Pomponius Lætus, Juuus

, an eminent Italian antiquary, all whose names were of his own choice, was the illegitimate offspring of the illustrious house of Sanseverino, in the kingdom of Naples; but this was a circumstance on which he preserved an inflexible silence, and admitted no conversation or questions on the subject. Even when that family sent him an invitation to reside with them, he rejected it by a laconic note which is preserved by Tiraboschi “Pomponius Laetus cognatis et propinquis suis salutem. Quod petitis fieri non potest. Valete.” “Pomponius Laetus to his kinsmen and relations what you ask cannot be granted. Farewell.” He went young to Home, where he studied first under a very able grammarian of that time, Pietro da Monopoli, and afterwards under Laurentius Valia. On the death of this eminent scholar in 1457, he was thought qualified to succeed him in his professorship. He now began to found an academy, the members of which were men of letters, fond of antiquary researches, like himself, but who sometimes entered upon philosophical discussions. They were mostly young men, and in their zeal for past times, the glorious days of Rome, adopted Latinized names. Our author took that of Pomponius Lsetus, and Buonaccorsi that of Callimachus Experiens, &c. In their philosophical discussions, they went so far as to compare ancient with modern institutions, not much to the credit of the latter and at length this was represented to | pope Paul II. (whom we have recently noticed as the persecutor of Platina) first as inferring a contempt for religion secondly, as an attack on the church and lastly, as a conspiracy against the pope himself. The pope, either really alarmed, or pretending to be so, ordered all the members of the academy to be arrested, that could be found, and imprisoned and put them to the torture, of which one very promising young scholar died and although Pomponius was at this time (1468) at Venice, and had been indeed residing for three years with the Cornaro family, he was dragged in chains to Rome, and shared the same horrible fate as his fellow academicians; and although, after various examinations, conducted by the pope himself, no proof of guilt appeared, he and his companions remained in confinement a very considerable time. The death of their persecutor, however, restored them to liberty, and it was no inconsiderable testimony of their innocence that his successor Sixtus IV. equally strict in matters of heresy, made Platina librarian of the Vatican, and restored Pomponius to his professorship, in which office he continued to draw a great concourse of scholars. He also endeavoured to revive his academy, against which Paul It. had been so inveterate that he forbid its name to be mentioned either in jest or earnest, “vel serio vel joco,” attd we find two grand commemorations held by the members, in 1482 and 1483; the one on account of the death of Platina, the other to celebrate the foundation of Rome.

Pomponius was never rich, but it is a mistake that he died in an hospital. In 1484, during a public commotion, his library and goods were destroyed; but the loss was soon made up by his friends and scholars, so that at last his house was better furnished than before. He was indeed universally esteemed for the probity, simplicity, and even the occasional harshness of his manners. He died at “Rome in 1498, and was interred with honourable solemnity. He wrote some works, illustrative of the manners, customs, and Jaws of the Roman republic, and the state of ancient Rome. These are, treatises on the priesthood, the magistrates, the laws, an abridgment of the history of the emperors, from the death of the younger Gordianus to the exile of Justin III. all which shew great research and erudition. He also was a commentator on some ancient authors he corrected for the press the first edition of Sallust, and collated it with some antient Mss, although his name | is not mentioned by our bibliographers. He extended the same care to the works of Columella, Varro, Nonius Marcellus, Pliny the younger, and wrote notes on Quintilian and Virgil. His own works were collected in one vol. 8vo, very rare, printed at Mentz, 1521, under the titleOpera, Pomponii Laeti varia." 1


Tiraboschi. Ginguene Hist. Litt. d’ltalie. Beloe’s Anecdotes. —Chaufepie. Fabric. Bibl. Lat. Med.