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Who's Who in Medieval History and the Renaissance

Dante Alighieri




Italy: Florence

Dante Alighieri, known simply as "Dante," is often considered the finest poet of the Middle Ages and is best known for his epic La divina commedia ("The Divine Comedy"). He was also a philosopher and political thinker. He wrote most of his poetry in the Italian vernacular instead of Latin, a choice that would influence the entire course of western literary development.

Dante is well known for idolizing Beatrice, a woman who is usually identified as Beatrice Pornari. Dante met her when they were children, and she died when he was only 25, before his first major work (La vita nuova) was written. Dante's dedication to and adoration of Beatrice in his poetry made her one of the most celebrated figures in western literature.

Deeply involved in the politics of his beloved Florence, Dante fought as a cavalryman as a young man and entered public office in his thirties. The city was in turmoil in the late 13th century, and his alliance with the White Guelfs led to opposition with the Pope, whom he went to visit on a diplomatic mission. While he was detained in Rome by the papal authorities, the rival Black Guelfs returned to Florence and terrorized the city. In January of 1302 he was called to appear before their new government and, failing to do so, was condemned for crimes he had not committed. Failing to appear once more in March of that year, Dante was condemned to be burned to death should he ever return to Florence.

This experience had a profound effect on Dante's Divine Comedy, which he wrote in exile in various Italian cities. In 1316 he was invited to return to Florence, but the terms were those used for pardoned criminals, and he refused. Dante spent the rest of his life in exile, and died and is buried in Ravenna.

Important Dates

Exiled from Florence: Jan. 27, 1302
Condemned to death: March 10, 1302
Died: Sept. 13 or 14, 1321


Dante Alighieri
This public-domain graphic from the 1885 publication The Hundred Greatest Men is free for your use. Part of the Medieval and Renaissance History Portrait Gallery here at this site.

On the Web

Alessandro Botticelli. Portrait of Dante
Large, beautiful scan of the portrait at Olga's Gallery.

Catholic Encyclopedia: Dante Alighieri
Extensive, heavily-hyperlinked biography by Edmund G. Gardner.

DANTE ALIGHIERI: A Guide to Online Resources
A comprehensive directory to e-texts, online publications, bibliographies, societies and much more, compiled by Otfried Lieberknecth at the ORB.

Dante Alighieri on the Web
Poor site design detracts from an otherwise useful collection of resources covering Dante's life and times, by Carlo Alberto Furia.

Renaissance Dante in Print (1472-1629)
An exhibition of Dante's work at Notre Dame University.

In Print

Dante Alighieri in Print

Related Resources

Medieval Italy
Sites that focus on people, places, and historical topics concerning Italy during the middle ages and Renaissance.

Drama, Literature & Poetry
A multi-page index of general resources, online texts, journals, organizations and other sites addressing medieval drama, literature, epic and romantic poetry from Beowulf to Shakespeare.

Philosophy & Theology
A multi-page index of philosophical and theological theories and the individuals who contributed them, from the early Middle Ages to the early Modern Age.



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