Venetian epigrams

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Georg Melchior Kraus : Goethe around 1775

The Venetian Epigrams are epigrams by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , which he wrote mostly in Venice in the spring of 1790 based on the Martial model . In it he comments on European conditions and contemporary history. He published the majority of these bon mots and ridicule poems anonymously and in a weakened form in Friedrich Schiller's Muses Almanac for the year 1796.

The epigrams deal with both the specific location Venice and “a transferred space that is detached from it”.


Priapus with his phallus ( Etruscan before 100 BC)

For Goethe, the trip to Venice, imposed on him to accompany Anna Amalia on her journey home from Italy, was an undesirable interruption in his life in Weimar. In a letter dated April 3, 1790, shortly after arriving on March 31, he wrote to Karl August : “Incidentally, I must confess in confidence that my love for Italy will be dealt a fatal blow by this trip. [...] The first blossoming of inclination and curiosity has fallen off [...] In addition, there is my inclination to the erotio left behind and to the little creature in the diapers. "- The predominantly unfriendly tone of the epigrams is expressed by Goethe in a letter he wrote on Writes to Schiller from Weimar on June 10, 1796 , motivated by “hatred”. A year earlier, Goethe stayed against his will in the Italian "stone and water nest".


With the epigrams, Goethe followed ancient models and explicitly pointed out. He added a Latin martial quote to the edition in the Musenalmanac: “Our paper tastes like people.” So the topics are not mythological and fantastic, but rather the life of people with mistakes. A second motto, added by Horace and the same edition in Latin, refers to the z. Some of the epigrams are partly incomplete and fleeting: “As soon as I have muse, I put something on paper in a playful way. This is one of my harmless mistakes. ”In a catalog raisonné from 1823 for the abdicated King of Holland Louis Bonaparte , Goethe called the epigrams“ Epigrammes Vénitiens d'après le sens de Martial ”(Venetian epigrams in the style of Martial).

Goethe drew offensive lines from Martial's lines, thanks in part to Andreas Naugerius ' tradition. His principle when studying Martials was that he should recognize people by their mistakes.


  • Richard Friedenthal stated that Goethe 's longing for Italy had vanished in 1790. Goethe felt “pagan free”, brought in his “easiest and loosest experiences” and spoke out against the French incidents . Christianity is mocked if it is poorly veiled.
  • Gero von Wilpert classifies the Venetian Epigrams as an inhomogeneous side work that was not only received favorably and benevolently.
  • Karl Otto Conrady goes into Goethe's observation of the Venetian juggler Bettine (epigrams 36 to 47) and Goethe's poem of praise.


  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Poetic Works, Volume 1. Phaidon Verlag, Essen 1999, ISBN 3-89350-448-6 , pp. 181-198.
Secondary literature

Sorted by year of publication

Web links

Wikisource: Venetian Epigrams  - Sources and Full Texts


  1. Häntzschel (p. 14 above) lists reasons for Goethe's hatred.

Individual evidence

  1. Häntzschel, p. 8, 4. Zvo
  2. Erotium is a whore in Plautus ' comedy Menaechmi , here Christiane Vulpius ; the little creature is the son August Walther, born on December 25, 1789 .
  3. Martial, Epigrams 10.4.10: "hominem pagina nostra sapit."
  4. Horace , Satires 1.4.138-140: “ubi quid datur oti, Illudo chartis. Hoc est mediocribus illis Ex vitiis unum. "
  5. ^ Goethe, Poetic Works . Berlin edition Volume 1, p. 845. Aufbau-Verlag 1972
  6. Maaß, p. 72, 10th Zvu and 3rd Zvu
  7. Maaß, p. 72, 8. Zvo
  8. Friedenthal, p. 349, 10. Zvo
  9. Friedenthal, p. 349, 11. Zvo
  10. Friedenthal, p. 349, 19. Zvo
  11. Friedenthal, p. 613, 18. Zvu
  12. engl. HathiTrust