A few days ago in a much discussed post I posed the question: What duties do the living have to compensate victims of past injustices? The tenor from comments, and also my opinion, is that at minimum the living have obligations towards the dead regarding their historical memory. It seems that Sperello di Serego Alighieri, an Italian astrophysicist, and Alessandro Traversi, a Florentine law professor, share this judgement.
Sperello di Serego Alighieri is a 19th generation descendant of Dante Alighieri. If you need a brush up on your history, Dante was a 14th century poet and moral philosopher and the author of The Divine Comedy, considered by many to be the most important poem of the Middle Ages and the greatest literary work ever written in Italian. This year marks the 700th anniversary of his death.
It is Dante’s posthumous reputation that his 21st century progeny is concerned about. Dante was Florentine and got mixed up in factional political infighting among the ruling Guelphs. To make a long story short, he came out on the losing side and was subsequently accused of corruption, charged a hefty fine, permanently banned from holding public office, and sentenced to a two year exile. When he failed to show up in court in 1302, he was then sentenced to death (burning at the stake).
Not wanting to be the guest of honor at his own weenie roast, Dante remained in exile. He died in 1321 without his name being cleared. Sperello di Serego Alighieri says his “dearest ancestor” was the victim of a “political trial” and that the sentencing was unjust.
At a conference in May he hopes to clear his ancestor’s name. Participants will include historians, linguists, lawyers – and Antoine de Gabrielli, a direct descendant of Cante de Gabrielli da Gubbio, the Florentine official who convicted Dante. Together they will investigate if Dante’s sentences were just or “the poisoned fruit of politics that used justice to attack an opponent.”
“Two sentences were inflicted on Dante: exile and death. It will be interesting to see whether in the light of the Florentine statutes of the time and current legal principles the two judgments could be subject to revision,” said Traversi.
A statute of limitations does not apply in Italy if new evidence can be brought before the court. What do you think the outcome will be? Leave a comment.