Dante: The 3 Ways He Influenced Modern Italian History

Died14th of September, 1321
Famous Quote“My course is set for an uncharted sea.”
Known ForWriting first modern book, establishing Italian written language, paving the way for the Italian Renaissance
Region of WorldItaly, 14th century

Dante Alighieri, known today as just Dante, remains one of the most influential Italian poets. Over the course of his 56 year long life he would publish several works that would forever change both Italian and world history.

There are 3 ways in which Dante changed Italian history forever. First, Dante published his works in the common Italian language. Second, he published the first modern book that united the Italian people. Third, Dante’s works started what would come to be known as the Italian Renaissance.

The influence of Dante has forever changed our world. His most famous work Divine Comedy today remains one of the most well studied works of the late medieval period. The reason for this is because Dante provides a rare glimpse into how the Italian people of the 14th century lived and formed their society.

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Without further ado, here are the 3 ways Dante influenced Modern Italian History.

Dante Influenced Italian History By Publishing His Works In The Common Italian Language

One of the major ways in which Dante influenced the development of Modern Italian history was by publishing his works in the common Italian language.

This was done on purpose by Dante. By publishing in a local Italian dialect instead of the established Latin more people could read and understand his work.

Dante outlines the importance of writing in a common language in his essay titled de Vulgaria Eloquentia (On Vernacular Eloquence). Within this essay Dante outlines how if books were written for the common man the message contained within them could be understood by more people.

While this seems obvious to use today, back in the 14th century this was a new concept. All books then were written in Latin, which means only the most educated of society could read and understand them.

Dante however decided to publish his works in common Italian. This however was hard to do as the Italian people spoke many different regional dialects. In order to fix this Dante would publish work that contained most common language elements from Latin, Sicilian, Italian, and Occitan.

As a result of this people across Italy were able to read portions of Dante’s work. This overtime led to a consolidation of the differing languages into one unified Italian language.

This unified Italian language would forever change Italian history. Over the next 600 years the Italian people would become more ‘unified.’ Before Dante this would have been impossible as everybody in Italy spoke a different regional language with the elite speaking Latin.

As a result of publishing in local Italian dialects Dante forever changed modern Italian History.

Dante Influenced Modern Italian History By Publishing The First Modern Book

Many people throughout Europe consider Miguel de Cervantes’s 1605 Don Quixote the first modern book. However, nearly 300 years before this work Dante forever changed modern Italian history by publishing his Divine Comedy in 1308.

The reason Dante’s Divine Comedy is considered the first modern book was because it was designed for the consumption by the common man. Dante changed history by publishing his work in native Tuscan language with elements of other Italian languages.

However, it was Dante’s target audience that forever changed modern Italian history. Dante targeted the whole of Italy as the intended audience of his work. While the Divine Comedy is written as a poem it contains literary allusions that make it read at times as a novel. This was groundbreaking for Dante’s time.

Dante’s Divine Comedy forever changed modern Italian history by creating a national novel that began to unit the Italian people. Although the Italian people would fight amongst themselves for the rest of history, Dante’s Divine Comedy began to cement a shared unity across the modern state of Italy.

Modern scholarship has looked at how Dante contributed towards the modern concept of Empire in Italy during the 19th and 20th centuries. You can find an example of such an article by clicking here.

The Divine Comedy presented the Italian people with a shared history. This in turn forever changed modern Italian history as over the next centuries the Italian people would begin to grow closer together to eventually create the modern nation of Italy.

Dante Influenced Modern Italian History By Starting The Italian Renaissance

Another way in which Dante influenced modern Italian history was by laying the groundwork for the Italian Renaissance.

This remains one of the most important ways in which Dante influenced modern Italian history. During Dante’s life he was not that famous and even was exiled from his home city of Florence in 1302 for failing to pay a fine after his assets were seized.

It is after Dante’s death however that his influence began to spread across the Italian state. Dante would publish his Divine Comedy a year before his death and would never get a chance to see how popular it would become.

Dante’s Divine Comedy jump started the Italian Renaissance by inspiring the Italian people to read the ancient Roman writings of Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Livy, and Cicero. This was because throughout the Divine Comedy Dante presents images of Ancient cultures and knowledge.

This thirst for knowledge would further inspire later Italian humanists such as Giovanni Boccaccio who in turn helped to inspire renaissance artists such as Leonardo da Vinci.

Simply put, the reason that the Italian Renaissance was so famous was because of Dante’s use of religious imagery and ancient Roman/Greek writers. This created an entire revolution across Italy where people began to read ancient Latin authors, this in turn created the Italian Renaissance.

As such one of the major ways in which Dante influenced modern Italian History was by laying the foundation for the 15th century Italian Renaissance.


There you have it; an entire article dedicated to the 3 ways in which Dante influenced modern Italian history.

Dante would die in 1321 and be buried in Ravenna Italy. However, over the next several centuries his legacy would have a profound impact on Italian history. In 1329 Cardinal du Pouget would seek to burn Dante’s bones at the stake for heretical writings. In 1945 the Italian fascist government sought to use Dante’s image as a nationalistic icon of Italy.

Today Dante is remembered as one of the greatest western poets who forever changed not only Italian history but world history through the publications of his writings.

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