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[4]

Dante (Durante, by contraction Dante) degli Alighieri was born at Florence in 1265, probably during the month of May.1 This is the date given by Boccaccio, who is generally followed, though he makes a blunder in saying, sedendo Urbano quarto nella cattedra di San Pietro, for Urban died in October, 1264. Some, misled by an error in a few of the early manuscript copies of the Divina Commedia, would have him born five years earlier, in 1260. According to Arrivabene,2 Sansovino was the first to confirm Boccaccio's statement by the authority of the poet himself, basing his argument on the first verse of the Inferno,—

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita;

the average age of man having been declared by the Psalmist to be seventy years, and the period of the poet's supposed vision being unequivocally fixed at 1300.3 Leonardo Aretino and Manetti add their testimony to that of Boccaccio, and 1265 is now universally assumed as the true date. Voltaire,4 nevertheless, places the poet's birth in 1260, and jauntily forgives Bayle (who, he says, écrivait à Rotterdam currente calamo pour son libraire) for having been right, declaring that he esteems him neither more nor less for having made a mistake of five years. Oddly enough, Voltaire adopts this alleged blunder of five years on the next page in saying that Dante died at the age of 56, though he still more oddly

1 The Nouvelle Biographie Generale gives May 8 as his birthday. This is a mere assumption, for Boccaccio only says generally May. The indication which Dante himself gives that he was born when the sun was in Gemini would give a range from about the middle of May to about the middle of June, so that the 8th is certainly too early.

2 Secolo di Dante, Udine edition of 1828, Vol. III. Part I. p. 578.

3 Arrivabene, however, is wrong. Boccaccio makes precisely the same reckoning in the first note of his Commentary (Bocc. Comento, etc., Firenze, 1844, Vol. I. pp. 32, 33).

4 Dict. Phil., art. Dante.

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