Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri

Durante degli Alighieri, better known as Dante Alighieri or simply Dante, (c. June 1, 1265 – September 13/14, 1321) was an Italian Florentine poet. His greatest work, la Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy), is considered the greatest literary statement produced in Europe during the Middle Ages, and the basis of the modern Italian language. The Dante Alighieri Society, founded in Italy in 1889, continues to promote Italian culture and language around the world in his name.

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Dante Alighieri Quotes

A fair request should be followed by the deed in silence.

All malice has injustice at it's end, an end achieved by violence or by fraud; while both are sins that earn the hate of heaven, since fraud belongs exclusively to man, God hates it more and, therefore, far below, the fraudulent are placed and suffer most.

All your renown is like the summer flower that blooms and dies; because the sunny glow which brings it forth, soon slays with parching power.

Art, as far as it is able, follow nature, as a pupil imitates his master; thus your art must be, as it were, God's grandchild.

Be as a tower firmly set; Shakes not its top for any blast that blows.

Beauty awakens the soul to act.

Consider that this day ne'er dawns again.

Consider your origins: you were not made to live as brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge.

Conscience, that boon companion who sets a man free under the strong breastplate of innocence, that bids him on and fear not.

For what is liberty but the unhampered translation of will into act?

For he who sees a need but waits to be asked is already set on cruel refusal.

For where the instrument of intelligence is added to brute power and evil will, mankind is powerless in its own defense.

From a little spark may burst a flame.

He listens well who takes notes.

He loves but little who can say and count in words how much he loves.

Heat cannot be separated from fire, or beauty from The Eternal.

I love to doubt as well as know.

If the present world go astray, the cause is in you, in you it is to be sought.

In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost.

It is necessity and not pleasure that compels us.

Nature is the art of God.

Pride, envy, avarice - these are the sparks have set on fire the souls of man.

Remember tonight... for it is the beginning of always.

Small projects need much more help than great.

The customs and fashions of men change like leaves on the bough, some of which go and others come.

The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.

The purpose of the whole (work) is to remove those who are living in this life from a state of wretchedness and lead them to the state of blessedness.

There is no greater grief than to remember days of joy when misery is at hand.

The secret of getting things done is to act!

The more perfect a thing is, the more susceptible to good and bad treatment it is.

We must overact our part in some measure, in order to produce any effect at all.

Dante Alighieri Chronological Biography

1265 - Dante is born, probably May 29, under the sign of Gemini in Florence, son of Alighiero II, son of Bellincione.

1274 - At the age of nine, Dante sees Beatrice, daughter of Folco Portinari, for the first time.
(According to the Vita Nuova, Dante falls in love with Beatrice at this first meeting)

1275 - Dante begins his studies at the convents of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella.

1282 - Dante completes his studies.

1283 - Dante's father dies. He is married shortly thereafter to Gemma Donati, with whom he has four children (Jacopo, Pietro, Giovanni and Antonia).
Dante writes his first sonnets.

1285 - November 30: Dante becomes a soldier and takes part in the battle of the Sienese against the Aretines at Poggio Santa Cecilia.

1287 - Dante probably goes to Bologna.

1288 - Dante writes the song "Ladies who have intelligence of love" and the two sonnets "Love is one with the gentle heart" and "My lady bears love in her eyes."

1289 - Participates as a cavalryman in the battle of Campaldino under the command of Vieri de' Cerchi. The Guelf League (Florence and Lucca) defeats the Ghibellines of Arezzo. Dante recalls this battle in Purgatorio.
August 16: Dante participates in the siege of the fortress of Caprona conducted by the Lucchesi against the Pisans.

1290 - June 8: Death of Beatrice.

1292-1293 - Dante's years of waywardness.

1292 - Writes the Vita Nuova.

1294 - Dante meets Charles Martel, king of Hungary and heir to the kingdom of Naples and the country of Provence, and establishes a friendship with him. Dante recounts their meeting in Paradiso VIII.

