By Joseph Crane
This essay is to accompany Between Fortune and Providence: Astrology and the Universe in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
What follows is the overview and timeline I wish I had when I first started reading the Divine Comedy. Many commentaries of the Divine Comedy give background historical information, usually consisting of a general introduction and brief explanations when specific characters and events come up within the poem. Here I will proceed sequentially, beginning centuries before Dante’s birth and concluding in the year of his death. When I first mention a historical person whose character appears in the Divine Comedy, the name will be in bold, followed by page references from Between Fortune and Providence. Because this section gives an overview specific to the Divine Comedy, Italy and the city-states of northern Italy, especially Florence, is our focus.
This essay is partly organized according to the modern astrological practice that uses cycles of the modern planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. When relevant, we will look at outer planet configurations when they form conjunctions, opening squares, oppositions, and closing squares that correspond to New, First Quarter, and Full, and Third Quarter Moons. Since many readers of Between Fortune and Providence are astrologers or are interested in modern astrology, this will be useful for them. Those who are not astrologers can pass over this material.
Here’s a preliminary summary of some the interacting themes of Church, politics, and economics that provide some background for the Divine Comedy. Religion: Understanding the medieval Church takes a special leap of the imagination. The Church had a dominant role in organizing and giving cohesiveness to Europe over a very long time. Yet the Church had its ups and downs, politically and spiritually. Because of its wealth and political power, the Church...