Spanheim, Ezekiel

, a very learned writer, as well as excellent statesman, the eldest son of the preceding, was born at Geneva in 1625). He distinguished himself so much in his earliest youth by his progress in literature, that, on a visit to Leyden with his father in 1642, he gained immediately the friendship of Daniel Heinsius and Salmasius, and preserved it with both, notwithstanding the mutual animosity of these two celebrated scholars. Like his father he was not satisfied with making himself master of Greek and Latin, but also applied himself with great vigour to the oriental languages. Ludovicus Capellus had published, at Amsterdam, in 1645, a dissertation upon the ancient Hebrew letters against John Buxtorf; in which he maintains, that the true characters of the ancient Hebrews were preserved among the Samaritans, and lost among the Jews. Spanheim undertook to refute Capellus in, certain theses, which he maintained and published at sixteen years of age; but which afterwards, out of his great candour and modesty, he called “unripe fruit;” and frankly owned, that Bochart, to whom he had sent them, had declared himself for Capellus against Buxtorf.

In 1649, he lost his father; and soon after returned to Geneva, where he was honoured with the title of professor of eloquence, but never performed the functions of that place. "When his reputation extended into foreign countries, Charles Louis, elector-palatine, sent for him to his court, to be tutor to his only son: which employment he not only discharged with great success, but with much prudence and address, contrived to preserve the good opinion of the elector and electress, who did not live on terms of | mutual regard and affection. While here he employed his leisure hours in perfecting his knowledge of the Greek and Roman learning; and also studied the history of the later ages, and examined all those books and records which relate to the constitution of the empire, and contribute to explain and illustrate the public law of Germany. The first produce of this department of science was a French tract, published in 1657; in which he asserted the right of the elector-palatine to the post of vicar of the empire, in opposition, to the claims of the duke of Bavaria. Skill and acuteness in disputes of this kind have always been a sure foundation for preferment in the courts of Germany; and there is no doubt, that it opened Spanheim’s way to those great and various employments in which he was afterwards engaged.

In 1660, he published at Heidelberg a French translation of the emperor Julian’s “Caesars,” with notes and illustrations from medals and other monuments of antiquity. He had always an extraordinary turn for antiquities and medals; but had not yet seen Italy, where the study of them was much cultivated, and therefore was highly gratified in receiving a commission from the elector, to go to Rome, in order to watch the intrigues of the catholic electors at that court On his arrival he gained the esteem of that general patroness queen Christina, at whose palace was held an assembly of learned men every week; and in 1664, he complimented her with the dedication of hi* “Dissertationes de praestantia & usu numismatum antiquorum,” printed at Rome, in 4to. The same year he took a journey to Naples, Sicily, and Malta, and then returned to Rome, where he found the princess Sophia, mother of George I. of England. That princess, being highly pleased to meet with one whom she had already known as a man of learning, and corresponded with upon subjects of politics and literature, was desirous of enjoying his conversation at leisure, and, therefore, wish the leave of the elector her brother, carried him with her into Germany.

Upon his return to Heidelberg in April 1665, he was received by the elector his master with every proof of esteem; and was afterwards employed by him in various negociations at foreign courts. The same year, he went to that of Lorrain; the year following, to that of the elector of Mentz; then to France; afterwards, in 1668, to the congress of Breda; and then to France again. He then returned to Heidelberg, whence, after being for some time confined | by a dangerous illness, he was sent by his master first to Holland, and then to England. In 1679, the elector of Brandenburg, having recalled his envoy at the court of England, gave his employment to Spar.‘neim, wiih the consent of the elector-palatine and, though h:? was charged at the same time with the affairs of these two princes, yet he acquitted himself so well, that the elector of Brandenburg desired to have his exclusive services, to which the elector-palatine at last consented. In 16KO, he went to France, by order of his new master, with the title of envoy extraordinary; and, during nine years’ residence at Paris, never left that city but twice. In 1684, he went to Berlin, to receive the post of minister of state; and the year after to England, to compliment James II. upon his accession to the throne. Upon the revocation of the edict of Nantes, he rendered important services to many of the reformed, who found a place of refuge in his house, when they durst not appear abroad, for fear of their persecutors. Though he performed his master’s business at the French court with the greatest ability and exactness, yet he led a life of much study, wrote various works, and maintained a correspondence with the learned all over Europe, with the utmost punctuality.

After this long embassy, he spent some years at Berlin, in retirement and among books; but, after the peace of Ilyswick, was again obliged to quit his study, and was sent on an embassy to France, where he continued from 1697 to 1702. The elector of Brandenburg, having during that interval assumed the title of king of Prussia, conferred on him the title and dignity of baron. In 1702, he quitted France, and went ambassador to England; where he spent the remainder of his days, dividing his time between business and study. He died Oct. 28, 17jO, aged eighty-one, and was buried in Westminster-abbey. He left one daughter, who married in England the marquis de Montandre. It is surprising, that Spanheim, who seems to have been moving from one European court to another all his life, and to have been continually engaged in negotiations and state-affairs, which he always discharged with the utmost exactness, could find time to compose so many works of learning and labour, which could only be written in his study and among his books. It was said of him, that he negotiated and did business like a man who had nothing else in his thoughts, and that he wrote like a man who had spent his whole time by himself. He never appeared the | man of letters but when it was proper to do so; yet be conversed no more frequently with the unlearned than was necessary for his business.

Some of his writings have been mentioned already. His Latin work k ’ upon the use and excellence of ancient Medals,“is his capital performance; it was published at Rome in 1664, as has been observed; at Paris in 1671, much enlarged; and after that with so many additions, as extended it to two large volumes in folio, the first printed at London in 1706, the second at Amsterdam in 1717. This work is justly esteemed a treasure of erudition. Two pieces of Spanheim are inserted in Grsevius’s collection of Roman antiquities; one in the fifth volume,” De nummo Smyrnaeorum, seu de Vesta et Prytanibus Grsecorum, diatriba;“the other in the eleventh volume, entitled,” Orbis Romanus, seu ad Constitutionem Antonini Imperatoris, de qua Ulpianus, Leg. xvii. Dig. de Statu Hominum, Exercitationes duse.“This was also printed at London, with additions, in 1704, 4to. At Leipsic, 1696, folio, came out” Juliani Imperatoris Opera, Greece et Latine, cum variorum nods recensente Ez. Spanheim, qui observationes adjecit." But there is nothing of Spanheim in this edition, except the preface, and very ample remarks upon the first oration of Julian; he not having leisure and opportunity to proceed further. Notes of his upon Callimachus are inserted in Graevius’s edition of that author, at Utrecht, 1697; and also upon the three first comedies of Aristophanes in. Raster’s edition, 1709. 1


Niceron, vol. II. Biog. Brit. Supplement. Gen. Dict.