Donatus the Grammarian (and others)

Aelius Donatus (fl. 354 A.D.) was the most famous Latin grammarian of late antiquity and his works were widely used throughout the middle ages. His well-known status as a teacher of Jerome doubtless helped his reputation, but his grammatical treatises and his glosses on Vergil and Terence were well suited to classroom use. This page presents a small fraction of Donatus' oeuvre, mainly provided by James Marchand of the University of Illinois.

For a good summary of what is known about D. and his work with excellent bibliography, see R. Herzog, Restauration et renouveau (Turnhout 1992) = Restauration und Erneuerung (Munich 1989), section 527. For a good picture of the large place he held in conventional education a thousand years later, see Paul F. Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy (Baltimore 1989), pp. 162-202, esp. 182ff.

The most influential Donatan work was his Ars Minor, an introduction to the parts of speech. Also included here are chapters from his other works on other errors including "metaplasm" (Marchand on translating that word: I had always translated metaplasm as `any error I make' and barbarism as `any error anyone else makes'. The Germans have a word which fits nicely: `Schönheitsfehler'. I have actually seen transmutation used in English!"), "barbarism", and "solecism", as well as on figures of speech and rhetorical devices.

Of great importance in the medieval grammatical tradition were collections of "fables" from late antiquity. Those of Avianus are on this server, as well as the first book of Aesop that is known as the "Anonymus Neveleti"; both these texts will appear as "preformatted" text in a less attractive typeface in the better WWW browsers.

The wisdom attributed to Cato, the so-called dicta Catonis, was also widely read and admired in the medieval schools; probably written in the late third or early fourth century A.D.

From the other end of the history of Latin's dominance, Kenneth Mayer of the University of Texas supplies excerpts from the Exercitium Puerorum Grammatiale per dietas distributum (Cologne 1499), with various amusing complaints about the pedagogical situation of the times.

Higher ecclesiastical authority from time to time dealt with matters of grammar as well. Gregory of Tours, for example, reports a church council which debated whether women were people -- or is it, whether people were women?

To check some of this against a current Latin reference grammar, see the on-line edition of Allen and Greenough's standard Latin grammar.

Numerous other aids for the study of later Latinity are now to be found on the WWW: