Browse By

Eastern Thought Part 4

Referenced Inferno

Plot Survey

Inferno begins on the evening of Good Friday in 1300. Dante loses his way while walking through a Dark Forest and is apprehensively wandering in solitude fearing the densely tree filled woods. The sun shines on a mountain above him. He tries to climb up towards the sun-illumined mountain peak when his path is blocked by three beasts-a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. Cowered, Dante is forced to return to the dark forest. He then meets the ghost of the Roman poet Virgil. He tells Dante he has come to guide him on the Path and to the top of the mountain. Virgil tells him the path will take them through Hell but would eventually reach Heaven. He is told that Virgil is there at the request of Beatrice, his Beloved. He promises they will meet Beatrice and two other Holy women.

Virgil leads Dante through the gates of Hell, where there is an inscription “abandon all hope, you who enter here”, but he entered the Ante-Inferno, where the souls also known as”Shades” live. Here stunned looking Shade chase around, day after day, while hornets bite them and worms lap their blood. Dante witnesses their suffering with distaste and pity. The ferry operator guide Charon then takes the two pilgrims across the river Acheron, the real border of Hell made up of many Circles. The First Circle of Hell, Limbo, houses pagans, including Virgil and many writers and poets of antiquity, who lived and died without knowing of Jesus and teaching about How to arrive at The Christ.

After meeting Horace, Ovid and Lucan, Dante continues into the Second Circle of Hell, reserved for Lust. Here at the border the monster Minos lurks, assigned to punish Shades for the sin of Covetousness practiced through Lust. Minos curls his tail around himself. Here in the Second Circle the Lustful swirl about in a terrible storm. Dante meets Francesca, who tells him the story of her doomed love affair with Paolo da Rimini, her husband’s brother. The sin of lust (Kama) landed them both in Hell.

In the Third Circle of Hell, the Covetous who sinned in Gluttony (want more than need) lies in mud and endure a rain of filth and excrement. In the Fourth Circle, the covetously selfish and Mean Greedy (lobha) and the Prodigal (wastefulness) are forced to charge into giant boulders. The Fifth Circle contains the River Styx, a swampy, fetid cesspool where the Angry and the Wrathful (Krodha) spend eternity struggling with one another. The Sullen Disagreeable Shades lie bound (suffering dukha) beneath the Styx’s waters. They are choking and feeling the sin of their lives of unpleasantness and are choking on the mud. Dante glimpses Filippo Argenti, a former political enemy of his, and gladly watches other souls tear the man to pieces.

Virgil and Dante arrive at the walls of the City of Dis, a city within Hell. Demons guard the gates and refuse to open them. An angelic messenger from Heaven and forces the gates open for the two pilgrims. The Sixth Circle houses Heretics who spreads poison of unpleasantness and separation from the Source. Here Dante faces the rival political leader, Farinata.

A deep valley leads them into the First Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, where those who were violent spend eternity in a river of boiling blood. Virgil and Dante meet a group of Centaurs, creatures who are half man, half horse. One of them, Nessus, takes them into the Second Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, where they meet those who were violent toward themselves (the Suicides). These endure eternity in the form of trees. Dante speaks with Pier della Vigna here. Deeper into the Seventh Circle of Hell, the travellers find sinners who were violent toward God (the Blasphemers); Dante meets his old patron, Brunetto Latini, walking among the souls of those who were violent toward Nature (the Sodomites) on a desert of burning sand. They also face the Usurers, those who were violent toward Art.

The monster Geryon transports Virgil and Dante across a great abyss to the Eighth Circle of Hell, known as Malebolge, or “evil pockets” (or “pouches”). These are the circle’s subdivision into various pockets separated by great folds of earth. In the First Pouch, the Panderers and Seducers receive lashings from whips. In the second pouch are Flatterers who must lie in a river of human faeces. The Simoniacs are in the Third Pouch where sinners hang upside down in baptismal fonts while their feet burn with fire. In the Fourth Pouch are the Astrologers and Diviners, forced to walk with their heads on backward. The sight moves Dante to great pity. In the Fifth Pouch, the Barrators who accepted bribes are steeped in pitch while demons tear them apart. The Hypocrites in the Sixth Pouch must forever walk in circles, wearing heavy robes made of lead. Caiaphas, the priest who confirmed Jesus’ death sentence, lies crucified here on the ground. Other sinners tread on him as they walk. In the horrifying Seventh Pouch, the Thieves sit trapped in a pit of vipers, becoming vipers themselves when bitten. To regain their original form, they must bite another thief in turn.

In the Eighth Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell, Dante speaks to Ulysses, the great hero of Homer’s epics, who is now doomed to an eternity among those guilty of Spiritual Theft (the False Counselors) for his role in carrying out the ruse of the Trojan horse. In the Ninth Pouch, the souls of Sowers of Scandal and Schism walk in a circle, constantly afflicted by wounds that open and close repeatedly. In the Tenth Pouch, the Falsifiers suffer from horrible plagues and diseases.

Virgil and Dante go to the Ninth Circle of Hell through the Giants’ Well, which leads to a massive drop to Cocytus, a great frozen lake. The giant Antaeus picks Virgil and Dante up and sets them down at the bottom of the well, in the lowest region of Hell. In Caina, the First Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell, betrayers and their kin stand frozen up to their necks in the lake’s ice. In Antenora, the Second Ring, betrayers of country and party stand frozen up to their heads. Here Dante meets Count Ugolino, who spends eternity gnawing on the head of the man who imprisoned him in life. In PtolomĹa, the Third Ring, betrayers of guests spend eternity are lying on their backs in the frozen lake. Their tears make blocks of ice over their eyes. Dante next follows Virgil into Judecca, the Fourth Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell and the lowest depth. Here, those who betrayers of their benefactors spend eternity in complete icy submersion.

A huge, mist-shrouded being lurks ahead, and Dante approaches it. It is the three-headed giant Lucifer, plunged waist-deep into the ice. His body pierces the of the Earth, where he originally fell when God hurled him down from Heaven. Each of Lucifer’s mouths chews one of history’s three greatest sinners: Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, and Cassius and Brutus, the betrayers of Julius Caesar. Virgil takes Dante to climb down Lucifer’s massive form. They slide off by holdsing on to his frozen tufts of hair. Eventually, the poets reach the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and travel from there out of Hell and back onto Earth. They emerge from Hell on Easter morning, just before sunrise.


Inferno Canto I: The Dark Forest. The Hill of Difficulty; the Panther, the Lion, and the Wolf. Virgil.

