Alex Soros reconsiders the brilliant yet largely overlooked 1935 book by Eliza Marian Butler, The Tyranny of Greece over Germany. Butler analyzes the obsession of German enlightenment and Romantic writers and poets with Greek art as the highest possible standard. Starting with the account of the classical antique statue Laocoön by J. J. Winckelmann, the father of art history and archaeology, through G. E. Lessing’s response in his essay Laocoön, through F. Schiller, J. W. von Goethe, and F. Hölderlin (who specifically spoke of “tyranny”), Butler concluded her study with H. Heine. To her surprise, Heine had up-ended the tradition of German Hellenism by shifting the emphasis from the Apollonian to the Dionysian, an achievement previously credited to Nietzsche, which alas continues to be seen in this way long after Butler. This world-historical moment in Western culture invites re-assessments of Nietzsche’s relation to Heine, Heine’s relation to German tradition, and the place of the ancient Greece in German culture and society that remains relevant today.
Alex Soros is the Founder of the Alexander Soros Foundation, Global Board Member of the Open Society Foundations, Advisory Board Member of Global Witness, Board Member of Bend the Arc and Board Member of the Central European University in Budapest. In 2015 and 2016 he was Guest at the IWM.