1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Longinus, Cassius
LONGINUS, CASSIUS (c. A.D. 213–273), Greek rhetorician and philosophical critic, surnamed Philologus. The origin of his gentile name Cassius is unknown; it can only be conjectured that he adopted it from a Roman patron. He was perhaps a native of Emesa (Homs) in Syria, the birthplace of his uncle Fronto the rhetorician. He studied at Alexandria under Origen the heathen, and taught for thirty years at Athens, one of his pupils being the Neoplatonist Porphyry. Longinus did not embrace the new speculations then being developed by Plotinus, but continued a Platonist of the old type. He upheld, in opposition to Plotinus, the doctrine that the Platonic ideas existed outside the divine ὅτι ἔξω τοῦ νοῦ ὑφέστηκε τὰ νοητά: see F. Überweg, Grundriss der Geschichte der Philosophie, 9th ed., 1903, i. § 72). Plotinus, after reading his treatise Περὶ ἀρχῶν (On First Principles), remarked that Longinus might be a scholar (φιλόλογος), but that he was no philosopher (φιλόσοφος). The reputation which Longinus acquired by his learning was immense; he is described by Porphyry as “the first of critics,” and by Eunapius as “a living library and a walking museum” or encyclopaedia. During a visit to the East he became teacher in Greek, and subsequently chief counsellor in state affairs, to Zenobia, queen of Palmyra. It was by his advice that she endeavoured to regain her independence; Aurelian, however, crushed the attempt, and while Zenobia was led captive to Rome to grace Aurelian’s triumph, Longinus paid the forfeit of his life.
Longinus was the author of a large number of works, nearly all of which have perished. Among those mentioned by Suïdas are Quaestiones Homericae, An Homerus fuerit philosophus, Problemata Homeri et solutiones, Atticorum vocabulorum editiones duae; the most important of his philological works, Φιλόλογοι ὁμιλίαι (Philological Discourses) consisting of at least 21 books, is omitted. A considerable fragment of the Περὶ τέλους (De finibus, On the Chief End) is preserved in the Life of Plotinus by Porphyry (§ 20). Under his name there are also extant Prolegomena to the Encheiridion of Hephaestion on metre (printed in R. Westphal, Scriptores Metrici Graeci, i. 1866) and the fragment of a treatise on rhetoric (L. Spengel, Rhetores Graeci, i. pp. 299-320), inserted in the middle of a similar treatise by Apsines. It gives brief practical hints on invention, arrangement, style, memory and other things useful to the student. Some important excerpts ἐκ τῶν Λογγίνου (Spengel, i. 325-328) may possibly be from the φιλόλογοι ὁμιλίαι.
It is as the reputed author of the well-known and remarkable work Περὶ ὕψους (generally, but inadequately, rendered On the Sublime) that Longinus is best known. Modern scholars, however, with few exceptions, are agreed that it cannot with any certainty be ascribed to him, and that the question of authorship cannot be determined (see Introduction to Roberts’s edition). The following are the chief arguments against Longinus. (1) The treatise is not mentioned by any classical author, nor in any lists of the works attributed to him. (2) The evidence of the MSS. shows that doubts existed even in early times. In the most important (No. 2036 in the Paris Library, 10th century) the heading is Διονυσίου ἥ Λογγίνου, thus giving an alternative author Dionysius; in the Laurentian MS. at Florence the title has ἀνωνύμου, implying that the author was unknown. The ascription in the Paris MS. led to the addition of Dionysius to the name of the reputed author—Dionysius Cassius Longinus, accounted for by the supposition that his early name was Dionysius, Cassius Longinus being subsequently adopted from a Roman patron whose client he had been. (3) The absence of any reference to the famous writers on rhetoric of the age of the Antonines, such as Hermogenes and Alexander son of Numenius. (4) The opening sentences show that the Περὶ ὕψους was written with a view of correcting the faults of style and method in a treatise by Caecilius (q.v.) of Calactē on the same subject. As Caecilius flourished during the reign of Augustus, it is hardly likely that his work would have been selected for purposes of criticism in the 3rd century. (5) General considerations of style and language and of the point of view from which the work is written. In favour of Longinus: (1) The traditional ascription, which held its ground unchallenged till the beginning of the 18th century. (2) The philosophical colouring of the first chapter and the numerous quotations from Plato are in accordance with what is known of his philosophical opinions. (3) The treatise is the kind of work to be expected from one who was styled “the first of critics.” (4) The Ammonius referred to (xiii. 3) is supposed to be Ammonius Saccas (c. 175–242), but it appears from the Venetian scholia to the Iliad that there was an earlier Ammonius (fl. c. 140 B.C.), a pupil and successor of Aristarchus at Alexandria, who, judging from the context, is no doubt the writer in question. The reference is therefore an argument against Longinus.
The work is dedicated to a certain Terentianus, of whom nothing is known (see Roberts’s edition, p. 18).
The alternative author Dionysius of the MSS. has been variously identified with the rhetorician and historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the Atticist Aelius Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Dionysius Atticus of Pergamum, Dionysius of Miletus. Other suggested claimants to the authorship are Plutarch (L. Vaucher in Études critiques sur le traité du sublime (Geneva, 1854) and Aelius Theon of Alexandria (W. Christ), the author of a work on the Arrangement of Speech. But it seems most probable that the author was an unknown writer who flourished in the 1st century soon after Caecilius and before Hermogenes. Wilamowitz-Möllendorff gives his date as about A.D. 40.
The rendering On the Sublime implies more than is intended by the Greek Περὶ ὕψους (“impressiveness in style,” Jebb). Nothing abnormal, such as is associated with the word “sublime,” is the subject of discussion; it is rather a treatise on style. According to the author’s own definitions, “Sublimity is a certain distinction and excellence in expression,” “sublimity consists in elevation,” “sublimity is the echo (or expression) of a great soul” (see note in Roberts).
The treatise is especially valuable for the numerous quotations from classical authors, above all, for the preservation of the famous fragment of Sappho, the ode to Anactoria, beginning
imitated by Catullus (li.) Ad Lesbiam,
“Its main object is to point out the essential elements of an impressive style which, avoiding all tumidity, puerility, affectation and bad taste, finds its inspiration in grandeur of thought and intensity of feeling, and its expression in nobility of diction and in skilfully ordered composition” (Sandys).
A full bibliography of the subject will be found in the edition by W. R. Roberts (Cambridge, 2nd ed., 1907), containing an Introduction, Analysis, Translation and Appendices (textual, linguistic, literary and bibliographical), to which may be added F. Marx, Wiener Studien, xx. (1898), and F. Kaibel, Hermes, xxxiv. (1899), who respectively advocate and reject the claims of Longinus to the authorship; J. E. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship (2nd ed., 1906), pp. 288, 338, should also be consulted. The number of translations in all the languages of Europe is large, including the famous one by Boileau, which made the work a favourite text-book of the bellelettristic critics of the 18th century. A text and translation was published by A. O. Prickard (1907–1908).