Dante Alighieri

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Dante Alighieri (1265 – 1321) is widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest poets. His Vita Nova (c. 1292 – 95), a combination of prose and poetry that tells the story of his youthful love for Beatrice, was his first book. In 1295 he entered Florentine politics and in the summer of 1300 he became one of the six governing Priors of Florence, the highest political office. During this time, he was also writing the numerous lyric poems that made him famous in central and northern Italy, as well as studying widely and deeply in a number of subjects. In 1302, the political situation forced Dante and his party into exile. For the rest of his life he depended for refuge on the generosity of various courts in northern Italy. He continued to write, producing two unfinished works—the first treatise of literary criticism (De vulgari eloquentia [On Eloquence in the Vernacular]) and the first treatise of philosophy (the Convivio [Banquet]) in a European vernacular language—before starting his work on The Divine Comedy. At some point late in life he took asylum in Ravenna, where he completed The Divine Comedy. He died, probably from malaria, soon after having returned to Ravenna from a diplomatic mission in Venice.