Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback

Francois Lenormant

Archaeologist, b. in Paris, June 1, 1802; d. at Athens, November 24, 1859

Click to enlarge

Lenormant, Francois, archaeologist, son of the preceding, b. at Paris, January 17, 1837; d. there, December 9, 1883. His father personally supervised his education and exercised great influence over his mind and studies. He gave early proofs of classical scholarship by publishing, when only fourteen, an article in the “Revue archeologique”: “Lettre a M. Hase sur des tablettes grecques trouvees a Memphis“. In 1857 he was awarded the numismatic prize by the Academy of Inscriptions for a remarkable essay published in the “Revue numismatique”: “Essai sur la classification des monnaies des Lagides”. While pursuing his classical studies, he attended the lectures of the faculty of law and in 1857 received his degree as licentiate. In 1858 he visited Italy and in 1859 accompanied his father to the East. The latter having died during the journey Francois returned to France with the body, but set out soon again for Greece. He conducted important excavations at Eleusis and as a result published several essays, notably: “Recherches archeologiques a, Eleusis” (Paris, 1862). While thus engaged, he heard of the massacre of Christians by the Druses, and immediately ceasing his researches sailed for Syria to go to the rescue of the victims of Moslem fanaticism. When the French expedition reached Syria, he felt free to return to Eleusis. In 1862 he was appointed sub-librarian of the Institut de France. In 1865 and 1866 he travelled again through the East, and shortly after this, summarized his studies in a “Manuel d’histoire ancienne de l’Orient jusqu’aux guerres Mediques” (Paris, 1868), a very popular work. In 1869 he visited Egypt and familiarized himself with Egyptian antiquities; he published numerous essays on the cuneiform texts and on the language spoken in Babylon and Nineveh. During the siege of Paris, 1870, he took part in several engagements. Two years later, his “Essai de commentaire des fragments cosmogoniques de Berose” (Paris, 1872) was published.

In 1874 Lenormant succeeded Beule as professor of archaeology at the Bibliotheque Nationale, and delivered brilliant lectures on Greek and Eastern antiquities. With de Witte, a Belgian archaeologist, he founded in 1875 the “Gazette archeologique” for the publication of unknown monuments and miscellaneous archaeological studies. In this review he published many articles on ancient monuments of every description and origin. From 1879 to 1883 he visited Southern Italy several times, and as a result of his travels published a work on Lucania and Apulia. In 1880 he produced the first volume of “Origins de l’histoire d’apres in Bible et les traditions des peuples orientaux” (3 vols., Paris, 1880-83), a work that attained wide publicity. The writer thought it impossible to maintain a unity of composition in the books of the Pentateuch. He held that there were certain traces of “two distinct original documents; the Elohistic and the Jehovistic which served as a basis for the final compiler of the first four books of the Pentateuch, and he is satisfied with establishing between them a certain concordance, leaving untouched their original redaction”. The first chapters of Genesis, according to him, are a “book of origins” and represent the story of Israel as told from generation to generation since the time of the Patriarchs; in all fundamental facts this narrative tallied with the sacred books of the Euphrates and the Tigris. For him, inspiration lies in the absolutely new spirit which animates the narrative, though in composition it is quite similar to the stories of neighboring tribes. Four years after the death of the author this book was put on the Index (December 19, 1887). Quite probably Lenormant would have submitted, since in his introduction he asserts his attachment to the Catholic Faith and his devotion to the Church. He died from the after effects of a disease contracted during one of his visits to Southern Italy. In 1881 he had been made a member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres.

Lenormant wrote many works. Aside from those referred to above, must be mentioned: “Sur l’origine chretienne des inscriptions sinaltiques” in “Journal Asiatique”, XIII (Paris, 1859), fifth series; “Histoire des Massacres de Syrie en 1860” (Paris, 1861); “La Revolution en Grece” (Paris, 1802); “Essai sur (‘organisation politique et economique de in monnaie clans l’antiquite” (Paris, 1863); “Chefs-d’oeuvres de l’art antique” (Paris, 1867-1868) in 7 vols.; “Histoire du Peuple juif” (Paris, 1869); “Le deluge et l’epopee babylonnienne” (Paris, 1873); “Les premieres civilisations” (Paris, 1873-2 vols.); “La langue primitive de Chaldee et les idiomes touraniens” (Paris, 1875): “La monnaie dans l’antiquite” (Paris, 1878-1879); “A travers l’Apulie et la Lucanie” (Paris, 1883): “La Genese traduite d’apres l’hebreu, avec distinction des elements constitutifs du texte, suivi d’un essai de restitution des textes dont s’est servi le dernier redacteur” (Paris, 1884).


Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!