1265Dante is born in Florence. He is the son of Alighiero II, son of Bellincione, and of Alighiero’s first wife Bella. In Paradiso XXII.109-17, Dante will tell us that his date of birth falls in the sign of Gemini. According to the Julian calendar system that is in standard use until the 16th century, in the year 1265 the sun is in Gemini from May 14 – June 13.
1266Dante is baptized in the Baptistery of San Giovanni.
1270sDante’s mother dies, plausibly in the earlier half of the decade, and his father later remarries.
1274According to Vita Nuova II.1, Dante meets and falls in love with Beatrice, daughter of Folco Portinari, at the age of nine.
1277February 9: Dante’s marriage to Gemma Donati is contracted and celebrated with an instrumentum dotis (dowry contract) of 200 lire di fiorini piccioli. Both spouses are unusually young. It is unclear when their marriage is consummated. The two will eventually have four children: Jacopo, Pietro, Antonia, and Giovanni.
Dante’s father has died by this period.
Dante composes the sonnet A ciascun’alma presa e gentil core, which eventually becomes the first poem of the Vita Nuova. In the Vita Nuova Dante will indicate that he wrote the sonnet at the age of eighteen, i.e. in 1283 (VN III.1-9). In subsequent years he writes the other poems that will eventually be included in the prose frame of the Vita Nuova, written 1292-1293.
The Vita Nuova tells us that Guido Cavalcanti’s reply to A ciascun’alma was the beginning of their friendship (VN III.14). In this period Dante was also involved in sonnet exchanges with Dante da Maiano.
mid to late 1280sDante’s marriage ceremony to Gemma Donati probably takes place in this period. Together they will have four children: Jacopo, Pietro, Antonia, and Giovanni.
June 11: Dante takes part in the Battle of Campaldino against the Aretines.
August 16: Dante participates in the siege of the fortress of Caprona against the Pisans.
1290June 8: Beatrice Portinari dies.
1291According to Convivio II.12.7, Dante begins thirty months of study at “le scuole de’ religiosi”: with Franciscans at Santa Croce and Dominicans at Santa Maria Novella.
1292-1293Dante writes the Vita Nuova, composing the prose frame into which he inserts poems written over the preceding decade.
January: The Ordinamenti di Giustizia are instituted in Florence. These new regulations aim to control the violent behavior of magnates and to limit their participation in government.
In this period Dante likely composes the canzone Voi che ’ntendendo il terzo ciel movete, which he will later situate at the beginning of Book II of the philosophical treatise Convivio.
1294-1296In these years Dante is writing philosophical canzoni that treat moral virtues, such as Le dolci rime d’amor ch’i’ solia and Poscia ch’Amor del tutto m’ha lasciato.
March: Charles Martel, king of Hungary and heir to the kingdom of Naples, visits Florence, where Dante takes part in the welcoming delegation. Dante will allude to their meeting in Paradiso VIII.55-57.
July 5: Celestine V is elected Pope.
December 13: Celestine V abdicates the papal office. Dante’s description of “colui
/ che fece per viltade il gran rifiuto” (he who made, through cowardice, the great refusal) in Inferno III.59-60 is usually understood to refer to this event.
December 24: Boniface VIII is elected Pope.
Brunetto Latini dies at some point in this period.
January 23: Boniface VIII is consecrated.
May: Dante is elected to Florence’s Consiglio dei Cento and serves until September 1296.
July 6: Giano della Bella reforms the Ordinamenti di giustizia of 1293, making enrollment in one of Florence’s guilds a prerequisite for participation in the city’s political life. Shortly thereafter Dante enrolls pro forma in the Arte dei Medici e Speziali (the guild of doctors and apothecaries) and enters the Florentine political scene.
November 1: Dante is elected to Florence’s Consiglio of the Capitano del Popolo and serves until April 1296.
1296Forese Donati, the friend with whom Dante exchanged scurrilous sonnets and his relative by marriage, dies.
1297Dante probably writes the rime petrose in this period, given the astronomical periphrasis referring to December 1296 in the canzone Io son venuto al punto de la rota (vv. 1-9).
Boniface VIII proclaims the Jubilee Year.
May 7: Dante is sent as ambassador on behalf of Florence to San Gimignano to persuade the commune to join the Guelf party.
June 15: Dante is named a Prior, one of the six highest magistrates in Florence, for two months, until August 14.
April: Dante is again elected to the Consiglio dei Cento in Florence.
June 19: Dante counsels the Consiglio dei Cento to refuse Boniface VIII’s request for military assistance against the Aldobrandeschi. His proposal passes 49 to 32.
October: Dante is sent to Rome as an ambassador to Boniface VIII to convince him not to send Charles of Valois to Florence. He will never again set foot in Florence.
November 1: Charles of Valois enters Florence, enabling the Blacks to take power and to wreak vengeance on the Whites. Dante, a White, is forced to cancel his return to the city.
