In the 16th c., the grammaticus Dositheus was erroneously identified as the author of a bilingual (Greco-Latin) compilation of diverse texts - commonly called the Hermeneumata - that was intended for use by Roman schoolboys. The attribution was made because two manuscripts preserving the compilation place it immediately after Dositheus’ authentic Ars grammatica without any indication of a new author or title (Sankt Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek 902 and London, British Library, Harley 5642). Scholars were initially deceived because the Dosithean text and the compilation are both bilingual; in 1868, however, Anatole Boucherie raised questions about the attribution, and Heinrich Keil then proved on chronological grounds in 1860 that Dositheus could not have been the author of both the Ars grammatica and the Hermeneumata.
More recent studies have argued that the Hermeneumata should be dated to the first half of the 4th c., if not to the end of the 3rd c. The bilingual texts are mostly Greek-to-Latin, but in a pair of recensions are Latin-to-Greek. Teachers used them as a scholastic aid for Greek-speaking students who wanted to understand Latin or vice versa. The Hermeneumata comes down to us in numerous recensions, with manuscripts dating from the 9th to 16th c—facts indicating that the compilation had a wide diffusion in antiquity and the middle ages. It appears from the start to have been divided into four clearly-defined sections, always in two languages:
1: An alphabetical dictionary, the length of which varies from c. 200 to c. 3000 lemmata depending on the recension.
2: A series of glosses divided into capitula organized by semantic field, e.g. De diis, De caelo, De piscibus, De avibus, etc.
3: A collection of so-called colloquia presenting vignettes of daily life, e.g. “in the morning,” “at school,” “at lunch,” “at the baths,” etc.
4: An anthology encompassing diverse texts: sententiae of Hadrian, a collection of 18 Aesopic fables, a treatise De manumissionibus (perhaps written by Gaius), genealogies of Hyginus, an epitome of the Iliad, the interrogationes and responsa of Nicarius and Carphylis, response of wise men and Delphic precepts.
We know of at least nine recensions, as well as numerous sub-recensions. Although the content of these occasionally overlaps, there is for the most part a great variability between them. Only portions of the original four sections are contained in the recensions that have come down to us. [P. Gatti; tr. C. L. Caterine]