The Birthday of Philology

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship:

“Modern ‘Philology’

In modern times the first who called himself studiosus philologiae was F. A. Wolf, the founder of the modern German school of scholarship, who thus described himself in the matriculation-book of the University of Göttingen on 8 April 1777, a date which has accordingly been designated as the ‘birthday of Philology’[1] In after years Wolf himself was dissatisfied with the term Philologie because its Alexandrian associations confined it to the study of Literature alone, to the exclusion of Art, and also because in modem times it was apt to be regarded as synonymous with the Science of Language. He therefore preferred the term Alterthums-wissen-schaft, ‘the Science of Antiquity[2]. Other terms have been suggested at various times[3], but in France and Germany the term Philologie still holds its own.

‘Philology’ was for a long time limited to linguistic studies, and was regarded as only including grammar, lexicography, exegesis, and textual and literary criticism; but, since the time of Wolf, it has been generally understood in a wider sense, as including the study of ancient life in all its phases, as handed down to us in the literature, the inscriptions, and the monuments, of Greece and Rome[4]. It has thus been interpreted by scholars such as Ast and Bernhardy, Boeckh and Otfried Müller, Ritschl and Haase[5]. In contrast to the comprehensive definition given by these, we have the narrower view best represented by Gottfried Hermann, who saw in ‘Philology’ a science of language alone[6].

The varied studies included within the province of ‘Philology’ have been grouped and classified in different ways by Wolf and Bernhardy, Boeckh and Müller, Ritschl, Reichardt and Haase’[7]. The tendency in the later classifications of the subject has been to make Grammar not a merely instrumental means towards the study of ‘Philology’, but one of the main subjects of study in itself. It has also become increasingly necessary to include among the introductory studies, the general and also the comparative Science of Language. Inscriptions, which were classed by Wolf under the heading of Art, are now rightly regarded as part of the written records of antiquity, and as supplying, side by side with Literature, part of the documentary evidence for the history and the antiquities of the Greek and Roman world[8].”

[1] F. Haase in Ersch und Gruber, s.v. ‘Philologie’ p. 383 n. 29.

[2] Kleine Schriften, ii 814 f.

[3] e.g. ‘classical learning’, studia humanitatis, and the unclassical term humaniora (criticised by Boeckh, Encyklopädie der philologischen Wissenschaften, p. 24 f).

[4] Kleine Schriften, 11 826

[5] Ast, Grundriss der Philologie (1808) p. i; Bernhardy, Grundlinien zur Encyklopädie der Philologie (1832) p. 48 — 53; Boeckh, Rheinisches Museum (1827) i 41; Müller (1836) Göttingen gel. Anzeiger, p. 169; Ritschl, Convers.-Lexikon, s.v. Philologie p. 501; and Haase in Ersch u. Gruber iii 23 p. 390 (all quoted in Freund’s Triennium Philologicum, i p. 5).

[6] Hermann’s view was attacked by Boeckh and Müller l.c. In the preface to the Acta Societatis Graecae he had spoken with contempt of the Comparative Philologists ‘qui ad Brachmanas et Ulphilam confugiunt atque ex paucis non satis cognitarum linguarum vestigiis quae Graecorum et Latinorum verborum vis sit explanare conantur’ (cp. Freund, pp. 12, 15).

[7] Wolf, Kleine Schriften, ii 894; Bernhardy, Grundlinien, p. xi; Boeckh, Encyklopädie, pp. 54 – 64; Müller, l.c ; Ritschl, l.c.; Reichardt, die Gliederung der Philologie (1846); and Haase, l.c. (transcribed in Freund, l.c. p. 8 — 14).

[8] Boeckh, Introd. to Corp. Inscr. Gr. vol. vii.

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