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Werner Jaeger. Lithography by Max Liebermann (1915)

Werner Wilhelm Jaeger (July 30, 1888 – October 9, 1961) was a classicist of the 20th century.

Jaeger was born in Lobberich, Rhenish Prussia. He attended school at Lobberich and at the Gymnasium Thomaeum in Kempen Jaeger studied at the University of Marburg and University of Berlin. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Berlin in 1911 for a dissertation on the Metaphysics of Aristotle. His habilitation was on Nemesios of Emesa (1914). Only 26 years old, Jaeger was called to a professorship with chair at the University of Basel in Switzerland. One year later he moved to a similar position at Kiel, and in 1921 he returned to Berlin. Jaeger remained in Berlin until 1936, when he emigrated to the United States because he was unhappy with Adolf Hitler's regime. Jaeger's expressed his veiled disapproval with Humanistische Reden und Vortraege (1937) and his book on Demosthenes (1938) based on his Sather lecture from 1934. Jaeger's messages were fully understood in German university circles, the ardent Nazi followers sharply attacked Jaeger.

In the United States, Jaeger worked as a full professor at the University of Chicago from 1936 to 1939, at which time he moved to Harvard University to continue his edition of the Church father Gregory of Nyssa on which he started before World War I. Jaeger remained in Cambridge, Massachusetts until his death.

Jaeger wrote two dissertations, one in Latin and German, on Aristotle's Metaphysics. Jaeger's edition of Aristotle's Metaphysics was printed in 1957. Only two years after editing Gregory of Nyssa's Contra Eunomium (1921), Jaeger became famous with his groundbreaking study on Aristotle in 1923 which largely remained undisputed until the 1960s.

Jaeger founded two journals: Die Antike (1925-1944) and the influential review journal Gnomon (since 1925).

Jaeger was the editor of the church father Gregory of Nyssa, Gregorii Nysseni Opera, editing Gregory's major work Contra Eunomium (1921, 1960). This edition is a major scholarly achievement and the philological foundation of the current studies on the Cappadocian Fathers.

Jaeger is perhaps best known for his multivolume work "Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture", an extensive consideration of both the earliest practices and later philosophical reflections on the cultural nature of education in Ancient Greece, which he hoped would restore a decadent early 20th century Europe to the values of its Hellenic origins. Jaeger coined the term Paideia, a shorthand for Greek education and culture, which is now used like Polis, Hellenism or Renaissance ranging in its use from the journal Paideia to the Paideia Proposal.

Jaeger's last lecture, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (1961) is a very impressive summary of his life's work covering greek philology, philosophy and theology from Homer, the Presocratic Philosophers, Plato to the Church Fathers, roughly a thousand years.

The Papers of Werner Jaeger are housed at the Houghton Library (Harvard University).


  • Emendationum Aristotelearum specimen (1911)
  • Studien zur Enstehungsgeschichte der Metaphysik des Aristoteles (1911)
  • Nemesios von Emesa. Quellenforschung zum Neuplatonismus und seinen Anfaengen bei Poseidonios (1914)
  • Gregorii Nysseni Opera, vol. I-X (since 1921, latest 2009)
  • Aristoteles: Grundlegung einer Geschichte seiner Entwicklung (1923; English trans. by Richard Robinson (1902-1996), *Aristotle: Fundamentals of the History of His Development, 1934)
  • Platons Stellung im Aufbau der griechischen Bildung (1928)
  • Paideia; die Formung des griechischen Menschen, 3 vols. (German, 1933-1947; trans. by Gilbert Highet, *Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, 1939-1944)
  • Humanistische Reden und Vortraege (1937)
  • Demosthenes (Sather lecture, 1934, 1938 trans. by Edward Schouten Robinson; German edition 1939)
  • Humanism and Theology, 1943
  • The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers (Gifford lectures, 1936, Edward Schouten Robinson,1947; 1953 German edition)
  • Two rediscovered works of ancient Christian literature: Gregory of Nyssa and Macarius,1954
  • Aristotelis Metaphysica, 1957
  • Scripta Minora, 2 vol., 1960
  • Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (1961)
  • Gregor von Nyssa's Lehre vom Heiligen Geist, 1966

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