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Longinus (or Pseudo-Longinus) is the name conventionally given to the author of an influential work of literary criticism, On the Sublime, the author's real name being unknown. He wrote in Greek and probably lived in the 1st century AD.

On the Sublime


W. H. Fyfe and Donald Russell (1995)

Quotations are taken from the translation by W. H. Fyfe, revised by Donald Russell (1995), included in vol. 199 of the Loeb Classical Library ISBN 0-674-99563-5.
  • Genius needs the curb as often as the spur.
    • Ch. 2, p. 165.
  • The images make for confusion rather than forcefulness. Examine each in the light of day and it gradually sinks from the terrible to the ridiculous.
    • Ch. 3, p. 167.
  • To miss a high aim is to fail without shame.
    • Ch. 3, p. 169.
  • There are, one may say, some five most productive sources of the sublime in literature, the common groundwork, as it were, of all five being competence in speaking, without which nothing can be done. The first and most powerful is the power of grand conceptions…and the second is the inspiration of vehement emotion. The other three come partly from art, namely the proper construction of figures – these being of course of two kinds, figures of thought and figures of speech – and, over and above these, nobility of language…The fifth cause of grandeur, which gives form to all those already mentioned, is dignified and elegant word-arrangement.
    • Ch. 8, p. 181.
  • Sublimity is the echo of a noble mind.
    • Ch. 9, p. 185.

Other translations

Quotations from the book as translated by other scholars.
  • φύσει γὰρ ἅπαντες οἱ μεγέθους ἐφιέμενοι, φεύγοντες ἀσθενείας καὶ ξηρότητος κατάγνωσιν, οὐκ οἶδ᾿ ὅπως ἐπὶ τοῦθ᾿ ὑποφέρονται, πειθόμενοι τῷ ῾μεγάλων ἀπολισθαίνειν ὅμως εὐγενὲς ἁμάρτημα.᾿
    • All who aim at elevation are so anxious to escape the reproach of being weak and dry that they are carried, as by some strange law of nature, into the opposite extreme. They put their trust in the maxim that 'failure in a great attempt is at least a noble error'.
    • Ch. 3 (in: Longinus on the Sublime, trans. W. Rhys Roberts, Cambridge University Press, 1907 [1899], p. 47)
  • Utterances which appear inspired are often not sublime but merely childish.
    • De Sublimitate, III., 2., as reported in Harbottle's Dictionary of Quotations (classical) [1897], p. 484.
  • Nothing is truly great which it is great to despise; wealth, honor, reputation, absolute power—anything in short which has a lot of external trappings—can never seem supremely good to the wise man because it is no small good to despise them. People who could have these advantages if they chose but disdain them out of magnanimity are admired much more than those who actually possess them.
    • Ch. 7 (in: Classical and Medieval Literary Criticism: Translations and Interpretations, F. Ungar Pub. Co., 1974, p. 195)
  • Sublimity is the echo of greatness of spirit.
    • In: Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, ed. Alex Preminger (Princeton University Press: 1974), p. 819


  • Thee, bold Longinus! all the Nine inspire,
    And bless their Critick with a Poet's Fire.
    An ardent Judge, who Zealous in his Trust,
    With Warmth gives Sentence, yet is always Just;
    Whose own Example strengthens all his Laws,
    And Is himself that great Sublime he draws.
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