Longinus, on the Sublime 12.4-5: Demosthenes and Cicero

Casper C. De Jonge, Arjan A. Nijk

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


This article discusses the critical comparison (σγκρισισ) of the styles of Demosthenes and Cicero in Longinus, On the Sublime 12.4-5. Many readers have claimed that Longinus here presents Demosthenes and Cicero as two different models of the sublime. A detailed analysis of the passage, however, reveals that while the two are both credited with grandeur (μγϵθωσ), they are in fact not treated on a par with respect to sublimity (ψωσ). While the style of Demosthenes is described with keywords of Longinus' conception of the sublime (ψωσ), Cicero's style is consistently associated with the quality of diffusion (χσισ), which is closely associated with amplification (αξησισ). Longinus' discussion of Cicero may have pleased the Roman readers in his audience, as he is presented as a canonical author of 'great' literature. We argue, however, that in the end, Longinus reserves the status of sublimity for his heroes of classical Greece.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766–790
Number of pages25
Issue number5
Early online date3 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Cicero
  • Demosthenes
  • Greek and Roman literary criticism
  • the sublime


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