1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Donatus, Aelius

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DONATUS, AELIUS, Roman grammarian and teacher of rhetoric, flourished in the middle of the 4th century A.D. The only fact known regarding his life is that he was the tutor of St Jerome. He was the author of a number of professional works, of which there are still extant:—Ars grammatica; the larger portion of his commentary on Terence (a compilation from other commentaries), but probably not in its original form; and a few fragments of his notes on Virgil, preserved and severely criticized by Servius, together with the preface and introduction, and life of Virgil. The first of these works, and especially the section on the eight parts of speech, though possessing little claim to originality, and in fact evidently based on the same authorities which were used by the grammarians Charisius and Diomedes, attained such popularity as a school-book that in the middle ages the writer’s name, like the French Calepin, became a common metonymy (in the form donet) for a rudimentary treatise of any sort. On the introduction of printing editions of the little book were multiplied to an enormous extent. It is extant in the form of an Ars Minor, which only treats of the parts of speech, and an Ars Major, which deals with grammar in general at greater length.

Aelius Donatus is to be distinguished from Tiberius Claudius Donatus, the author of a commentary (Interpretationes) on the Aeneid (of far less value than that of Servius), who lived about fifty years later.

The best text of the Ars and the commentaries upon it by Servius and others is in H. Keil, Grammatici Latini, iv.; of the commentary on Terence there is an edition by P. Wessner (1902, Teubner series), with bibliography and full account of MSS. See generally E. A. Gräfenhan, Geschichte der klassischen Philologie im Altertum, iv. (1850); P. Rosenstock, De Donato, Terenti . . . explicatore (1886); H. T. Karsten, De comm. Don. ad Terenti fabulas origine et compositione (Leiden, 1907). For the commentary of Tiberius Donatus see O. Ribbeck, Prolegomena to Virgil, Gräfenhan (as above), and V. Burkas, De Tiberii Claudii Donati in Aeneidem commentario (1889). The text will be found in G. Fabricius’s edition of Virgil (1561), ed. by H. George, i. (1905 foll.).