On the 4th September 1260 the Siennese army and supporters of the Emperor, Ghibellines, defeated the larger Florentine army, supporters of the Pope, or Guelphs, at Montaperti.
The battle lasted all day and neither side looked like winning. At the day’s close, an act of treachery(always) saw an opportunist Florentine Guelf walk up to his own Standard Bearer, draw his sword and cut of his arm, so dropping the City’s Standard. This act was seen as an important message and gave the Ghibelline army hope and caused dismay in the Florentine ranks. 10000 were lost and the city of Florence was now at the mercy of the victors. Many of the Ghibellines called for it to be burnt to the ground.
It was not, because one of their great Generals stood up and said no.
He was Farinata degli Uberti.
When Dante came to write his Commedia. He placed both the traitor (and man to whom the battle’s defeat was due) and Farinata in Hell.
The traitor’s name was Bocca degli Abati. He is the 9th Circle, with the lowest of the low. He likens his voice to a bark.
Farinata is in the 6th Circle, because he was an Epicuran, denying the afterlife, instead choosing the life of a hedonist, following earthly pleasures, to the detriment of spiritual ones. Despite condemning him, he is one of only three characters that Dante treats with utter respect, twice calling him magnanimous and allowing him a total contempt of his painful circumstances. He towers over Dante, almost cowering him and speaks very clearly, unlike Bocca and other unworthy characters he portrays.
I love my native city and like Dante respect Farinata for his stance and possible singlehanded stand against his peers. The 10th Canto is my favourite because of this.