Safe to go home

Posted by Tory Historian Thursday, June 19, 2008 , ,

Every now and then the Daily Telegraph publishes some truly important stories. Yesterday was such a day when we could read that Dante's "infernal crimes" were now forgiven. Actually, the sub-editor got a little carried away there. It is true that Dante Alighieri was sentence to death in 1302 but it was merely the outcome of the civil war in Florence turning against him and his side.

Dante was born into a noble Florentine family in 1265 and found himself embroiled in a struggle between the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy for control of the city. He is likely to have fought in decisive battles for the city's independence and became a Prior, one of six city leaders, in 1300.

His stint in power came to a bad end, however, when forces loyal to the pope seized power and put him on trial. When he did not appear, he was banished for two years and given a 5,000 florin fine. When he did not pay, he was condemned to death by burning.
The City Council of Florence has now revoked the death sentence, voting on it 19 votes to 5.

Those who lost the vote argue that it is all a gimmick and, anyway, if Dante had not been exiled on pain of death he would not have written "The Divine Comedy", one of the greatest masterpieces of world literature.

Whether that is a good reason for sentencing someone to death is a moot point. Probably, had he stayed in Florence, Dante would have become so involved with political infighting that he would not have had time to write anything, not even his fascinating political treatise on the relationship between Monarchy and Church, "De Monarchia", a text Tory Historian used many years ago, when teaching History of Political Thought.

Does exile help creativity? An interesting question.


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