Grammarian active at Rome around the middle of the 4th c., teacher of Jerome and Rufinus (cfr. Jer. adv. Rufin. 1.16). The name ‘Donatus’ suggests African origin. In the codices of the commentary on Terence he is designated as orator, but the phrase grammaticus urbis Romae that is read in the manuscripts of the Ars is more reliable.
1) Ars maior (GL 4.367-402), a treatise about grammar in three books, on the eight partes orationis, but also on questions of phonetics, metrics, and stylistics;
2) Ars minor (GL 4.352-66), a manual for beginners, in the form of a catechism, on the partes orationis [parts of a speech];
3) Commentum Terenti, a commentary on the comedies of Terence (except the Heauton timorumenos), probably altered in the course of transmission; in the manuscripts it is preceded by the Excerpta de comoedia and the Vita Terentii;
4) Of the commentary on the works of Vergil, only the introductory section survives, consisting of the Epistula ad Munatium, the Vita Vergilii, and the Praefatio to the Eclogues. The possibility that the lost commentary on Vergil can be partially reconstructed on the basis of the so-called Servius Danielis, the additions to the commentary of Servius that are witnessed by a part of the Servian manuscript tradition, is debated: this thesis, though for a long time prevalent (Rand, Savage, Santoro), is today accepted with caution and some skepticism (Daintree, Brugnoli). Likewise debated is the possibility that the commentary was still in circulation during the Middle Ages (Savage; an attempt to identify a medieval trace of it was already made by Dzino in 2011).
The reputation of Donatus is bound up principally in the grammatical manual, which in its two versions had a considerable diffusion in the course of the Middle Ages and beyond (Holtz; Hexter). [F. Stok; tr. C. L. Caterine].