The Ermanarich cycle was just the beginning of Nietzsche’s historical studies. His next, more purely philological, effort took shape around the early sixth- century все Greek poet Theognis, in a work titled De Theognide Megarensi (henceforth, DTM). By the fall of 1864, Nietzsche had completed three sections of what would become his Valediktionsarbeitl' The piece was well regarded by his teachers at Schulpforta, Wilhelm Corssen and Dietrich Volkmann. In fact, on the merit of the thesis, Nietzsche sufficiently impressed the faculty at Schulpforta to grant him an ‘extraordinarius commendation in Greek. As a result, Nietzsche was moved to the head of the class at Pforta and encouraged to apply to the best university for classical studies, the home of Otto Jahn and Friedrich Ritschl: Bonn.20
The first part of the DTM essay deals with the life of Theognis and the sociohistorical background of his native Megara. Although it is not above debate, as we shall soon see, the Greeks ofhis day typically considered Theognis a teacher of wisdom and virtue due to his morally- and politically-colored apothegms in elegiac verse. He wrote in a style similar to that of Callinus of Ephesus, Tyrtaeus of Sparta, Solon of Athens, and Phokylides of Miletus, with each of whom he was later confused. Theognis’ lyric expresses political wisdom intended to stir the nostalgic sentiments of his fellow citizens with themes of honor and patriotism. His city of Megara, after claiming its independence from the colonial rule of Corinth, fell under the influence of the Doric aristocracy soon after. As with many city-states, titles of nobility and legal right passed through hereditary estates or were sometimes granted to soldiers of exceptional valor. In about 630 все, the despot Theagenes came to power through a series of disingenuous promises of social empowerment made to the lower classes. When Theagenes’ aristocratic favoritism was later revealed, there followed a lengthy period of civil war, during which the aristocrats were ousted, then reinstated, then ousted again. The original elegies of Theognis date from this period of instability, when democracy began to displace the entrenched aristocracy. As Theognis considered himself a noble, he lamented the ill fortune of his class and the ruin of the art and temples by the poor who were no longer ‘willing’ to pay the taxes that supported their upkeep. Most of all, he condemned the contamination of the noble bloodline that resulted from the intermarriage of nobles and the commoners. Theognis himself was likely exiled shortly after he composed his first elegies, during the ousting of the
Theognis uses the term ‘good’ as a synonym for the ‘noble’ while ‘common’ is made equivalent to ‘wicked.’ Nothing virtuous or honorable could be expected from the SsiAoi (wretched or poor). Conversely, nothing untoward might derive from what is iaQAos (good or fortunate). This social distinction is just the way nature had intended human society to function. How unjustly paradoxical, Theognis thought, that this natural order was everywhere usurped by the intermingling of noble and base through the fluctuating dynamic of commercial advantage. Before, wealth had been earned either by profitably arranged marriages between noble families or by capital inherited from territories won by force and passed down through generations. But with the rapid expansion of sea-mercantilism came the wider possibility that even a man born of the lower classes could make his fortune through ingenuity and cunning. Gaining political influence was a new class of merchant: sailors and pirates, who, since they quickly accrued substantial wealth, began to attract the daughters of the ‘old rich.’ Such mixing of the bloodlines effectively enabled cultural competition where previously none was possible: the age-old antagonism between old money and the nouveau-riche2
Theognis railed against this unpalatable new bourgeois class that shamelessly combined fabulous wealth and ignoble birth.
Even among rams and asses and horses, Kyrnos, we select those of pure breeding, and choose to mate only those of good rearing.
Yet a noble man does not mind marrying a base woman of base birth if she brings along plenty of money.
Nor does a woman avoid becoming the wife of a base but wealthy man, preferring a rich husband to a good one.
Possessions are what they honor; the noble weds a base man’s daughter, the base marries a worthy man’s daughter: wealth mixes the race.
Thus do not be amazed, son of Polypaos, that the townspeople grow feeble, for noble is now mixed with base.
