Christian Gottlob Heyne

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Odysseus and Euryclea, by Christian G. Heyne

Christian Gottlob Heyne (25 September, 1729-14 July, 1812) was a German classical scholar and archaeologist.

He was born in Chemnitz, Saxony. His father was a poor weaver, and his education was paid for by his godfather. In 1748 he entered the University of Leipzig, where he was often short of the necessaries of life. He was in despair by the time he obtained a position as tutor in the family of a French merchant in Leipzig, which enabled him to continue his studies. After he had completed his university course, he was for many years in very straitened circumstances.

An elegy written by him in Latin on the death of a friend attracted the attention of Count von Brühl, the prime minister, who expressed a desire to see the author. Accordingly, in April 1752, Heyne journeyed to Dresden, believing that his fortune was made. He was well received; promised a secretaryship and a good salary, but nothing came of it. Another period of poverty followed, and only by persistent solicitation was Heyne able to obtain the post of under-clerk in the count's library, with a salary of less than twenty pounds sterling. He increased this pittance by translation; in addition to some French novels, he rendered into German The Loves of Chaereas and Callirrhoe of Chariton, the Greek romance writer. He published his first edition of Tibullus in 1755, and in 1756 his Epictetus. In the latter year the Seven Years' War broke out, and Heyne was once more in a state of destitution. In 1757 he was offered a tutorship in the household of Frau von Schönberg, where he met his future wife.

In January 1758 he accompanied his pupil to the University of Wittenberg, but the Prussian invasion drove him out in 1760. The bombardment of Dresden, on July 18, 1760, destroyed all his possessions, including an almost finished edition of Lucian, based on a valuable codex of the Dresden Library. In the summer of 1761, still without any fixed income, he married, and became land-steward to the Baron von Löben in Lusatia. At the end of 1762, however, he was able to return to Dresden, where he was commissioned by PD Lippert to prepare the Latin text of the third volume of his Dactyliotheca (art account of a collection of gems).

On the death of Johann Matthias Gesner at Göttingen in 1761, the vacant chair was refused first by Ernesti and then by Ruhnken, who persuaded Münchhausen, the Hanoverian minister and principal curator of the university to bestow it on Heyne (1763). His emoluments were gradually augmented, and his growing celebrity brought him most advantageous offers from other German governments, which he persistently refused.

Unlike Gottfried Hermann, Heyne regarded the study of grammar and language only as the means to an end, not as the chief object of philology. But, although not a critical scholar, he was the first to attempt a scientific treatment of Greek mythology, and he gave an undoubted impulse to philological studies.

Of Heyne's numerous writings, the following may be mentioned. Editions, with copious commentaries, of Tibullus (ed. SC Wunderlich, 1817), Virgil (ed. GP Wagner, 1830-1841), Pindar (3rd ed. by GH Schafer, 1817), Apollodorus, Bibliotheca Graeca (1803), Homer, Iliad (1802); Opuscula academica (1785-1812), containing more than a hundred academical dissertations, of which the most valuable are those relating to the colonies of Greece and the antiquities of Etruscan art and history. His Antiquarische Aufsätze (1778-1779) is a valuable collection of essays connected with the history of ancient art. His contributions to the Göttingische gelehrte Anzeigen are said to have been between 7000 and 8000 in number. See biography by AH Heeren (1813) which forms the basis of the interesting essay by Thomas Carlyle (Misc. Essays, ii.); Heinrich Sauppe, Göttinger Professoren (1872); Conrad Bursian in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, xii.; JE Sandys, Hist. Class. Schol; iii. 36-44.de:Christian Gottlob Heyne

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