1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Böckh, Philipp August

BÖCKH, PHILIPP AUGUST (1785–1867), German classical scholar and antiquarian, was born in Karlsruhe on the 24th of November 1785. He was sent to the gymnasium of his native place, and remained there until he left for the university of Halle (1803), where he devoted himself to the study of theology. F. A. Wolf was then creating there an enthusiasm for classical studies; Böckh fell under the spell, passed from theology to philology, and became the greatest of all Wolf’s scholars. In 1807 he established himself as privat-docent in the university of Heidelberg and was shortly afterwards appointed a professor extraordinarius, becoming professor two years later. In 1811 he removed to the new Berlin University, having been appointed professor of eloquence and classical literature. He remained there till his death on the 3rd of August 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.

Böckh worked out the ideas of Wolf in regard to philology, and illustrated them by his practice. Discarding the old notion that philology consisted in a minute acquaintance with words and the exercise of the critical art, he regarded it as the entire knowledge of antiquity, historical and philosophical. 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 Böckh set forth in a Latin oration delivered in 1822 (Gesammelte kleine Schriften, i.). In his speech at the opening of the congress of German philologists in 1850, he defined philology as the historical construction of the entire life—therefore, 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 (ib. ii.). An account of Böckh’s division of philology will be found in Freund’s Wie studirt man Philologie?

From 1806 till his death Böckh’s literary activity was unceasing. His principal works were the following:—(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 Notae Criticae: 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 still the most complete edition of Pindar that we have. But it was especially the treatise on the metres which placed Böckh in the first rank of scholars. This treatise forms an epoch in the treatment of the subject. 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 connexion 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 scientific treatment of Greek metres. (2) Die Staatshaushaltung der Athener, 1817 (2nd ed. 1851, with a supplementary volume Urkunden über das Seewesen des attischen Staats; 3rd ed. by Fränkel, 1886), translated into English by Sir George Cornewall Lewis (1828) under the title of The Public Economy of Athens. In it he investigated a subject of peculiar difficulty with profound learning. He amassed information from the whole range of Greek literature, carefully appraised the value of the information given, and shows throughout every portion of it rare critical ability and insight. A work of a similar kind was his Metrologische Untersuchungen über Gewichte, Münzfüsse, und Masse des Alterthums (1838). (3) Böckh’s 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, many of which are given in his book. It was natural, therefore, that when the Berlin Academy of Sciences projected the plan of a Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, Böckh should be chosen as the principal editor. This great work (1828–1877) is in four volumes, the third and fourth volumes being edited by J. Franz, E. Curtius, A. Kirchhoff and H. Röhl.

Böckh’s activity was continually digressing into widely different fields. He gained for himself a foremost position amongst the investigators of ancient chronology, and his name occupies a place by the side of those of Ideler and Mommsen. His principal works on this subject were: Zur Geschichte der Mondcyclen der Hellenen (1855); Epigraphisch-chronologische Studien (1856); Über die vierjährigen Sonnenkreise der Alten (1863), and several papers which he published in the Transactions of the Berlin Academy. Böckh also occupied himself with philosophy. One of his earliest papers was on the Platonic doctrine of the world, De Platonica corporis mundani fabrica (1809), followed by De Platonico Systemate Caelestium globorum et de vera Indole Astronomiae Philolaice (1810), to which may be added Manetho und die Hundsternperiode (1845). In opposition to Otto Gruppe (1804–1876), he denied that Plato affirmed the diurnal rotation of the earth (Untersuchungen über das kosmische System des Platon, 1852), and when in opposition to him Grote published his opinions on the subject (Plato and the Rotation of the Earth) Böckh 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 fertur (1811). Other philosophical writings were Commentatio in Platonis qui vulgo fertur Minoem (1806), and Philolaos’ des Pythagoreers Lehren nebst den Bruchstücken (1819), in which he endeavoured to show the genuineness of the fragments.

Besides his edition of Pindar, Böckh published an edition of the Antigone of Sophocles (1843) with a poetical translation and essays. An early and important work on the Greek tragedians is his Graecae Tragoediae Principum . . . num ea quae supersunt et genuina omnia sint et forma primitiva servata (1808).

The smaller writings of Böckh began to be collected in his lifetime. Three of the volumes were published before his death, and four after (Gesammelte kleine Schriften, 1858–1874). 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. Böckh’s lectures, delivered from 1809–1865, were published by Bratuschek under the title of Encyclopädie und Methodologie der philologischen Wissenschaften (2nd ed., Klussmann, 1886). His philological and scientific theories are set forth in Elze, Über Philologie als System (1845), and Reichhardt, Die Gliederung der Philologie entwickelt (1846). His correspondence with Ottfried Müller appeared at Leipzig in 1883. See Sachse, Erinnerungen an August Böckh (1868); Stark, in the Verhandlungen der Würzburger Philologensammlung (1868); Max Hoffmann, August Böckh (1901); and S. Reiter, in Neue Jahrbücher für das klassische Altertum (1902), p. 436.