As the first author Nietzsche researched in any depth who articulated how an ‘agon’ between two groups of approximately similar social strength would inculcate a transvaluation of values, Theognis was clearly influential.  The notion that cultural values varied according to material conditions, that pedagogy could affect change more effectively than institutional involvement, and that Rangordnung was essential for a flourishing society - each of these themes Nietzsche first found in the poetry of Theognis.
But just here we find, as we did with Ermanarich, a historical puzzle. In the course of his research for DTM, Nietzsche was made aware that this ‘hard’ and ‘grim’ portrayal was not always confirmed by other authorities. There seemed to be certain inconsistencies in the writings of Theognis that lent themselves to an impossibly wide variety of interpretations in both Hellenistic and Modern times. On the one hand, Plato considered Theognis to be a fine model for aristocratic moral values. Isocrates named him “apiarag оифоиЛоС, [the best measure].” On the other hand, centuries later, the philologist Wilhelm
Teuffel would find him “embittered by society” and “vengeful toward the commoners.” Goethe himself would write, “He appears to us as a pathetic Greek hypochondriac.” Thus while to the twenty-year-old Nietzsche Theognis’ poetry symbolized the very “Glaubensbekenntnih des Adels [the creed of the nobles]” - or, said in his Latin, “Habemus igitur illam superbam Doriensis nobilitatis persuasionem [we have here, therefore, that supreme persuasion of Doric nobility]”  - he himself questioned the authenticity of that caricature. Far from straightforwardly presenting Theognis as the paradigm of noble instincts, Nietzsche is well aware of the counter-image of Theognis that had been prevalent since the Middle Ages.
Theognis seems like a cultured and decadent Junker, with the passions of a Junker; loving his time, full of deathly hatred against the emerging people, tossed about by a sad fate that grinds him down in various ways and makes him milder: a portrait of that ancient blood-nobility, quick-witted, somewhat corrupt and no longer firmly rooted, situated at the boundary between an old epoch and a new one, a distorted Janus-face, since to him the past seems so beautiful and enviable, while what lies ahead, of equal merit in its own right, seems brutal and repugnant, a typical testament to all those noble forms, which represent the aristocracy before a popular revolution, who see their prerogatives threatened for eternity and induce them to battle and to struggle with the same passion for the existence of their class as for their own
Theognis had been made to appear a Junker; he defends something no longer defensible - the possibility of nobility in a world where and a time when the nobility has been displaced by the rise of the new rich. Now it seems the declining times produced a declining figure whose only recourse is to lament his sad state of affairs and entreat the youth to do the same.
In 1867, Nietzsche published in his mentor Friedrich Ritschl’s renowned journal Das Rheinische Museum fUr Philologie a revised and more extensive version of DTM entitled Zur Geschichte der Theognideischen Spruchsammlung (henceforth, GTS).34 Nietzsche had presented his earlier work to the Leipzig philology club, and, after having added margin notes that took account of the questions and comments entertained at the meeting, gave the text to Ritschl following one of his class lectures. Less than a week later, Ritschl informed his student that “never before had he encountered such a sureness of approach and such a mastery of analytical technique in a third-semester student.” Nietzsche’s response to the eminent Ritschl’s endearment was positive elation: “Ever since that day when Ritschl assessed my Theognis paper so favorably, I have been very close to him. I go to him almost weekly at noon and find him always prepared, and always an earnest and lively conversation ensues.”
Nietzsche immersed himself anew in the scholarly literature on Theognis. Among the opinions he most closely followed are those found in Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker’s Theognidis Reliquiae,37 and Theodor Bergk’s Poetae Lyrici Graeci3 both of which were procured for him with the help of his teacher Volkmann. From his friend Mushacke, Nietzsche requested several manuscript editions out ofthe University ofBerlin library: the rvM^oAoyiai ПаЛаютатгш novqrwv edited by Turnebus (1553), and the Theognis Codex editions produced by Camerarius (1559), Seberus (2nd edition, 1620), Vinetus (1543), and Stephanus (1566 and 1588). Nietzsche consulted the more recent manuscripts and codices edited by Immanuel Bekker (1815, 1827), Schneidewin (1838), and three shorter publications by Bergk (1843, 1853, 1866). He knew well the critical work of Gottfried Bernhardy (1836), that of Carl Dilthey (1863) (brother of the philosopher), and the Habilitationschrift of Karl Rintelen (1858). Nietzsche even reviewed a then-recent edition of the Mutinensis manuscript of Theognis published by Christopher Ziegler in 1868. Nietzsche was familiar with Karl Otfried Muller’s Geschichte dergriechischen Literatur, in which a similar effort is made to erect a Theognidean Charakterbild as an illustration of the older Doric culture.
