Authors: Cassius Longinus

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Greek philosopher

Author Works


Techne rhetorike, third century

Philologoi homiliai, third century

Ta prolegomena eis to tou Hephaestionos encheiridion, third century

Peri archon, third century

Peri telous, third century


The learned contemporaries of Cassius Longinus (lahn-JI-nuhs) included his teacher Origen (c. 185-c. 254), his student Porphyry (c. 234-c. 305), and his fellow philosopher, the great neo-Platonist Plotinus (205-270). Born in Athens, Cassius Longinus studied philosophy at Alexandria in Egypt, where he won Plotinus’s respect as a philologist but not as a philosopher. He returned to his birthplace to teach rhetoric and literary criticism and achieved repute as kritikotatos (most discerning critic). In his mid-fifties, about 268, he joined the royal court of Zenobia and Odenathus in Palmyra as tutor and political counsel. When Emperor Aurelian overcame the resistance of Zenobia to Roman rule, Cassius Longinus, subject to proscription, was executed.{$I[AN]9810001678}{$I[A]Longinus, Cassius}{$S[A]Cassius Longinus;Longinus, Cassius}{$I[geo]GREECE;Longinus, Cassius}{$I[tim]0213;Longinus, Cassius}

Of the principal works completed by Cassius Longinus, only fragments are extant, the most substantial of these being twenty pages of his Techne rhetorike (rhetorical art), a standard handbook treating in standard fashion the subjects of Aristotelian rhetoric: proofs, lexis, diegesis, exordia, perorations, allegory, and the like. Among the opening remarks of his Ta prolegomena eis to tou Hephaestionos encheiridion (introduction to Hephaestion’s Encheiridion), he writes: “The father of meter is rhythm and God; for meter takes its origin from rhythm, and God articulates its measure.” Porphyry, in his biography of Plotinus, quotes a one-page excerpt of a letter from Cassius Longinus and a three-page essay prefatory to Peri telous (on the end); the letter venerates, and the preface extols, Plotinus as the best of the Platonists. None of the extant fragments offers any explicit evidence for his authorship of Peri hypsous (first century; On the Sublime, 1652), the great essay in literary criticism attributed to him until the early nineteenth century but subsequently ascribed with reasonable certainty to an anonymous critic, a “pseudo-Longinus” (also called simply “Longinus”), of the early first century c.e.

Although On the Sublime may not be considered his work–despite attempts by such scholars as G. M. A. Grube, Georg Luck, and G. W. Williams to prove that it is–and although his extant fragments are not stylistically distinguished, Cassius Longinus is known to have enjoyed considerable renown as a man of letters. Eunapius, a biographer of the late fourth and early fifth centuries, calls him “a living library and a walking museum” and adds: “Longinus was far and away the best man of his time in all [scholarly pursuits] and a great many of his works are available and admired. No critic’s negative judgment of any of the ancient writers was given credence until it was fully endorsed by Longinus.”

BibliographyBerkowitz, Luci, and Karl A. Squitier. Thesaurus Linguae Graecae: Canon of Greek Authors and Works. 3d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990. The extant canon of Cassius Longinus’s work is listed.Gibbon, Edward. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Edited by J. B. Bury. New York: Modern Library, 1995. Originally published from 1776 to 1788. Recounts Cassius Longinus’s association with Zenobia.Grube, G. M. A. The Greek and Roman Critics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1965. A representative argument identifying Cassius Longinus as the author of On the Sublime.Philostratus and Eunapius. The Lives of the Sophists. Translated by Wilmer Cave Wright. 1921. Reprint. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989. Contains biographical information about Cassius Longinus.Plotinus. The Enneads: A New, Definitive Edition with Comparisons to Other Translations on Hundreds of Key Passages. Translated by Stephen Mackenna. Burdett, N.Y.: Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation/Larson, 1992. Translations of the letter to Porphyry and the preface to Peri telous are available here.Russell, D. A. Criticism in Antiquity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981. Russell argues that Cassius Longinus is not the author of On the Sublime.
Categories: Authors