Caesura (Lat. for "cutting," Gr. τομη), in prosody, a rest or pause, usually occurring about the middle of a verse, which is thereby separated into two parts (κωλα, members). In Greek and Latin hexameters the best and most common caesura is the penthemimeral (i.e. after the 5th half-foot):
μῆνιν ἄ | ειδε, θε | ά, | πη | ληϊα | δέω Ἀχι | λῆος
Arma vi | rumque ca | no, Tro | jae qui | primus ab | oris.
Another caesura very common in Homer, but rare in Latin verse, is after the 2nd syllable of the 3rd dactyl:
οἰω | νοῖσί τε | πᾶσι δι | ὸς δ' ἐτε | λείετο | βουλή.
On the other hand, the hephthemimeral caesura (i.e. after the 7th half-foot) is common in Latin, but rare in Greek:
Formo | sam reso | nare do | ces Ama | ryllida | silvas.
The "bucolic" caesura, peculiar to Greek (so called because it is chiefly found in writers like Theocritus) occurs after the 4th dactyl:
Ἄνδρα μοι | ἔννεπε, | μοῦσα, πο | λύτροπον, | ὃς μάλα | πολλά
In the pentameter verse of the elegiac distich the caesura is always penthemimeral. In the iambic trimeter (consisting of three dipodia or pairs of feet), both in Greek and Latin, the most usual caesura is the penthemimeral; next, the hephthemimeral:
Ὦ τέκ | να κάδ | μου τοῦ | πάλαι | νέα | τροφή
Supplex | et o | ro reg | na per | Proser | pinae.
Verses in which neither of these caesuras occurs are considered faulty. On the other hand, secondary or subsidiary caesuras are found in both Greek and Latin; thus, a trithemimeral (after the 3rd half-foot) is combined with the hephthemimeral, which divides the verse into two unequal parts. A caesura is often called masculine when it falls after a long, feminine when it falls after a short syllable.
The best treatise on Greek and Latin metre for general use is L. Müller, Die Metrik der Griechen und Romer (1885); see also the article Verse.