With his research completed, Nietzsche gave a complete philological exposition to the problem raised in his 1864 dissertation. His main argument was that the massive train of elegiac verse attributed to Theognis was actually the arranged product of a later redactor. The grouping of gnomic apothegms that we have received reflects an intentional method of organization by this redactor according to certain Stichworter or ‘catchwords’ of shorter poems, many of which are now believed - in part due to Nietzsche’s article - to have been written by Tyrtaeus of Sparta, Mimnermus of Smyrna, and Solon of Athens. Nietzsche insisted, “Our collection is arranged neither thematically nor alphabetically. But surely it is arranged according to words. The fragments are linked together by catchwords [Stichworten], such that each pair of fragments has the same or a similar word in common.” Nietzsche lists hundreds of these repetitious chains of catchwords that occur throughout the poem. Their interconnectedness implies that the phrases in which they are found were intentionally linked together in order to form out of the many smaller gnomic verses one grand, if unwieldy, elegiac chain.
With his schematization of the poem’s catchwords, Nietzsche suggests that smaller phrases which contained one of these words were grouped together in order to form a sort of subject heading. Later copyists evidently took these to be titles for the various stanzas, and embedded the reduplicated words within subsequent editions of the text. Thus, when the redactor located phrases containing the words fiAos [love] or nAouros [wealth], he cut them from their original thematic context and tied them to other apothegms irrespective of their contextualized meaning. Worse yet, when the redactor could not find a suitable catchword to link other fragments, he apparently selected short gnomic poems from other authors which were then interspersed throughout the text of Theognis. His action suffices to explain the otherwise verbatim repetitions found throughout the Greek text of Theognis. And it would explain why such awkward thematic combinations and passages from other poets disfigure the Theognis anthology that history has granted us.
Let us take an example to illustrate Nietzsche’s contention about the Stichworter.
np^^iv ipPoioiv avaKoivso naoiv
naupoi toi noAAav niorov syouoi voov.
75 naupoioiv niouvo<7 у>?уаЛ ’ avSpaoiv spy ’ sniysipsi,
nor ’ avqKsorov, Kupvs, Ла? щ^ avirjv.
nioro^ avi)p ypuoou rs Kai apyupou avrspuoaodai a?io(7 sv уаЛёп^, Kupvs, Siyooraofr/.
Do not discuss any such matters, even with all those friends, for indeed few of those many have a trustworthy mind.
Trust few when attempting great works, Cyrnus,
Lest you come to endure unceasing hardship.
A trustworthy man in times of civil strife, Cyrnus, is worth his weight in gold and silver.
‘Trust’ (my emphasis) is evidently the catchword that the redactor used in assembling the long text we now possess, gauche as the verse may sound. The arrangement is not alphabetical, nor does it suggest any thematic cohesion beyond the single word ‘trust.’ To a philologist’s critical eye, the text implicates an alteration made for some other purpose besides poetic elegance. Nietzsche’s contention is that the text of Theognis was arranged according to a specific and intentional method, and done so at a definite point in time after the original composition of Theognis himself.
Explaining why this happened requires outlining the chronology of the text. Nietzsche classifies the medieval manuscripts into three families of texts. The oldest medieval manuscript known to Nietzsche and to us is the tenth-century Pariser Pergamenthandschrift, MS (A), dubbed the Codex Mutinensis by Immanuel Bekker in 1815. MS (A) is the only one that includes the Musa Paedica, a rather lurid collection of pederastic poems. Second, the Codex Vaticanus (O) of the thirteenth century and the Codex Venetus Marcianus (K) of the fifteenth century are traceable to a common source and contain some copy errors and omissions, but no additional editorial interpolations beyond what is contained in MS (A). Nietzsche’s third group contains the rest of the MSS, which are each severely corrupted.
