Born in Overijse, Brabant, he was sent early to the Jesuit college in Cologne, but was removed at the age of sixteen to the university of Louvain by his parents, who feared that he might be induced to become a member of the Society of Jesus.
The publication of his Variarum Lectionum Libri Tres (1567), dedicated to Cardinal Granvella, procured him an appointment as Latin secretary and a visit to Rome in the retinue of the cardinal. Here Lipsius remained two years, devoting his spare time to the study of the Latin classics, collecting inscriptions and examining manuscripts in the Vatican. A second volume of miscellaneous criticism (Anliquarum Lectionum Libri Quinque, 1575), published after his return from Rome, compared with the Variae Lectiones of eight years earlier, shows that he had advanced from the notion of purely conjectural emendation to that of emending by collation.
In 1570 he wandered over Burgundy, Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and was engaged for more than a year as teacher in the university of Jena, a position which implied an outward conformity to the Lutheran Church. On his way back to Louvain, he stopped some time at Cologne, where he must have comported himself as a Catholic.
At Leiden, where he must have passed as a Calvinist, Lipsius remained eleven years, the period of his greatest productivity. It was now that he prepared his Seneca, perfected, in successive editions, his Tacitus and brought out a series of works, some of pure scholarship, others collections from classical authors, others again of general interest. Of this latter class was a treatise on politics (Politicorum Libri Sex, 1589), in which he showed that, though a public teacher in a country which professed toleration, he had not departed from the state maxims of Alva and Philip II. He lays it down that a government should recognize only one religion, and that dissent should be extirpated by fire and sword. From the attacks to which this avowal exposed him, he was saved by the prudence of the authorities of Leiden, who prevailed upon him to publish a declaration that his expression, Ure, seca ("Burn and carve"), was a metaphor for a vigorous treatment.
In the spring of 1590, leaving Leiden under pretext of taking the waters at Spa, he went to Mainz, where he was reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church. The event deeply interested the Catholic world, and invitations poured in on Lipsius from the courts and universities of Italy, Austria and Spain. But he preferred tc remain in his own country, and finally settled at Louvain, as professor of Latin in the Collegium Buslidianum.
He was not expected to teach, and his trifling stipend was eked out by the appointments of privy councillor and historiographer to the King of Spain. He continued to publish dissertations as before, the chief being his De militia romana (1595) and Lovanium (1605), intended as an introduction to a general history of Brabant.
He died at Louvain.
This entry is based on the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica article. Update as needed.