The only son of Andre Marie Ampere was born at Lyons, France on August 12, 1800. He studied the folk-songs and popular poetry of the Scandinavian countries in an extended tour in northern Europe. Returning to France in 1830, he delivered a series of lectures on Scandinavian and early German poetry at the Athenaeum in Marseilles. The first of these was printed as De l'Histoire de la poésie (1830), and was practically the first introduction of the French public to the Scandinavian and German epics.
Moving to Paris, he taught at the Sorbonne, and became professor of the history of French literature at the Collège de France. A journey in northern Africa (1841) was followed by a tour in Greece and Italy, in company with Prosper Merimée and others. This bore fruit in his Voyage dantesque (printed in his Grece, Rome et Dante, 1848), which did much to popularize the study of Dante in France.
In 1848 he became a member of the Académie française, and in 1851 he visited America. From this time he was occupied with his chief work, L'Histoire romaine a Rome (4 vols., 1861-1864), until his death at Pau on March 27, 1864.
The Correspondance et souvenirs (2 vols.) of A.-M. and J.-J. Ampère (1805-1854) was published in 1875. Notices of J.-J. Ampère are to be found in Sainte-Beuve's Portraits litteraires, vol. iv., and Nouveaux Lundis, vol. xiii.; and in P. Merimée's Portraits historiques et litteraires (2nd ed., 1875).