Dante Alighieri

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Dante Alighieri (May/June c.1265 – September 14, 1321), commonly known as Dante, was an Italian poet of the Middle Ages. He was born in Florence; he died and is buried in Ravenna. The name Dante is, according to Jacopo Alighieri, a hypocorism for Durante. In contemporary documents it is followed by the patronymic Alagherii or de Alagheriis; it was Boccaccio who popularized the form Alighieri.

His Divine Comedy, originally called Commedia by the author and later nicknamed Divina by Boccaccio, is often considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature.[1]

In Italy he is known as "the Supreme Poet" (il Sommo Poeta) or just il Poeta. Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are also known as "the three fountains" or "the three crowns". Dante is also called the "Father of the Italian language".

Contents

Life

The exact date of Dante's birth is not known, although it is generally believed to be around 1265. This can be deduced from autobiographic allusions in La Divina Commedia, "the Inferno" (Halfway through the journey we are living, implying that Dante was around 35 years old, as the average lifespan according to the Bible (Psalms 89:10, Vulgate) is 70 years; and as the imaginary travel took place in 1300, Dante must have been 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), but these cannot be considered definitive statements by Dante about his birth. However, in 1265 the Sun was in Gemini approximately during the period 11 May to 11 June. His birth date is listed as "probably in the end of May" by Robert Hollander in "Dante" in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, volume 4. In summary, most students of Dante's life believe that he was born between about the middle of May and about the middle of June 1265, but there is little likelihood a definite date will ever be known.

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), of 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 mid 13th century. This suggests that Alighiero or his family 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.

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