He found in Rome opportunities to associate with strangers of all nations, and maintained such connections in a clever, effective manner. He was pleased with, indeed he sought after, honorary degrees of academies and learned societies.
But he achieved greatest prominence by that great document of his merits, over which he silently labored with great diligence—I refer to his History of Ancient Art. It was immediately translated into the French language, and made him known far and wide.
The real value of such a work is perhaps best appreciated immediately after its publication: its efficiency is recognized, the new matter is quickly adopted. The contemporaries are astonished at the sudden assistance they obtained, while a colder posterity nibbles disgustedly at the works of its masters and teachers, and makes demands which would never have occurred to it, if the very men criticised had not accomplished so much.
And so Winckelmann was recognized by the cultured nations of Europe at a time when he was sufficiently established at Rome to be honored with the important position of Director of Antiquities.
Notwithstanding his recognized and often vaunted happiness, Winckelmann was always tortured by a restlessness which, as its foundations lay deep in his nature, assumed various forms.
During the times of his early poverty and his later dependence upon the bounty of a court and the favor of many a wellwisher, he always limited himself to the smallest needs, that he might not become dependent or at least not more dependent than absolutely necessary. In the meantime he was always strenuously occupied in gaining by his own exertions a livelihood for the present and for the future, for which at length the successful illustrated edition of his Monumenti Inediti offered the fairest hope.
But these uncertain conditions accustomed him to look for his subsistence now here, then there; now to accept a position with small advantage to himself—in the house of a cardinal, in the Vatican or elsewhere; then, when he saw some other prospect, magnanimously to give up his place, while looking about for something else and lending an ear to many a proposition.
Further, one who lives in Rome is constantly exposed to the passion for traveling to all parts of the world. He finds himself in the centre of the ancient world, and the lands most interesting to the investigator of antiquity lie close about him. Magna Graecia, Sicily, Dalmatia, the Peloponnesus, Ionia, and Egypt—all of them are, so to say, offered to the inhabitants of Rome, and awaken an inexpressible longing in one who, like Winckelmann, was born with the desire to see. This is increased by the great number of strangers on their passage through Rome making sensible or useless preparations to travel in these lands, and who on their return never tire of describing distant wonders and exhibiting specimens of them.