The so-called Regulae Augustini is a treatise on the eight parts of speech that is transmitted by seven ancient manuscripts. The majority of these identify St. Augustine as the work’s author.
A passage of the Retractationes confirms that the future bishop of Hippo actually wrote a Liber de grammatica (1.6.6). There, the author comments that, while he was in Milan and waited for his baptism, he decided to compose an encyclopedia of the seven liberal arts that aimed to guide the reader gradually from knowledge of material reality to contemplation of spiritual reality. He never completed the project, however, finishing only the treatise on grammar and - after his return to Africa - the one on music. All these unfinished works and the de grammatica were soon lost.
The information contained in this passage has led many scholars - starting with the Maurists who began publishing Augustine’s opera omnia in 1679 - to doubt the work’s authenticity.
This question was complicated in 1852, when Angelo Mai discovered another grammatical work transmitted under Augustine’s name, the so-called Ars pro fratrum mediocritate breuiata. The doubts expressed about the Regulae applied equally to this newly found work, a fact that put the scholarly community in an awkward position: they possessed two grammatical treatises attributed to Augustine, both of which were both potentially spurious.
Differences in the typology, structure, and contents of these two extant works provided sufficient evidence for scholars to exclude the possibility that they were epitomes of a single source whose divergences had arisen from the differing goals of their compilers. Scholars have also rejected the possibility that Augustine had composed a second treatise (perhaps after losing the first), since he never says anything about and it was not common practice to write the same work twice.
It was thus clear that only one of the two treatises could actually be Augustine’s original. At the end, Ubaldo Pizzani and Vivien Law, by comparing passages from the two grammatical treatises to works of Augustine that were genuine, were able to catalogue many conclusive parallels that established the authenticity of the Ars breviata.
It is not a matter of chance that the influential codex Oxford, Bodleian Library, Addit. C 144 (2nd half of the 11th c.), our only representative of the second branch of the Regulae’s manuscript tradition, transmits the treatise without indicating an author: the false attribution to Augustine evidently represents a (shared) error of the other testimonia.
If Augustine is not the author of our treatise, it remains to ask who composed it. Unfortunately, this question is destined to remain unanswered until our knowledge of the text improves. Even so, there is some evidence that may allow us to establish some possible outer limits.
The presence of a long list of African toponyms in a section dedicated to the pluralia tantum, as well as similarities between the treatise and the African grammarian Pompeius’s commentary on Donatus’s Artes, allow us to hypothesize that the redactor of our Regulae was at the very least of African origin. Likewise, a few internal elements would seem to suggest a 4th-5th c. composition. These include the presence of citations drawn from poetae iuniores such as Lucan and Juvenal, the work’s treatment of impersonal passive verbs (as far as we can tell addressed for the first time in Ps.-Probus’s Instituta artium), and a parallel with a passage from Augustine’s De civitate Dei that is concerned with the irregular participle mortuus. Likewise pointing in this direction is the engagement of our text with Ps.-Palaemon’s Regulae, which can be dated to the beginning of the 4th c.; although the two may derive in part from the same source, our treatise is much more elaborate and appears to date to a subsequent period. [L. Martorelli; tr. C. L. Caterine].