1. Midway upon the journey of our life//I found myself within a forest dark // For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
2. Ah me! How hard a thing it is to say// What was this forest savage, rough, and stern // Which in the very thought renews the fear.
3. So bitter is it, death is little more// But of the good to treat, which there I found// Speak will I of the other things I saw there.
4. I cannot well repeat how there I entered// So full was I of slumber at the moment// In which I had abandoned the true way.
5. But after I had reached a mountain’s foot// At that point where the valley terminated// Which had with consternation pierced my heart,
6. Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders//Vested already with that planet’s rays//Which leadeth others right by every road.
7. Then was the fear a little quieted//That in my heart’s lake had endured throughout// The night, which I had passed so piteously.
8. And even as he, who, with distressful breath// Forth issued from the sea upon the shore//Turns to the water perilous and gazes;
9. So did my soul, that still was fleeing onward//Turn itself back to re-beholds the pass//Which never yet a living person left.
10. After my weary body I had rested// The way resumed I on the desert slope//So that the firm foot ever was the lower.
11. And lo! almost where the ascent began//A panther light and swift exceedingly//Which with a spotted skin was covered o’er!
12. And never moved she from before my face//Nay, rather did impede so much my way// That many times I to return had turned.
13. The time was the beginning of the morning//And up the sun was mounting with those stars//That with him were, what time the Love Divine
14. At first in motion set those beauteous things//So were to me occasion of good hope//The variegated skin of that wild beast,
15. The hour of time, and the delicious season//But not so much, that did not give me fear//A lion’s aspect which appeared to me.
16. He seemed as if against me he were coming//With head uplifted, and with ravenous hunger//So that it seemed the air was afraid of him;
17. And a she-wolf, that with all hungering//Seemed to be laden in her meagreness//And many folk has caused to live forlorn!
18. She brought upon me so much heaviness//With the affright that from her aspect came// That I the hope relinquished of the height.
19. And as he is who willingly acquires//And the time comes that causes him to lose//Who weeps in all his thoughts and is despondent,
20. E’en such made me that beast withouten peace//Which, coming on against me by degrees//Thrust me back thither where the sun is silent.
21. While I was rushing downward to the lowland// Before mine eyes did one present himself//Who seemed from long-continued silence hoarse.
22. When I beheld him in the desert vast//”Have pity on me,” unto him I cried//Whiche’er thou art, or Shade or real man!”
23. He answered me: “Not man; man once I was//And both my parents were of Lombardy1//And Mantuans2 by country both of them.
24. ‘Sub Julio’3 was I born, though it was late//And lived at Rome under the good Augustus4//During the time of false and lying gods.
25. A poet was I, and I sang that just//Son of Anchises, who came forth from Troy//After that Ilion the superb was burned.
26. But thou, why goest thou back to such annoyance//Why climb’st thou not the Mount Delectable5//Which is the source and cause of every joy?”
27. “Now, art thou that Virgilius6 and that fountain//Which spreads abroad so wide a river of speech?”//I made response to him with bashful forehead.
28. “O, of the other poets honour and light//Avail me the long study and great love//That have impelled me to explore thy volume!
29. Thou art my master, and my author thou//Thou art alone the one from whom I took//The beautiful style that has done honour to me.
30. Beholds the beast, for which I have turned back//Do thou protect me from her, famous Sage// For she doth make my veins and pulses tremble.”
31. “Thee it behoves to take another road”// Responded he, when he beheld me weeping//”If from this savage place thou wouldst escape;
32. Because this beast, at which thou criest out//Suffers not any one to pass her way// But so doth harass him, that she destroys him;
33. And has a nature so malign and ruthless//That never doth she glut her greedy will//And after food is hungrier than before.
34. Many the animals with whom she weds//And more they shall be still, until the Greyhound// Comes, who shall make her perish in her pain.
35. He shall not feed on either earth or pelf// But upon wisdom, and on love and virtue//’Twixt Feltro and Feltro7 shall his nation be;
36. Of that low Italy shall he be the saviour//On whose account the maid Camilla8 died// Euryalus, Turnus, Nisus9, of their wounds;
37. Through every city shall he hunt her down// Until he shall have driven her back to Hell/ There from whence envy first did let her loose.
38. Therefore I think and judge it for thy best//Thou follow me, and I will be thy guide//And lead thee hence through the eternal place,
39. Where thou shalt hear the desperate lamentations//Shalt see the ancient spirits disconsolate//Who cry out each one for the second death;
40. And thou shalt see those who contented are// Within the fire, because they hope to come// Whene’er it may be, to the blessed people;
41. To whom, then, if thou wishest to ascend// A soul shall be for that than I more worthy// With her at my departure I will leave thee;
42. Because that Emperor, who reigns above// In that I was rebellious to his law//Wills that through me none come into his city.
43. He governs everywhere, and there he reigns// There is his city and his lofty throne// O happy he whom thereto he elects!”
44. And I to him: “Poet, I thee entreat//By that same God whom thou didst never know// So that I may escape this woe and worse,
45. Thou wouldst conduct me there where thou hast said//That I may see the portal of Saint Peter10// And those thou makest so disconsolate.”
46. Then he moved on, and I behind him followed.


Inferno Canto 1: The Dark Forest. The Hill of Difficulty; the Panther, the Lion, and the Wolf. Virgil.

Halfway through life, the poet Dante finds himself wandering alone in a dark forest. He has lost his way from the “true path” of living the ‘how and why’ of a human existence. His churchian knowledge does not give him the purpose of human expression. He seeks a Journey of self to the Self. It will be a roundabout pathway into him. He admits, although he is a devout Roman Catholic, he does not remember how he lost his way. He also admits he has wandered into a fearful place, where the place is dark, gloomy and shadowy. His dejection from living through many difficult times has hit rock bottom. It is despair that has tangled him in the forested valley. Higher he up he sees a greater obstacle looming on the mountain peak.

He sees a great hill he must climb. Even as he struggles to believe in Him, loneliness and rejection hurts. He is rebellious with hurts, habits and hang-ups that affect Dante’s life and the lives of many of his friends and neighbours. He sees an overshadowed glen offering him protection. The sun shines (Higher Self) down from above this mountain peak and penetrates the forest. Dante tries to climb toward the Light. As he climbs, faces three angry beasts in succession-a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. They menacingly force him to turn back.


Inferno Canto 1: The Dark Forest. The Hill of Difficulty; the Panther, the Lion, and the Wolf. Virgil.

Dante the Pilgrim, aged thirty-five, awakens to find himself lost in a dark wood. Unaware he has strayed off the path of truth11. He is in a untamed ferocious wilderness. He is petrified and is obviously a victim of oligarchy and religion of fear12. He eventually arrives at the foot of the hill, at the edge of the woods. The top of the hill is bathed in Light. Seeing it, his fear leaves him. He begins to ascend the hill13 but his journey upward is blocked by the appearance of three wild beasts – a leopard, a lion and a she-wolf.

Entering spiritual path with expectations of spiritual enlightenment is not about entering an outer realm of outer political experiences. It is about entering the Castle (body-mind-intellect) to the Soul. Dante is apprehensively entering a ‘hopeful place’. He has the universal tendency towards spirituality. It is an instinctive process of self-improvement. Although the impulse comes from the empty-feeling ego inside, that same ego can switch over into anything to its own use: even spirituality. This ‘trick’ the ego plays does not take the seeker to joyous liberation.

Dante will have to let go of the ego-self rather than working to improve it. He is fearful and suddenly loses all hope. In panic he runs down the hill. While rushing down he sees a figure (of a man) coming towards him. The figure introduces himself as the ghost of Virgil, the Roman poet. Dante explains his predicament to Virgil and asks to be saved from the she-wolf. According to Indo-Aryans of 14th century BC a “dualistic” universe has two forces fighting for the hearts and minds of humanity, and life in this world is caught up in the struggle between them.

Vigil therefore advises Dante he must take another road, because a she-wolf allows no man to escape the viles of the ego. Her nature is to overwhelm anyone who comes her way. She (Ego) mates with many creatures (desires) and will continue (metamorphosing) to do so until the greyhound (rescuing-friend) comes and stops her life. This greyhound will come to save Italy and he will be born between ‘Feltro and Feltro’ to mean different types of felt will be entwined to make the new fabric of politics.

Virgil offers to guide Dante as his spiritual guide14, out of the woods and lead him out through an eternal place where he will see tormented souls in Hell (Ecclesiastes 3:20-2115), and then witness burning souls who are happy because they will join the blessed souls. Then another spirit, more worthy than him (Virgil), will lead Dante to where these blessed souls stay.

Virgil is not allowed to enter Paradise (God’s city) because he is pagan (polytheists of ancient Indian, Greek and Roman religions) and broke God’s Law by living as a non-Christian non-believer. Dante begs Virgil to save him from the evil place and lead him towards the journey Virgil has described. Virgil leads on and Dante follows him closely.

The Pilgrim at the foot of a hill (start of a Spiritual Journey), whose top is bathed in morning light (promise of enlightenment) gives Dante hope that if he climbs the hill he will be safely out of the woods, but also knows he must deal with appearing three wild beasts (leopard: enemy during life but symbolizing triumph at a crucial juncture in the afterlife; lion: pride of power, wisdom and justice; and shewolf- self-serving ego that blocks his path and threatens him. The three beasts are symbolic of 3 specific sins: covetousness, self-importance and spiritual materialism.

The beasts are symbols of the three major divisions of Hell: they include the leopard to represent “fraud”; the lion to represent “aggression”; and the she-wolf as different types of “Incontinence” or lack of self-restraint causing spiritual incontinence. Three beasts threatening Dante are ‘sins’ that threaten humans from living spiritual lives. Dante is a symbol of a forgetful mankind16. His meeting is with Virgil’s ghost (Spiritual Guide). Virgil, (Roman poet born in 70 BC during the time of Julius Caesar) personifies Reasoning (Knowledge) through the insight (Human Wisdom). Dante begs for help. Virgil introduces himself and Dante is delighted because he has long idolized the Roman whom he sees as his guru (teacher). Virgil explains a greyhound will come to save Italy and drive the she-wolf to Hell from where she came.

The greyhound is Can Grande della Scala, who ruled Verona from 1308 to 1329. His birthplace was Verona, which lies between Feltro and Feltro. His “wisdom, love and virtue” were well known to Dante as the three qualities of Trinity. Both knowledge and wisdom are the result of judicious study and application of wisdom. Virgil wanted Dante to acquire a deep understanding and realisation of people, things, events, situations while they travelled together. Virgil explains how to replace the animalistic sins that drive the world with covetousness, self-importance and greediness.

After Virgil finishes his prophecy, he offers to be Dante’s guide to help him out of the wood. He was inspired by the thought that Virgin Mary, St. Lucy and Beatrice, who all wanted to help Dante. He promises to lead Dante through Hell and Purgatory. And then another spirit will lead him to Paradise. Virgil the pagan is gifted with logic and has reasoned he cannot enter a Christian (or any Abrahamic) Paradise. Virgil points out his study of the scriptures and reasoning tells him he can help Dante on his spiritual journey only to a certain point. Beyond this point he will need help and guidance of a “worthier spirit” like Beatrice, an Ascended Master. She represents, Grace and Revelation of a true ‘realised’ teacher. Call for a guru is instinctive17.

