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  • Pomponio Leto tra identità locale e cultura internazionale: atti Del Convegno Internazionale, Teggiano, 3–5 Ottobre 2008
  • Frances Muecke
Modigliani, Anna, Patricia Osmond, Marianne Pade, and Johann Ramminger, eds, Pomponio Leto tra identità locale e cultura internazionale: atti Del Convegno Internazionale, Teggiano, 3–5 Ottobre 2008 (RR Inedita Saggi, 48), Rome, Roma nel Rinascimento, 2011; paperback; pp. xii, 296; 11 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. €33.00; ISBN 8885913520.

The incredibly influential Roman humanist Pomponio Leto (1428–1498) continues to exercise the fascination that made students flock to his lectures at ‘impossible hours’ (p. 3). One of these, Marco Antonio Altieri, even made testamentary provision for a pagan-style banquet every year on the anniversary of his own death, in celebration of himself and his teachers Leto and Platina. In the hundred years that have passed since the publication of Vladimir Zabughin’s indispensable but always provisional Giulio Pomponio Leto: saggio critico (2 vols, Rome, 1909–12), many new discoveries have been made, yet myriad questions remain to be answered. It is one of the attractive features of this volume that its contributors are alive to such new opportunities for further research.

In his stimulating ‘prolusione’, Massimo Miglio sets out some of these puzzles in a survey of the spheres in which Leto lived or exercised his influence. The details of his biography are elusive: Anna Modigliani’s article considers his name, Arturo Didier his early years; for later interest in the biography see Johann Ramminger’s and Annalisa Esposito’s contributions. The dates and destinations of his travels – certainly to Germany, and to ‘Scythia’ – remain a matter of discussion, but his experiences in Eastern Europe (Poland, Southern Russia, the Black Sea?) are famously reflected in notes in his commentaries on classical texts, especially on Varro’s De lingua Latina, Virgil’s Georgics, and Valerius Flaccus’ Argonautica. On this topic, see Maria Accame’s ‘Note scite nei commenti di Pomponio Leto’.

Pomponio Leto impinges on many aspects of the culture, society, and politics of Rome in the second half of the fifteenth century (see the vivid but somewhat exaggerated account of Anthony F. D’Elia, A Sudden Terror: The Plot to Murder the Pope in Renaissance Rome (2009)). Moreover, as Miglio says, he lived in Rome at a time when it was becoming, and was ‘il referente culturale d’Europa’ (p. 2). Hence his fame spread beyond the Roman Studium and the Italian humanist networks to Northern Europe via the students he attracted (e.g., Conrad Celtis) and his surprisingly few published works. Leaving aside the texts he edited for the early printing trade, the most significant of these works are Romanae historiae compendium (Venice, 1499), De Romanorum magistratibus, sacerdotiis, iurisperitis et legibus (Rome, 1474), De antiquitatibus urbis Romae libellus or De Romanae urbis vetustate (Rome 1510), all in his Opera (1510, 1515, and 1521). Aspects of their contents and fortuna, and antiquarian [End Page 236] interests more broadly, are discussed by Francesca Niutta, Angelo Mazzocco, Patricia Osmond, Federico Rausa, and Ramminger.

The bulk of Pomponio’s work, however, lies barely read in manuscript ‘commentaries’ or in manuscript notes in the margins of early printed books, and examples of this material continue to come to light. Discussions by Accame, Fabio Stok, Marianne Pade, Giancarlo Abbamonte, and Osmond demonstrate the inherent difficulties, as well as the gains to be made by close analysis of these notes. Another theme that runs through the collection is Pomponio’s relationship with his contemporaries (such as Perotti in both Stok and Pade) and continuing presence in matters of controversy (see Lucia Gualdo Rosa on the two Senecas, and Federico Rausa’s contribution, ‘Pomponio Leto, Pirro Ligorio’).

This volume, like earlier ones on Pomponio Leto in the same series published by the admirable group ‘Roma nel Rinascimento’ (Antiquaria a Roma: intorno a Pomponio Leto e Paolo II (2003), Pomponio Leto e la prima Accademia romana (2005)), is indispensable for specialists in Roman culture of the fifteenth century and classicists interested in the Renaissance origins of their discipline.

Frances Muecke
Department of Classics and Ancient History
The University of Sydney


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