The appellation of grammarian was borrowed from the Greeks; but at first, the Latins called such persons literati. Cornelius Nepos, also, in his book, where he draws a distinction between a literate and a philologist, says that in common phrase, those are properly called literati who are skilled in speaking or writing with care or accuracy, and those more especially deserve the name who translated the poets, and were called grammarians by the Greeks. It appears that they were named literators by Messala Corvinus, in one of his letters, when he says, "that it does not refer to Furius Bibaculus, nor even to Sigida, nor to Cato, the literator," meaning, doubtless, that Valerius Cato was both a poet and an eminent grammarian. Some there are who draw a distinction between a literati and a literator, as the Greeks do between a grammarian and a grammatist, applying the former term to men of real erudition, the latter to those whose pretensions to learning are moderate; and this opinion Orbilius supports by examples. For he says that in old times, when a company of slaves was offered for sale by any person, it was not customary, without good reason, to describe either of them in the catalogue as a literati, but only as a literator, meaning that he was not a proficient in letters, but had a smattering of knowledge.
The early grammarians taught rhetoric also, and we have many of their treatises which include both sciences; whence it arose, I think, that in later times, although the two professions had then become distinct, the old custom was retained, or the grammarians introduced into their teaching some of the elements required for public speaking, such as the problem, the periphrasis, the choice of words, description of character, and the like; in order that they might not transfer their pupils to the rhetoricians no better than ill-taught boys. But I perceive that these lessons are now given up in some cases, on account of the want of application, or the tender years, of the scholar, for I do not believe that it arises from any dislike in the master. I recollect that when I was a boy it was the custom of one of these, whose name was Princeps, to take alternate days for declaiming and disputing; and sometimes he would lecture in the morning, and declaim in the afternoon, when he had his pulpit removed. I heard, also, that even within the memories of our own fathers, some of the pupils of the grammarians passed directly from the schools to the courts, and at once took a high place in the ranks of the most distinguished advocates. The professors at that time were, indeed, men of great eminence, of some of whom I may be able to give an account in the following chapters.