Beatrice is born in Florence in 1266. Dante falls in love with her when he is nine years of age. She eventually marries Simone die Bardi and dies in 1290 at the age of twenty-four. Dante’s love for Beatrice is idealistic and sacred. After her death his Love (agape) takes on spiritual dimensions. She becomes his muse in Dante’s poetic work “Vita Nuova”. Even after her death she continues to be significant to Dante and his Love for her takes the form of worship. It is her spirit that guides him to Paradise. Love, the finest of human emotions leads Dante to God, the desired goal of every pilgrim.

But to reach Paradise and God the pilgrim must journey through Hell and Purgatory for Repentance, Understanding and Wisdom. This is the road that Virgil chooses for Dante. Virgil knows, before man can reach God, he must repent, recognize sin and renounce it. The pilgrim must understand the nature of sin18. It is triggered by a ‘sinful nature’ with reflexive impulses (sanskaras and vasanas19) embedded in memories from past reincarnations. Virgil’s help is necessary. This unbaptized pagan uses Reason and Wisdom to help the baptised Dante. Every man’s life is represented by Dante’s journey through these Abrahamic regions of the astral world but in truth Dante’s journey tells the story of man’s pilgrimage to God.

Inferno: Canto 2 The Descent. Dante’s Protest and Virgil’s Appeal; The Intercession of the Three Ladies Benedight.

1. Day was departing, and the embrowned air//Released the animals that are on earth//From their fatigues; and I the only one
2. Made myself ready to sustain the war//Both of the way and likewise of the woe//Which memory that errs not shall retrace.
3. Muses, O high genius, now assist me!//O memory, that didst write down what I saw//Here thy nobility shall be manifest!
4. And I began: “Poet, who guidest me//Regard my manhood, if it be sufficient//Ere to the arduous pass thou dost confide me.
5. Thou sayest, that of Silvius20 the parent//While yet corruptible, unto the world// Immortal went, and was there bodily.
6. But if the adversary of all evil//Was courteous, thinking of the high effect//That issue would from him, and who, and what,
7. To men of intellect unmeet it seems not//For he was of great Rome, and of her empire//In the empyreal heaven as father chosen;
8. The which and what, wishing to speak the truth//Were stablished as the holy place, wherein//Sits the successor of the greatest Peter.
9. Upon this journey, whence thou givest him vaunt// Things did he hear, which the occasion were// Both of his victory and the papal mantle.
10. Thither went afterwards the Chosen Vessel//To bring back comfort thence unto that Faith//Which of salvation’s way is the beginning.
11. But I, why thither come, or who concedes it?//I not Aeneas am, I am not Paul//Nor I, nor others, think me worthy of it.
12. Therefore, if I resign myself to come//I fear the coming may be ill-advised//Thou’rt wise, and knowest better than I speak.”
13. And as he is, who unwills what he willed//And by new thoughts doth his intention change//So that from his design he quite withdraws,
14. Such I became, upon that dark hillside//Because, in thinking, I consumed the emprise//Which was so very prompt in the beginning.
15. “If I have well thy language understood”// Replied that Shade of the Magnanimous//”Thy soul attainted is with cowardice,
16. Which many times a man encumbers so//It turns him back from honoured enterprise//As false sight doth a beast, when he is shy.
17. That thou mayst free thee from this apprehension//I’ll tell thee why I came, and what I heard//At the first moment when I grieved for thee.
18. Among those was I who are in suspense//And a fair, saintly Lady called to me//In such wise, I besought her to command me.
19. Her eyes where shining brighter than the Star//And she began to say, gentle and low//With voice angelical, in her own language:
20. ‘O spirit courteous of Mantua//Of whom the fame still in the world endures//And shall endure, long-lasting as the world;
21. A friend of mine, and not the friend of fortune//Upon the desert slope is so impeded// Upon his way, that he has turned through terror,
22. And may, I fear, already be so lost//That I too late have risen to his succour//From that which I have heard of him in Heaven.
23. Bestir thee now, and with thy speech ornate//And with what needful is for his release//Assist him so, that I may be consoled.
24. Beatrice21 am I, who do bid thee go//I come from there, where I would fain return//Love moved me, which compelleth me to speak.
25. When I shall be in presence of my Lord//Full often will I praise thee unto him’//Then paused she, and thereafter I began:
26. ‘O Lady of virtue, thou alone through whom//The human race exceedeth all contained//Within the heaven that has the lesser circles,
27. So grateful unto me is thy commandment//To obey, if ’twere already done, were late//No farther need’st thou ope to me thy wish.
28. But the cause tell me why thou dost not shun//The here descending down into this //From the vast place thou burnest to return to.’
29. ‘Since thou wouldst fain so inwardly discern// Briefly will I relate,’ she answered me//’Why I am not afraid to enter here.
30. Of those things only should one be afraid//Which have the power of doing others harm//Of the rest, no; because they are not fearful.
31. God in his mercy such created me//That misery of yours attains me not//Nor any flame assails me of this burning.
32. A gentle Lady is in Heaven, who grieves//At this impediment, to which I send thee//So that stern judgment there above is broken.
33. In her entreaty she besought Lucia22//And said, “Thy faithful one now stands in need// Of thee, and unto thee I recommend him.”
34. Lucia, foe of all that cruel is//Hastened away, and came unto the place//Where I was sitting with the ancient Rachel.
35. “Beatrice” said she, “the true praise of God//Why succourest thou not him, who loved thee so,
śFor thee he issued from the vulgar herd?
36. Dost thou not hear the pity of his plaint? //Dost thou not see the death that combats him//Beside that flood, where ocean has no vaunt?”
37. Never were persons in the world so swift//To work their weal and to escape their woe//As I, after such words as these were uttered,
38. Came hither downward from my blessed seat//Confiding in thy dignified discourse//Which honours thee, and those who’ve listened to it.’
39. After she thus had spoken unto me//Weeping, her shining eyes she turned away//Whereby she made me swifter in my coming;
40. And unto thee I came, as she desired//I have delivered thee from that wild beast//Which barred the beautiful mountain’s short ascent.
41. What is it, then?  Why, why dost thou delay?//Why is such baseness bedded in thy heart?//Daring and hardihood why hast thou not,
42. Seeing that three such Ladies Benedight//Are caring for thee in the court of Heaven//And so much good my speech doth promise thee?”
43. Even as the flowerets, by nocturnal chill//Bowed down and closed, when the sun whitens them//Uplift themselves all open on their stems;
44. Such I became with my exhausted strength//And such good courage to my heart there coursed//That I began, like an intrepid person:
45. “O she compassionate, who succoured me//And courteous thou, who hast obeyed so soon//The words of truth which she addressed to thee!
46. Thou hast my heart so with desire disposed//To the adventure, with these words of thine// That to my first intent I have returned.
47. Now go, for one sole will is in us both// Thou Leader, and thou Lord, and Master thou.”//Thus said I to him; and when he had moved.
48. I entered on the deep and savage way.


Canto 2 The Descent. Dante’s Protest and Virgil’s Appeal; The Intercession of the Three Ladies Benedight.

Dante invokes the Muses, the ancient goddesses of art and poetry, and he asks them to help him with his experiences. Dante communicates with them while approaching the mouth of Hell. His mind turns to the journey ahead and again he feels the grip of dread. He can recall only two men who have ever ventured into the afterlife and returned: the Apostle Paul, who visited the Third Circle of Heaven, and Aeneas, who travels through Hell in Virgil’s Aeneid. Dante considers himself less worthy than these two and fears that he may not survive his passage through Hell.

Virgil rebukes Dante for his cowardice and then reassures him with the story of how he knew to find Dante and act as his guide. According to Virgil, a woman in Heaven took pity on Dante when he was lost and came down to Hell (where Virgil lives in Limbo) to ask Virgil to help him. This woman is Beatrice; Dante’s departed Beloved, who he says now, has an honored place among the blessed. She learns of Dante’s plight while she is in Heaven. St Lucia in turn also hears about the poor poet from an unnamed lady, who is likely the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. Impressed that three holy women watch over Dante from their residence in Heaven, Virgil is astonished. Virgil says that Beatrice wept as she told him of Dante’s misery. He found her entreaty deeply moving.

Dante feels comforted to hear that his beloved Beatrice has gone to Heaven and cares so much for him. He praises both her and Virgil for their support and then continues to follow Virgil toward Hell.


Canto 2 The Descent. Dante’s Protest and Virgil’s Appeal; The Intercession of the Three Ladies Benedight.

