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A poet in exile

The beginning of Paradiso
 "In the midway of this our mortal life,
  I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
  Gone from the path direct: and e'en to tell
  It were no easy task, how savage wild
  That forest, how robust and rough its growth,
  Which to remember only, my dismay
  Renews, in bitterness not far from death.
  Yet to discourse of what there good befel,
  All else will I relate discover'd there.

                    (Inferno I, 1-9, trans. Cary)
The beginning of Paradiso. CUL MS Gg.3.6 [this image not on display]


Dante was born in Florence in 1265, the son of a notary and member of a Guelf family. He married Gemma Donati, by whom he had at least three children. Around 1295 he joined the Guild of Physicians and Apothecaries, which entitled him to participate in the public life of the city, and in 1300 was elected to the city's Council of Priors.

In October 1301 Dante travelled to Rome on a diplomatic mission to Pope Boniface VIII. In his absence, power passed from the "White" faction of the Guelf party to the rival "Blacks", and Dante was exiled from Florence along with several of his contemporaries. He would never again return to his city. His subsequent travels have been the subject of much speculation, but he settled at Ravenna in 1318, where he completed the Divina commedia shortly before his death three years later.

Dante map   Two rime of Dante
Detail from Mary Hensman's Dante map (London: David Nutt, 1892), showing the places named by Dante in his works, or supposedly visited by him in his exile. CUL CCD.1.24 [item not on display]
  Two rime of Dante. LA(3)