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Xenien (Greek), originally "gifts for guests", is what the Roman poet Martial (1st century AD) called the 13th book of his epigrams , which were intended to accompany gifts.

Etymologically , the term Xenie (plural Xenien) is Greek xénion ( ξένιον ), in the plural xénia ( ξένια ) "guest gifts", to Greek xénos ( ξένος ) "foreigner", "guest", "guest friend", "host" Reasons.

The Xenia of Goethe and Schiller

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe took over this title in an ironic sense for distiches that he had written together with Friedrich Schiller . The Xenien appeared in Schiller's Musenalmanach for the year 1797 . The manuscript copy with a total of 676 xenias is still preserved today.

The Xenien are an extremely polemical attack on the literary guild of that time, the entire literary scene and the bourgeois contemporaries. The xenias of Goethe and Schiller are not only critical, but also motivated by literary politics. The attacks against, for example, Friedrich Nicolai , Johann Kaspar Friedrich Manso , Christoph Martin Wieland or the brothers Friedrich Leopold and Christian zu Stolberg-Stolberg were followed by a real Xenienkampf after publication in 1797, which was expressed in mostly anonymously written counter-Xenien. Neither Schiller nor Goethe wanted to include the distiches as a whole in their oeuvre because they were too time-bound. However, later both poets adopted individual distiches, revised them or regrouped them.

Goethe and Schiller began writing Xenien in December 1795. In a letter to Schiller on Boxing Day, Goethe submitted his idea. Schiller replied three days later, delighted: “The idea of ​​the Xenia is splendid and must be carried out.” As a result, both of them kept sending each other new Xenia.

The xenias are written in the ancient meter of the epigrammatic distich , i.e. they consist of a hexameter and a pentameter .

Later Xenia

Carl Leberecht Immermann chose the term Xenien for his epigram polemics against writers of his time, Heinrich Heine published it in 1827 as an appendix to the second part of his travel pictures .


  • Frieder von Ammon: Inhospitable gifts. The 'Xenien' of Goethe and Schiller and their literary reception from 1796 to the present . Niemeyer, Tübingen 2005. ISBN 3-484-32123-7
  • Franz Schwarzbauer: The Xenia. Studies on the prehistory of the Weimar Classic . Verlag JB Metzler, Stuttgart and Weimar 1993. ISBN 3-476-00859-2
  • Wolfgang Stammler (Ed.): The Anti-Xenien . A. Marcus and E. Weber's Verlag, Bonn 1911.
  • Johannes Bobrowski: Literary Climate. Completely new Xenien, double version , Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, Stuttgart 1978. ISBN 3-421-01849-9


  1. cf. Goethe's letter to Schiller, Weimar, December 26, 1795
  2. cf. Schiller's letter to Goethe, Jena, December 29, 1795

Web links

Wikisource: Xenien  - sources and full texts