previous next

Wolf, Friedrich August

A great Homeric scholar, born in Hainrode, in Germany, on February 15th, 1759. He was educated in the University of Göttingen, where he also gave private lessons; and in 1779 removed to Ilfeld, where he became the teacher of a school. In 1782 he was made rector of the public school at Osterode, and in 1783 Professor of Philosophy at the University of Halle, where he remained until the university was closed in 1806, when he removed to Berlin and took an active part in the foundation of the new university in that city, being employed by the Minister of Public Instruction. Wolf had already won a commanding position among the scholars of Germany by his epoch-making Prolegomena in Homerum, prefixed to the second edition of his Homeri et Homeridarum Opera, which appeared in 1795. In it he set forth the so-called Wolfian theory of the origin of the Homeric poems, claiming that the Iliad is made up of a number of ballads and songs which at first existed separately in the verses of different rhapsodists, by whom they were handed down from generation to generation until they were united by Pisistratus in the singer's epic that was afterwards ascribed to Homer. This theory he based upon his assertion that writing was not known at the time of the composition of the poems, and also upon the contradictions and inconsistencies to be detected in the poems themselves. (See Homerus; Rhapsodus.) The Wolfian hypothesis was not original with Wolf himself, having been advanced before his time by other scholars (Casaubon, Vico, Bentley, Hedelin, Perrault, and Wood); but Wolf was the first to present the arguments with sufficient acuteness, logic, and impressiveness to make a profound impression upon the scholarship of the day.

Other valuable works of Wolf are his Demosthenis Leptinea, with a most learned introduction (1789); editions of Plato's Symposium; of Hesiod's Theogony; of Cicero's Tusculanae; of several of the Ciceronian Orations (Post Reditum in Senatu, Ad Quirites de Domo Sua, De Haruspicum Responsis, and the Oratio pro Marcello, which Wolf regarded as spurious); of the Clouds of Aristophanes; and of Casaubon's Suetonius. His Kleine Schriften, edited by G. Bernhardy, appeared in 2 vols. in 1869. Wolf died at Marseilles, August 8th, 1824. See Körte, Leben und Studien F. A. Wolf's, 2 vols. (Essen, 1833); Arnoldt, Wolf in seinem Verhältnisse zum Schulwesen und zur Pädagogik, 2 vols. (Brunswick, 1861-62); Bursian, Geschichte der class. Philologie (Munich, 1883); and Jebb's Homer (Glasgow, 1877). Cf. the article Textual Criticism.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: