In 1872, The Birth of Tragedy appeared and almost immediately gave rise to one of the greatest controversies and quarrels in the history of learning. Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff attacked Nietzsche's book with savage irony and narrow professional objections. Nietzsche's colleague and friend Erwin Rohde defended the book, as did the composer Richard Wagner. In this essay, I examine the major issues underlying the ideological assumptions of the classicists in the German tradition of the period. I also address the unprecedented originality of Nietzsche's work as it still affects the future of the philological imagination.