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Mommsen

Mommsen

[mom-suhn; Ger. mawm-zuhn]
Mommsen, Theodor, 1817-1903, German historian. Appointed (1848) professor of civil law at the Univ. of Leipzig, he supported the Revolution of 1848 and lost his chair because of his political opinions. He subsequently taught Roman law at Zürich and Breslau and, from 1858, ancient history at the Univ. of Berlin. After the unification (1870) of Germany he came to publicly oppose the policies of Bismarck. His greatest work is his History of Rome (3 vol., 1854-56; several English translations), a classic of historical writing. The fourth volume was never completed, but the fifth appeared in 1885. Mommsen's work, an unmatched re-creation of Roman society and culture, is based largely on his study of ancient coins, inscriptions, and literature. His liberal politics prejudiced his view of ancient history; his German contemporaries are clearly visible on his Roman scene. Although a great admirer of Caesar, he vigorously denounced Caesarism. Mommsen also wrote authoritatively on Roman law, notably in Römisches Staatsrecht (3 vol., 1871-76) and Römisches Strafrecht (1899), and on archaeology. He edited several volumes of the Monumenta Germaniae historica. Mommsen received the 1902 Nobel Prize in Literature.

(born Nov. 30, 1817, Garding, Schleswig—died Nov. 1, 1903, Charlottenburg, near Berlin, German Empire) German historian and writer. After studying law, he did research in Italy and became a master of epigraphy, the study and interpretation of inscriptions. In 1848 he became a professor of law at Leipzig, but he was soon dismissed for his participation in liberal political activities; he later held teaching posts elsewhere. He remained politically minded all his life. He is most famous for his History of Rome, 4 vol. (1854–56, 1885), considered his masterpiece. He edited the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (from 1863), a comprehensive collection of Latin inscriptions that greatly advanced understanding of life in the ancient world. His Roman Constitutional Law, 3 vol. (1871–88), represented the first codification of Roman law. His lifetime scholarly output was immense, his publications numbering almost 1,000. He received the 1902 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Learn more about Mommsen, (Christian Matthias) Theodor with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Mommsen is a surname, and may refer to one of a family of German historians, see Mommsen family:

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