Youth (1844–69)

Born on 15 October 1844, Nietzsche grew up in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, in the Prussian Province of Saxony. He was named after King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who turned forty-nine on the day of Nietzsche's birth. (Nietzsche later dropped his middle name "Wilhelm".) Nietzsche's parents, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813–49), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska Oehler (1826–97), married in 1843, the year before their son's birth. They had two other children: a daughter, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, born in 1846, and a second son, Ludwig Joseph, born in 1848. Nietzsche's father died from a brain ailment in 1849; Ludwig Joseph died the next year, at age two. The family then moved to Naumburg, where they lived with Nietzsche's maternal grandmother and his father's two unmarried sisters. After the death of Nietzsche's grandmother in 1856, the family moved into their own house, now Nietzsche-Haus, a museum and Nietzsche study center.
Nietzsche attended a boys' school and then, later, a private school, where he became friends with Gustav Krug, Rudolf Wagner, and Wilhelm Pinder, all of whom came from highly respected families.
In 1854, he began to attend Domgymnasium in Naumburg but since he showed particular talents in music and language, the internationally recognized Schulpforta admitted him as a pupil. He transferred and studied there from 1858 to 1864, becoming friends with Paul Deussen and Carl von Gersdorff. He also found time to work on poems and musical compositions. At Schulpforta, Nietzsche received an important grounding in languages—Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and French—so as to be able to read important primary sources; he also experienced for the first time being away from his family life in a small-town conservative environment. His end-of-semester exams in March 1864 showed a 1 in Religion and German; a 2a in Greek and Latin; a 2b in French, History, and Physics; and a "lackluster" 3 in Hebrew and Mathematics.
While at Pforta, Nietzsche had a penchant for pursuing subjects that were considered unbecoming. He became acquainted with the work of the then almost-unknown poet Friedrich Hölderlin, calling him "my favorite poet" and composing an essay in which he said that the mad poet raised consciousness to "the most sublime ideality". The teacher who corrected the essay gave it a good mark but commented that Nietzsche should concern himself in the future with healthier, more lucid, and more "German" writers. Additionally, he became acquainted with Ernst Ortlepp, an eccentric, blasphemous, and often drunken poet who was found dead in a ditch weeks after meeting the young Nietzsche but who may have introduced Nietzsche to the music and writing of Richard Wagner. Perhaps under Ortlepp's influence, he and a student named Richter returned to school drunk and encountered a teacher, resulting in Nietzsche's demotion from first in his class and the end of his status as a prefect.
After graduation in 1864, Nietzsche commenced studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn. For a short time he and Deussen became members of the Burschenschaft Frankonia. After one semester (and to the anger of his mother) he stopped his theological studies and lost his faith. As early as his 1862 essay "Fate and History", Nietzsche had argued that historical research had discredited the central teachings of Christianity, but David Strauss's Life of Jesus also seems to have had a profound effect on the young man. In 1865, at the age of 20, Nietzsche wrote to his sister Elisabeth, who was deeply religious, a letter regarding his loss of faith. This letter ended with a following sentence:
"Hence the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire..."
Nietzsche subsequently concentrated on studying philology under Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, whom he followed to the University of Leipzig in 1865. There, he became close friends with his fellow student Erwin Rohde. Nietzsche's first philological publications appeared soon after.
In 1865, Nietzsche thoroughly studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer. He owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation and later admitted that Schopenhauer was one of the few thinkers whom he respected, dedicating to him the essay "" in the Untimely Meditations.
In 1866, he read Friedrich Albert Lange's History of Materialism. Lange's descriptions of Kant's anti-materialistic philosophy, the rise of European Materialism, Europe's increased concern with science, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and the general rebellion against tradition and authority intrigued Nietzsche greatly. The cultural environment encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond philology and continue his study of philosophy, although Nietzsche would ultimately argue the impossibility of an evolutionary explanation of the human aesthetic sense.
In 1867, Nietzsche signed up for one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. He was regarded as one of the finest riders among his fellow recruits, and his officers predicted that he would soon reach the rank of captain. However, in March 1868, while jumping into the saddle of his horse, Nietzsche struck his chest against the pommel and tore two muscles in his left side, leaving him exhausted and unable to walk for months. Consequently Nietzsche turned his attention to his studies again, completing them and meeting with Richard Wagner for the first time later that year.