Dante Alighierias born in Florence, Italy in 1265. He is commonly referred to by his first name only, Dante, and is one of the world's most renowned poets. His impressive body of work includes poetry spanning many genres. Dante is credited with transforming language and being the originator of poetry forms and writing techniques, such as the terza rima poetic form.
Many of Dante's poems refer to Beatrice Portinari, a girl whom he loved from afar but would never marry because he was betrothed to another, his wife, Gemma di Manetto Donati, at the age of 12. Many of his love poems to Beatrice are collected in La Vita Nuova. Dante's most famous piece of work, the Divine Comedy involves a character named Beatrice, but it is a commentary on philosophy and religion rather than professions of love. The Divine Comedy is an epic poem which contains three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Dante wrote it over the course of twelve years, from 1308 to 1320.
Though he is remembered as a great poet, Dante held many occupations throughout his life. He studied the Tuscan arts of poetry, music, and painting during his childhood, and met the noted poets of his day during his adolescence, including Lapo Gianni, Cino da Pistoia, and Guido Calvalcanti. Dante trained and worked as a pharmacist in his early adulthood before going on to take part in public affairs in his thirties. He victoriously fought in the Battle of Campaldino on June 11, 1289 in the Guelph army, which eventually led to him leaving to Rome and subsequently being exiled from Florence in 1301.
Many of Dante's works deal with the subjects of life, love, and religion, and are often both stylistic and thematic. Hundreds of years ago, the Divine Comedy helped establish the Tuscan language as the form of standardized Italian spoken today in countries across Europe. This epic poem is considered by many to be one of the most important pieces of Italian literature, if not the most important. Dante's other significant works include Convivo, a volume of his longest poems, De vulgari eloquentia, and Monarchia, a controversial commentary on political philosophy which was condemned and burned by Bertrando del Poggetto, the Papal Legate at the time of Dante's death in 1321.
Dante died in Ravenna, Italy on September 13, 1321 at the age of 56. His poems are so significant, and made such an impact in the areas of language, religion, and philosophy, that centuries after his death on April 30, 1921, Pope Benedict XV honored him with the promulgation of an encyclical named In praeclara summorum, and noted Dante as being "of the many celebrated geniuses of whom the Catholic faith can boast". In modern times, statues of Dante can be seen throughout Italy and his poetry, especially the Divine Comedy, is studied by students from junior high through college throughout the world. His legacy as the creator of work so original that it simply can't be imitated puts him in the realm of history's most honored literary figures, such as Shakespeare and Homer.