January 27: Dante, like other Whites, is accused of corruption in political office, also known as graft or barratry. He receives news of his sentence: a hefty fine of 5,000 florins and banishment for two years with permanent exclusion from public office.
March 10: For failure to appear in court, Dante is condemned to death in absentia.
June 8: Dante meets in San Godenzo with other White exiles who plot an armed return to Florence.
In this period Dante is in Forlì, at the court of Scarpetta degli Ordelaffi, and Verona, at the court of Bartolomeo della Scala.
September 7: Boniface VIII is imprisoned in Anagni by allies of Philip the Fair. The mistreatment of Boniface is known as the “schiaffo di Anagni,” or the slap of Anagni, and Dante will refer to this event in Purgatorio XX.85-87.
October 11: Boniface VIII dies.
October 22: Benedict XI is elected Pope.
Dante writes Epistola I on behalf of the Whites in response to Cardinal Niccolò of Prato, sent by Benedict XI to pacify Florence.
Dante writes Epistola II to Counts Oberto and Guido of Romena, expressing condolences for the death of their uncle Alessandro.
July 7: Benedict XI dies.
July 20: The White Guelfs are defeated near the fortress of Lastra in the Mugello valley. Dante leaves the White party.
At some point after leaving Tuscany, Dante begins two works, neither completed: Convivio, a philosophical treatise written in Italian, and De vulgari eloquentia, a Latin treatise on language.
At some point in this period he is a guest of the Malaspina family in Lunigiana.
Dante writes Epistola III to Cino da Pistoia with the accompanying sonnet Io sono stato con Amore insieme, and Epistola IV to Moroello Malaspina with the accompanying canzone Amor, da che convien pur ch’io mi doglia.
1305June 5: Clement V is elected Pope.
1306October 6: Dante, as representative of Franceschino Malaspina and his relatives Moroello and Corradino, affirms a peace treaty with the Bishop of Luni, Antonio da Camilla.
November 27: Henry VII of Luxembourg is elected King of the Romans (Rex Romanorum), establishing his claim to the seat of Holy Roman Emperor.
Dante begins Inferno in this period.
Dante writes Epistola V to the Princes of Italy, in support of the Empire and in anticipation of an era of peace under Henry VII.
October 23: Henry VII descends into Italy, arriving in the Susa Valley.
March 31: Dante writes Epistola VI to the Florentines, condemning their opposition to Henry VII’s imperial quest.
April 17: Dante writes Epistola VII to Henry VII, rebuking his delay in crushing Florentine opposition to his rule.
September 2: The commune of Florence offers amnesty to exiled citizens. Dante is named among those exiles excluded from the offer.
1312-1316At some point in this period Dante goes to Verona, as the guest of Cangrande della Scala.
1312June 29: Henry VII is crowned Holy Roman Emperor in the city of Rome.
1313August 24: Henry VII dies.
Dante is writing Purgatorio around this time.
April 20: Clement V dies. Due to disagreements between cardinals, two years will pass before the election of the next pope.
Dante writes Epistola XI to the Italian Cardinals, condemning the delay in electing a new pope.
May 19: Florence issues a general offer of amnesty to exiles, under the conditions of a fine and a public offering at San Giovanni on June 24.
Dante writes Epistola XII to an anonymous Florentine friend. He refuses to return to Florence under the humiliating conditions imposed by the May 19 offer of amnesty.
October 15 and November 6: Dante is named among various “Ghibellines and rebels” newly banished and condemned to decapitation by the commune of Florence.
August 7: John XXII is elected Pope after two years of deliberation.
Around this time Dante begins Paradiso.
Dante writes Epistola XIII to Cangrande della Scala, to whom he dedicates Paradiso.
In this period Dante perhaps writes the Latin political treatise Monarchia, of uncertain date.
1318Dante moves to Ravenna, where he completes Paradiso as the guest of Guido Novello da Polenta, lord of that city.
1319 circaDante begins a Latin verse correspondence, the Egloghe, with the humanist Giovanni del Virgilio.
1320January 20: Dante gives a scientific lecture in Verona, titled in its written redaction Questio de aqua et terra.
August-September: Dante is sent by Guido Novello as ambassador to Venice. On the return, he is stricken with malarial fever.
September 13-14: Dante dies during the night.
Bellomo, Saverio. Filologia e critica dantesca. Brescia: La scuola, 2012.
Chabot, Isabelle. “Il matrimonio di Dante.” Reti medievali 15:2 (2014), pp. 271-302.
Dante Online. “La Vita di Dante.” http://www.danteonline.it/italiano/vita_indice.htm.
Enciclopedia Dantesca. Rome: Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, 1970-78. Consulted online at http://www.treccani.it.
Inglese, Giorgio. Vita di Dante: Una biografia possibile. Rome: Caroccio, 2015.
Kelly, J. N. D. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Petrocchi, Giorgio. Vita di Dante. Rome: Laterza, 1983.