Friday 20 June 2008
After 700 years, Dante Alighieri, Italy’s most famous poet, will have his criminal record scrubbed clean.
Florence’s city council has approved a motion revoking a sentence on Dante from 1302 which stated that he would be executed if he stepped foot in the city again.
The sentence forced Dante into exile and he spent the last 20 years of his life wandering through Italy, finally ending his days in Ravenna in 1321.
Divine Comedy is frequently compared to The Book of Arda Viraf in which Arda Viraf is chosen for his piety to undertake a journey to the next world in order to prove the truth of Zoroastrian beliefs, after a period when the land of Iran had been troubled by the presence of confused and alien religions. He drinks wine and a hallucinogen, after which his soul travels to the next world where it is greeted by a beautiful woman named Den who represents his faith and virtue. Crossing the Chinvat bridge, he is then conducted to places outside of heaven reserved for the virtuous who have nevertheless failed to conform to Zoroastrian rules. In heaven itself he meets Ahura Mazda who shows him the souls of the blessed (ahlav). Each person is described living an idealized version of the life he or she lived on earth, as a warrior, agriculturalist, shepherd or other profession. With his guides he then descends into hell to be shown the sufferings of the wicked, which are described in graphic detail. As in Dante, each wicked person is allotted a form of suffering appropriate to their transgressions. For example, a woman who failed to feed her children properly is forced to devour her own flesh. Stress is placed on obedience (Srosh), social authority, and order (Ard). Having completed his visionary journey Viraf is told by Ahura Mazda that the Zoroastrian faith is the only proper and true way of life and that it should be preserved in both prosperity and adversity.