Dante Alighieri’sthe Divine Commedy is not simply anepic poem whose sole purpose is to narrate the pilgrim’s imaginary physicaljourney from Hell, to Purgatory and Heaven like many would perceive it. It isabout the pilgrim’s self-evolution, growth of character and an allegoricaljourney towards salvation led by the greatest poet in the Latin language andthe most significant writer of antiquity, Publius Virgilius Maro, commonlyknown as Virgil. Given the overall theme of the poem however, one would mostlikely predict Dante to choose a religious or a Christian figure as his guide fora spiritual journey of this kind. At the very least, we would expect Aristotle,who the poet refers to as “the master of allthose who think and know” (Inferno IV, 13), to be chosen tofulfil/take on the task. Therefore, readers may wonder why a classical poet likeVirgil, author of the Aeneid and the Fourth Eclogue whose meticulously craftedpoetry inspired many poets around the world, including Dante himself, was theone he would chose.
From the very start,not only does Dante introduce Virgil as his teacher and author, “tu sei lo miomaestro e lo mio autore” (inf.1, line?) due to Virgil’s moral and intellectualauthority, he also mentions how much the poet has influenced his poetic styleand skill in “tu solo se’coluida cui io tolsi Lo bello stilo che m’ha fatto onore” (inf.1. line?).
This showshow much Virgil has contributed to the Golden age of Roman poetry where hecarried a status of a master poet and a predecessor of millions of roman poets.In fact, when entering the limbo with Dante, Virgil is greeted as the “Princeof Poets” (Inf.2.80).
Hewas a master poet whose rigorously structured texts prophesized the birth ofChrist and therefore were not only praised for their literary value, but alsofor their Christian interpretations. He was a role model to many also because hewas the manifestation of human intellect, who represents Dante’s idea of empire,as his intentions with the Aeneid are mirrored in Dante’s political dream. Whichbrings us to Dante’s three key ideas which link him to Virgil: idea of reason, ideaof Empire and idea of poetry.