Is there anything more exciting than the Holiday atmosphere of December? Well, maybe a brand new Women’s Wednesday! Today’s Mulier Clara is Leontion, a philosopher from Ancient Greece.
Not much is known about Leontion other than her being one of the pupils of Epicurus. The Epicurean School was known for being open to “minorities”, such as slaves and women, who would see the pursuit of pleasure as the greatest form of happiness. Because of this pursuit of hedonism, many women philosophers, including Leontion herself, were accused of being hetairai (cultured courtesans). However, there was no way to verify this claim - given that this type of accusations was a common occurrence at the time. Indeed, ancient historians often felt the need to discredit epicurean philosophers, usually through the use of false accusations.
Though all of Leontion’s work is now lost, she is still remembered to this day thanks to her convincing arguments against the famous philosopher Theophrastus, Aristotle’s successor. While admitting to not having read the arguments by Leontion, Boccaccio makes of them the object of his major criticism against our Mulier Clara, insisting that the attack against Theophrastus was moved solely by a strong spirit of envy. Eventually, Boccaccio does recognize Leontion’s talent and intelligence, but still sees her as a negative example to avoid.
“Leontion”, illumination from the manuscript “Cas des nobles hommes et femmes”, ms. Français 12420, f. 93r, 15th century, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Paris.