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Things Even A Lot Of History Buffs Don't Know About Dante Alighieri

You may not have heard of Dante Alighieri, but you probably recognize him by his first name and his most famous work: Dante's Inferno. The Inferno is actually part of a very complex, symbol-filled poem called the Divine Comedy. Most people know that the Inferno concerns the conditions and tortures that occur in hell, but did you know that the other two parts of the Divine Comedy take the reader through Purgatory and Paradise?

Of all of Dante Alghieri's works, his greatest and most notable masterpiece is the Divine Comedy. It has influenced religion, politics, literature, and even pop culture. But just who was Dante Alighieri and why was he so obsessed with writing about the horrors of hell? Read on below to discover fascinating facts about Dante Alighieri and to learn about the struggles he faced throughout his life that shaped his works. 

  • Dante Pissed Off The Pope As A Politician And Received A Death Sentence

    Photo: Giovanni Sercambi / Wikimedia Commons

    Not many people know that Dante was also a politician and holder of government offices in Florence. Ultimately, it was the politics that got him into trouble and led to his permanent exile. Dante was a member of the White Guelph political faction, who were a liberal-minded bunch. While they accepted the Pope's rule, they weren't exactly crazy about him and wanted to limit his powers.

    Pope Boniface VIII's response was to orchestrate a plot to charge Dante with taking bribes. Dante's trial date was set, but he never showed up to answer the charges or defend himself. Thus, he was given the punishment of death and ordered to be burnt at the stake. Naturally, Dante was in no mood for such heated activities, so he fled Florence and wrote a powerful story about a different sort of fire. 

  • Dante Created His Greatest Work In Exile

    Part of the reason Dante wrote such a vengeful work had to do with the fact that when he was in his mid-thirties, he was forced into exile from his beloved city of Florence. It might not sound like a big deal in the 21st century, but medieval Florentines considered their status to be above all others in the world. To be forced out was an enormous offense.

    In addition, Dante had great pride in his hometown and really loved his city. Being unable to ever set foot again in Florence because of the death sentence hanging over his head led to his writing the Divine Comedy, in hopes of coping with the anger, grief, and feelings of betrayal. 

  • Dante Is The Father Of the Italian Language

    Dante is considered to be the father of the Italian language by literary experts. His “De Vulgari Eloquentia” is viewed as the first written poem in Italian literature. He claimed that the perfect language must be eminent, cardinal, auric, and courtly. He was a true trailblazer of language and his efforts allowed Italian to emerge as a prominent and respected language across Europe and beyond. Put simply, Dante codified and standardized the Italian language, and from that point on, it blossomed. 

  • The Divine Comedy Was Used By The Church To Frighten Believers

    Dante is most famous for his great opus, the early 14th century La Divina Commedia, or Divine Comedy, with its three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. The tortures of hell and the longings of  purgatory were so vividly described that the church could not resist employing some of the images and phrases from the Inferno. The church correctly understood that they could scare worshippers by offering up Dante-esque images of souls writhing in hell. Thus, many medieval cathedrals, churches, and even illuminated manuscripts feature details taken straight from the Divine Comedy