MOMMSEN, THEODOR (1817-1903), German historian and archaeologist, was born on Nov. 30, 1817 at Garding, in Schleswig. After being educated at Kiel he devoted himself to the study of Roman law and antiquities. In 1843 a grant from the Danish government enabled him to go to Italy, where he began his important investigation of Roman inscriptions. He collected the inscriptions of Samnium, and in 1852 published those of the kingdom of Naples. He was appointed in 1848 professor of civil law at Leipzig. His work there was interrupted by his political opinions. During 1848, when the extreme party was in the as cendant, Mommsen supported the monarchy. When the Revolu tion had spent its force and Beust executed his coup d'etat, he protested, with many of his colleagues, against this act. In conse quence he was dismissed from his professorship.
Becoming professor at Zurich, Mommsen wrote exhaustive mono graphs on Roman Switzerland, and began to work on his Roman History, the three volumes of which appeared between 1854 and 1856 (8th Germ. ed. 1888-94, Eng. trans. in Everyman series, 4 vols. 1911). In this he painted with astonishing vigour the great political struggle that accompanied the fall of the republic, but it was, above all, his new reading of old characters which demanded attention. Cicero, the favourite of men of letters, was for him "a journalist in the worst sense of the word"; Pompey, the hero of Plutarch and the Moralists, was brushed aside as a mere drill sergeant ; and the book culminated in the picture of Caesar, who established absolute rule in the name of democracy, "the complete and perfect man." In 1854 the Berlin Academy made him chief editor of a Corpus of all extant Roman inscriptions and in order that he might carry on the work he was appointed in 1858 to a professor ship at Berlin. The first volume appeared in 1861; five of the succeeding volumes he edited himself, and the whole was exe cuted under his supervision and with the co-operation of scholars whom he had trained. Mommsen also found time to write two
larger works, the History of the Roman Coinage and the Rd misches Staatsrecht, a profound analysis of Roman constitutional law, and Romisches Strafrecht, on Roman criminal jurisdiction. His Roman Provinces previously published in 1884 (Eng. trs. 2 vols. 1909) gives an interesting picture of social life under the empire. He was one of the founders of the Preussische Jahr Nicker, and for many years a member of the Prussian Parliament. Equally great as antiquary, jurist, political and social historian, Mommsen lived to see the time when among students of Roman history he had pupils, followers, critics, but no rivals. He com bined the power of minute investigation with a singular faculty for bold generalization and the capacity for tracing out the effect of thought on political and social life. Mommsen died at Char lottenburg on Nov. I, 1903.
In addition to the above, Mommsen's chief publications are: the Roman Chronology to the Time of Caesar (1858) ; his editions of the Monwmentum Ancyranum and of the Digest in the Corpus juris civilis, and of the Chronica of Cassiodorus in Monumenta Germaniae historica, the Auctores antiquissimi section of which was under his supervision. Many of his pamphlets and articles have been collected under the title Romische Forschungen. His Reden and Aufsdtze appeared in 1905 and his Schriften in 1905 foll. A full list of his works is given by C. Zangemeister, Mommsen als Schrifsteller (1887 ; continued by Jacobs, 1905). See also monographs by C. Bardt (1903) and Graden witz (1904, in the Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung fur Rechts geschichte) ; 0. Hirschfeld, Geddchtnisrede auf Mommsen (1904); L. M. Hartmann, T. Mommsen (1908) and M. Wilamowitz-Moellen dorf, T. Mommsen (1918).