Laetus, Julius Pomponius
LAETUS, JULIUS POMPONIUS [Giulio Pomponio Leto], (1425-1498), Italian humanist, was born at Salerno. He studied at Rome under Laurentius Valla, whom he succeeded (1457) as professor of eloquence in the Gymnasium Romanum. About this time he founded an academy, the members of which adopted Greek and Latin names, met on the Quirinal to discuss classical questions and celebrated the birthday of Romulus. Its constitution resembled that of an ancient priestly college, and Laetus was styled pontifex maximus. The pope (Paul II.) viewed these proceedings with suspicion, as savouring of paganism, heresy and republicanism. In 1468 twenty of the academicians were arrested during the carnival; Laetus, who had taken refuge in Venice, was sent back to Rome, imprisoned and put to the torture, but refused to plead guilty to the charges of infidelity and immorality. For want of evidence, he was acquitted and allowed to resume his professorial duties; but it was forbidden to utter the name of the academy even in jest. Sixtus IV. permitted the resumption of its meetings, which continued to be held till the sack of Rome (1527) by Constable Bourbon during the papacy of Clement VII. Laetus continued to teach in Rome until his death on the gth of June 1498. As a teacher, Laetus, who has been called the first head of a philological school, was extraordinarily successful; in his own words, like Socrates and Christ, he expected to live on in the person of his pupils, amongst whom were many of the most famous scholars of the period. His works, written in pure and simple Latin, were published in a collected form (Opera Pomponii Laeti oaria, 1521). They contain treatises on the Roman magistrates, priests and lawyers, and a compendium of Roman history from the death of the younger Gordian to the time of Justin III Laetus also wrote commentaries on classical authors, and promoted the publication of the editio princeps of Virgil at Rome in 1469.
See The Life of Leto by Sabellicus (Strassburg, 1510); G. Voigt, Die Wiederbelebung des klassischen Alterthums, ii. ; F. Gregorovius Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter, vii. (1894), p. 576, for an account of the academy; Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship (1908), ii. 92.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)