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[Transcriber’s Note:
The printed text shows most sections (Roman numerals) as a continuous
block, with chapter numbers in the margin. In this e-text, chapters
are given as separate paragraphs determined by sentence breaks, with
continuing quotation marks supplied where necessary.
Except for footnotes, any brackets are from the original text.]

* * * * *



Translated into English by

Formerly Scholar of University College, Oxford

with an Introduction by

and New York

_All rights reserved_

* * * * *


S. H. BUTCHER, Esq., LL.D.

Professor of Greek in the University of Edinburgh
Formerly Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
and of University College, Oxford

This Attempt
to Present the Great Thoughts of Longinus
in an English Form

Is Dedicated

in Acknowledgment of the Kind Support
but for Which It Might Never Have Seen the Light
and of the Benefits of That
Instruction to Which It Largely Owes
Whatever of Scholarly Quality It May Possess


The text which has been followed in the present Translation is that
of Jahn (Bonn, 1867), revised by Vahlen, and republished in 1884. In
several instances it has been found necessary to diverge from Vahlen’s
readings, such divergencies being duly pointed out in the Notes.

One word as to the aim and scope of the present Translation. My object
throughout has been to make Longinus speak in English, to preserve, as
far as lay in my power, the noble fire and lofty tone of the original.
How to effect this, without being betrayed into a loose paraphrase, was
an exceedingly difficult problem. The style of Longinus is in a high
degree original, occasionally running into strange eccentricities of
language; and no one who has not made the attempt can realise the
difficulty of giving anything like an adequate version of the more
elaborate passages. These considerations I submit to those to whom I
may seem at first sight to have handled my text too freely.

My best thanks are due to Dr. Butcher, Professor of Greek in the
University of Edinburgh, who from first to last has shown a lively
interest in the present undertaking which I can never sufficiently
acknowledge. He has read the Translation throughout, and acting on his
suggestions I have been able in numerous instances to bring my version
into a closer conformity with the original.

I have also to acknowledge the kindness of the distinguished writer who
has contributed the Introduction, and who, in spite of the heavy demands
on his time, has lent his powerful support to help on the work of one
who was personally unknown to him.

In conclusion, I may be allowed to express a hope that the present
attempt may contribute something to reawaken an interest in an unjustly
neglected classic.


The Treatise on the Sublime may be divided into six Parts, as follows:--

I.--cc. i, ii. The Work of Caecilius. Definition of the Sublime.
Whether Sublimity falls within the rules of Art.

II.--cc. iii-v. [The beginning lost.] Vices of Style opposed to the
Sublime: Affectation, Bombast, False Sentiment, Frigid Conceits.
The cause of such defects.

III.--cc. vi, vii. The true Sublime, what it is, and how

IV.--cc. viii-xl. Five Sources of the Sublime (how Sublimity is related
to Passion, c. viii, §§ 2-4).

(i.) Grandeur of Thought, cc. ix-xv.

_a._ As the natural outcome of nobility of soul. Examples (c. ix).

_b._ Choice of the most striking circumstances. Sappho’s Ode (c. x).

_c._ Amplification. Plato compared with Demosthenes, Demosthenes
with Cicero (cc. xi-xiii).

_d._ Imitation (cc. xiii, xiv).

_e._ Imagery (c. xv).

(ii.) Power of moving the Passions (omitted here, because dealt with
in a separate work).

(iii.) Figures of Speech (cc. xvi-xxix).

_a._ The Figure of Adjuration (c. xvi). The Art to conceal Art
(c. xvii).

_b._ Rhetorical Question (c. xviii).

_c._ Asyndeton (c. xix-xxi).

_d._ Hyperbaton (c. xxii).

_e._ Changes of Number, Person, Tense, etc. (cc. xxiii-xxvii).

_f._ Periphrasis (cc. xxviii, xxix).

(iv.) Graceful Expression (cc. xxx-xxxii and xxxvii, xxxviii).

_a._ Choice of Words (c. xxx).

_b._ Ornaments of Style (cc. xxxi, xxxii and xxxvii, xxxviii).

(α) On the use of Familiar Words (c. xxxi).

(β) Metaphors; accumulated; extract from the _Timaeus_; abuse
of Metaphors; certain tasteless conceits blamed in Plato
(c. xxxii).
[Hence arises a digression (cc. xxxiii-xxxvi) on the spirit
in which we should judge of the faults of great authors.
Demosthenes compared with Hyperides, Lysias with Plato.
Sublimity, however far from faultless, to be always preferred
to a tame correctness.]