1295 - July 6: Dante enrolls in the Guild of Doctors and Druggists (apothecaries) and enters Florentine political life.
December: Dante is elected to the council of the Heads of the Arts in order to cooperate with the Captain of the People in the selection of new Priors.

1296 - June 15: Dante takes part in the Council of the Hundred.

1300 - Boniface VIII proclaims the Jubilee Year. Fictional date (Eastertime) of the journey of the Divine Comedy.
May Day: beginning of the factional struggles between the Cerchi and the Donati.
May 7: Dante is sent as ambassador to San Gimignano to persuade the commune to join the Guelph party.
June 15-August 14: Dante is named a Prior for two months (15 June-15 August), one of the six highest magistrates in Florence.

1301 - June 29: Dante takes the floor in the Council of the Hundred to oppose helping Boniface VIII fight the Santafiora of Maremma.
October: Dante is sent to Rome as an ambassador to Pope Boniface VIII to convince him to recall Charles de Valois, whom the Pope has sent to Florence as a mediator.
November: Corso Donati re-enters Florence and wreaks vengeance on the Whites.

1302 - The Black Guelfs seize power in Florence.
January 27: Dante is accused of barratry; in Siena, he receives news of his sentence: a fine of 5,000 small florins and banishment for two years with permanent exclusion from public office.
March 10: For failure to appear in court his banishment is made perpetual, and he is condemned to be burned alive if taken in the territory of the Florentine Republic.

1303 - Dante is at Forli as assistant and secretary to Scarpetta Ordelaffi.
October 12: Boniface VIII dies.

1304 - July 20: new defeat of the Whites near the fortress of Lastra a Signa. Dante arrives in Verona, welcomed by Alboino della Scala.
Dante writes De vulgari eloquentia, his path-breaking history and rhetoric of vernacular literature. Of four books planned, only the first and part of the second were written.
During the same period he writes the Convivio. Only four of a projected fifteen books of the Convivio were completed.
Birth of Petrarch.

1306 - Probably the year in which Dante interrupts the Convivio and begins the Comedy. Dante moves to Lunigiana, and is appointed procurator to the Marquesses Malaspina.

1310 - Henry of Luxembourg, Holy Roman Emperor, descends into Italy and Dante addresses an Epistle to him. Dante goes to meet his fellow exiles at Forli. Possible date of Dante Monarchia (between 1310-1313).
October: with other exiles, Dante goes to Asti to pay homage to Henry VII.

1311 - January 6: Henry VII is crowned King of Italy in Milan.
April 16: Dante writes a letter to Henry VII inviting him to come into Tuscany and restore peace to Florence.

1312 - March-April: Dante joins Henry VII in Pisa.
June 29: Henry VII is crowned in Rome at St. John Lateran. Rome is occupied by the militia of Robert d'Anjou, king of Naples; Pope Clement V, from Avignon, orders Henry to leave the city, but the he refuses.
September 19: Henry VII camps under the walls of Florence.

1313 - August 24: Henry VII moves from Pisa toward the Kingdom of Naples. He dies of fever during the journey.
Birth of Giovanni Boccaccio.

1314 - April 20: Clement V dies.
September 7: Dante is the guest of Cangrande della Scala in Verona.
Publication of Inferno.

1315 - Dante moves to Verona as a guest of Cangrande della Scala. Works on Purgatorio and Paradiso, and composes the Questio de acque et terra.
The signory grants an amnesty to the exiles, but Dante refuses to return to Florence under the conditions imposed.
October: Dante leaves Verona for Lucca.
November 6: A new Florentine sentence confirms the sentence against the exiles and extends it to their families.

1316-1319 - Dante travels between Verona, the Marca Trevigiana, Romagna, and Tuscany.
(In 1318 he is in Ravenna as the guest of Guido Novello da Polenta, lord of that city.)
Latin correspondence with the humanist Giovanni del Virgilio.

