- Leto, Pomponio
- (1428-1498)Calabrian-born humanist, known in Latin as Julius Pomponius Laetus. Born the illegitimate son of a count, he became so profoundly devoted to Roman antiquity that he abandoned his vernacular name and came to be known only under his classicized name. He moved to Rome in the 1450s, studied Latin under the great stylist Lorenzo Valla, and became professor of rhetoric at the University of Rome. His home became the gathering place for a group of like-minded enthusiasts for ancient Rome known as the Roman Academy, all of whom took classical-sounding Latin names and referred to Leto as pontifex maximus. In part they were a study group, discussing ancient history and ancient archaeological remains, staging plays by Plautus and Terence, and critiquing each other's Latin writings. But they also revived celebration of the Palilia, the ancient festival commemorating the founding of the city of Rome.In 1467, while in Venice, Leto was arrested and charged with sodomy. The following year, he was turned over to authorities at Rome and, together with other members of the Roman Academy such as the humanist Bartolomeo Platina, he was brought to trial on charges of sodomy, conspiracy against papal rule of the city, and trying to revive ancient pagan religion. Pope Paul II himself presided over one of the two trials. While some of the accused may have been involved in sexual irregularities and reenactments of ancient religious rituals, the real cause of the prosecution was the pope's fear of political conspiracy against his rule over Rome. Eventually, the defendants were discharged without punishment and Leto was restored to his professorship.Under the next pope, Sixtus IV, Leto revived the Roman Academy, but this time it was organized as a specifically Christian religious sodality, and while it still observed the Palilia, it also honored several Christian saints whose feasts fell at about the same time as the Roman festival. The group's practice of founding sodalities to promote classical studies was a model for later associations of the same kind in both Italy and Northern Europe. Pomponio edited several classical authors and lectured on most of the ancient Latin authors most admired for their style of writing. Leto attracted able students, of whom Ermolao Barbaro the Younger became the most famous.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.