Pomponius Laetus, Julius
Pomponius Laetus, Julius a distinguished Italian humanist, was born in 1425 at Amendolara, in Upper Calabria. He seems to have been a bastard of the illustrious house of Sanseverini, in the kingdom of Naples. So far from being proud of this relationship, he shunned every reference to it; and when, in later times, his parents invited the admired writer to acknowledge them, he answered, "Pomponius Laetus cognatis et propinquis suis salutem. Quodpetitis fieri non potest. Vale." Hewas still very young when he arrived at Rome, where he studied literature under Pietro di Monopoli, a clever grammarian of the time. At the death of Lorenzo Valla, his last master (1457), he was deemed fit to succeed him. He founded an academy, where several literary men, devoted like himself to the study of antiquity, assembled. Most of them were voting men. Their enthusiasm for the classics made them renounce their Christian names, and adopt in their stead names borrowed from the classical languages. Perhaps these comparisons between the institutions of the past and of their own time may have resulted in depreciating criticisms of the latter. Malignity knew how to transform these, in the eyes of pope Paul II, into contempt for religion, complot against the Church, and finally conspiracy against its chief. Those of the academicians who could be got hold of were put to the rack-one of them died during the proceedings. Pomponius, who was at the time a resident of Venice, was arrested there, brought to Rome, and tortured like the others; but no avowal of his imagined crime could be pressed out of him. After interrogating him twice, Paul II declared that in future every one should be held for a heretic who, even in jest, pronounced the word "academy" (comp. on this point De Rossi, Roma Sotteranea, vol. 1). In 1471 Sixtus IV, Paul's successor, allowed Pomponius to resume his professorship in the Roman college, where he met with the same favor he had formerly enjoyed, the students crowding to his lectures. Among those disciples (they were called Pomponiani) some were men of merit, as Alessandro Farnese, pope under the name of Paul III, Andrea Fulvio of Preneste, and Conrad Pentinger. No one ever was fonder of manuscripts, medals, and inscriptions than Pomponius Laetus; he was constantly seen pacing the streets of Rome in search of some monument of those pagan times in which he wished he had lived. There was no dark corner, no trace of antiquity, but he had carefully examined it, and could give an account of it. In his little house on the Janiculan, with some chosen friends, he solemnized the anniversary of the foundation of Rome and the birth of Romulus. Pomponins was of a mild and kind disposition, always ready to help or to please, and of charming modesty. Nature made him a stammerer, but he completely conquered this defect. He was often seen in the streets with a lantern in his hands, like Diogenes, whose customs and habits he had taken to imitate. He died at Rome May 21, 1497. He left several works, monuments of a profound and rare erudition. They were published at Hagenau (1520). His Opera varia were edited at Mentz (1521, 8vo); they comprise, De Sacer-dotiis, De
Jurisperitis. De Romanorumu Magistratibus: — De Legibus and De Antiquitatibus urbis Romae: — along with Compendium Historiae Romanae ab interitu Gordiani usque (ad Justinum III, originally edited at Venice (1498, 4to). He explained and commented besides on several classical authors, and devoted his care to editions of Sallust, Columella, Varro, Festus, Nonnius Marcellus, and Pliny the younger. His commentaries on Virgil were printed at Basle (1486, fol.). See Christian Schools and Scholars, 2, 316, 370; Tiraboschi, Storia de la Letter. Ital. vol. 6 pt. 1; Ginguend, Hist. litter. d'ltalie; Hallam, Lit. Hist. of Europe (Harper's ed.), 1, 266; Sabellicus, Vita Pomponii Lceti (Strasb. 1510, 4to). — Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Géneralé, s.v.