A note on Evanthius grammaticus

Bill Thayer of Lacus Curtius emails to ask if I have seen this link.  It’s a parallel Latin text and French translation of Evanthius grammaticus, De fabula and de comoedia excerpta.  I find that the name is also given as Euanthius.  Here’s a few notes on what I can find.

Evanthius (or Euanthius) of Constantinople 1 was a Latin grammarian of the first half of the fourth century, as we learn from a passage in the Chronicon of Jerome recording his death in AD 358.2  The only other ancient author to mention him is the grammarian Rufinus 3 whose commentary on Terence begins with the words:4 “Evanthius in the commentary on the fables of Terence says…” and then gives two brief passages, both of which are found in the introduction to the commentary on Terence that has come down to us under the name of Donatus.  From these we learn that Evanthius wrote a commentary on Terence which included or was introduced by a discussion of the genre5.  This is entitled De Fabula, but it is not clear how it became attached to the work of Donatus.6

The treatise De comoedia appears in the manuscripts prefixed to the scholia on Terence,7  and was edited by Reifferscheid,8 and the modern edition is by Wessner.9  It gives a survey of the origins of tragedy and comedy, then some general statements about the nature of comedy and then a history of the latter, treating satire as a form of comedy.10

Here’s the first couple of lines of De fabula, which I have converted from the French.  It looks like an interesting work.

1. Both tragedy and comedy had their first manifestations in the religious ceremonies with which the ancients consecrated themselves in fulfillment of vows made for benefits received. 2 In fact, when a fire had been lit on the altar and a goat brought, the type of incantations that the sacred choir made in honour of the god Liber was called tragedy.  The etymology of this is either from τράγος and ᾠδή, i.e. the word for a goat, the enemy of the vines, and the word for song (of which Virgil gives full details); or it is because the creator of this poem received a goat in return; or because a full cup of grape wine was given in solemn recompense to the singers or because actors smeared their faces with wine lees,  before the invention of masks by Aeschylus.  Indeed in Greek the lee is called τρύγες. This is why tragedy is so called.

1. Maximillian Dorn, De veteribus grammaticis artis Terentiae iudicibus (1906), p.19, tells us that “Donatus is followed by the most obscure Evanthius, a Byzantine grammarian…”.
2.  “Euanthius”, Real-Encyclopadie VI.1 (1907), p.847, “Euanthius eruditissimus grammaticorum Constantinopli diem obit, in cuius locum ex Africa Chrestus adducitur” (here) — “Evanthius, most learned of grammarians, died at Constantinople, in whose placed Chrestus was brought from Africa.”  3.  So states the RE.
4.  Grammatici latini VI 554,4. See also 565, 5.  “Euanthius in commentario Terentii de fabula [hoc est de comoedia] sic dicit …”.
5.  Robert A. Kaster, Guardians of language: the grammarian and society in late antiquity, p.278-9.
6.  Michael J. Sidnell, Sources of dramatic theory: Plato to Congreve. p.78, n.2.  “The text of De fabula can be found in Donatus/Wessner 1962-3, 1:13-22, and the fullest modern treatment of Evanthius is Cupaiulo’s (Evanthius, ed. Cupaiulo, 1979).” 
7. G. L. Hendrickson, The dramatic satura and the old comedy at Rome, American Journal of Philology 15 (1894), p.14.
8.  Euanthius et Donati commentum de comoedia ex rec. A. Reifferscheid, Breslau (1874).
9.  Evanthius, ‘De fabula: excerpta de Comoedia’, Aeli Donati Commentum Terenti, ed. P. Wessner, 3 vols, Stuttgart 1966, vol. 1.  (Source)
10.  Hendrickson, p.14.