Dante Alighieri ancestor wants poet’s name cleared after 700 years

Rome: As Italy commemorates the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante, one of his descendants is calling for him to be pardoned of the heinous crimes he was accused of several hundred years ago.

Born into a noble family in Florence in 1265, Dante Alighieri found himself on the wrong side of the bloody feud between the rival Guelph and Ghibelline factions.

He was accused of crimes that included fraud, extortion, embezzlement and perjury. When he failed to turn up to face trial, he was sentenced to be burned at the stake.

Dante Alighieri. By Sandro Bottlicelli.

Anxious to avoid such a fate, he fled into exile in 1302 and never saw Florence again, despite making repeated requests to be allowed to return.

He settled in Ravenna where he wrote much of his masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, and died there in 1321.

Now, one of his descendants is exploring the possibility of the poet being granted a pardon. “They were politically motivated trials and the exile and death penalties inflicted on my dear ancestor are unjust,” said Sperello di Serego Alighieri, an astrophysicist.

“They have never been cancelled, in contrast to what happened with Galileo Galilei. So if the law permits it, we will ask for a review.”

Accused but never pardoned: Italian poet, politician, and author Dante Alighieri.Credit:Getty

He has the backing of Alessandro Traversi, a law professor in Florence, who says the idea of a pardon after seven centuries is not so outlandish. He pointed to the Italian penal code, which says that sentences can be revised if new evidence emerges.

To that end, the two men are organising a conference in May that will involve jurists, judges and historians, to discuss the feasibility of a pardon.

Telegraph, London

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