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Dante Alighieri: 10 Things That (maybe) You Don't Know About the Father of the Italian Language.

Updated: May 20, 2022

Dante Alighieri, father of the Italian Language and author of "The Divine Comedy," represents one of the cornerstones of Italian literature.

But do you know everything, absolutely everything, about him?

Test yourself with these 10 facts about him.


1. He had a wife and four children.

Dante Alighieri dedicated much of his work to Beatrice, a woman the poet met when he was nine years old and died very young, plunging him into a darkest despair.

Dante wrote sonnets of love for her and, in the Divine Comedy, transforms Beatrice into the angel who guides him for much of his journey to Paradise.

However, Dante had a wife and four children.

He married Gemma Donati after being engaged to her at the age of 12 through a written contract.

The two had four children: Jacopo, Pietro, Giovanni, and Antonia.

His family was not happy at all when they discovered that Dante had not mentioned them, not even once, in his famous Commedia.

2. He was a doctor, a politician, and a soldier.

Dante was more than a writer and poet.

He became a pharmacist but not with the intend to practice as one, but to comply to a law issued in 1295 which required nobles aspiring to public office to be enrolled in one of the Corporazioni delle Arti e dei Mestieri, so Dante obtained admission to the Apothecaries' Guild.

Before being exiled, Dante held various public offices in Florence and fought in the battle of Campaldino against Arezzo.

3. He was sentenced to death and was only pardoned in 2008.

The poet lived at a time when his hometown, Florence, was going through a challenging period on a political level.

When a rival faction gained control of the city, Dante was accused of barratry (political corruption).

He was condemned to pay a fine and to perpetual exile. In addition, if he had returned to Florence without paying the fine, he could have been burned at the stake. Dante didn't pay the fine both because he thought he wasn't guilty and because all his asset were confiscated.

So, the death sentence remained firmly on his head until, in 2008, the city council of Florence approved a motion that rescinded it.

4. His bones were hidden for centuries.

Dante died of malaria in Ravenna when he was still in exile. He was buried in a church there, but Florence later decided it wanted to bury Dante in the city and built a spectacular tomb for his remains.

Pope Leo X and Michelangelo were among those who campaigned for the poet's remains to be returned to his hometown.

However, the monks of Ravenna sent an empty coffin and kept Dante's bones hidden in the wall of a cloister.

The remains were discovered accidentally only in 1865 during the church's construction (the church in which, today, they still rest undisturbed).

5. Dante had an excellent memory

There is a place in Florence marked by a plaque where Dante liked to sit and write his love poems about Beatrice.

According to an anecdote, a passer-by once asked Dante what he ate for breakfast: "Eggs," Dante replied.

A year later, the same man passed again in front of Dante, who was sitting on his favorite rock, and tested the already infamous memory of the poet: "How?" the man asked.

To which question Dante replied promptly: "With salt."

6. He was famous for being a man who always spoke the truth.

Dante had a solid reputation as an honest man thanks to his work as a public official.

A legend has it that when Dante was exiled from Florence, he was stopped along the way by the authorities.

They didn't recognize him and asked him if he knew where Dante was.

Despite his life being at stake, Dante was so determined not to lie that he preferred to fool them with a play on words:

"When I was going down the street, he didn't pass me."

7. He cared more about written Italian than anyone else who came before (and after).

Dante and his Divine Comedy paved the way not only for spoken Italian (which was then known as vulgar) but also for Italian literature.

Previously, Italian as a language was despised for literary works.

About 15% of the vocabulary in use in standard Italian today can be traced back to the Florentine poet.

This 15% includes all the words he came up with and several complete sentences that survive today.

8. His quotes? They are the most used of all.

The Divine Comedy has been translated into many languages ​​around the world. Moreover, its quotes are featured in many movies and TV series, such as Ice Age, Hannibal, Ghostbusters II, How I Met Your Mother, and Law & Order. And these are just a few examples.

9. He was ahead of his time.

Dante was the first Italian writer to abandon the use of Latin in literature completely in favor of the Italian language. Dante was also one of the first to conceive the idea of ​​a "limbo," where noble souls and innocent people, who were not Christians or baptized, could rest in peace.

Before Dante, it was generally thought that unborn children and pagans ended up in hell.

10. Three was his lucky number.

The Divine Comedy is divided into three parts (one for each section of the afterlife), and each of these is divided into 33 songs.

But the number three also emerges in the rhyming scheme, the third rhyme, the three rivers of hell, three types of punished sins (each with three subdivisions), and, of course, a three-headed beast guarding the Circle Gluttons.


Dante Alighieri | Gods and Demons Wiki - Fandom.

Dante Alighieri - Wikipedia.


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