Georg Friedrich Grotefend


Georg Friedrich Grotefend

Georg Friedrich Grotefend (June 9, 1775 - December 15, 1853), German epigraphist, was born at Hann. Münden and died in Hanover.

He was educated partly in his native town, partly at Ilfeld, where he remained till 1795, when he entered the university of Göttingen, and there became the friend of Heyne, Tychsen and Heeren. Heyne's recommendation procured for him an assistant mastership in the Göttingen gymnasium in 1797. While there he published his work "De pasigraphia sive scriptura universali" (1799), which led to his appointment in 1803 as prorector of the gymnasium of Frankfurt, and shortly afterwards as conrector.

Grotefend was best known during his lifetime as a Latin and Italian philologist, though the attention he paid to his own language is shown by his "Anfangsgründe der deutschen Poesie", published in 1815, and his foundation of a society for investigating the German tongue in 1817. In 1821 he became director of the gymnasium at Hanover, a post which he retained till his retirement in 1849. In 1823-1824 appeared his revised edition of Wenck's "Latin grammar", in two volumes, followed by a smaller grammar for the use of schools in 1826; in 1835-1838 a systematic attempt to explain the fragmentary remains of the Umbrian dialect, entitled "Rudimenta linguae Umbricae ex inscriptionibus antiquis enodata" (in eight parts); and in 1839 a work of similar character upon Oscan ("Rudimenta linguae Oscae"). In the same year he published an important memoir on the coins of Bactria, under the name of "Die Münzen der griechischen, parthischen und indoskythischen Könige von Baktrien und den Ländern am Indus".

He soon, however, returned to his favourite subject, and brought out a work in five parts, "Zur Geographie und Geschichte von Alt-Italien" (1840-1842.). Previously, in 1836, he had written a preface to Wagenfeld's translation of the spurious "Sanchoniathon" of Philo of Byblos, which was alleged to have been discovered in the preceding year in the Portuguese convent of Santa Maria de Merinhão.

But it was in the East rather than in the West that Grotefend did his greatest work. The cuneiform inscriptions of Persia had for some time been attracting attention in Europe; exact copies of them had been published by the elder Niebuhr, who lost his eyesight over the work; and Grotefend's friend, Tychsen of Rostock, believed that he had ascertained the characters in the column, now known to be Persian, to be alphabetic.

At this point Grotefend took the matter up. His first discovery was communicated to the Royal Society of Göttingen in 1800, and reviewed by Tychsen two years afterwards. In 1815 he gave an account of it in Heeren's work on ancient history, and in 1837 published his "Neue Beiträge zur Erläuterung der persepolitanischen Keilschrift". Three years later appeared his "Neue Beiträge zur Erläuterung der babylonischen Keilschrift". His discovery may be summed up as follows:
#that the Persian inscriptions contain three different forms of cuneiform writing, so that the decipherment of the one would give the key to the decipherment of the others
#that the characters of the Persian column are alphabetic and not syllabic
#that they must be read from left to right
#that the alphabet consists of forty letters, including signs for long and short vowels
#that the Persepolitan inscriptions are written in Zend (which, however, is not the case), and must be ascribed to the age of the Achaemcnian princes
#that a specific frequent word could refer to the Persian word for "king"
#that the inscriptions satisfy the two following schemes: A) X king, great king of king, son of Y king; B) Y king, great king of king, son of Z;
#that the presence of the two schemes A) and B) gives a wonderful opportunity to identify the people involved; it is necessary that X was a Persian king, his father was a Persian king too, "but" his grandfather was "not" king
#according to this idea Grotefend was able to identify X for Xerxes, Y for Darius and Z with Hystaspes.

The process whereby Grotefend arrived at these conclusions is a prominent illustration of genius. A basis had been laid for the interpretation of the Persian inscriptions. What remained was to work out the results of Grotefend's discovery, a task performed by Eugène Burnouf, Christian Lassen and George Rawlinson. Interestingly, this work of genius was spurred on by a simple bet which Grotefend made with a friend at a local pub and which, needless to say, he won.----


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Georg Friedrich Grotefend — Georg Friedrich Grotefend. Georg Friedrich Grotefend (* 9. Juni 1775 in Hann. Münden; † 15. Dezember 1853 in Hannover) war ein deutscher Sprachwissenschaftler und Altertumsforscher. Er begann mit der Entzifferung der Keilschrift …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Georg Friedrich Grotefend — (9 juin 1775 à Hannoversch Münden 15 décembre 1853 à Hanovre) est un philologue allemand, spécialiste de l antiquité. Il fut à l origine du déchiffrement de l écriture cunéiforme …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Georg Friedrich Grotefend — El texto que sigue es una traducción defectuosa o incompleta. Si quieres colaborar con Wikipedia, busca el artículo original y mejora o finaliza esta traducción. Puedes dar aviso al autor principal del artículo pegando el siguiente código en su… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Grotefend, Georg Friedrich — ▪ German scholar born June 9, 1775, Münden, Hanover [Germany] died Dec. 15, 1853, Hannover, Hanover  German teacher and language scholar who made the first major breakthrough in the decipherment of ancient Persian cuneiform script.       When… …   Universalium

  • GROTEFEND, GEORG FRIEDRICH —    antiquary and philologist, born at Minden, Hanover; was director of the Lyceum, Hanover; was the first to decipher the cuneiform inscriptions, a discovery which he gave to the world in 1802 (1775 1853) …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Georg Grotefend — Georg Friedrich Grotefend. Georg Friedrich Grotefend (* 9. Juni 1775 in Hann. Münden; † 15. Dezember 1853 in Hannover) war ein deutscher Sprachwissenschaftler und Altertumsforscher. Er begann mit der Entzifferung der …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Grotefend-Gymnasium Münden — Schulform Gymnasium Gründung vor 1376 Land …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Friedrich August Grotefend — (* 12. Dezember 1798 in Ilfeld; † 28. Februar 1836 in Göttingen) war ein deutscher Philologe. Friedrich August Grotefend war ein Sohn des Generalsuperintendenten Johann Gregor Grotefend und Neffe[1] von Georg Friedrich Grotefend, dem Entzifferer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Friedrich August Grotefend — (12 December 1798 in Ilefeld to 28 February 1836 in Göttingen) was a German philologist.Friedrich August Grotefend studied primarily in Göttingen and was a teacher in Pädagogium in Ilefeld in 1821. He received a professorship there in 1835,… …   Wikipedia

  • Georg-August-Universität Göttingen — Motto In publica commoda (Zum Wohle aller)[1] …   Deutsch Wikipedia