Leontion was a pupil of Epicurus and his philosophy. She was the companion of Metrodorus of Lampsacus. The information we have about her is scant. She was said to have been a hetaera - a courtesan or prostitute. This might be misogynistic or anti-Epicurean slander - though there is no evidence for such a claim. On the other hand, hetaerae often enjoyed an independence denied to most other women in the male-dominated society of Ancient Greece. Epicurus' school was unusual in that it allowed women and even slaves to attend.
Diogenes Laërtius has preserved a line from a letter that Epicurus evidently wrote to Leontion, in which Epicurus praises her for her well-written arguments against certain philosophical views (which aren't mentioned in Diogenes' quote). According to Pliny, she was painted by Aristides of Thebes in a work entitled "Leontion thinking of Epicurus."
Leontium, that mere courtesan, who had the effrontery to write a riposte to Theophrastus - mind you, she wrote elegantly in good Attic, but still, this was the licence which prevailed in the Garden of Epicurus.
Pliny also wondered at how a woman could possibly write against Theophrastus. Writing in the 14th century, Boccaccio wondered if Leontion was the stronger of the two of either dragging philosophy down to her level or if philosophy was the weaker because of her having an enlightened heart to be dominated by her disgraceful acts.
- Diogenes Laertius, x. 23
- Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, xiii. 588, 593
- Diogenes Laertius, x. 5
- Pliny, Nat. Hist., 35.99[permanent dead link]
- Cicero, De Natura Deorum i. 33/93.
- Pliny, Nat. Hist., praefatio, 29[permanent dead link].
- Virginia Brown's translation of Giovanni Boccaccio’s Famous Women, pages 124 - 125; Harvard University Press, 2001; ISBN 0-674-01130-9