Dante Alighieri Biography | Poems
An Italian Florentine poet. His greatest work is la Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy).. Italian poet
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. The Dante Alighieri Society, founded in Italy in 1889, continues to promote Italian culture and language around the world in his name.
Dante was born in 1265 and he tells us he was born under the sign of Gemini, placing his birthday between May 18th and June 17th. As an infant, Dante may have been originally christened 'Durante' in Florence's Baptistery, and the name Dante could be a shortened version of that name.
He was born into the prominent Alighieri family of Florence, with loyalties to the Guelfs, a political alliance that supported the Papacy, involved in complex opposition to the Ghibellines, who were backed by the Holy Roman Emperor. These factions fashioned their names after the ones of opposing factions of German Imperial politics, centered around the noble families of Welfen and Weibelingen, but adapting their meaning to the Italian political arena. After the defeat of the Ghibellines by the Guelfs in 1289, the Guelfs themselves were divided into White Guelfs, who were wary of Papal influence, and Black Guelfs who continued to support the Papacy. Dante (a White Guelf) pretended that his family descended from the ancient Romans (Inferno, XV, 76), but the earliest relative he can mention by name is Cacciaguida degli Elisei (Paradiso, XV, 135), of no earlier than about 1100.
Dante's father, Alighiero de Bellincione, was a White Guelf who suffered no reprisals after the Ghibellines won the Battle of Montaperti. This suggests that Alighiero or his family enjoyed some protective prestige and status.
The poet's mother was Donna Gabriella degli Abati. She died when Dante was 5 or 6 years old, and Alighiero soon married again, to Lapa di Chiarissimo Cialuffi. (It is uncertain whether he really married her, as widowers had social limitations in these matters.) This woman definitely bore two children, Dante's brother Francesco and sister Tana (Gaetana).
When Dante was 12, in 1277, he was promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati, daughter of Messer Manetto Donati. Contracting marriages at this early age was quite common, and involved a formal ceremony, including contracts signed before a notary.
Dante had several sons with Gemma. As often happens with famous people, many people later claimed to be Dante's offspring; however, it is likely that Jacopo, Pietro, Giovanni, and Antonia were truly his children. Antonia became a nun with the name of Sister Beatrice. Another man, Gabrielle, claimed to be his son and was in exile with Dante, but some doubts were advanced about his claim.