The Divine Comedy is firstly important as an epic written in the vernacular Italian of its author rather than in Latin, the scholarly language of the period in which Dante Alighieri lived. Latin was used for important works of art and serious thought, with the vernacular often overlooked as a legitimate means of expression by the elite. Dante changed that by using his Tuscan dialect in the poem. Some scholars even argue that the sheer popularity of Dante's poem helped to unify and establish the Italian language in the centuries that followed.
Beyond that, The Divine Comedy has become one of the most influential epics in all of world literature. The poem itself was inspired by the classic Greek and Roman epics, such as the Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid. Dante gave the world a medieval European take on such epic journeys, and his work has become as enduring as that of his forebears. Beyond even the literary scene, painters, sculptors, musicians, video game designers, and filmmakers have taken inspiration from Dante's epic poem. Scenes such as such as the doomed lovers Francesca and Paolo buffeted by whirlwinds still stir the imaginations of many, whether they share the poet's Catholic worldview or not.