Almost all Italians have read his masterpiece, some students have appreciated it, others instead hate him. Dante Alighieri is still a central figure in Italian literature along with his famous writing, the “Divine Comedy”. We know almost everything about this adventure among Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, but there are some anecdotes about the author which are so famous.
Dante Alighieri and 10 curiosities
We all know him as Dante Alighieri but his real first name was Durante. He chose Dante because this name was shorter and easier to remember. After the first name, the last name: his family didn’t have a very good reputation. Dante’s father, Alighiero, was a small trader and he was accused several times to be a usurer.
However, Dante was not a writer for his whole life, in fact over the years he had been a knight and he participated in two battles: the Battle of Campaldino against the city of Arezzo in 1289 and the Caprona’s one against the city of Pisa, in the same year. Dante has been and is still nowadays such an important personality in Italian history, as to put his image on some Italian Lira banknotes and, later on, on the 2-euro coin: this is another curiosity related to this great poet.
Dante Alighieri, the Divine Comedy and the Italian language
And now some anecdotes about his Comedy. First of all, despite various analysis of the text, it is still not clear when Dante began to write this opera. Some claim that he began around 1307, while other academics claim that in 1307 he just resumed to write it because he actually started a few years earlier, in 1300/1301. During the narration Dante describes in a meticulous way his faints: these seem to really afflict the author in everyday life and they may be due to epilepsy, a disease he suffered since childhood.
In reference to the Comedy there’s another particular anecdote. At the time of Dante’s death the Divine Comedy was completed even if the last part of the poem had not been published yet. Jacopo, Dante’s son, succeeded in publishing the whole opera and he began to comment and promote it. He really pulled it through the success that still resists even today.
The Divine Comedy widely influenced the Italian language, so a lot of locutions used by Dante in his poem have become common in spoken Italian. “Let us not talk of them; but look and pass!“, “thence we came out, and saw again the stars“, “that fair country” (i.e. Italy), and “neither infamy nor praise“, just to quote some examples.
Dante and his life: some anecdotes
As it was usual at that time, Dante was promised to Gemma, a descendant of Donati family, when he was still a child. Their marriage was celebrated between 1283 and 1285: on the date academics were unable to give an unanimous answer. According to Boccaccio this marriage was unhappy and it ended in coincidence with Dante’s exile. These misadventures, however, didn’t affect the good relations between Dante and the Donati family. On the contrary Manetto Donati, Gemma’s father, granted some substantial loans to the great poet.
The exile as the focus of his life. Actually, in addition to detach him from a marriage that was unhappy, it saved him from a death sentence. In fact, Dante was condemned to death when, in the fight between white and black Guelphs, the latter assumed the power over the city. This sentence dates back to 1302 but, luckily for him, he had long been away from the Florence.