As the two pilgrims advance into the night they descend but Dante invokes the help of the Muses to help him in putting down in verse what he holds in his memory during their journey. He thinks he is unworthy of the journey but he always knew ‘from the House of Bread comes the Bread of Life.’ And he is taking a spiritual journey as a living man. He knows he will have to replace everything unworthy in him with something new. He must discover that false beliefs and opinions as judgements about others get in the way of all such journeys. The only gift for finders on an Enlightenment Journey while still living among living men, before Dante, were Sylvius’ father (Aeneas) who founded Rome, and the Apostle Paul. Feelings of unworthiness and remorse make Dante fear the undertaking of this extraordinary journey.

Virgil rebukes Dante because he has become a prey to cowardice (fear with excessive self-concern). Virgil the Guru hopes to share his blessings and positivity with Dante. Virgil who is lost in Hell has hopes of extricating himself from Limbo because Beatrice from Paradise promises she will speak for him in praise before God. Virgil is happy to serve her who journeys from Paradise to meet him in Limbo. It is the Virgin Mary’s resolution to help the Dante’s plight with Divine Grace. She calls on St. Lucy to give Beatrice the responsibility of helping the lost pilgrim Dante. Virgil reminds Dante that he is there at Beatrice’s command. He needs rescuing from Hell. Virgil repeats Dante has three gracious women in Heaven watching over him. Therefore he should have no fear. Virgil’s words gladden Dante. Armed with Beatrice’s compassion and Vigil’s help, he has a renewed wish to continue with the journey. Dante submits to Virgil as his guide, lord and teacher23. Together they travel that road.

The day is setting when the two poets begin their journey. Dante faces the task of remembering all that occurs during the journey. He invokes “Muses” for help to record in writing, his thoughts and experiences while on the Spiritual Journey towards Enlightenment. The Pilgrim Dante is afraid. He knows Aeneas24 and Saint Paul25 are the only two mortals who have undertaken and recorded such a journey before. When Dante compares himself to two such distinguished men he feels provoked and is afraid to undertake such an extraordinary journey. He presents his fears before Virgil. Virgil points out the pilgrim have become a victim of cowardice.

Inferno Canto 3: The Gate of Hell; The Inefficient or Indifferent Pope Celestine V; The Shores of Acheron. Charon; The Earthquake and the Swoon.

1. “Through me the way is to the city dolent//Through me the way is to eternal dole//Through me the way among the people lost.
2. Justice incited my sublime Creator//Created me divine Omnipotence//The highest Wisdom and the primal Love.
3. Before me there were no created things//Only eterne, and I eternal last//All hope abandon, ye who enter in!”
4. These words in sombre colour I beheld// Written upon the summit of a gate;
śWhence I: “Their sense is, Master, hard to me!”
5. And he to me, as one experienced// “Here all suspicion needs must be abandoned//All cowardice must needs be here extinct.
6. We to the place have come, where I have told thee//Thou shalt beholds the people dolorous//Who have foregone the good of intellect.”
7. And after he had laid his hand on mine//With joyful mien, whence I was comforted//He led me in among the secret things.
8. There sighs, complaints, and ululations loud//Resounded through the air without a star//Whence I, at the beginning, wept thereat.
9. Languages diverse, horrible dialects//Accents of anger, words of agony//And voices high and hoarse, with sound of hands,
10. Made up a tumult that goes whirling on//Forever in that air for ever black//Even as the sand doth, when the whirlwind breathes.
11. And I, who had my head with horror bound//Said: “Master, what is this which now I hear?//What folk is this, which seems by pain so vanquished?”
12. And he to me: “This miserable mode//Maintain the melancholy souls of those//Who lived withouten infamy or praise.
13. Commingled are they with that caitiff choir//Of Angels, who have not rebellious been//Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
14. The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair//Nor them the nethermore abyss receives//For glory none the damned would have from them.”
15. And I: “O Master, what so grievous is//To these, that maketh them lament so sore?”//He answered: “I will tell thee very briefly.
16. These have no longer any hope of death//And this blind life of theirs is so debased//They envious are of every other fate.
17. No fame of them the world permits to be//Misericord and Justice26 both disdain them//Let us not speak of them, but look, and pass.”
18. And I, who looked again, beheld a banner//Which, whirling round, ran on so rapidly//That of all pause it seemed to me indignant;
19. And after it there came so long a train//Of people, that I ne’er would have believed//That ever Death so many had undone.
20. When some among them I had recognised//I looked, and I beheld the Shade of him//Who made through cowardice the great refusal.
21. Forthwith I comprehended, and was certain//That this the sect was of the caitiff wretches// Hateful to God and to his enemies.
22. These miscreants, who never were alive//Were naked, and were stung exceedingly//By gadflies and by hornets that were there.
23. These did their faces irrigate with blood//Which, with their tears commingled, at their feet//By the disgusting worms was gathered up.
24. And when to gazing farther I betook me//People I saw on a great river’s bank//Whence said I: “Master, now vouchsafe to me,
25. That I may know who these are, and what law//Makes them appear so ready to pass over//As I discern athwart the dusky light.”
26. And he to me: “These things shall all be known//To thee, as soon as we our footsteps stay//Upon the dismal shore of Acheron.”
27. Then with mine eyes ashamed and downward cast//Fearing my words might irksome be to him// From speech refrained I till we reached the river.
28. And lo! towards us coming in a boat//An old man, hoary with the hair of eld//Crying: “Woe unto you, ye souls depraved!
29. Hope nevermore to look upon the heavens//I come to lead you to the other shore//To the eternal Shades in heat and frost.
30. And thou, that yonder standest, living soul//Withdraw thee from these people, who are dead!”//  But when he saw that I did not withdraw,
31. He said: “By other ways, by other ports//Thou to the shore shalt come, not here, for passage//A lighter vessel needs must carry thee.”
32. And unto him the Guide: “Vex thee not, Charon27//It is so willed there where is power to do// That which is willed; and farther question not.”
33. Thereat were quieted the fleecy cheeks//Of him the ferryman of the livid fen//Who round about his eyes had wheels of flame.
34. But all those souls who weary were and naked//Their colour changed and gnashed their teeth together//As soon as they had heard those cruel words.
35. God they blasphemed and their progenitors//The human race, the place, the time, the seed//Of their engendering and of their birth!
36. Thereafter all together they drew back//Bitterly weeping, to the accursed shore//Which waiteth every man who fears not God.
37. Charon the demon, with the eyes of glede//Beckoning to them, collects them all together//Beats with his oar whoever lags behind.
38. As in the autumn-time the leaves fall off//First one and then another, till the branch//Unto the earth surrenders all its spoils;
39. In similar wise the evil seed of Adam//Throw themselves from that margin one by one//At signals, as a bird unto its lure.
40. So they depart across the dusky wave//And ere upon the other side they land//Again on this side a new troop assembles.
41. “My son,” the courteous Master said to me//”All those who perish in the wrath of God//Here meet together out of every land;
42. And ready are they to pass o’er the river//Because celestial Justice spurs them on//So that their fear is turned into desire.
43. This way there never passes a good soul//And hence if Charon doth complain of thee//Well mayst thou know now what his speech imports.”
44. This being finished, all the dusk campaign//Trembled so violently, that of that terror//The recollection bathes me still with sweat.
45. The land of tears gave forth a blast of wind//And fulminated a vermilion light//Which overmastered in me every sense,
46. And as a man whom sleep hath seized I fell.


Inferno Canto 3: The Gate of Hell; The Inefficient or Indifferent Pope Celestine V; The Shores of Acheron. Charon; The Earthquake and the Swoon.

The two poets reach the entrance-hall that leads to Hell which has an inscription that says Hell is for Divine Justice and those who enter it are forever doomed to stay in it. Virgil tells the Dante he must leave distrust and fear behind him, because he will see souls who suffer because they did not live earthly lives following the ‘ideal’ Christian God. They advance from the vestibule towards Hell and Dante hears many anguished souls moaning. Such grief melts Dante’s heart and he weeps because the clamour is immense and continuous. Dante feels he is amid a storm.
The pilgrim asks Virgil about these souls and is told these humans lived middle-of-the-road lives while on earth. They sided neither with God nor with Lucifer. All these souls are banned from Heaven and denied entrance by Hell itself because they are considered even morally lower than sinners by Hell.

But why the anguish Dante asks Virgil? Because, says Virgil, such souls do not die but are doomed merely to ‘exist’ and not even their names on earth survive; because even Heaven denies them compassion. Virgil’s advice is to stop discussing them and to move on.

The Pilgrim Dante sees many souls following a banner. He recognizes a few souls continuously stung by hornets and wasps and understands why they are denied quiet. Their blood and tears that fall to their feet turn to maggots in pus.

