Dante Alighieri Biography & Facts
Dante Alighieri (Italian: [ˈdante aliˈɡjɛːri]), probably baptized Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri and often referred to simply as Dante (, also US: ; c. 1265 – 14 September 1321), was an Italian poet, writer and philosopher. His Divine Comedy, originally called Comedìa (modern Italian: Commedia) and later christened Divina by Giovanni Boccaccio, is widely considered one of the most important poems of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work in the Italian language.Dante is known for establishing the use of the vernacular in literature at a time when most poetry was written in Latin, which was accessible only to the most educated readers. His De vulgari eloquentia (On Eloquence in the Vernacular) was one of the first scholarly defenses of the vernacular. His use of the Florentine dialect for works such as The New Life (1295) and Divine Comedy helped establish the modern-day standardized Italian language. His work set a precedent that important Italian writers such as Petrarch and Boccaccio would later follow.
Dante was instrumental in establishing the literature of Italy. His depictions of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven provided inspiration for the larger body of Western art and literature. He is cited as an influence on such English writers as Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton and Alfred Tennyson, among many others. In addition, the first use of the interlocking three-line rhyme scheme, or the terza rima, is attributed to him. He is described as the "father" of the Italian language, and in Italy he is often referred to as il Sommo Poeta ("the Supreme Poet"). Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are also called the tre corone ("three crowns") of Italian literature.
Dante was born in Florence, Republic of Florence, in what is now Italy. The exact date of his birth is unknown, although it is generally believed to be around 1265. This can be deduced from autobiographic allusions in the Divine Comedy. Its first section, the Inferno, begins, "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita" ("Midway upon the journey of our life"), implying that Dante was around 35 years old, since the average lifespan according to the Bible (Psalm 89:10, Vulgate) is 70 years; and since his imaginary travel to the netherworld took place in 1300, he was most probably born around 1265. Some verses of the Paradiso section of the Divine Comedy also provide a possible clue that he was born under the sign of Gemini: "As I revolved with the eternal twins, I saw revealed, from hills to river outlets, the threshing-floor that makes us so ferocious" (XXII 151–154). In 1265, the sun was in Gemini between approximately 11 May and 11 June (Julian calendar).
Dante claimed that his family descended from the ancient Romans (Inferno, XV, 76), but the earliest relative he could mention by name was Cacciaguida degli Elisei (Paradiso, XV, 135), born no earlier than about 1100. Dante's father, Alighiero di Bellincione, was a White Guelph who suffered no reprisals after the Ghibellines won the Battle of Montaperti in the middle of the 13th century. This suggests that Alighiero or his family may have enjoyed some protective prestige and status, although some suggest that the politically inactive Alighiero was of such low standing that he was not considered worth exiling.Dante's family was loyal to the Guelphs, a political alliance that supported the Papacy and that was involved in complex opposition to the Ghibellines, who were backed by the Holy Roman Emperor. The poet's mother was Bella, probably a member of the Abati family. She died when Dante was not yet ten years old. His father Alighiero soon married again, to Lapa di Chiarissimo Cialuffi. It is uncertain whether he really married her, since widowers were socially limited in such matters, but she definitely bore him two children, Dante's half-brother Francesco and half-sister Tana (Gaetana).Dante said he first met Beatrice Portinari, daughter of Folco Portinari, when he was nine (she was eight), and he claimed to have fallen in love with her "at first sight", apparently without even talking with her. When he was 12, however, he was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, daughter of Manetto Donati, member of the powerful Donati family. Contracting marriages for children at such an early age was quite common and involved a formal ceremony, including contracts signed before a notary. Dante claimed to have seen Beatrice again frequently after he turned 18, exchanging greetings with her in the streets of Florence, though he never knew her well.Years after his marriage to Gemma, he claims to have met Beatrice again; he wrote several sonnets to Beatrice but never mentioned Gemma in any of his poems. He refers to other Donati relations, notably Forese and Piccarda, in his Divine Comedy. The exact date of his marriage is not known; the only certain information is that, before his exile in 1301, he had fathered three children with Gemma (Pietro, Jacopo and Antonia).Dante fought with the Guelph cavalry at the Battle of Campaldino (11 June, 1289). This victory brought about a reformation of the Florentine constitution. To take part in public life, one had to enroll in one of the city's many commercial or artisan guilds, so Dante entered the Physicians' and Apothecaries' Guild. In the following years, his name is occasionally recorded as speaking or voting in the various councils of the republic. A substantial portion of minutes from such meetings in the years 1298–1300 was lost, however, so the true extent of Dante's participation in the city's councils is uncertain.
Education and poetry
Not much is known about Dante's education; he presumably studied at home or in a chapter school attached to a church or monastery in Florence. It is known that he studied Tuscan poetry and that he admired the compositions of the Bolognese poet Guido Guinizelli—in Purgatorio XXVI he characterized him as his "father"—at a time when the Sicilian School (Scuola poetica Siciliana), a cultural group from Sicily, was becoming known in Tuscany. He also discovered the Provençal poetry of the troubadours, such as Arnaut Daniel, and the Latin writers of classical antiquity, including Cicero, Ovid and especially Virgil.Dante's interactions with Beatrice set an example of so-called courtly love, a phenomenon developed in French and Provençal poetry of prior centuries. Dante's experience of such love was typical, but his expression of it was unique. It was in the name of this love that Dante left his imprint on the dolce stil novo ("sweet new style", a term that Dante himself coined), and he would join other contemporary poets and writers in exploring never-before-emphasized aspects of love (Amore). Love for Beatrice (as Petrarch would express for Laura somewhat differently) would be his reason for writing poetry and for living, together with political passions. In many of his poems, she is depicted as semi-divine, watching over him constantly and providing sp.... Discover the Dante Alighieri popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Dante Alighieri books.