The Italian Renaissance classical scholar and poet ANGELO POLIZIANO died on this date (b. 1454). Poliziano was one of the revivers of Humanist Latin. He used his didactic poem Manto, written in the 1480s, as an introduction to his lectures on Virgil. He studied with Marsilio Ficino (who we’ve featured in Gay Wisdom) and in 1477 became the Prior of San Paolo and proceeded to become one of the most prolific writers of his time. His play Orfeo is about the Greek hero Orpheus, who renounces women after the death of Eurydice. James Wilhelm translated Poliziano’s Greek Epigrams including the one titled “One the Love of Two Boys” in which Poliziano writers of a “double love” that torments him. Then there’s his “Love Song for Chrysokomos” or “Goldenlocks” with its opening lines:
Watch over me from heaven while within my arms I hold my boy,
And don’t envy me, Zeus, because I envy no other.
Be contented, Zeus, be contented with your Ganymede, and leave to me
My shiny Chrysokomos, who to me is sweeter than honey.
In 2007, the bodies of Poliziano and Pico della Mirandola were exhumed from St. Mark’s Basilica in Florence. Scientists under the supervision of Giorgio Gruppioni, a professor of anthropology from Bologna, used current testing techniques to study the men’s lives and establish the causes of their deaths. It was recently announced that these forensic tests showed that both Poliziano and Pico della Mirandola likely died of arsenic poisoning. The chief suspect is Piero de’ Medici, the successor of Lorenzo de’ Medici and docent of Florence, but there are others.