They move on beyond and see many gathered along the riverbank. Virgil calls it River Acheron. Many souls want to cross the river which encircles Hell in the . Souls want to enter Hell proper by crossing the river. Virgil stops Dante from speaking. He will be told everything on reaching the coastline of Acheron. Dante feels ashamed and becomes quiet, fearing he has perhaps spoken out of turn.

Once there, he sees a boat with an old man with white hair coming towards the shore. He addresses the souls on the shore. He tells them to give up hope of ever seeing Heaven. He is going to take them to Hell. The boatman recognizes Dante is still alive and asks to move away from the others, but prophesises the two pilgrims will reach the destination, by a new way and carried by another boat.

Virgil addresses Charon the boat worker, and tells him that Dante is there because of God’s will. That silences Charon, but the other souls having heard their fate from Charon, curse their situation. Charon’s signals Dante and Virgil to climb into the boat. The stragglers are prompted to move away with a blow from Charon’s oar. One by one they all climb aboard the boat and are ferried to the opposite shore. While this is happening new group of soul starts gathering on the shore again.

Virgil tells Dante that all who earn God’s anger gather on this shore. Divine Justice makes them eager to cross the river. It converts their fear into a desire to get to the other side. A good soul never has to cross this river that leads to Hell. It is natural therefore that Charon at first assumes Dante is a damned soul. His bitter words are directed at the gathered souls as well.

Just as Virgil finishes speaking, the terrain around them starts to shake violently. Then a wind starts blowing and takes on a red colour. That frightens the pilgrim and the wind knocks Dante unconscious. It seems Hell, a place of “eternal grief” is for a “abandoned race” (sinners)28. Unrepentant sinners delivered to Hell after they die never earn God’s forgiveness.


Inferno Canto 3: The Gate of Hell; The Inefficient or Indifferent Pope Celestine V; The Shores of Acheron. Charon; The Earthquake and the Swoon.

Dante and Virgil arrive in the antechamber of Hell just above the Gate of Hell which says: “through me you enter into the city of woes.” Hell is described as a city. It is walled and gated like a medieval city. Several ‘cities’ figure significantly in Inferno. Dante’s treatment of them is both historically and theologically important. Historically, large cities had begun to play an increasingly important role in European social and economic life in the high Middle Ages. That was true in Italy, where city-states, such as Dante’s native Florence had become important bases of social organization. Dante portrays Hell as a city because, to a thinker in the early fourteenth century, any big human population would almost necessarily have suggested a city.

In the theological sense, Inferno’s treatment of cities belongs to the great tradition of St. Augustine. He wrote De Civitate Dei or ‘City of God’, in the early fifth century ad. Augustine put forward the idea that all human cities around love either of man (“the City of Man”) or of God (“the City of God”). In the City of God, the forces of charity, kindness, and love bind people. It refers to the Unity of Church and Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages. In the City of Man, each citizen acts only in his own self-interest and thus preys on his neighbour.

In his various portrayals of Rome, the devout Catholic in Dante describes Rome as both the perfect earthly power in the City of Man, and the spiritual of Europe, – and City of God. This ambivalence of politics and religion converted into the “belief state” within Dante’s life. It is the Illuminating fundamental in his consciousness and it renews his individuality. His Spiritual Journey comes about after the Judgment. Insight is made. Critical distinctions allows him to reach a viewpoint that he has lived metaphorically in the City of God, but is also experiencing life in the City of Man. Therefore he deserves going to Hell. The city of Hell in Inferno has Shades who died and are suffering divine justice. The residents suffer figments of Dante’s imagination. They are bizarre symbolic versions of his ideas about those who live in the City of Man. The Shades Dante meets represent the negative results of sinful wishes (want, lust, anger, greed, domination, possessiveness). The Shades therefore not only suffer on a theological level but also on a social one.

The inscription at the entrance of Hell raises the idea that God created Hell out of a concern for justice. Does God want sin punished and virtue rewarded? Punishments in Dante’s Hell always fit the crime. There is a leisurely sense of ultimate justice for every sin. The Ante-Inferno is a hellish neighbourhood of the City of Hell. Here souls who neither did good nor evil in life must remain in the outermost limits of Hell; that is closest to Heaven, yet definitely a part of Hell.

Dante’s punishments often have symbolic significance. Chasing sees a blank banner of uncommitted souls who risk of not noticing expressions of Love and Faith. They symbolize the meaninglessness and worthlessness of their activity on Earth. Moral Choice29 is a key issue in human thought and human actions and Dante gives actions meaning. Because these souls could not be made to act one way or another on Earth, hornets now sting them into action. Throughout the poem, these Retributive Justice reigns on the basis that punishment is justified for creating imbalance in the social order. For the souls uncommitted to a belief system like many Shades living in Hell, Restorative Justice is prescribed. They are made to act out a grotesque caricature of their failures on Earth.

Although the prescribed punishments suffered by the damned are determined as “just,” by the author of Divine Comedy, the text stresses both his personal shame and apprehension about sins perpetuated by others and experienced by the character Dante. He witnesses his imaginary tension deliberated and imposed by Dante the poet on the City of Man. He is a person more comfortable with the City of God. He has an obvious incompatibility with people who are ingrained with the self-serving human tendency.

To ensure he remains objective he punishes (judgemental about others 30) his Shades in degrees of Divine Justice. Minor ‘sins’31 are seen to dissipate gradually in his story as it progresses. He reacts more aggressively to major sins against people of the City-of-God.

The sins are progressively more heinous, and Dante gradually loses his compassion for these increasingly evil sinners. He vehemently condemns crimes that are inexcusable and impediments to the fulfilment of God’s will. Dante vehemently damns humans rather than judge them through divine impartiality. The moral demands of Catholic Christianity on Dante make this human being more fallible.

Dante’s Hell conforms to medieval Catholic theology 32, as voiced by the thirteenth-century religious scholar Thomas Aquinas. As the pilgrims descend into Limbo Dante departs from his teachings to some extent. Aquinas held pagans who lived before Jesus and who led virtuous lives have a place in Heaven.

Dante shows less sympathy, towards those who failed to worship the Christian God, regardless of their virtue. Dante seems to insist on administering justice to these figures despite his personal esteem for the great authors of antiquity. Biased ‘authoritative personal judgment’ about those in Limbo emphasizes Dante does not justify objectivity of morality and divine justice.

Inferno Canto 4: The First Circle, Limbo: Virtuous Pagans and the Unbaptized. The Four Poets, Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. The Noble Castle of Philosophy.

