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Müller, Otfried

    Full Name: Müller, Otfried

    Other Names:

    • Karl Otfried Müller

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1797

    Date Died: 1840

    Place Born: Brieg, Silesia, Prussia

    Place Died: Athens, Region of Attica, Greece

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): archaeology and Classical


    Archaeologist and general classical-studies scholar, including art history, at Göttingen University. Müller was the son of minister. He initially attended the university in Breslau and the classes of Barthold Niebuhr (1776-1831) on Roman history. Settling on Classics as a field, he moved to Berlin where he continued study with Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), Philipp Buttmann (1764-1829) and most importantly for Müller, August Böckh (1785-1867). Böckh instilled in the young Müller the notion of using all sources of ancient history to construct a comprehensive view of the past. This Müller did with stunning impact, beginning with his 1817 dissertation, Aegineticorum liber, a history of the island of Aegina. Müller succeeded Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker at Göttingen University in 1819, still only twenty-two, with the title Extraordinarius professor. Müller published books on mythology and the Dorian peoples before proceeding to art history. De Phidiae vita et operibus, a discussion of the sculptor Phidias and the Elgin marbles (brought to England in 1812), appeared in 1827. Handbuch der Archäologie der Kunst of 1830 summarized the field and was quickly translated into French and English. After that, books on Greek and Latin literary history as well as on other areas followed. During a trip to Delphi in Greece in 1839, Müller became ill and died in in 1840 in Athens. He is buried at Colonus, Greece. His students included Ernst Curtius, in whose presence Müller died while on research visit.Müller was the first great German classicist to visit England and his books were early translated into English. His penchant for describing ancient peoples as “races” was usurped by the Nazis in the 1930s to connect Greeks with an Aryan lineage, divorcing them from Semitic contexts, something Müller never intended. The revolution he created in classical scholarship was disseminated more by books than his students (Calder).

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Aegineticorum liber. Berlin: Libraria Reimeriana, 1817; Müller, Eduard, editor. Karl Otfried Müller’s kleine deutsche Schriften über Religion, Kunst, Sprache und Literatur. 2 vols. Breslau, J. Max und Komp., 1847-1848; Handbuch der Archäologie der Kunst. Breslau: J. Max, 1830, English, based on the 2nd German ed.: Ancient Art and its Remains or, A Manual of the Archaeology of Art. London: A. Fullarton & Co., 1847; Prolegomena zu einer wissenschaftlichen Mythologie. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1825; De Phidiae vita et operibus commentationes tres. Göttingen: Typis Dieterichianis, 1827; and Wieseler, Friedrich, and Oesterley, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm. Denkmäler der alten Kunst. 2 vols. Göttingen: In der Dieterichschen Buchhandlung, 1832-1856.


    Gooch, G. P. History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century. 2nd edition. New York: Longmans, Green, 1952, pp. 33-38 [notes on work, tragic death]; Archäologenbildnisse: Porträts und Kurzbiographien von Klassichen Archäologen deutscher Sprache. Reinhard Lullies, ed. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1988: 23-24; Calder, William C. “Müller, Karl Otfried.” Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, vol. 2, pp. 773-4; Ranke, Karl Ferdinand. Carl Otfried Müller: ein Lebensbild. Berlin: A.W. Hahn’s Erben, 1870.


    "Müller, Otfried." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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