Renaissance and Reformation Giulio Pomponio Leto
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 07 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0201


Giulio Pomponio Leto (b. 1428–d. 1498) is one of the more difficult of the Italian humanists to appreciate. Largely because of his conflict with Pope Paul II, he has been accused of everything from questionable orthodoxy to boring scholarship. He seems to have preferred teaching to publishing, and much of his work survives in rough transcriptions of his lectures made by his students instead of the elegant printed editions favored by many of his contemporaries. What is perhaps his major scholarly achievement, his commentary to Virgil, was published in a pirated edition under a garbled form of his name, which impeded its circulation and kept his observations on the text from earning him the credit he deserved. Yet Leto was a major scholar, one of the foremost figures of Italian Renaissance culture and the focal point of humanism in 15th-century Rome. His work is beginning to attract the attention it deserves, but as this article suggests, much more remains to be done.


Two roughly contemporary sources, Ferno 1754 and Marsus 1988, exist for information on Leto, but both must be used with some caution since they were not designed as objective historical analyses. Other sources such as Bracke 1989 and Delz 1966 occasionally emerge, but not in a systematic way.

  • Bracke, Wouter. “The Ms. Ottob. Lat. 1982: A Contribution to the Biography of Pomponius Laetus?” Rinascimento 2.29 (1989): 293–299.

    Uses a neglected collection of letters from the second Roman Academy (Vatican City: Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, Ottob. lat., 1982) to clarify when Leto, who did not like to travel, went to Germany and eastern Europe.

  • Delz, Joseph. “Ein unbekannter Brief von Pomponius Laetus.” Italia medioevale e umanistica 9 (1966): 417–440.

    A transcription and detailed study of a previously unknown letter (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, Ms. lat. 8413, f. 175r) of Leto’s to Giovanni Tron, which sheds light on issues ranging from the charges leveled against him by the church to his work with Silius Italicus.

  • Ferno, Michele. “Iulii Pomponii Laeti elogium historicum.” In Bibliotheca latina mediae et infimae aetatis. Vol. 6. Edited by Ioannes Fabricius, pp, 6–10. Padua, Italy: Apud Ioannem Manfrè, 1754.

    An early source for Leto’s life, to be used with caution, since it sometimes conflicts with the documentary evidence.

  • Marsus, Petrus. “Funebris oratio habita Romae in obitu Pomponii Laetii.” In L’humanisme di Pierre Marso. Edited by Marc Dykmans, 78–85. Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1988.

    Contains the text, with a summary in French and explanatory discussion, of a funeral oration on Leto delivered by Petrus Marsus (b. 1442–d. 1512), a younger associate of his in the Roman Academy. Not an unbiased source, but a valuable one nonetheless.

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