1. Broke the deep lethargy within my head//A heavy thunder, so that I upstarted//Like to a person who by force is wakened;
2. And round about I moved my rested eyes//Uprisen erect, and steadfastly I gazed//To recognise the place wherein I was.
3. True is it, that upon the verge I found me//Of the abysmal valley dolorous//That gathers thunder of infinite ululations.
4. Obscure, profound it was, and nebulous//So that by fixing on its depths my sight//Nothing whatever I discerned therein.
5. “Let us descend now into the blind world,”// Began the Poet, pallid utterly//”I will be first, and thou shalt second be.”
6. And I, who of his colour was aware//Said: “How shall I come, if thou art afraid//Who’rt wont to be a comfort to my fears?”
7. And he to me: “The anguish of the people//Who are below here in my face depicts//That pity which for terror thou hast taken.
8. Let us go on, for the long way impels us.”//Thus he went in, and thus he made me enter//The foremost circle that surrounds the abyss.
9. There, as it seemed to me from listening//Were lamentations none, but only sighs//That tremble made the everlasting air.
10. And this arose from sorrow without torment//Which the crowds had, that many were and great// Of infants and of women and of men.
11. To me the Master good: “Thou dost not ask//What spirits these, which thou beholdsest, are//Now will I have thee know, ere thou go farther,
12. That they sinned not; and if they merit had//’Tis not enough, because they had not baptism// Which is the portal of the Faith thou holdsest;
13. And if they were before Christianity//In the right manner they adored not God//And among such as these am I myself.
14. For such defects, and not for other guilt//Lost are we and are only so far punished//That without hope we live on in desire.”
15. Great grief seized on my heart when this I heard//Because some people of much worthiness//I knew, who in that Limbo were suspended.
16. “Tell me, my Master, tell me, thou my Lord”//Began I, with desire of being certain//Of that Faith which o’ercometh every error,
17. “Came any one by his own merit hence//Or by another’s, who was blessed thereafter?”//And he, who understood my covert speech,
18. Replied: “I was a novice in this state//When I saw hither come a Mighty One//With sign of victory incoronate.
19. Hence he drew forth the Shade of the First Parent//And that of his son Abel, and of Noah//Of Moses the lawgiver, and the obedient
20. Abraham, patriarch, and David, king//Israel with his father and his children//And Rachel33, for whose sake he did so much,
21. And others many, and he made them blessed//And thou must know, that earlier than these//Never were any human spirits saved.”
22. We ceased not to advance because he spake//But still were passing onward through the forest// The forest, say I, of thick-crowded ghosts.
23. Not very far as yet our way had gone//This side the summit, when I saw a fire//That overcame a hemisphere of darkness.
24. We were a little distant from it still//But not so far that I in part discerned not//That honourable people held that place.
25. “O thou who honourest every art and science//Who may these be, which such great honour have// That from the fashion of the rest it parts them?”
26. And he to me: “The honourable name//That sounds of them above there in thy life//Wins grace in Heaven, that so advances them.”
27. In the mean time a voice was heard by me//”All honour be to the pre-eminent Poet//His Shade returns again, that was departed.”
28. After the voice had ceased and quiet was//Four mighty Shades I saw approaching us//Semblance had they nor sorrowful nor glad.
29. To say to me began my gracious Master//”Him with that falchion in his hand beholds//Who comes before the three, even as their lord.
30. That one is Homer, Poet sovereign//He who comes next is Horace, the satirist//The third is Ovid34, and the last is Lucan.
31. Because to each of these with me applies//The name that solitary voice proclaimed//They do me honour, and in that do well.”
32. Thus I beheld assemble the fair school//Of that lord of the song pre-eminent//Who o’er the others like an eagle soars.
33. When they together had discoursed somewhat//They turned to me with signs of salutation//And on beholdsing this, my Master smiled;
34. And more of honour still, much more, they did me//In that they made me one of their own band// So that the sixth was I, ‘mid so much wit.
35. Thus we went on as far as to the light//Things saying ’tis becoming to keep silent//As was the saying of them where I was.
36. We came unto a noble castle’s foot//Seven times encompassed with lofty walls//Defended round by a fair rivulet;
37. This we passed over even as firm ground//Through portals seven I entered with these Sages//We came into a meadow of fresh verdure.
38. People were there with solemn eyes and slow//Of great authority in their countenance// They spake but seldom, and with gentle voices.
39. Thus we withdrew ourselves upon one side//Into an opening luminous and lofty//So that they all of them were visible.
40. There opposite, upon the green enamel//Were pointed out to me the mighty spirits//Whom to have seen I feel myself exalted.
41. I saw Electra35 with companions many//’Mongst whom I knew both Hector and Aeneas//Caesar in armour with gerfalcon eyes;
42. I saw Camilla and Penthesilea36//On the other side, and saw the King Latinus/37/Who with Lavinia his daughter sat;
43. I saw that Brutus38 who drove Tarquin forth//Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, and Cornelia39//And saw alone, apart, the Saladin40.
44. When I had lifted up my brows a little//The Master I beheld of those who know//Sit with his philosophic family.
45. All gaze upon him, and all do him honour//There I beheld both Socrates and Plato//Who nearer him before the others stand;
46. Democritus41, who puts the world on chance//Diogenes, Anaxagoras, and Thales42//Zeno, Empedocles, and Heraclitus43;
47. Of qualities I saw the good collector//Hight Dioscorides44; and Orpheus45 saw I//Tully and Livy, and moral Seneca46,
48. Euclid, geometrician, and Ptolemy//Galen, Hippocrates, and Avicenna//Averroes, who the great Comment made.
49. I cannot all of them pourtray in full//Because so drives me onward the long theme//That many times the word comes short of fact.
50. The six-fold company in two divides//Another way my sapient Guide conducts me//Forth from the quiet to the air that trembles;
51. And to a place I come where nothing shines.


Inferno Canto 4: The First Circle, Limbo: Virtuous Pagans and the Unbaptized. The Four Poets, Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. The Noble Castle of Philosophy.

Dante recovers from his faint; gets up on his feet and looks around to find out where he is. He is at the brink of a deep valley that is filled with darkness and sounds of anguished cries. The darkness does not allow Dante to see what is happening in its depth.

Virgil tells Dante they must enter the valley and asks him to follow his lead. Virgil’s face is pale and Dante assumes his guide is frightened. After inquiry Virgil tells Dante that it is pity for the souls in the valley that moves him. Together they move forward toward the First Circle of Hell.

The sounds coming from the First Circle are not of torment – they are coming from virtuous souls of men, women and children who were born before the birth of Jesus. They were not baptized into Christianity and were unaware of the Churchian or Christian God. Therefore they were not ‘saved’ and are languishing in Limbo from eternity. Their only suffering is their separation from God and their unattainable desire to be one with The Christ47. They were doomed forever to exist in Limbo (a speculative idea about an after-life condition). Virgil was therefore also handed over to living at ‘the edge’ of Hell in the Limbo after his death. Dante feels compassion for virtuous souls who are fated to Limbo (naraka) 48.

Dante asks if he knew any souls rescued from Limbo and taken to Paradise. Virgil names those who were: Abel, Noah, Moses, Abram, the patriarch David, the King of Israel plus his father and his children, including Rachel with several others. These souls were the first ones to reach salvation. While on the move, Virgil sees a fire in the distance and it dispels some of the valley darkness. Dante notices that spot is occupied by honorable souls. Virgil confirms these souls are favored by Heaven for their deeds in the living.

Dante hears of Shades who were superior expressions of humankind who can and should be welcomed; they should include Virgil also. Virgil names the deserving humanity of excellence for the Pilgrim’s benefit: they are Homer, Horace, Quid and Lucan; all celebrated poets of antiquity like Virgil. They all welcome Virgil and Dante and are happy to include him in their impressive group of great poets.

The group of six then walked towards the Light. They reach a castle surrounded by seven circular walls and a single stream49. They cross the stream50 by walking right over it and then advance by walking through a gate (chakras) at each of the seven walls. They reach a meadow filled with serene figures displaying great authority. They move on and reach a place, at a certain height from where they can view everyone present in the meadow.

Several great Shades are pointed at the Pilgrim. These include Electra, Hector, Aeneas, Caesar, Camilla, Penthesilea, Latin King, Lavinnia, Brutus, Lucretia, Julia, Marcia, Cornelia, Saladin, Socrates, Plato, Democritus, Diogenes, Thales, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Zero, Heraclitus, Dioscorides, Orpheus, Jully, Linus, Seneca, Euclid, Ptolemy, Hippocrates, Galen, Avicenna, Averroes and many more. Dante the poet says that he cannot speak about all their names because his story is long and he has therefore to omit some of the things he saw.

They part company with the other four and once again Dante and his guide move on by themselves. Virgil takes Dante out of this peace into a noisy place, which is in darkness (a place of tougher psychological challenge than expected). During the period Dante had fainted into oblivion (from the pain of remorse for forgetting the Word of God), the two poets crossed the Acheron but Dante is unaware (forgetfulness) how that happens. When he awakens (understanding the knowledge of sins) he finds himself in Hell proper and out of the vestibule of the Antechamber.

He finds himself at the edge of Hell and Virgil leads him to the First Circle of Hell which is a place called Limbo. Dante sees Virgil go pale. This halfway house of an undefined state is Virgil’s anguish. His compassion for virtuous souls languishing in Limbo is obvious. Churchianity claims only baptized Christians can arrive at salvation and enter Paradise where God lives. Virgil then speaks for the Shades. He declares these nonChristian souls were incarcerated in Limbo through no fault of their own. They existed long before the birth of Jesus.

Virgil explains during their virtuous lifetime these pre-Jesus souls were unaware of a churchian God. These souls, who have otherwise committed no sin, are denied entrance to Paradise. He Virgil, is one such soul and having become aware of the Churchian God all pre-Jesus souls want communion with The Christ. Unfortunately, their wish for Oneness (“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6) with God, will never happen and they are doomed to live in Limbo for eternity where they suffer mental anguish of hopelessness51: Dante reveals this belief of Limbo with: “no wails but the sounds of sighs… of untormented grief”.

Virgil feels extreme sadness for these souls, but any natural emotional reaction from Virgil is dismissed by his logic and reasoning. He has the innate ability to grasp the challenge through critical thinking. After all those in Limbo are virtuous souls, their only fault being, they were born before the birth of Jesus ‘The Christ’.

Christian doctrine describes when ‘The Christ’ slides downs into Hell he rescues several Old Testament figures from Limbo. Dante does not know of this guideline and wishes to find out if it is true. He subtly questions Virgil who is aware of what the pilgrim wants to discover. ‘The Christ’ did indeed save several souls from Limbo. They were the first human souls to reach Paradise and include, among many others; Abel, Noah, Moses, Abraham, the Patriarch, David the King, Israel Jacob with his father Isaac Levi and his children by Rachel (Judah and Joseph).


Inferno Canto 4: The First Circle, Limbo: Virtuous Pagans and the Unbaptized. The Four Poets, Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. The Noble Castle of Philosophy.

