BOHLEN, Peter von

BOHLEN, Peter von. Wüppels, Jeverland 13.3.1796 — Halle 6.2.1840. German Indologist and Orientalist. Professor in Königsberg. Son of a poor farmer, Christian B., belonging to an old Pomoranian noble family, and Frauke Margaretha Ocken. Parents died early and he had a checquered life. He took up the old title of nobility discarded by the family, served as a tailor’s apprentice, as the servant of a French general, as waiter and as servant in a merchant family. With all this he had also time for school (from 1817 in Hamburg) and began as a schoolboy to study Hebrew, Arabic and Persian. From 1821 he studied theology and Oriental languages under Gesenius at Halle. Dissertation in 1822 brought the financial support of Prussian state and now he moved to Bonn in order to study Arabic (Freytag) and Sanskrit (A. W. von Schlegel). Also one term under Bopp at Berlin. From 1825 PD, 1826 ao. Professor and 1828 ord. Professor at Königsberg University. During a visit to London he got tuberculosis, retired in 1839, and moved to Halle, where he soon died. Married Anna Barbara Martial, at least two daughters, maternal grandfather of —> A. Conrady.

In Königsberg von Bohlen taught Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian, but was also interested in Hebrew. He was many-sided, and accordingly somewhat superficial, what he even himself confessed in case of grammar. He was much interested in archaeology and the Alte Indien with its nearly 1000 pages was a real monument. It replaced the Indian part of Heeren’s Ideen as the standard work, but was in turn soon superseded by Benfey and especially by Lassen’s Indische Alterthumskunde. The weak side was von Bohlen’s defective know­ledge of Sanskrit and therefore of Sanskrit literature, so that his main sources were often classical accounts and travel books. Like Jones and Heeren before, he was all the time comparing India to Egypt, supposing Indian influence in Egypt (Jones had already derived Osiris from īśvara). His etymologies were often fanciful (bhūḥ = βοῦς!) and were sharply criticized even by his contemporaries such as A. W. von Schlegel. In 1831 he was the last to defend the unfortunate hypothesis of the Avesta being not a genuine language, but sort of corrupt Sanskrit, soon definitely disproven by Burnouf in 1833. He was “eigenwilliger und nicht besonders hoch einzuschätzender” scholar (M. Hahn in Jb. der Albertus-Univ. zu Königsberg 29, 1994). Among his students were Gold­stücker and Nesselmann.

Publications: Diss. Symbolae ad interpretationem Sacr. Cod. ex lingua Persica. 47 p. Lipsiae 1822; hab.diss. Carmen arabicum Amuli dictum. Regiomontani 1826; also Commentatio de Motenabbio, Poeta Arabum celeberrimo ejusque carminibus. 10+136+4 p. Bonnae 1824.

De Buddhaismi origine et aetate definiendis Tentamen. 40 p. Regiomontani 1827.

Reviews: Rosen’s Radices Sanskritae, Jb. für wiss. Kritik 1828:1, 65-85; Burnouf’s & Lassen’s Essai sur le Pali and Lassen’s Pentapotamia, Ibid. 1829:1, 8-24; Schlegel’s Réflexions, Ibid. 1834:1, 265-272; Tod’s Annals and Antiquities, Ibid. 1834:2, 532-542, 545-555, 681-692, 697-704.

Das alte Indien, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf Aegypten dargestellt. 1-2. Kgb. 1830.

Vergleichung des Litauischen mit dem Sanskrit. 1830.

Commentatio de origine linguae zendicae e sanscrita repetendae. 61 p. Rgm. 1831.

Die Genesis, historisch-kritisch erläutert. 199+506 p. Königsberg1835.

Bhartiharis sententiae et Carmen quod Chauri nomine circumfertur eroticum. 19+246 p. B. 1833 (text, Latin transl. and notes of Bh. and Bilhaṇa); Die Sprüche des Bhartrihari. 186 p. Hamburg 1835 (metric German transl.); Ritusanhâra, id est Tempestatum cyclus, carmen sanskritum, Kâlidâso adscriptum, ed., Lat. inter­pre­tatione, germanica versione metrica atque annott. instruxit. 8+160 p. Lipsiae 1840.

Autobiographie des ordentl. Professors der oriental. Sprachen und Literatur an der Universität zu Königsberg Dr. Peter von Bohlen. Hrsg. von J. Voigt. 118 p. Königsberg 1841.

Sources: *A. Benary, review of autobiography, Jb. wiss. Kritik 1841:1, 625-645; *Leo Both, Jb. der Albertus-Univ. zu Königsberg 29, 1994, 755-762; A. Leskien, A.D.B. 3, 1876, 61; *G.H.F. Nesselmann, “Erinnerungen an den Professor v. Bohlen”, Provinzial-Blätter 2:1, 1852; Windisch 86-89; Wikipedia (see also German version); portrait in Autobiographie, reproduced in Sardesai, Rau 9 and Wikipedia.

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