To make matters more complicated, there are inconsistencies in the transmission of the Theognidean manuscripts from ancient times to the medieval for which the transmission records we possess from medieval times to modern cannot account. The problem is compounded since the oldest text, the Codex Mutinensis, in which we would expect to find the fewest, actually contains the most editorial additions. Here we do not merely find adjustments within words, e.g., cases or conjugations, but whole additions of structures, phrases, and even entire sentences, all in accordance with the catchword principle. These very obvious repetitions are never mentioned before the fifth century ad, but are frequently cited thereafter. This led Nietzsche to doubt the authenticity of large sections of the inherited manuscripts and to question the lurid Musa Paedica as a later interpolation, since it is found only in the earliest edition and plainly does not gibe with either the rest of Theognis’ writings or with the reputation allotted him by antiquity.
Given the propensity of older MSS to contain more Stichworter, and to contain them in a more systematic and frequentative pattern, Nietzsche believes that their arrangement was not due simply to later copyists, but was a characteristic of the originally redacted text out of which MS (A) was made. This now lost edition of the corpus was first in use some time between the late fourth and mid fifth centuries, between the time of the moral writings of Julian Apostate and Stobaeus, who appear to have been familiar with different versions of the text. This was at a time, Nietzsche stresses, when the clash between Christian and Pagan worldviews reached its apex. More recent manuscripts, those dating from after the composition of the tenth-century MS (A), suggest that later editors not only refrained from new additions but even sought to repeal the redactions of the MS (A), opting to marginalize an increasing number of what they perceived were unnecessary emendations due to the Stichworter repetitions. They also removed the Musa Paedica, evidently since its pederastic overtones were viewed at that time by Renaissance copyists as tastelessly out of keeping in the work of an author so highly regarded by the ancients. The tenth-century MS (A) is thus paradoxically the furthest from Theognis’ own intentions as we know them through the testimonies of various pre-fourth-century authors and chroniclers. Since Nietzsche believes it impossible that every ancient authority had so badly misread Theognis, it must be the case that his work had been altered at a time between their writing and the writers after Stobaeus. Indeed, Nietzsche contends that the text as we now have it is not simply a bad patchwork of foreign materials, nor an arrangement based on an innocent misinterpretation, nor a collection of drinking songs, nor even — the reigning thesis today - a cumulative synthesis of Megarian folk poetry from different generations, but an extended elegiac, written originally by a single author, which from a specific time was intentionally rearranged and transformed by this later redactor.
Theognis appears now to have been a miser, a drunk, and even a pederast. In this guise, we hear him whine, “Often I’m racked with helplessness, distressed in my heart, for never having risen beyond poverty.” “I’ll drink my fill, without a thought for soul-destroying poverty or enemies who speak ill of me. But I lament the lovely boy who is leaving me, and weep at the approach of grim old age.”61 And even: “Happy is the man who at home engages in erotic exercises, sleeping all day long with a pretty boy.”62 Against this decaying world, Theognis appears no stalwart, no longer resembling anything like that poet who once said, “expend yourself in the pursuit of excellence, hold justice dear to you, but let no shameful advantage take hold ofyou.”63 Apparently, Theognis can now only respond to life with the tragic wisdom of Silenus, which Nietzsche would later adopt in the third chapter of his Birth of Tragedy:
425 Tlavrav [sv (puvai iniydovioiioiv apiorov
цп5 ’ soiSew auyat~ o^soC т)еЛlou,
(puvra S’ опаС акюта пиЛаС ’AiSao neprjoai xai Ksiodai noAAqv yrv ina^noa^svov.
Best of all for those on earth is never to be born, never to look upon the rays of the keen-burning sun.
Once born, however, it is best to pass most quickly through Hades’ gates and to lie beneath a great heap of earth.