Dante skillfully has Virgil describe ‘The Christ’ as a “mighty lord” bearing “the sign of Victory as his crown”. It is obvious Dante does not understand ‘The Christ’ in genuine Christian terms. He uses the imagery specific to his Medieval Culture where neither the Popes nor the people understood that Jesus was a mortal like all humans and his appearance was to show each humankind can arrive at ‘The Christ’ or The Self-Soul by making a Spiritual Journey through Hell, Purgatory and into Heaven. Dante therefore states about the multitude of souls in the Limbo as “the woods…. Souls were thick as trees” symbolic of his own confusion that he ‘could not see the trees from the forest’.

Suddenly their ascent takes them to “a hemisphere of Light” up ahead. He is intuitively aware that honourable souls live in that spot. Virgil reinforces Dante’s intuitive faculty by stating these are ‘souls of men’ who won great honour on earth. Therefore they are graced by Heaven even though they live in Limbo. The Light is a symbol Divine Intelligence lighting the knowledge of a logical human Intellect. Virgil places these souls of Limbo in the lit castle reserved for evolved intellectual men and women.

Four great Shades of advanced evolved souls welcome Virgil their soul-friend, back to their world of Limbo. Because they address Virgil as “poet” they extend the same honour to Dante. They include them with four great poets: Homer, Horace, Quid and Lucan. Homer a Greek poet is portrayed by Dante as bearing a sword because of Homer’s work on the Trojan War written in Greek. Dante who could only read the Latin translation could read the Trojan War, even though he knew 10th century BC had also written the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey”.

Dante is familiar with Quintus Horace Haccus’ poetry, the Latin poet born around 65 or 68 BC in Apulia and educated in Rome. Similarly, the works of Ouid (Publius Ovidius Noso) who is a Roman poet (43 BC) is also known to Dante for the poet’s best known work: “Metamorphoses”. In his Divine Comedy, Dante uses a collection of their legends by recounting transformations of human beings into other shapes. Lucan (M. Annaeus Lucanus) is a Roman poet born around AD 39. He was born in Cardova and educated in Rome. It was from Lucan that Dante gets much of the mythological and historical information on the Civil War between Pompey and Caesar.

These souls in Limbo identify themselves under “one name” they share with Virgil: “poet”. Virgil’s unpretentious expression is a declaration of their shared uniqueness when he states:”they honour me and do well doing so.” By including Dante as one of them, he regards himself on an equal footing with the great poets of ancient times. This shows Dante considers himself as a poet, and the purpose of his writing is that it should also holds a special position in the literary scenario of his time and in the beyond.

The six poets now walk towards the Source of the Light, which is a Castle. This castle is symbolic of the human body that is made up of seven surrounding walls and encircles a sinuously flowing stream. It symbolically displays the flow-of-life when unaware of the purpose of human expression on earth. Like all materialistic extroverted minds, the poets have no worry about or difficulty on how to arrange transport while crossing this stream. They walk right over it (life span) righteously even if imprisoned in Limbo. Their life is based on solid righteous living even if it was in fact an illusion (maya).

The seven walls are like layers of an onion and they must cross: physical, physiological, mental, intellectual, subconscious, unconscious walls to reach the Light – The Christ. Like most mortals on a Spiritual Journey like Dante, the six poets easily pass through the seven walls, by entering and leaving through one gate after another, all the while gathering wisdom of their gradually gained knowledge at the different destinations.

The castle is symbolic of the dwelling place of the soul where the greatest intellects have gained Intelligence – the Cosmic Link with God. The souls living in the Castle are of all Religions and not ‘labelled’ Christians. Those still on a Spiritual Journey have their Knowledge not yet lit up by divine Wisdom. They must move up the seven walls (chakras) by practicing the yoga movements of seven virtues (yama (do’s) -niyama (do not’s) -asana (stillness) -pranayama (breath control) -pratyahara (sense withdrawal) -dharana (contemplation) – dhyana (meditation) and samyama (merging in Oneness).

The Eightfold Path is for gaining forethought, virtue, staying power, self-control, understanding, discipline and awareness. Even since antiquity the seven gates codify the Spiritual Vision to be attained before entering the castle. Dante was knowledgeable of the seven liberal arts taught during medieval times. He was learned in music, mathematics, dimensions, interactive spatial relationships of shapes and objects, cosmology, language rules, expression through reasoning.

In fact it is obvious Dante understands the transformation that takes place of those who have lived righteous living. He gives a descriptive word picture of the castle’s inhabitants. They are souls with a calm authority of being Self-possessed. They display composure of calmness, poise of self-confidence and genuineness of fearless character. Dante’s description of all pagan philosophers and poets and of all famous warriors is therefore intuitively exact. He is a devout Catholic and therefore is not trained to question the logic of deliberate Churchian misdeeds against the uninformed but legitimate seekers of The Christ.

Electra mentioned is the daughter of Atlas and the mother of Dardanus who founded Troy. They are all members of the Trojan race and are her followers. Hector is one of Electra’s many descendants. He is the eldest son of Priam, King of Troy. Aeneas is also a descendent of Electra and he marries Lavinnia, the daughter of King Latinus. Through Aeneas and Lavinnia the Trojan (Greek) and Latin (Roman) lines unite. That eventually leads to the foundation of Rome. Dante the poet creates this transition from Trojan to Roman heroes through the stature of Aeneas.

Dante’s Julius Caesar is the dictator of Rome who becomes the first emperor of Rome after subduing many opponents in many civil wars. In 448 BC on the Ides of March, he is murdered by a group of Romans led by Brutus and Cassius. During his lifetime Caesar was a brilliant general and he won his popularity with Dante by his conquest of Gaul (Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands).

Camilla was the brave warrior daughter of King Metabus who died fighting the Trojans. Penthesilea was the queen of the Amazons who helped the Trojans against the Greeks. She died by the hand of Achilles during this conflict. King Latinus ruled over the central region of the Italian Peninsula and it was here that Aeneas founded Rome. Latinus later gave his daughter Lauinis to Aeneas in marriage.

“Brutus” is Lucius Brutus who expelled the Torquins from Rome. He was then elected first consul and became the founder of the Roman Republic. The four women mentioned after him were all famous Roman wives and mothers. “Lucretia” was the wife of Lucius Tarquinus Collatinus. “Julia” was the daughter of Julius Caesar and wife of Pompey. “Maria” was the second wife of Cato of Utica; and “Cornelia” was the daughter of Scipio Africanus Major and the mother of the Gracchi, the tribunes Tiberius and Caius.

Saladin was the Sultan of Egypt and Syria. He was a distinguished soldier and much lauded for his spiritual beliefs and generosity. The Medieval Age of Dante honoured him and included him with other respected souls. Because Saladin was honoured late during his own time, Dante placed him to one side from the Trojan and Roman heroes.

Aristotle was regarded as the “master sage” in the later Middle Ages. This Greek philosopher born in 384 BC in Macedonia was Plato’s student. Saint Thomas Aquinas borrowed much of his writings from Aristotle’s philosophy and furthered it as Catholic theology. All Western philosophy therefore took roots in the ideological works of Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle wrote on many subjects: Dialectics (Arguments for resolving disagreements) & Logic, and Philosophy, Politics & Art. Dante was well-acquainted with Aristotle’s works and referred to him often in “The Divine Comedy”.

Dante placed Socrates and Plato with the prominence of Aristotle. Plato was a Greek philosopher born in Athens. In his youth he was Socrates’ student. He wrote on many philosophical subjects, but in the form of dialogues. He also founded an Academic School. Socrates was another Greek philosopher born around 469 BC but forty-one years before Plato’s birth. He did not write nor did he create a system of philosophy. He became famous for his method of argument called: “Socratic Dialectic”. Questioning would elicit opponents to admit ambiguity and self-contradictions of opinions on varying subjects.

Democritus was a Greek philosopher born around 460 BC in Thrace. He created the theory that random grouping of atoms is what led to creating the universe. Diogenes, Thales, Anaxagoras, Empedocles and Heraclitus were also Greek philosophers. Zeno was from Cyprus who founded the Stoic school of philosophy. Diogenes was the Cynic philosopher who believed, in gaining virtue through self-control and discipline. Anaxagoras was from the Ionian school. He theorized a spiritual presence gives life and form to all material things. Thales founded the Ionian school of philosophy and his main doctrine stated that water is the elemental principle of all things.

Empedocles born in Sicily theologised how the Universe resulted from combining the four elements (fire, earth, air, water) under the influence of Love. This union he said was periodically destroyed by Hate. It was that ‘process’ that repeated itself again and again. According to Heraclitus, knowledge was based on sense perception and man was capable of achieving Perfect Knowledge already held by the gods but its method of attainment was expressed in obscure language taught by spiritual teachers.

