Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1902
Born: 30 November 1817, Garding, Schleswig (now Germany)
Died: 1 November 1903, Charlottenburg, Germany
Residence at the time of the award: Germany
Prize motivation: “the greatest living master of the art of historical writing, with special reference to his monumental work, A history of Rome”
Prize share: 1/1
Theodor Mommsen came from the Duchy of Schleswig, which, at his birth, was part of Denmark. After his studies he became professor of Roman history in Berlin. He was also politically active. During the upheavals of 1848, he supported a constitutional reform, and later he was active in the nationalist liberalism movement. He stood for an inclusive nationalism and was an outspoken opponent of anti-Semitism. At the same time, he supported a strong German nation and felt the Slavic countries to the east were a threat.
Theodor Mommsen was trained in both history and law, and this combination was important for his research career. His Nobel Prize was motivated primarily by his pioneering three-volume work about Roman history, Römische Geschichte. It depicted different aspects of the Roman Republic's history: political, legal, economic, cultural and even geographical and meteorological. His writing was vivid and empathetic, and it was for these literary qualities that he was awarded the Nobel Prize.