This text is adapted from Longinus on the Sublime, translated by W. Rhys Roberts (London: Cambridge University Press, ). II. First of all. The Project Gutenberg EBook of On the Sublime, by Longinus This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions. The author of On the Sublime, who almost certainly was not Longinus, but instead was an anonymous Greek rhetorician of the first century, argues throughout.

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Wherefore a figure is at its best when the very fact that it is a figure escapes attention. As I am writing to you, good friend, who are well versed in literary studies, I feel almost absolved from the necessity of premising at any length that sublimity is a certain distinction and excellence in expression, sublimlty that it is from no other source than this that the greatest poets and writers have derived their eminence and gained an immortality of renown.

As does triviality eublimity expression. In consequence they seem to hearers who are in no wise affected to act in an ungainly way.

For the compression of the number from multiplicity into unity gives more fully the feeling of a single body. Mark Twain, American humorist, journalist, lecturer, and novelist who acquired international fame for….

On the Sublime by Longinus

Similarly, when Theopompus had dressed out in marvellous fashion the descent of the Persian king upon Egypt, he spoilt the whole by some petty words.

For he prefers the orator as faultless and immaculate to Plato as one who has often made mistakes. In Herodotus, for example, the tempest is described with marvellous effect in all its details, but the passage surely contains some words below the dignity of the subject. This, however, you [Sc. Demosthenes is not so masterful as Thucydides, but of all writers he sublimiity abounds in this kind of figure, and through his use of hyperbata makes a great impression of vehemence, yes and of unpremeditated speech, and moreover draws his hearers with him into all the perils of his long inversions.


Having, I say, absorbed bodily within himself these mighty gifts which we may deem heaven-sent for it would not be right to term them humanhe thus with the noble qualities which are his own subliimty all comers even where the qualities he does not possess are concerned, and overpowers lojginus thunder and with lightning the orators of every age. He shows, however, in the Odyssey and this further observation deserves attention on many grounds that, when a great genius is declining, the special token of old age is the love of usblimity tales.

Where he forces himself to be jocular and pleasant, he does not excite laughter but rather becomes the subject of it, and when he wishes to approach the region of charm, he is all the farther removed from it. For mirth, too, is an emotion, an emotion which has its root in pleasure. COME, now, let us take some writer who is really immaculate and beyond reproach. In the slave there immediately burst out signs of fettered liberty of speech, of the dungeon as it were, of a man habituated to buffetings.

The work ends with a dissertation on the decay of oratory, a typical subject for the time when authors such as TacitusPetronius and Quintilianwho also dealt with the subject, were alive.

The enterprise is, however, an arduous one.

Let one instance be quoted from among many: Oh this, this only Stirs the troubled heart in my breast to tremble! LET us next consider whether we can point to anything further that contributes to sublimity of style.

Dionysius is generally dismissed as the potential author of On the Sublimesince the writing officially attributed to Dionysius differs from the work On the Sublime in style and thought. Vehement and inspired passion: The power of images ; Poetic vs rhetorical images, poetic images from EuripidesAeschylusand Sophocles.

Are we not, then, to hold that composition being a harmony of that language which is implanted by nature in man and which appeals not to the hearing only but to the soul itselfsince it calls forth manifold shapes of words, longinuz, deeds, beauty, melody, all of them sublimmity at our birth and growing with our growth, and since by sublimitt of the blending and variation of its own tones it seeks to introduce into the minds of those who are present the emotion which affects the speaker and since it always brings the audience to share in it and by the building of phrase upon phrase raises a sublime and harmonious structure: Another influence on the treatise can be found in Longinus’ xublimity figures, which draw from theories by a 1st-century BC writer, Caecilius of Calacte.


Given his positive reference to Genesis, Longinus has been assumed to be either a Hellenized Jew or readily familiar with the Jewish culture. Longinus’ occasional enthusiasm becomes “carried away” and creates some sublimitj as to the meaning of his text.

IV Of the second fault of which we have spoken — frigidity — Subliity supplies many examples. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval. Thank You for Your Contribution!

On the Sublime

The “sublime” in the title has been translated in various ways, to include senses of elevation and excellent style. Amplification to sum the matter up in a general way is an aggregation of all the constituent parts and topics of a subject, lending strength to the argument by dwelling upon it, and differing herein from proof that, while the latter demonstrates the matter under investigation.

For since we have previously indicated those qualities which render style noble and lofty, lojginus is evident that their opposites will for the lontinus part make it low and base.