It took 700 years, but Dante Alighieri can go home again. In 1302, the great Italian author of The Divine Comedy went into exile to avoid a death sentence in Florence, where he had been charged with perjury, extortion, and fraud.
The truth was, Dante had backed the losing side in a political battle, and his mistake made him a target for the victors. Born in Florence around 1265 -- the exact date is unknown -- Dante loved the city and even fell in love with a girl named Beatrice there. But forced to flee, Dante ran off to Ravenna, where he completed his literary masterpiece before dying in 1321.
In more recent centuries, Florence clearly regretted its decision to exile Dante, going so far as to erect a tomb for him in the Basilica of Santa Croce in 1829. But it wasn't until 2008 that city leaders finally decided to formally revoke all charges and even asked Ravenna to return Dante's remains. Ravenna refused, and those wishing to pay their respects must visit that city's Basilica di San Francesco to see Dante's burial site.
The divine Dante:
- Dante first met Beatrice when they were both nine years old. He immediately fell in love, and although they would go on to marry other people, he depicted her as one of his guides in The Divine Comedy.
- Dante was the first poet to use the terza rima rhyme scheme successfully; he employed it throughout The Divine Comedy.
- In order to enter politics, Dante had to gain admission to one of the city's guilds; his medical training allowed him to join the Physicians' and Apothecaries' Guild.