Aelius Donatus

Aelius Donatus (fl. late 4th century AD) was a Roman grammarian and teacher of rhetoric. 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 several are still extant:

A partly incomplete commentary on the playwright Terence compiled from other commentaries, but probably not in its original form;

His Life of Virgil is thought to be based on a lost Vita by Suetonius, with a few fragments of his notes on Virgil's poetry, which breaks off abruptly after the Eclogues, together with the preface and introduction. A greatly expanded version of Servius' commentary exists, however, which is supplemented with frequent and extensive extracts from what is thought to be Donatus' commentary on the Aeneid.

* Life of Virgil text (English translation by David Scott)

His Ars grammatica and especially the section on the eight parts of speech, though possessing little claim to originality, and evidently based on the same authorities which were used by the grammarians Charisius and Diomedes, attained such popularity as a schoolbook that in the Middle Ages he became the eponym for a rudimentary treatise of any sort, called a donet. When books came to be printed in the 15th century, editions of the little book were multiplied to an enormous extent. It is also the only purely textual work to be printed in blockbook form (cut like a woodcut, not using movable type). It is 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.

He invented the system whereby a play is made up of three separate parts; protasis, epitasis, and catastasis.

Aelius Donatus should not be confused with Tiberius Claudius Donatus, also the author of a commentary (Interpretationes) on the Aeneid who lived about fifty years later.

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