Italian poet (1265-1321). Born into a wealthy family in Florence, Dante received a good education and probably spent a year or two at the University of Bologna.
Although he was married to Gemma Donati, the most important person in his life was a woman named Beatrice. He met her when he was nine years old, and from that day, he dedicated his life and his work to her. His feelings for her were in the highest tradition of courtly love -- he considered Beatrice to be so far above him and so utterly out of his reach that marriage to her was completely impossible. She died in 1290, and Dante was completely inconsolable in his grief. Soon after Beatrice's death, he published his first book of poetry, the "Vita Nuova," a collection of love poems about her.
In 1289, Dante fought in the battle of Campaldino against the Tuscan Ghibellines, helping to establish a Florentine democracy that excluded the nobility and empowered the guilds. He soon enrolled in the Guild of Physicians and Apothecaries. By 1300, the ruling Guelph party in Florence was split into two factions, the Black Guelphs and the White Guelphs. In 1301, the Black Guelphs took power while Dante was in Rome as an ambassador, and he was exiled under sentence of death. He spent the rest of his life in exile and never saw his wife again.
Dante's masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, was written during his time in exile. He started it in 1307 and completed it shortly before his death. It was inspired by Beatrice and written in Italian, rather than Latin, so everyone could read it.
Research from GURPS Who's Who 2, compiled by Phil Masters, "Dante Alighieri" by Gareth L. Owen, pp. 40-41.