Early life and education
He was born Philipp Schwartzerdt on 16 February 1497, at Bretten where his father Georg Schwarzerdt was armorer to Philip, Count Palatine of the Rhine. His birthplace, along with almost the whole city of Bretten, was burned in 1689 by French troops during the War of the Palatinate Succession. The town's Melanchthonhaus was built on its site in 1897.
In 1507 he was sent to the Latin school at Pforzheim, where the rector, Georg Simler of Wimpfen, introduced him to the Latin and Greek poets and to Aristotle. He was influenced by his great-uncle Johann Reuchlin, a Renaissance humanist; it was Reuchlin who suggested Philipp follow a custom common among humanists of the time and change his surname from "Schwartzerdt" (literally "black earth"), into the Greek equivalent "Melanchthon" (Μελάγχθων).
Philipp was only eleven when in 1508 both his grandfather (17 October) and father (27 October) died within eleven days. He and a brother were brought to Pforzheim to live with his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Reuter, sister of Reuchlin.
The next year he entered the University of Heidelberg, where he studied philosophy, rhetoric, and astronomy/astrology, and became known as a scholar of Greek. Denied the master's degree in 1512 on the grounds of his youth, he went to Tübingen, where he continued humanistic studies but also worked on jurisprudence, mathematics, and medicine. While there he was also taught the technical aspects of astrology by Johannes Stöffler.
After gaining a master's degree in 1516 he began to study theology. Under the influence of Reuchlin, Erasmus, and others, he became convinced that true Christianity was something different from the scholastic theology as taught at the university. He became a conventor (repentant) in the contubernium and instructed younger scholars. He also lectured on oratory, on Virgil and on Livy.
His first publications were a number of poems in a collection edited by Jakob Wimpfeling (c. 1511), the preface to Reuchlin's Epistolae clarorum virorum (1514), an edition of Terence (1516), and a Greek grammar (1518).