(γ) Comparisons and Similes [lost] (c. xxxvii).

(δ) Hyperbole (c. xxxviii).

(v.) Dignity and Elevation of Structure (cc. xxxix, xl).

_a._ Modulation of Syllables (c. xxxix).

_b._ Composition (c. xl).

V.--cc. xli-xliii. Vices of Style destructive to Sublimity.

(i.) Abuse of Rhythm }

(ii.) Broken and Jerky Clauses } (cc. xli, xlii).

(iii.) Undue Prolixity }

(iv.) Improper Use of Familiar Words. Anti-climax. Example from
Theopompus (c. xliii).

VI.--Why this age is so barren of great authors--whether the cause is
to be sought in a despotic form of government, or, as Longinus rather
thinks, in the prevailing corruption of manners, and in the sordid and
paltry views of life which almost universally prevail (c. xliv).



Boileau, in his introduction to his version of the ancient Treatise on
the Sublime, says that he is making no valueless present to his age. Not
valueless, to a generation which talks much about style and method in
literature, should be this new rendering of the noble fragment, long
attributed to Longinus, the Greek tutor and political adviser of
Zenobia. There is, indeed, a modern English version by Spurden,[1] but
that is now rare, and seldom comes into the market. Rare, too, is
Vaucher’s critical essay (1854), which is unlucky, as the French and
English books both contain valuable disquisitions on the age of the
author of the Treatise. This excellent work has had curious fortunes. It
is never quoted nor referred to by any extant classical writer, and,
among the many books attributed by Suidas to Longinus, it is not
mentioned. Decidedly the old world has left no more noble relic of
criticism. Yet the date of the book is obscure, and it did not come into
the hands of the learned in modern Europe till Robertelli and Manutius
each published editions in 1544. From that time the Treatise has often
been printed, edited, translated; but opinion still floats undecided
about its origin and period. Does it belong to the age of Augustus, or
to the age of Aurelian? Is the author the historical Longinus--the
friend of Plotinus, the tutor of Porphyry, the victim of Aurelian,--or
have we here a work by an unknown hand more than two centuries earlier?
Manuscripts and traditions are here of little service. The oldest
manuscript, that of Paris, is regarded as the parent of the rest. It is
a small quarto of 414 pages, whereof 335 are occupied by the “Problems”
of Aristotle. Several leaves have been lost, hence the fragmentary
character of the essay. The Paris MS. has an index, first mentioning the
“Problems,” and then ΔΙΟΝΥΣΙΟΥ Η ΛΟΓΓΙΝΟΥ ΠΕΡΙ ΥΨΟΥΣ, that is, “The
work of Dionysius, or of Longinus, about the Sublime.”

[Footnote 1: Longmans, London, 1836.]

On this showing the transcriber of the MS. considered its authorship
dubious. Supposing that the author was Dionysius, which of the many
writers of that name was he? Again, if he was Longinus, how far does his
work tally with the characteristics ascribed to that late critic, and
peculiar to his age?

About this Longinus, while much is written, little is certainly known.
Was he a descendant of a freedman of one of the Cassii Longini, or of an
eastern family with a mixture of Greek and Roman blood? The author of
the Treatise avows himself a Greek, and apologises, as a Greek, for
attempting an estimate of Cicero. Longinus himself was the nephew and
heir of Fronto, a Syrian rhetorician of Emesa. Whether Longinus was born
there or not, and when he was born, are things uncertain. Porphyry, born
in 233 A.D., was his pupil: granting that Longinus was twenty years
Porphyry’s senior, he must have come into the world about 213 A.D. He
travelled much, studied in many cities, and was the friend of the mystic
Neoplatonists, Plotinus and Ammonius. The former called him “a
philologist, not a philosopher.” Porphyry shows us Longinus at a supper
where the plagiarisms of Greek writers are discussed--a topic dear to
trivial or spiteful mediocrity. He is best known by his death. As the
Greek secretary of Zenobia he inspired a haughty answer from the queen
to Aurelian, who therefore put him to death. Many rhetorical and
philosophic treatises are ascribed to him, whereof only fragments
survive. Did he write the Treatise on the Sublime? Modern students
prefer to believe that the famous essay is, if not by Plutarch, as some
hold, at least by some author of his age, the age of the early Caesars.

The arguments for depriving Longinus, Zenobia’s tutor, of the credit of
the Treatise lie on the surface, and may be briefly stated. He addresses
his work as a letter to a friend, probably a Roman pupil, Terentianus,
with whom he has been reading a work on the Sublime by Caecilius.

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