Medici philosopher's mystery death is solved

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After 500 years, one of Renaissance Italy's most enduring murder mysteries has been solved by forensic scientists.

Ever since Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, a mystical and mercurial philosopher at the court of Lorenzo de' Medici, suddenly became sick and died in 1494, it has been rumoured that foul play was involved.

Pico's fame has faded, but he was a celebrated figure at the Medici court.

He gained notoriety when, at the age of 23, he offered to defend 900 of his opinions on philosophy and religion against all-comers.

His subsequent tract, The Oration on the Dignity of Man, has been called the "manifesto of the Renaissance".

However, he died aged 31 - two years after Lorenzo - together with a man who might have been his lover, Antonio Ambrosini, who was also known as Poliziano.

Last July, a team of scientists from the universities of Bologna, Pisa and Lecce exhumed the two corpses and subjected them to a battery of tests.

The scientists used biomolecular technology and scanning equipment as well as DNA analysis to find a cause.

Yesterday they concluded that both men had been poisoned with arsenic, after finding a toxic quantity in their bones.

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