Eduard Fraenkel

David Mortier Eduard Fraenkel (17 March 1888 in Berlin – 5 February 1970 in Oxford) was a German-British philologist.

David Mortier Eduard Fraenkel
Born(1888-03-17)17 March 1888
Died5 February 1970(1970-02-05) (aged 81)
OccupationPhilologist, Chair of Latin at Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Background and early life

Eduard Fraenkel was born to Jewish parents in Berlin. His father was a wine dealer, and his mother the daughter of an important publishing family. At the age of ten, Fraenkel suffered from an attack of osteomyelitis in his right arm that deformed his right hand. From 1897 to 1906 he attended the Askanisches Gymnasium in Berlin, where he was educated in Greek and Latin. At University, he began to study law, but soon turned his attention to Classics at Berlin University under the great philologist Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff. After two years, he moved from Berlin to Göttingen where he stayed until 1912, studying under Friedrich Leo (1851–1914).

Oxford years and later life

After losing his post under the antisemitic laws passed in 1933, Fraenkel emigrated to Great Britain. In 1934 he was elected to a Bevan fellowship at Trinity College, Cambridge, but later in the year took up the Corpus Chair of Latin at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, a post he held until 1953. He was known to be an impressive and exhilarating, if formidable, teacher of both Latin and Greek literature. His wartime seminars on Aeschylus's Agamemnon were famous both in their own right and also for forming the basis of his edition of the play, published in 1950, which remains a monument of 20th-century classical scholarship. After 1953 he continued teaching as an honorary fellow. He received the freedom of the city of Sarsina, the birthplace of the playwright Plautus, to whose study Fraenkel made groundbreaking and lasting contributions. [1]

Several prominent female scholars have remarked since Fraenkel's death that he was known for inappropriate contact with his some of his female students during private lessons. Isobel Henderson, a tutor at Somerville College, warned students that they would learn much from Fraenkel but they would be "pawed about a bit." One of these students, the philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock, recounted being groped by Fraenkel in her memoirs.[2] Nevertheless, she later remarked that Fraenkel was the best teacher she had ever known and stresses that his status as a classical scholar is undiminished by his conduct towards women.[3] Cambridge classicist Mary Beard referred to him as a "serial groper", but noted that biographies omitted the "persistent sexual harassment" intrinsic to his teaching.[4]

Fraenkel took his own life on 5 February 1970, aged 81, a few hours after his wife died of natural causes.[2]


Eduard Fraenkel was one of the most prominent and respected classical philologists of the 20th century, publishing monumental studies of both Greek and Latin poets. Most well known are his book-length study of the Roman comic poet Plautus, Plautinisches im Plautus, which was later expanded and translated into Italian as Elementi Plautini in Plauto. An English version, entitled Plautine Elements in Plautus, was published in 2007 on the basis of the German and Italian versions. Also notable are his magisterial three volume text, commentary, and translation of the Agamemnon of Aeschylus, which remains one of the standard works of scholarship on that play, and a valuable study of the poetry of Horace.

Selected writings

  • — (1922). Plautinisches bei Plautus (in German). Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung.
    • — (2007). Plautine Elements in Plautus. Translated by Drevikovsky, Tomas; Muecke, Frances. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • — (1926). Die Stellung des Römertums in der humanistischen Bildung (in German). Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung.
  • — (1928). Iktus und Akzent im lateinischen Sprechvers (in German). Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung.
  • — (1930). Gedanken zu einer deutschen Vergilfeier (in German). Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung.
  • — (1933). Das Pindargedicht des Horaz (in German). Heidelberg: Carl Winter.
  • — (1950). Aeschylus: Agamemnon, edited with a commentary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    • — (1957). Der Agamemnon des Aeschylus. Ein Vortrag (in German). Zürich: Artemis.
  • — (1957). Die sieben Redenpaare im Thebanerdrama des Aeschylus (in German). Munich: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
  • — (1957). Horace. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
    • — (1963). Horaz (in German). Darmstadt: WBG.
  • — (1962). Beobachtungen zu Aristophanes (in German). Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura.
  • — (1963). Zu den Phoenissen des Euripides (in German). Munich: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
  • — (1965). Noch einmal Kolon und Satz (in German). Munich: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
  • Delz, Josef; — (2015). Schwarz, Georg; Nikitinski, Oleg (eds.). Briefwechsel 1947–1969. Eine Gelehrtenfreundschaft [Correspondence 1947–1969: A Scholarly Friendship] (in German). Munich: Symposion Eleutheron. ISBN 978-3-928411-81-3. OCLC 944186683.


  1. "Fraenkel, Eduard David Mortier". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/33241.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. Beard, Mary (2013). "What Gets Left Out". Confronting the classics: traditions, adventures, and innovations. London: Profile Books. pp. 263–69. ISBN 9781847658883. OCLC 843527477.
  3. Beard, Mary (1 August 2006). "Keeping sex out of scholarship". Times Literary Supplement.
  4. "Scholar fires sex harassment row". Times Higher Education (THE). 18 August 2006. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
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