Dante Alighieri was born in Italy to Alighiero di Bellincione, a politically inactive and low-status man with ties to the Guelphs. The Guelphs supported the papacy, and had been fighting against the Ghibellines, a group which supported the Holy Roman Emperor. Dante’s mother, Bella, died when he was ten years old, and his father quickly took another wife who gave birth to Dante’s half-brother and sister.
At the age of twelve, Dante’s father betrothed him to Gemma di Manetto Donati, the daughter of a very powerful man. However, Dante was in love with another girl named Beatrice, who appeared in several of his works as an angelic figure. Dante dutifully married Gemma and the couple had four children together, but it is clear from his work that he never stopped loving Beatrice. At 18, Dante studied under Brunetto Latini, whom he later places in hell in his Divine Comedy.
As a result of the ongoing political conflict between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, Dante was exiled from Florence for two years. Later, the exile would be lifted if Dante agreed to pay a fine. Dante would not pay the fine, so his sentence was extended and he remained in exile for the rest of his life. Dante had been a small-scale poet during his years as a politician in Florence, but during his exile he devoted his life to his poetry. It was during this time that he wrote The Divine Comedy, for which he is most remembered. After Dante finished this masterpiece, he was invited to be a diplomat for Ravenna by its prince. However, he died of malaria soon after.