1321 - Dante is stricken with fever on return from Venice, where he had been sent as ambassador by Guido Da Polenta, and dies September 13 or 14. Guido buries him in the Church of St. Francis with full honors.

Dante Alighieri Biography

Dante Alighieri was born into a Florentine family of noble ancestry. Little is known about Dante's childhood. His mother, Bella degli Abati, died when he was seven years old. His father, Alighiero II, made his living by money-lending and renting of property. After the death of his wife he remarried, but died in the early 1280s, before the future poet reached manhood. Brunetto Latini, a man of letters and a politician, became a father figure for Dante, but later in his Commedia Dante placed Latini in Hell, into the seventh circle, among those who were guilty of "violence against nature" - sodomy.

Dante received a thorough education in both classical and Christian literature. At the age of 12 he was promised to his future wife, Gemma Donati. Dante had already fallen in love with another girl whom he called Beatrice. She was 9 years old. Years later Dante met Beatrice again. He had become interested in writing verse, and although he wrote several sonnets to Beatrice, he never mentioned his wife Gemma in any of his poems. One of his early sonnets Dante sent to the poet Guido Cavalcanti, which started their friendship. Dante also dedicated his first book to Cavalcanti. The work, LA VITA NUOVA (1292), celebrated Dante's love for Beatrice. The nature of his love had its roots in the medieval concept of "courtly love" and the idealization of women. According to another theory, Beatrice was actually a symbol of 'Santa Sapienza', which united secret societies of the day. Harold Bloom in The Western Canon (1994) sees Beatrice as Dante's greatest muse, his invention, who saved him "by giving him his greatest image for poetry, and he saved her from oblivion, little as she may have wanted such salvation."

Dante married in 1285 Gemma Donati but his ideal lady and inspiration for his poetry was Beatrice Portinari. She married Simone dei Bardi in 1287; she was his second wife. When Dante was asked why he still continued unhappily to love her, he answered: "Ladies, the end of my love was indeed the greeting of this lady, of whom you are perhaps thinking, and in that greeting lay my beatitude, for it was the end of all my desires. But because it pleased her to deny it to me, my Lord Love in his mercy has placed all my beatitude in that which cannot fail me." Beatrice died in June 1290, at the age of 24. After Beatrice's death, Dante withdrew into intense study and began composing poems dedicated to her memory. From Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius's De Consolatione Philosophiae and the writings of Thomas Aquinas he found much consolation and intellectual stimulation.

In 1289 in the Florentine army Dante participated in a battle against the Arentines. He also entered politics and joined the White (Bianchi) Guelphs, one of the rival factions within the Guelph party. In 1295 he entered the Guild of member Apothecaries, to which philosophers could belong, and which opened for him the doors to public office. Dante served the commune in various councils and was ambassador to San Gimignano in 1300 and then to Rome. In June 1300 he was elected a prior, and the following year he was appointed superintendent of roads and road repair.

"The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in time of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality." When the Black (Neri) Guelphs, who had the pope's support, ascended to power, Dante was exiled. The White Guelphs were condemned to death by burning should they ever be caught again in Florence. They soon made an alliance with the Ghibelline party and attempted several unsuccessful attacks on Florence. The White Guelphs'hopes ended with the death (1313) of the emperor Henry VII, who they had hoped would reunite Germany and Italy. On November 1, 1301, Charles of Valois entered Florence with two thousand horsemen and a new set of priors was elected. Dante was charged with financial corruption in January 1302 and some months later he was condemned to death by burning. "The blame will fall upon the injured side / As always," Dante wrote later. Gemma Donati, by whom Dante had two sons and one or two daughters, did not accompany the poet into exile. In Commedia Dante repeatedly condemns the Popes for their involvement in politics. Pope Boniface VIII had invited Charles of Valois to Italy. Dante argued in Monarchia, that there should be one supreme ruler, the Emperor, not the Pope, as during the reign of Augustus.

