Melanchthon, Philipp 1497–1560 Scholar and Lutheran Reformer

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Melanchthon, Philipp
Scholar and Lutheran

Philipp Melanchthon was an important figure in the world of education and humanism* in Germany. He founded schools throughout Germany and wrote several works on scholarly subjects. In addition, he played a key role in the Protestant Reformation*, first as a supporter of Martin Luther and later as a Protestant leader.

In 1509 Melanchthon studied at a Latin school, where he quickly mastered both Latin and Greek. At the age of 14, he received a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Heidelberg. Three years later Melanchthon received a master's degree at the University of Tübingen. While at Tübingen, Melanchthon produced his first scholarly work, an edition of plays by the ancient Roman author Terence.

In 1518 Melanchthon became the first professor of Greek at the University of Wittenberg, where he taught for the rest of his life. Melanchthon was determined to reform the university's course of studies along humanist lines. He wanted to alter the school's curriculum to include courses in the classical* languages of Greek, ancient Latin, and Hebrew. He also emphasized the need for courses in humanistic disciplines such as rhetoric* and history. Melanchthon's efforts changed education throughout Germany. In 1525 he helped found a new Latin school in Nürnberg, and he established similar schools in several other cities.

Melanchthon produced widely used grammar books in both Greek and Latin. He also published many texts by Latin and Greek authors for his students. His introductions and notes for these texts reveal his interest in such classical authors as the poets Homer and Virgil and the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle. Melanchthon also produced his own poetry, and copies of his letters appeared in print throughout the 1500s. In addition, he wrote one of the most important contributions to the humanities, Principles of Rhetoric.

Melanchthon won respect as a theologian* as well. Luther's writings greatly influenced Melanchthon. He blended his study of classical literatures with Luther's teachings, encouraging the study of the humanities as an introduction to religious studies. Melanchthon also produced the first religious textbook of the Protestant Reformation, Basic Topics in Theology. This work influenced generations of Protestants.

(See alsoEducation; Protestant Reformation. )

* humanism

Renaissance cultural movement promoting the study of the humanities (the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome) as a guide to living

* Protestant Reformation

religious movement that began in the 1500s as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church and eventually led to the establishment of a variety of Protestant churches

* classical

in the tradition of ancient Greece and Rome

* rhetoric

art of speaking or writing effectively

* theologian

person who studies religion and the nature of God