1902 Encyclopedia > August Boeckh

August Boeckh
(Philipp August Böckh)
German classical scholar and antiquarian


AUGUST BOECKH, one of the greatest scholars that Germany has produced in modern times, was born in Karlsruhe, November 24, 1785. He was sent to the gymnasium of his native city, and remained there until he left for the University of Halle. There he devoted himself to the study of theology, as his intention was to enter the church. He had the privilege of listening to the lectures of Schleiermacher and other eminent theologians ; but at this time in Halle F. Wolf was exercising a spell over the young men and creating an enthusiasm for classical studies. August Boeckh felt the spell, passed from theology to philology, and became the greatest of all Wolf's scholars. At Easter of 1806 he went to Berlin to study in the seminary for secondary teachers, conducted by Gedike; but the disturbances which then agitated the country sent him home. In the summer of 1807 he came out as privat-docent in the University of Heidelberg, and in the autumn of the same year he was appointed a professor extraordin-arius. Two years after (1809) he was nominated ordinary professor. In 1811 he removed to Berlin, having been appointed professor of eloquence and ancient literature in the university newly established there. Here he remained till his death, which took place August 3, 1867. He was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences of Berlin in 1814, and for a long time acted as its secretary. Many of the speeches contained in his Kleine Schriften were delivered in this latter capacity.

Boeckh worked out the ideas of Wolf in regard to philology, and illustrated them by his practice. Discarding the old notion that philology lay in a minute acquaintance with words and the exercise of the critical art, he believed it to be the entire knowledge of antiquity, historical and philosophical (esse earn universes antiquitatis cogmtionem historicam et philosopham). He divides philology into five parts : first, an inquiry into public acts, with a knowledge of times and places, into civil institutions, and also into law ; second, an inquiry into private affairs; third, an exhibition of the religions and arts of the ancient nations; fourth, a history of all their moral and physical speculations and beliefs, and of their literatures ; and fifth, a complete explanation of the language. These ideas in regard to philology Boeckh gave out in a Latin oration delivered in 1822 (Gesammelte Kleine Schriften, vol. i. p. 104). He repeats them in somewhat different language in the speech which he delivered at the opening of the congress of German philologists in 1850. He there defines philology to be the historical construction of the entire life,—there-fore, of all forms of culture and all the productions of a people in its practical and spiritual tendencies. He allows that such a work is too great for any one man; but the very infinity of subjects is the stimulus to the pursuit of truth, and men strive because they have not attained (voL ii. p. 189). Even before Boeckh had published anything on this subject, his oral expositions had become widely spread, and were much discussed. (Liibker, " De Partitions Philologiae," Gesammelte Schriften wr Philologie und Paedo-gogik, voL i. p. 8.) Freund gives the following account of Boeckh's division of philology :—

"Boeckh distinguishes two chief parts of philological discipline—a formal and a material part. To the formal part belong only interpretation and criticism; to the material all the other disciplines, even grammar. More par-ticularly the material part embraces—L the practical life; IL the theoretical life of the ancients. I. The practical, again, falls into the two divisions of—1. Public life, including (1) political history, (2) political antiquities, (3) chronology, and (4) geography; 2. Private life, which is considered as (1) external life, in agriculture, commerce, trades, domestic economy, and metrology; (2) internal life, including marriage, education, slaves, &c. II. Theoretical life is divided into two parts—1. The life in which the thought of man is presented externally through a symbol—worship, plastic art, music, Orchestik ; 2. Life in which the thought remains pure within the mind—science. In the case of the last (1) the contents, and (2) the form of acquisition are distinguished The contents lie originally in mythology, out of which philosophy developed itself, and out of philosophy came the other sciences, which are partly physical, including mathematics, and partly ethical. The form of knowledge is language, and it must be con-sidered first in itself, in its inner structure through grammar, and then in its formation and application to thej various artistic forms which the history of literature has to exhibit" (Wie studirt man Philologie, p. 29).

