Just a few weeks after the Biennial Conference in New Orleans in July 2019, where he had been together with us over hilarious chats, drinks and music, our friend, colleague and fellow ISHR member Christoph Leidl passed away at the age of only 59 years.
Born in Burghausen in Bavaria in 1960, from 1979 to 1986 Christoph studied Greek, Latin and History at the University of Munich, Germany, and St. John’s College, Oxford, UK (academic year 1982-1983). He earned his M.A. from the University of Munich in 1987 and his PhD in 1991, with an edition and commentary on Appian’s history of the Second Punic War in Spain. From 1987 to 1999, he was Assistant Professor at the Department of Classics in Munich, interrupted by a research fellowship in Oxford from 1995 to 1997. From 1999 to 2001, he was Assistant Professor in Classics at the University of Mannheim, until he received a tenured post as Akademischer Rat at the University of Heidelberg in 2002.
Besides a strong emphasis on the theory and history of rhetoric, in which he particularly focused on the theory of metaphor and tropes, the orator’s ethos, rhetorical pedagogy, and humour in oratory, Christoph also published on poetics and literary criticism, ancient historiography and the reception of ancient drama in music. Christoph had been a member of ISHR since 1995, and since then missed practically none of our conferences. He also held various offices in ISHR, as Council member from 2011 to 2015, and from 2013 until his death as chair of the membership committee, a duty he fulfilled with enormous dedication and accuracy.
Christoph was immensely versed not only in ancient literature, but also in modern and contemporary literatures. He was acquainted with contemporary approaches to rhetoric just as much as with Aristotle, Cicero or Quintilian. His rich private library filled an entire house and might have been the envy of many a department library. One wondered when he ever found time for reading all those books. In addition, he was also a great lover of music. He had stupendous expertise in all things music and was able to extemporize in minutest details on virtuoso pianists, conductors or recordings, not to forget that he was himself an excellent piano player. He was also a passionate mountain hiker and chess player.
Besides all this, he had a wonderful subtle sense of humour, and his big friendly smile will be unforgotten. Christoph was an indefatigable worker with an outstanding sense of duty. He seemed to be active day and night; as a matter of fact, he may way too often have burnt the candle at both ends. When finally he seriously began to think about a change in his way of life, it was too late. Only a few days after his return from New Orleans, during a mountain hike he had so eagerly been looking forward to, he was struck by a sudden heart attack and hospitalized for several days. Tragically, when he already seemed to be on the mend and had again resumed work in his Heidelberg office, one late night he was found exanimate on the department’s parking lot. While his body could be reanimated at least for a short period, his brains could not. A few minutes of failing heartbeat had been enough to wipe out forever a brain so brilliant as his.
We have lost a fine scholar and rhetorician, one of our most faithful members and – above all – a very dear friend. May he now find the rest he never found in his life.
Christoph was a wonderful scholar and a wonderful friend. At his last conference (New Orleans 2019), typically, he presented a paper on ‘Antimeria, the forgotten trope’: not just out of scholarly interest, but also out of pity, because it is such a neglected concept. Christoph was warm-hearted, friendly, and funny, and it was always a tremendous joy to talk with him.
Bé Breij and Marc van der Poel
During the ISHR London conference in 2017 on our way back from a splendid concert performance, Christoph reminded me of a passage in a musical treatise which nicely illustrates his broad range of rhetorical and musical interests: "Airs in a way ought to imitate orations, in order to have members, parts and periods, and make use of all manner of figures and harmonic passages, as the orator does, so that the art of composing airs and writing counterpoint will not be second to rhetoric." (from: Marin Mersenne, Harmonie universelle, Paris, 1636).
An unfailing source of rhetorical wisdom and friendly conversation has left us behind. From impressive Saskatoon in 1997 (my first ISHR conference), when everyone enjoyed a show of Hoop Dance, to the summer heat of New Orleans in 2019 (his last ISHR conference), when the audience flocked to his talk although he was the only speaker in the session, Christoph was always present and ready to engage in interesting discussions. Without him, how can an ISHR conference ever be complete?
He always seemed to know everything, but he made so little out of it. Widest and deepest learning paired with utmost unassumingness, that was all him. Perhaps most of all, I sorely miss his very unique sense of humour. Yet since we had been friends since student days, I also knew about the dark sides of his soul: his self-doubts, his frustrations, his anxieties. May all these lie far behind him, and may he be in a better place now.
Seeing Christoph Leidl was one of the joys of going to ISHR meetings. Always friendly and playful, he remembered every past conversation thread, and generously acted the tour guide through museums and musical events. He was one of the loveliest people I've known.