Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900 ) – My conception of genius. Great men, like great ages, are explosives in which a tremendous force is stored up; their precondition is always, historically and physiologically, that for a long time much has been gathered, stored up, saved up, and conserved for them – that there has been no explosion for a long time. Once the tension in the mass has become too great, then the most accidental stimulus suffices to summon into the world the “genius”, the “deed”, the great destiny. What does the environment matter then, or the age, or the “spirit of the age,” or “the public opinion”!
Take the case of Napoleon. Revolutionary France, and even more, pre-revolutionary France, would have brought forth the opposite type; in fact, it did. Because Napoleon was different, the heir of a stronger, older, more ancient civilization than the one which was then perishing in France, he became the master there, he was the only master. Great men are necessary, the age in which they appear is accidental; that they almost always become masters over their age is only because they are stronger, because they are older, because for a longer time much was gathered for them. The relationship between a genius and his age is like that between strong and weak, or between old and young: the age is relatively always younger, thinner, more immature, less assured, more childish.
Twilight of the Idols, 1888