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Dante's Message Remains Relevant

Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2014

Dante Dante Alighieri's poetry went hand in hand with his patriotism. In addition to spawning the Italian vernacular—and writing one of Western civilization's most influential masterworks—Dante inspired a national reawakening that would become the Risorgimento. Dante despised the foreign occupiers who had dismembered the birthplace of the Pax Romana and the Renaissance.

In "The Divine Comedy," Dante chose Virgil, the author of "The Aeneid," as his guide through hell—but not as a mere literary device. Virgil's "Aeneid" was an ode to the unity and greatness of Roman Italy. Donald R. Dudley has noted that "to create Italy was the first great historical achievement of Rome." What Garibaldi, Cavour and Mazzini achieved in 1861 was the rebirth of this classical polity. And Dante Alighieri played no small role in forging Alma Mater Italia.

Rosario A. Iaconis
Mineola, N.Y.

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