After 1302 Dante never saw his home town again, but found shelter in various Italian cities and with such rulers as Ordelaffi of Forli, the Scaligeri of Verona, and the Malaspina of Lunigiana. Dante lived his remaining years in the courts of the northern Italy princes. During his exile, he started to write his Commedia, a long story-poem through the three worlds of the afterlife, under the patronage of the Ghibelline leaders. About 1320 Dante made his final home in Ravenna, where he died on the night of September 13-14, 1321. His body was brought to the church of San Francisco. Shortly after he died, Dante was accused of Averroism and his book, De Monarchia, was burned by the order of Pope John XXII. Franciscan monks hid Dante's remains, when Pope Leo X decided in 1519 to deliver them in Florence to Michelangelo, who planned to construct a glorious tomb. Again in 1677 Dante's remains were moved, and in 1865 construction workers rediscovered them accidentally.

"How bitter another's bread is, thou shalt know By tasting it; and how hard to the feet Another's stairs are, up and down to go." (from The Divine Comedy)

Dante's years of exile 1301- 1321 were productive. He wrote DE VULGARI ELOQUENTIA (1304-07), a treatise on his native language. In it he urged that the courtly Italian, used for amatory lyrics, be enriched with the best from every spoken dialect and established as a serious literary language. Thus the created language would be a way to unify the separated Italian territories. This treatise was one of the first medieval investigations of political philosophy, bringing forth the idea for a world government. IL CONVIVIO was a collection of verse written between 1306 and 1308, QUAESTIO DE AQUA ET TERRA a scholastic treatise on physics. Thirteen Latin EPISTLES included both personal and political letters.

La divina commedia was completed just before the poet's death. He probably started to write it in 1307. The Purgatorio was written in Verona, where he stayed more or less continuously from late 1312 to mid-1318. In Ravenna he wrote the final phases of the Paradiso. By the time the first two parts of the Comedy had been sent in circulation, Dante was being acclaimed through much of Tuscany as its greatest poet. Dante's idea was to make the world of his poem a mirror of the world of the Christian God of his era. He thought that Thomas Aquinas had effected the final reconciliation between Aristotle's philosophy and Christian faith. Commedia was Dante's tribute to this system.

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) delivered the first public lectures of the "divino poeta" and compiled in the early 1350s the first biography of Dante. In it Boccaccio wrote: "Our poet was of middle height; his face was long, his nose was aquiline, his jaw large, and his under lip protruding somewhat beyond the upper. His eyes rather large than small; his hair and beard thick, crisp, and black, and his countenance sad and pensive. His gait was grave and gentlemanlike, and his bearing, in public or private, wonderfully composed and polished. In meat and drink he was most temperate." When a splendid edition of Dante's poem was published in 1555, the adjective "divine" was applied to the poem's title, and thus the work, originally simply named Commedia, became La divina commedia. It is a narrative poem in terza rima containing 14 233 lines organized into 100 cantos approximately 142 lines each.

Written in the first person, it tells of the poet's journey through the realm of the afterlife: Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. The Roman poet Virgil (Vergilius) is the guide through the Inferno and Purgatorio. Dante greets Virgil as "my master and my author". Beatrice, the personification of pure love, has been sent to rescue Dante. She finally leads Dante to Paradiso. Dante is then able to gaze upon the supreme radiance of God. He ends his pilgrimage into vision of "'the Love which moves the sun and the other stars." The dual allegory of Commedia - the progress of the soul toward Heaven, and the anguish of humankind on Earth - would later be echoed by John Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress (1678-84).

Commedia's most popular translation into English was made by Henry Cary (1772-1884), who issued The Inferno first, and later the complete work. A separate translation of The Inferno by Warwick Chipman (1961) is considered closer to the style and approach of Dante. - Gustave Doré's (1832-1883) illustrated text of Inferno (1861) is among the most famous editions.

Original biography compiled by Kirjasto.sci.fi

(For more information see Wikipedia)


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