1453 depiction of Dante Alighieri by Sandro Botticelli.

Dante Alighieri (1265 - 1321), commonly known as Dante, was an Italian poet whose best known work is The Divine Comedy.


Dante Alighieri was born in Florence, Italy. His date of birth is unknown but it is commonly believed to have been in 1265. His mother Bella degli Abati died before Dante was ten years old. His father Alighero di Bellinicione got married again to Lapa di Chiarisimo Cialuffi and had two more children with her.

When he was 12 years old Dante was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, a woman from a wealthy and powerful family. He had several children with Gemma. As a result of his fame, many people would later claim to be the sons and daughters of Dante.

Famously, by the time of his marriage Dante claimed to have already fallen in love with Beatrice Portinari. Dante first saw Beatrice when he was 9 years old and claimed to have fallen in love with her at first sight without even speaking to her. Dante claimed to have met Beatrice again several years after his marriage and to have spoken to her on the street, However, he never knew Beatrice well and instead developed an idealized love for her in his poetry. Dante wrote several sonnets to Beatrice. In The Divine Comedy, written after her death in 1290, Beatrice famously acts as Dante's guide through Purgatory and Heaven. Dante makes no reference to his wife Gemma in any of his poems.

Dante became a pharmacist but never worked as one. Noblemen in Florence who wanted to hold public office had to be members of tradesmen's guilds. Dante became a member of the pharmacists' guild in order to enter politics. Dante became a member of the White Guelphs, a political faction that wanted the Pope to have less influence in Florence. Dante was sent to Rome as a delegate to see the Pope.

While Dante was in Rome the opposing Black Guelphs, who wanted the Pope to have greater influence in Florence, seized power. Dante was sentenced to two years in exile and ordered to pay a heavy fine. When Dante refused to pay the fine he was sentenced to permanent exile and faced execution by being burnt at the stake if he ever returned to Florence. Dante spent the rest of his life in various locations in Italy. At some point during his exile he had the idea for The Divine Comedy, although it is not known when he began it.

In 1318 Dante was invited to Ravenna by its ruler Prince Guido II da Polenta. The Divine Comedy was completed during dante's time in Ravenna. Dante died in 1321, possibly of malaria contracted during a diplomatic mission to Venice.

Dante was buried in Ravenna in the San Per Maggiore church, later renamed San Francesco, a better tomb was built for him in 1483. Centuries later the people of Florence made several requests that his body be returned to the city of his birth. However, the authorities in Ravenna refused every request and went as far as hiding his body in the church wall at one point. In 1829 a tomb for Dante was built in the basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. The tomb has been empty ever since.

External links

  • Works of Dante Alighieri in Italian and English on Wikisource.
  • Quotations by and about Dante Alighieri in Italian and English on Wikiquote.

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