The greatest Italian poet and one of the most important writers of European literature. Dante is best known for the epic poem Commedia, c.1310-14, later named La Divina Commedia. It has profoundly affected not only the religious imagination but all subsequent allegorical creation of imaginary worlds in literature. Dante spent much of his life traveling from one city to another. This had perhaps more to do with the restless times than his wandering character or persistent creditors. However, his Commedia can also be called a spiritual travel book.
"It were a shameful thing if one should rhyme under the semblance of metaphor or rhetorical similitude, and afterwards, being questioned thereof, should be unable to rid his words of such semblance, unto their right understanding." (in Vita Nuova, c.1293)
Dante Alighieri was born into a Florentine family of noble ancestry. Originally he was called Durante after his mother's father, but the name was shortened into Dante. His great-great-grandfather Cacciaguida had participated in the Second Crusade. Before dying in a battle, he been knighted by the Holy Roman Emperor Conrad III. Cacciaguida appears in Commedia. His spirit greets Dante in Canto XV of the Paradiso with the words: "O blood of mine! O overbrimming grace of God! / For whom was ever heaven’s gate / Thrown open twice, as it has been for you?"
Little is known about Dante's childhood, but the city where he spent the first 38 years of his life was an important cultural and political center. His mother, called Bella degli Abati, came from a family of wealthy landowners. She died when Dante was seven years old. Dante's father, Alighiero di Bellincione d'Alighiero (Alighiero II), made his living by money-lending and renting of property. After the loss of his wife he remarried, but died in the early 1280s, before the future poet reached manhood. Brunetto Latini, a man of letters and an influential politician, became a kind of father figure for Dante, but later...