Monday, June 05, 2017


The Tyranny of Donatus

Domenico Comparetti (1835-1927), Vergil in the Middle Ages, tr. E.F.M. Benecke (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co. Lim., 1908), p. 88, n. 35:
Many writers, feeling that their grammar is not above reproach, revolt strangely against the "tyranny of Donatus." Instances abound; it must suffice to quote the following curious passage from the Indiculus luminosus (No. XX.) of ALVARUS CORDUBENSIS (9th cent.): "Agant eructuosas quaestiones philosophi et Donatistae genis impuri, latratu canum, grunnitu porcorum, fauce rasa et dentibus stridentes, saliva spumosi grammatici ructent. Nos vero evangelici servi Christi discipuli rusticanorum sequipedi," etc. These words agree remarkably with a horrible biography of Donatus, inspired perhaps by this same repugnance for his grammar, which is found in a Paris MS. and has been several times published (most recently by Hagen, Anecdota Helvetica, p. 259). Yet Alvarus shows himself by his works to have been a diligent student of Vergil. Cp. AMADOR DE LOS RIOS, Hist. crit. de la lit. Españ., ii. p. 102 seqq.
For a translation of the Latin (Patrologia Latina 121: 534 C) see John Addington Symonds (1840-1893), Renaissance in Italy: The Revival of Learning, new ed. (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1898), p. 44:
'Let philosophers and impure scholars of Donatus,' writes a fanatic of Cordova, 'ply their windy problems with the barking of dogs, the grunting of swine, snarling with skinned throat and teeth; let the foaming and bespittled grammarians belch, while we remain evangelical servants of Christ, true followers of rustic teachers.'
There is a translation of the Life of Donatus published by Hagen in Maya Petrova, "Taking a New Look at the Ancient Tradition of Suetonius-Donatus' Biographies (A 9-th century biography of Aelius Donatus)," ΣΧΟΛΗ 10.1 (2016) 50-58 (at 57-58).

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