Renæssanceforum 9 • 2015

Ada Palmer
The Use and Defense of the Classical Canon in Pomponio Leto's Biography of Lucretius

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Leto's is the oldest vita of Lucretius, and an apologetic text carefully structured to counter the stigmas of suicide and atheism which dogged this Epicurean poet. Uniquely among scholars of Lucretius, Leto proposes a male lover "Astericon" as the cause of Lucretius' suicide, but defuses this suggestion of sin with classical endorsements and Christian allusions. Leto uses the vita to advertise his own scholarly prowess, crafting intentionally ornate sentences packed with rare Latin constructions and deliberately obscure classical references. A final direct address to Cicero admonishes the orator for misunderstanding Epicureanism, effectively blaming him for the sect's bad reputation.