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Jörgen Zoega

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Archaeologist and numismatist, born at Daler near Tönder, near the west coast of northern Schleswig, 20 December, 1755; died in Rome, 10 February, 1809. His father, whose family came originally from Northern Italy, was Christian Zoega, Protestant pastor of Vilhad; his mother was Henriette Clausen. When a boy Jörgen was taught at home, and then attended the gymnasium at Altona. He went in 1773 to the University of Göttingen and later to Leipzig, studying philosophy and the Classics. Repeated journeys to Italy developed the interest for archaeology which had awakened early in him. In 1782, by the good offices of the Danish minister Guldberg, he received for two years a pension from the State. From Vienna, where he studied under the celebrated numismatist Eckhel, Zoega went to Rome early in 1783. Through introductions he received here a kindly welcome from Stefano Borgia, then a prelate and later cardinal. On his way home Zoega heard at Paris of the political overthrow of his patron Guldberg. He, therefore, returned to Rome, and took up his permanent abode in the Eternal City, which a man, as he said, should never see or else never leave. He had before this catalogued and exhaustively described Borgia's fine collection of coins; the prelate now gave him hearty support and Pius VI granted him a pension of 400 scudi. With the aid of influential friends Zoega also received permanent assistance from Denmark, and in 1790 was made an honorary member of the Academy of Art at Copenhagen. When his patron, Cardinal Borgia, was exiled from Rome in 1798, Zoega, grateful for the cardinal's hospitality to Danes who had gone to Rome, obtained a pension for Borgia from the state revenues of Denmark. From 1798 Zoega was Danish consul at Rome and a member of the Academy of Sciences at Copenhagen. His labours in numismatics led him to take up Egyptological and Coptic studies, which he carried on with success. By his power of penetration and sound judgment he pointed out to later investigators the path to be followed in the interpretation of hieroglyphics. He is regarded as the associate of Winckelmann and Visconti in establishing scientific archaeology. His services to learning were also acknowledged in foreign countries by his election in 1806 to membership in the Academies of Science at Berlin and Vienna.

Zoega's most important works are: "Nummi aegyptii imperatorii" (Rome, 1787); "De origine et usu obeliscorum" (Rome, 1797); "Bassirilievi antichi di Rome" (2 vols., Rome, 1808), translated into German by Welcker (1811); "Catalogus codicum copticorum manuscriptorum, qui in musco Borgiano Velitris adservantu" (Rome, 1810), a posthumous work. He also wrote several treatises on classical archaeology, translated into German by Welcker, "Georg Zoegas Abhandlungen" (Gottingen, 1817). A work on the topography of Rome was left unfinished in manuscript.


WELCKER, Zoegas Leben (Stuttgart, 1819); JORGENSON, Georg Zoega (Copenhagen, 1881).

About this page

APA citation. Kettenburg, P. (1912). Jörgen Zoega. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Kettenburg, Philipp von. "Jörgen Zoega." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to the memory of Jörgen Zoega.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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