Besides making a name for himself with his early poetry, which was marked by a number of love lyrics that remain famous throughout Italy even today, Dante stepped onto the political ladder, which saw him become one of Florence’s seven priors in the summer of 1300: one of the city’s seven governors, therefore, and one of its most important citizens. But government at that time was a poisoned chalice, as Florence was riven by violence between its two Guelf parties, the ‘Blacks’ and the ‘Whites’. In January 1302, while Dante was serving on a delegation to the Vatican, the Blacks wrested control of the city and Dante, one of the Whites, found himself in exile.
He wandered northern Italy for the rest of his life, composing his 14,233-line poem the Divine Comedy, which tells of his journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Apart from that, though, it also confirmed vernacular (or "vulgar") Italian as a language valid for high literature. At least one academic wrote to Dante in praise of the Divine Comedy, but argued that it would have been better had it been written in Latin. Dante, who had originally started to compose the poem in Latin before quickly switching to vernacular Italian, maintained that the "language learned at the nurse's breast" was able to reach a greater audience. Latin, he wrote, would be like giving solid food to the mouths of "suckling babes".
He died in Ravenna in 1321.