Rudolf Pfeiffer

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Rudolf Pfeiffer (completely Rudolf Carl Franz Otto Pfeiffer ; born September 28, 1889 in Augsburg , † May 5, 1979 in Dachau ) was a German classical philologist . He is considered one of the most important representatives of his field of the 20th century.

life and work

After studying classical philology in Munich, where he was mainly influenced by Otto Crusius , Rudolf Pfeiffer initially worked in the library service (1912–1921, Munich University Library ). But as early as 1916, after a serious wound near Verdun , he was determined to devote himself entirely to science. On leave of absence from his profession, he was able to spend a year in Berlin in 1920 with the newly found Callimachus papyri. He got to know Wilamowitz , who apparently immediately recognized the great talent; In any case, this is also evidenced by the steep academic career. Pfeiffer himself had a deep admiration for the great scholar all his life, so that he was also involved in the publication of his "Little Writings".

After completing his habilitation in 1921 with Eduard Schwartz with the Callimachos studies , Pfeiffer was appointed to the extraordinary position at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in 1923 , a position that became the starting point of a great career for many philologists. In fact, in the same year he took over the chair at the young University of Hamburg . From 1927 he taught in Freiburg , then as Schwartz's successor from 1929 to 1937 and again from 1951 until his retirement in 1957 in Munich . As the husband of a Jewish woman, he had to leave the civil service in June 1937 and worked from 1938 to 1951 at Corpus Christi College in Oxford .

Mainly because of the language problems, he did not receive a lectureship in the history of science until 1946, before he could achieve proper positions, in 1948 as " Senior Lecturer " and 1950 as "Reader" in his subject. In the difficult early days he found a stop at Oxford University Press , which later published his major books. He later took British citizenship and remained grateful to his second home, Oxford and England, until his death. His stay in exile, on the other hand, was a perfect match for his work as a researcher. Not only was he able to work with excellent scholars (including Germans such as Eduard Fraenkel and Paul Maas ), the city's inexhaustible book treasures on the one hand, and the rich papyri on the other hand seemed to be destined for his areas of interest.

Even during his time in Munich, Rudolf Pfeiffer had expanded his research to cover the entire breadth of Greek literature , Homer , poetry and tragedy . At the same time, however, he continued to occupy himself with the area to which his dissertation had already been applied and which has repeatedly occupied him: humanism and Erasmus . The Oxford time then benefited above all efforts to the Hellenistic poet Callimachos , who had already received the habilitation thesis together with the edition of the new finds and for which Oxford offered him the best possible job opportunities. The edition, published 1949–1953, is considered one of the great editorial achievements of the 20th century.

By 1953 at the latest, Pfeiffer had been intensively concerned with the plan to present the history of his subject from the beginning, a project for which no one was better suited than him, who completely overlooked the two epochs that were decisive for Classical Philology: their justification in Hellenistic Alexandria as well as its resurgence in the Renaissance. While the first volume is more of a series of in-depth special investigations, the second gives a master's sovereign overview of the achievements of his predecessors, which can also be read by non-specialists. It is characteristic of Pfeiffer's view of his subject that he once again included the adjective “classical” in the title (although he understood it differently from the circle around Werner Jaeger ) after Wilamowitz in particular had specifically only spoken of “philology”.

Rudolf Pfeiffer managed to complete this volume. His estate is kept in the Bavarian State Library in Munich.

Fonts (selection)

  • 1919 The Mastersingers School in Augsburg and the Homer translator Johannes Spreng . Duncker & Humblot, Munich (Swabian historical sources and research 2)
  • 1922 Callimachus Studies. Investigations on the Arsinoe and the Aitia of Callimachus . Hueber, Munich
  • 1923 Callimachi fragmenta nuper reperta . Ed. maior. Marcus et Weber, Bonn
  • 1931 Humanitas Erasmiana . Teubner, Leipzig (Studies of the Warburg Library 22)
  • 1949 Callimachus . Clarendon Press, Oxford. Vol. 1: Fragmenta . Reprinted 1985, ISBN 0-19-814115-7
  • 1953 Callimachus . Clarendon Press, Oxford. Vol. 2: Hymni et epigrammata . Reprinted 1985, ISBN 0-19-814116-5
  • 1960 Winfried Bühler (Ed.): Selected writings. Essays and lectures on Greek poetry and humanism . Beck, Munich (p. 292–297 List of Writings; supplemented in Bühler 1980, p. 409, note 1)
  • 1961 Philologia perennis . Ceremonial speech ... Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Munich (ceremonial and memorial speeches 12.9)
  • 1968 History of Classical Scholarship. From the beginnings to the end of the Hellenistic age. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1968. Repr. 1978. ISBN 0-19-814342-7 .
    • German translation: history of classical philology. From the beginning to the end of Hellenism . Beck, Munich 1970, 2nd, through. 1978 edition. ISBN 3-406-03751-8
  • 1976 History of Classical Scholarship. From 1300 to 1850 . Clarendon Press, Oxford 1976. Repr. 1978. ISBN 0-19-814364-8 .
    • German translation: The classical philology from Petrarch to Mommsen . Beck, Munich 1982. ISBN 3-406-08411-7



  • Winfried Bühler: Rudolf Pfeiffer (1889–1979) . In: Gnomon 52 (1980), pp. 402-410.
  • Kurt von Fritz : Rudolf Pfeiffer . In: Yearbook of Bayer. Academy of Sciences 1979, pp. 257-266.
  • Walther Kraus : Rudolf Pfeiffer . In: Almanach der Öster. Academy of Sciences 1979, pp. 351–358.
  • Hugh Lloyd-Jones: Rudolf Carl Franz Otto Pfeiffer . In: Proceedings of the British Academy 65 (1979), pp. 771-781.
  • Hermann Tränkle : Rudolf Pfeiffer . In: Historisches Jahrbuch 101 (1981), pp. 506-512.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. "Meliorem locum unde Callimachus edi possit non invenias" he writes in the Praefatio for the 1st volume of "Callimachus", p. X. This volume is dedicated to college