Goethe and Weimar: The Intellectual Capital of Germany

Robert Hermstorff describes how Goethe moved to Weimar in 1775 and during the rest of his long life made the small Saxon town the centre of German letters and learning.

Soft green hills, extensive parks and the briskly flowing river Ilm form the setting of Weimar, the centre of German Classical literature. In the last quarter of the eighteenth century the great poets and humanists, Goethe, Schiller, Herder and Wieland, established the international fame of Weimar and their presence made the Thuringian town the centre of German intellectual life and the cultural capital of Germany.

How did it happen that this small capital town cast its spell over the most important minds in Germany and through them was raised from anonymity to the ranks of a metropolis to which artists and scholars from all Europe began to flock from the 1790s? The town boasted none of the advantages of a favoured geographical situation, a wealthy ruling family, a body of citizens who were prosperous and interested in the arts, nor, indeed, splendid public buildings.

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