Cacciaguida was an ancestor of Dante of which we know very little. We know that he was knighted and participated in the Second Crusade (1147-1149), where he died.
In this canto, Dante speaks with this important relative, telling him that a family’s nobility is lost if it is not kept alive by its descendants.
Dante meant that a family’s lineage is ennobled through the behaviour and actions of its descendants rather than the ancestry of its name.
This interpretation demonstrates that Dante held very modern ideas…
This canto of the Divine Comedy is very interesting because it depicts Dante asking Cacciaguida about his ancestors and about the history of Florence.
Cacciaguida says that he was born in 1091 and that he and his ancestors lived in Florence, in the district of Porta San Pietro.
This district was situated within the oldest circle of the city walls, which demonstrates, according to Dante, the ancient Florentine origin of the Alighieri family.
Cacciaguida also reveals that in his time the Florentine families did not intermix freely with those living in the countryside, pointing to this change as the origin of the evils of the city.
Cacciaguida ideas were clearly much less modern than Dante’s …
This ancestor of Dante then lists the names of certain important families of Florence and speaks of their decline. Among these families are the Cerchi and the Buondelmonte.
This canto also mentions the execution of Buondelmonte and many other historical episodes. Moreover, it contains a description of Florence, stories involving Dante’s ancestors, as well as chronicles, such as those by Giovanni Villani.
It is interesting that in 1921, on the occasion of the sixth centenary of the death of Dante, inscriptions with verses from the Divine Comedy were placed where these ancient Florentines lived.
If you are fortunate enough or very knowledgeable, you can still find some.
Pictures by Wikimedia