Toynbee "Malaspina"
noble and wealthy family of N. Italy, whose chief possessions lay in the Val di Magra in Lunigiana [Lunigiana]. In the course of cent. xii and xiii they appear at one time in alliance with their powerful neighbour Genoa, at another at war with her. They seem for the most part to have been supporters of the imperial party, though several conspicuous members of the family ranged themselves on the opposite side. They were closely connected with some of the most powerful families in Italy, including those of Este and Pallavicino. In 1221, the family divided into two main branches, known as the 'Spino Secco' branch and the 'Spino Fiorito' branch, from their respective coats of arms [Table XXVI].

The earliest member of the family referred to by D. is Currado I, of the 'Spino Secco' branch, known as l'antico, [Purg. viii. 119] [Malaspina, Currado_1]; his grandson, Currado II da Villafranca, known as 'il Giovane', is placed among the Negligent Princes in the valley of flowers in Ante-Purgatory, [Purg. viii. 65, 118] [Malaspina, Currado_2]; another grandson, Moroello III da Giovagallo, is referred to as vapor di Val di Magra, [Inf. xxiv. 145], and is thought by some to be the individual to whom D. addressed one of his letters, Epist. iv [Malaspina, Moroello]; yet another member of the family is referred to by D. viz. Gherardino da Filattiera, of the 'Spino Fiorito' branch, who was bishop of Luni, 1312-21, and is spoken of as Lunensis pontifex, Epist. xi. 15 [Lunensis].

[See BSDI, vi (1898), 105-118; C. S. Latham, A Translation of Dante's Eleven Letters (Boston, 1892), pp. 69-128; and I. Del Lungo, 'Dante in Lunigiana', in Dante e la Lunigiana (Milano, 1909), pp. 165-207.]

The family in general is spoken of in very laudatory terms by D. in conversation with Currado II (in Ante-Purgatory), vostra casa, [Purg. viii. 124]; vostra gente onrata, [Purg. viii. 128]. D. in this passage makes Currado prophesy that in less than seven years from that time (i.e. 1300, the date of the Journey) D. would have personal experience of the hospitality of his house, which came to pass in the autumn of 1306, when D. was the guest at Sarzana of Franceschino da Mulazzo, also a grandson of Currado I, and first cousin of Currado II. [See A. Bartoli, Storia della letteratura italiana (Firenze 1887-9), vi, Appendix: 'I Malaspina ricordati da Dante'.] [Dante.]

©Oxford University Press 1968. From A Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante by Paget Toynbee (1968) by permission of Oxford University Press