From his skepticism about the manuscript tradition, Nietzsche believes he has discerned what really took place in the past: “our collection is apparently not what determined antiquity’s judgment on Theognis: it isn’t moral enough. The verses cited in antiquity were just not cited as they stand here.” The text of Theognis was assembled to make him appear deplorable and to make the culture who respected him as a pedagogue appear hea- then. Nietzsche intimates that the original Theognis certainly wasn’t this pathetic; his legacy is the victim of the Christian attack on pagan culture. “Was the editor of the Musa Paedica a pseudonymous ancient, a monk?” To show the effects of that attack, Nietzsche turned from the medieval to the ancient manuscript tradition, designating three phases of alteration dating from the thousand years between the floruit of Theognis and the writing of Stobaeus. The real, authentic text written in Theognis’ hand shortly before his exile was first augmented by the interpolation of about 2,800 verses called the rvw^oAoyia npoC, Kupvov sometime shortly after, at a time when Theognis was already well known. As such, his thoughts on the nature of political society and the essence of good and evil were first given their gnomic and pedagogical tonality. This was not done maliciously, but only to lend Theognis’ philosophical speculations on the character of virtue and vice a direct and then much-needed practical relevance: to rally the youth of Megara to the call of their noble heritage and to remain virtuous in the face of tyranny. Philosophical musings were transformed into practical exhortations in order to better fit the needs of a transformed literary audience. During the second phase of the ancient transmission, assorted apothegms of Theognis were utilized in the writings of Plato, in Xenophon, and by Isocrates, centuries after Theognis was dead and his political point of reference made irrelevant. These later authors knew Theognis through what had become a chrestomalogical (student handbook) gnomology of around 5,000-6,000 verses. Believed to be the author of this collection, Theognis was now held up as a pedagogue of civic virtue rather than a revolutionary, and as such was put in the service of the various Socratic schools to fit their own needs. So although they had not made something ‘intolerable’ out of Theognis, during this phase of transmission, “One no longer reads Theognis; he became a schoolbook!” The revolutionary tones of Theognis had gradually become pedagogical advice; and a “moralizing sentiment,” by which Nietzsche means the intrusions of lines originally written by Callinus, Tyrtaeus, Solon, and Phokylides, had actually been imported against Theognis’ own intentions.
By the third phase of transmission in the time of Cyril and Julian, Nietzsche thinks the image of Theognis became further confused, as these interpolations became regular. Yet, evidently no Stichworter arrangement had been employed.  Sometime between Plato and these later writers an anthology of Theognis’ gnomics came into existence, the so-called theogni- deische Gnomensammlung, which, Nietzsche rather doggedly believes, would not have contained the lurid eroticism prominent in the Musa PaedicaJ7 Because it was used in the schools, there came an increasing need to thematically codify the scattered advisory remarks interpolated into Theognis’ text. At this point, Nietzsche’s alleged redactor rearranged the text according to a convenient principle of classification - the Stichworter principle - and added or subtracted verses where he saw fit. And so, by the time of Stobaeus we find the same version of the Theognideischen Spruchsammlung that is obvious in the Codex Mutinensis, MS (A), where the catchword principle is established, the pederasty and drunkenness is included, and the original intentions of Theognis have all but disappeared.
As Nietzsche concludes his manuscript history, “Therefore, if Athenaeus, Julian, and Cyril - ad 433 at the latest - did not know our redaction, but if it was used by Stobaeus, then it follows that its appearance must fall between 433 and [the writings of] Stobaeus, within the fifth century ad.”78 Subsequent copyists had ignored the textual emendations made around that time, and, with the passing of the centuries, the error became ever more firmly entrenched. Hence, the Theognis text out of which MS (A) was made actually dates from a fifth-century ad version. And in that century, Nietzsche notes, the moral intentions of the devoted Christian editors could not have been further from the original authorial motivations of Theognis.79 For at that time one did not credit ancient pagan sources with an upstanding moral doctrine, unless it was consistent with the teachings of the early Church. Even the later gnomological handbook of Theognis was far from that; and thus an effort was made to slander his name while at the same time revealing Plato and Isocrates as heathens for their praises of him. The Musa Paedica was interpolated in order to make Theognis look wicked, and to strengthen the increasingly popular insinuations of pagan Greek depravity. The image of Theognis as a ‘pathetic Greek hypochondriac’ was thus due to no fault of Theognis’ making, but the result of the deliberate vilification of ancient authors by the early Christians. The real Theognis, and even the later pedagogical Theognis, was made to appear as a drunk, a pederast, and a cheat. “One might believe that he [the redactor] had assembled everything; out of what was somehow put into circulation under the name of Theognis, he constructed a new Theognis from the disiectis membrispoetae.”8°
In this way, the work preserved under the name of Theognis is actually a parody of the real Theognis’ intentions. “All the more do I ardently believe the redactor had a hostile, indeed a parodistic, tendency toward Theognis.
