learning the classical languages ​​was a primary goal. The departure from Latin and Greek was seen as a break in German intellectual history as early as 1890. It was repeated and reinforced twice - by National Socialism and the 1968 movement .

Area of ​​responsibility

Classical philology is - alongside archeology and ancient history - a sub-area of classical ancient studies . The area covered by classical philology covers the period from the beginning of Greek literature ( Homer , Hesiod ) in the late 8th century BC. Until the extinction of late antique literature around the year 600 AD.

It should be noted that the classical philology in addition to the artistic and literary texts of poetry , epic poetry , the drama and the art of prose , unlike the Modern Languages and Literature philosophical , historiographical and even scientific treated texts. The preoccupation with Greek or Latin remnant texts, i.e. purely practical texts of non-literary provenance that can be found in papyri , inscriptions or as coin legends, is not part of classical philology . For these written documents there are the sciences papyrology , epigraphy and numismatics , which in turn are assigned as auxiliary sciences to the three main sciences in varying proportions depending on the quality and scope of the sources. Related disciplines are the Medieval Latin philology, Latin Philology , the Byzantine and the Indo-European Studies .

History of Classical Philology

The history of classical philology has a long tradition that dates back to the times of the Greeks and continues through ancient Rome, the Middle Ages and modern times to the present. Classical philology includes both Latin and ancient Greek literature. Ancient history and archeology emerged from classical philology.

Study and career opportunities

Latin and Greek can be studied at most German full universities , as they are part of the traditional canon of subjects and, in addition, high school teachers must be trained for these subjects in all federal states. At universities, the term “classical philology” is a traditional collective term for the subjects of Latin philology and Greek philology, but there is usually no separate course of study “classical philology”; you can register for one of the two subjects or for both. At some universities, however, a doctorate in “classical philology” is possible; However, you can usually only complete your habilitation separately in Latin and Greek philology, even if professorships almost always focus on one of the two languages.

Occupational fields for classical philologists are primarily the school service (teacher for Latin or Greek) and the university service. There are very limited employment opportunities in publishing or archiving. In particular, because of the high number of Latin teachers who have retired in recent years and the recently increased demand from students for Latin lessons, Latin continues to have a comparatively high number of students, as there are very good job prospects for prospective students for the next five to ten years Latin teachers seem to offer. On the other hand, because of the long (but now smaller) decline in Greek teaching in schools, there are significantly fewer students studying Greek.

The classical philologists in Germany are organized across professional fields in the German Classical Philology Association (DAV).

See also

Portal: Antiquity  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of antiquity




Important German-language specialist journals

Web links

Wiktionary: Classical philology  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Classical Philology  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. Carl Joachim Classen : About the Age of "Classical Philology" ; in: Hermes 130 (2002), pp. 490-497