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The literary treatise commonly called On the Sublime, of which two‐thirds survives, is ascribed in the manuscript tradition both to ‘Dionysius Longinus’ and to ‘Dionysius or Longinus’. Internal evidence, esp. the chapter on the decline of oratory, points to a date in the 1st cent. ad. The writer sets out to answer the rhetor Caecilius of Caleacte, who had allegedly given an inadequate account of ‘sublimity’, failing in particular to give due weight to the emotional element (pathos).

On the Sublime is an important book. In discussing the quality of thought and style which marks writing as ‘sublime’, the author breaks free of the rhetorical tradition within which he works, and makes a connection between ‘great writing’ and greatness of mind. He is a sophisticated, original, and serious critic. Both his detailed analyses of passages of poetry and prose, and his general reflections on genius and the limitations of ‘correct’ writing, are distinguished work, and have deservedly been influential. See sublime.

Subjects: Classical Studies.

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