has been agreed, contra Nietzsche, that the Musa Paedica is both stylistically and thematically consistent with the rest of the Theognidean corpus, and that therefore we lack sufficient evidence to suggest it was interpolated during the fifth century. See West (1974), 43; Vetta (198°), xi.
78 KGW11/1, 35-36. Nietzsche’s emphasis. 79 KGW11/1, 38. 8° KGW11/1, 29.
According to this collection, Theognis the pedagogue should only appear as a bon vivant, as a drunk, a lover, even as a pederast, as the proxy of a flaccid morality; in short, the redactor loaded him with every fault from which a pedagogue should be free.” As part of the Christian effort to disparage the ancient pagan worldview, this Christian editor used his editorial weapons to further distort and further vilify the image of antiquity.
Since we now know that the redactor had a hostile tendency toward Theognis, we should no longer believe it was a harmless oversight. He sought weapons to hurt him: he intentionally introduced shadows here and there in the pure character portrait of Theognis. Hence, he assembled parodies of Theognis, and added verses of Mimnermus, which, mushy in tone, oddly contrast the hard, energetically powerful, often foreboding and grim thoughts ofTheognis.
Nietzsche’s historiography is substantially more complex in his 1867 study than in his work on Ermanarich, predictably so given his maturation as a scholar. But, as the key feature of both, we see a philologically careful linguistic analysis of an inherited presupposition about a historical personality. And beyond this skeptical moment we see in both cases how Nietzsche transgresses the boundaries of careful analysis to attribute psychological motivations to a hypothetical construct on behalf of which nothing could definitively be proven. Nietzsche consciously realized his method even back in the 1864 version, and records this tension in a letter addressed to both Gustav Krug and Wilhelm Pinder: “I have recently allowed myself a certain quantity of supposition and fantasy, but I plan to carry the work out to the end, and set it upon a true philological foundation and in a manner as scientific as possible.’”
What is meant by ‘scientific’ historiography will be discussed in the next chapter. But for now Nietzsche seems clearly to recognize both a scientific and non-scientific element in his writing, the former concerned with what critical philology can prove or disprove to be factual of the real past as it really was, the latter with what can merely be supposed speculatively. Nietzsche adds something ‘fantastical’ to the reconstruction ofTheognis. Without it, however, the most we could say about the redaction is that it renders any philologically verifiable - i.e., factually accurate - account impossible. But Nietzsche does not remain at the level of ‘skeptical philology’; rather he adds to the ‘facts’ about Theognis and the limitations of those ‘facts’ a suppositional construction of personality.
“It is a fact, that very many of the fragments (more than half), are connected by catchwords; it is a supposition, that the entire collection was arranged in this way.” Already by 1910 many scholars had accepted Nietzsche’s ‘fact’ but at the same time had noticed that his ‘supposition’ did not follow. As Hudson-Williams objects, “It must first be proven that the poems were intentionally arranged on this principle.” But to prove something about the redactor’s intentions means to prove something about the redactor himself, a redactor who was Nietzsche’s hypothesis all along, though admittedly a convenient one that explains the manuscript discrepancies rather well. Concerning the philological veracity of Nietzsche’s supposition, Theodor Bergk would be incited to emend his 1882 edition of Poetae Lyrici Graeci to say that Nietzsche’s constructed redactor is little more than a lvanum commentum.’