From 1806 till the time of his death, Boeckh's literary activity was unceasing. His principal works were—(1.) An edition of Pindar, the first volume of which (1811) contains the text of the Epinician odes; a treatise De Metris Pindari, in three books; and Notce Critical: the second (1819) contains the Scholia; and part ii. of volume ii. (1821) contains a Latin translation, a commentary, the fragments, and indices. It is the most complete edition of llndar that we have. But it was especially the treatise De Metris Pindari in the first volume which placed Boeckh in the first rank of scholars. This treatise forms an epoch in the treatment of Greek metres. In it the author threw aside all attempts to determine the Greek metres by mere subjective standards, pointing out at the same time the close connection between the music and the poetry of the Greeks. He investigated minutely the nature of Greek music as far as it can be ascertained,.as well as all the details regarding Greek musical instruments; and he explained the statements of the ancient Greek writers on rhythm. In this manner he laid the foundation for a new treatment of Greek metres. (2.) Die Staatsaushaltung der Athener, 2 vols., Berlin, 1817 (2d improved edition, Berlin, 1851), translated into English by Sir George Cornewall Lewis, 2 vols., Lond, 1828. Boeckh shows in this work an imperfect acquaintance with the principles of the modern science of political economy. The book might have been written by an ancient Greek. But this imperfection does not much impair its great value and extraordinary merits. Boeckh has in it investigated a subject of peculiar difficulty with profound learning. He has amassed information from the whole range of Greek literature, he has carefully apprized the value of the information given, and he shows through-out every portion of it rare critical ability and insight. Similar and supplementary to his work on the political economy of Athens, was his Urkunden über das Seewesen des Attischen Staats, Berlin, 1840. Allied to it also was his work Metrologische Untersuchungen über Gewichte, Münzfusse, und Maasse des Älterthums, Berlin, 1838. (3.) His third great work arose out of his second In regard to the taxes and revenue of the Athenian state he derived a great deal of his most trustworthy information from inscriptions, and many of these inscriptions are given in his book. It was natural, therefore, that when the Berlin Academy of Sciences projected the plan of a Corpus Inscriptionum Grwcarum, Boeckh should be chosen as the principal editor. This great work (1825-1859) is in four volumes, the last being incomplete. Boeckh's resources as a scholar have full scope in the treatment of these inscriptions, and though a new edition is now necessary and has been begun, Boeckh's explanations of them will form the basis of all subsequent commentaries.

These were Boeckh's great works; but his activity was continually digressing into widely different fields. He has gained for himself a foremost position amongst investigators into ancient chronology, and his name will occupy a parallel place with those of Ideler and Mommsen. His principal work on this subject was called Zur Geschichte der Mondcyclen der Hellenen, Leipsic, 1855 ; but another, Epigraphisch-chronologische. Studien, 1856, and several papers which he published in the Transactions of the Berlin Academy, throw light on the subject. Boeckh also occupied himself with philosophy. One of his earliest papers was on the Platonic doctrine of the world (De Platonica corporis mundani fabrica, 1809), and De Plat. System, ccelestium globorum et de versa indole astronomiai Philolaios, 1810. In opposition to Gruppe he denied that Plato affirmed the diurnal rotation of the earth, Untersuchungen über das kosmische System des Piaton, Berlin, 1852, and when in opposition to him Grote published his opinions on the sub-jects (Plato and the Rotation of the Earth) Boeckh was ready with his reply. Another of his earlier papers, and one frequently referred to, was Commentatio Academica de simultate quae Platoni cum Xenophonte intercessisse fertvr (1811).

Boeckh did not do much in the way of editing the classics. We have already noticed his edition of Pindar. He,also published an edition of the Antigone of Sophocles, with a poetical translation. (Antigone, Griechisch und Deutsch: Nebst Abhandlungen über diese Tragödie in Ganzen und über Einzelne Stellen derselben, Berlin, 1843). He also collected and arranged the fragments ascribed to Philolaus (Berlin, 1819), and endeavoured to show that they were genuine. The force of his arguments in this direction has, however, been recently weakened by Schaarschmidt, and the genuineness of the fragments is open to grave doubt
The smaller writings of Boeckh began to be collected in his lifetime. Three of the volumes were published before his death, and four after (Gesammelte kleine Schriften, 7 vols., 1859-1873). The first two consist of orations delivered in the university or academy of Berlin, or on public occasions. The third, fourth, fifth, and sixth contain his contributions to the Transactions of the Berlin Academy, and the seventh contains his critiques. The first two are _valuable among other excellences from an educational point of view, and contain an exposition of many sound educa- tional principles. In them Boeckh shows himself a man of wide heart, interested in the most diverse forms of investigation, an ardent patriot, and a lover of justice and truth. (J. D.)

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