Dioscorides was a Greek natural scientist and doctor and “De Materia Medica” was his most important work. In it he wrote about the medicinal properties of plants. Orpheus was a mythical Greek poet and musician whose supernormal perceptual lyrical talent (siddhis) was so great that it moved rocks and subdued wild beasts.

“Tully” was Marcus Tullius Cicero, a famous Roman orator, writer and philosopher. “Linus” was a mythical Greek poet and musician, who were believed to have invented the dirge. “Seneca the moralist” who was wrongly believed during the Middle Ages to be another person. “Seneca the moralist” was Lucius Annaeus Seneca who followed the philosophy of the Stoics in his moral treatises.

Euclid was a Greek mathematician and wrote a treatise on geometry called “Elements of Geometry”. Ptolemy was a Greek mathematician, astronomer and geographer. He was born in Egypt at the end of the first century after Jesus. Hippocrates, Galen and Avicenna were all celebrated doctors. Hippocrates and Galen were Greek while Avicenna was an Arab. Hippocrates founded the medical profession and introduced the scientific art of healing. Galen and Avicenna wrote on the subject of medicine.

Averroes (whose name was ibn-Rushd, although he was known by the former name of Averroes) he was an Arabian physician and philosopher. He was widely known in the Middle Ages for his Discussion on Aristotle. It later served as the basis for the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas. This is what is meant by Dante’s phrase, “Averroes, who made the Discussion”.

Dante the poet therefore says there were many more pagan souls there. But he is forced to omit them because the story he is telling will be long. The two poets (Dante and Virgil) part company with the four eminent pagan poets living in Limbo and continue their journey, deeper into Hell. As they exit the Limbo the pilgrim notice there is an alteration in the environment. The calm is replaced by disturbance of air and darkness replaces the light.

Inferno Canto 5: The Second Circle: The Wanton. Minos. The Infernal Hurricane. Francesca da Rimini.

1. Thus I descended out of the first circle//Down to the second, that less space begirds//And so much greater dole, that goads to wailing.
2. There standeth Minos52 horribly, and snarls//Examines the transgressions at the entrance//Judges, and sends according as he girds him.
3. I say, that when the spirit evil-born//Cometh before him, wholly it confesses//And this discriminator of transgressions
4. Seeth what place in Hell is meet for it//Girds himself with his tail as many times//As grades he wishes it should be thrust down.
5. Always before him many of them stand//They go by turns each one unto the judgment//They speak, and hear, and then are downward hurled.
6. “O thou, that to this dolorous hostelry//Comest,” said Minos to me, when he saw me//Leaving the practice of so great an office,
7. “Look how thou enterest, and in whom thou trustiest//Let not the portal’s amplitude deceive thee.”//And unto him my Guide: “Why criest thou too?
8. Do not impede his journey fate-ordained//It is so willed there where is power to do//That which is willed; and ask no further question.”
9. And now begin the dolesome notes to grow//Audible unto me; now am I come//There where much lamentation strikes upon me.
10. I came into a place mute of all light//Which bellows as the sea does in a tempest//If by opposing winds ‘t is combated.
11. The infernal hurricane that never rests//Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine//Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.
12. When they arrive before the precipice//There are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments//There they blaspheme the puissance divine.
13. I understood that unto such a torment//The carnal malefactors were condemned// Who reason subjugate to appetite.
14. And as the wings of starlings bear them on//In the cold season in large band and full//So doth that blast the spirits maledict;
15. It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them//No hope doth comfort them for evermore//Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.
16. And as the cranes go chanting forth their lays//Making in air a long line of themselves//So saw I coming, uttering lamentations,
17. Shadows borne onward by the aforesaid stress//Whereupon said I: “Master, who are those// People, whom the black air so castigates?”
18. “The first of those, of whom intelligence//Thou fain wouldst have,” then said he unto me//”The empress was of many languages.
19. To sensual vices she was so abandoned//That lustful she made licit in her law//To remove the blame to which she had been led.
20. She is Semiramis53 of whom we read//That she succeeded Ninus54, and was his spouse//She held the land which now the Sultan rules.
21. The next is she who killed herself for love//And broke faith with the ashes of Sichaeus55//Then Cleopatra56 the voluptuous.”
22. Helen57 I saw, for whom so many ruthless//Seasons revolved; and saw the great Achilles//Who at the last hour combated with Love.
23. Paris I saw, Tristan; and more than a thousand//Shades did he name and point out with his finger//Whom Love had separated from our life.
24. After that I had listened to my Teacher//Naming the dames of eld and cavaliers//Pity prevailed, and I was nigh bewildered.
25. And I began: “O Poet, willingly//Speak would I to those two, who go together//And seem upon the wind to be so light.”
26. And, he to me: “Thou’lt mark, when they shall be//Nearer to us; and then do thou implore them//By love which leadeth them, and they will come.”
27. Soon as the wind in our direction sways them//My voice uplift I: “O ye weary souls!//Come speak to us, if no one interdicts it.”
28. As turtle-doves, called onward by desire//With open and steady wings to the sweet nest//Fly through the air by their volition borne,
29. So came they from the band where Dido is//Approaching us athwart the air malign//So strong was the affectionate appeal.
30. “O living creature gracious and benignant//Who visiting goest through the purple air//Us, who have stained the world incarnadine,
31. If were the King of the Universe our friend//We would pray unto him to give thee peace//Since thou hast pity on our woe perverse.
32. Of what it pleases thee to hear and speak//That will we hear, and we will speak to you//While silent is the wind, as it is now.
33. Sitteth the city, wherein I was born//Upon the sea-shore where the Po descends//To rest in peace with all his retinue.
34. Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize//Seized this man for the person beautiful//That was ta’en from me, and still the mode offends me.
35. Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving//Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly//That, as thou seest, it doth not yet desert me;
36. Love has conducted us unto one death//Caina waiteth him who quenched our life!”//These words were borne along from them to us.
37. As soon as I had heard those souls tormented//I bowed my face, and so long held it down//Until the Poet said to me: “What thinkest?”
38. When I made answer, I began: “Alas//How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire// Conducted these unto the dolorous pass!”
39. Then unto them I turned me, and I spake//And I began: “Thine agonies, Francesca58//Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.
40. But tell me, at the time of those sweet sighs//By what and in what manner Love conceded//That you should know your dubious desires?”
41. And she to me: “There is no greater sorrow//Than to be mindful of the happy time//In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.
42. But, if to recognise the earliest root//Of love in us thou hast so great desire//I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.
43. One day we reading were for our delight//Of Launcelot59, how Love did him enthral//Alone we were and without any fear.
44. Full many a time our eyes together drew//That reading, and drove the colour from our faces//But one point only was it that overcame us.
45. When as we read of the much-longed-for smile//Being by such a noble lover kissed//This one, who ne’er from me shall be divided,
46. Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating//Galeotto60 was the book and he who wrote it//That day no farther did we read therein.”
47. And all the while one spirit uttered this//The other one did weep so, that, for pity//I swooned away as if I had been dying,
48. And fell, even as a dead body falls.


Inferno Canto 5: The Second Circle: The Wanton. Minos. The Infernal Hurricane. Francesca da Rimini.

The two poets descend to the Second Circle of Hell. Minos, the judge of the underworld61 remains over this circle. Sinned souls relate to him their wicked deeds. Minos therefore assigns them to their particular Circle of Hell. He points towards each by wrapping his tail around the accused by a needed number of times. Hell has Nine Circles in all, the first of which is Limbo. Souls must descend increasingly deeper into Hell numbering in increases from one to nine.

When Minos becomes aware of Dante’s presence, he objects to his presence in Hell. He also warns him to be on guard about whom he trusts. Minos tells Dante it is easy to enter Hell but proves hard to live with later. Minos tells the pilgrim he must not let down his guard and not should trust anyone. Virgil enlightens Minos the Pilgrim’s journey is preordained by the grace of God. Therefore Minor cannot interfere with the poets’ journey and Virgil and Dante’s descent into Hell.

Dante suddenly hears loud cries of grief expressing lament 62. There is darkness (evil) and the wind (changes in life) invading their surroundings. The punished souls are lashed around and whirled by this squall. Each time the damned souls fly past Minos, who assigns “their place of judgement” in Hell, they screech and curse God’s unimaginable power. Dante is told the Lustful who want for sensual satisfaction (Kama) are punished here. They put covetousness before reason and have sinned in that wish. The wind buffets them continuously and they are forever denied any rest or comfort.

The Dante asks his guide to identify these tormented souls. Virgil points out Empress Semiramis, Cleopatra, Helen, Achilles, Paris, Tristan and many more who died on earth because of their hunger for lust. Dante feels huge compassion for all these men and women. He sees two souls moving together and tells Virgil he wants to speak to them. Virgil suggests when the two souls are near them, the pilgrim should ask them to stop at where the two poets are. Therefore when the storm (of uncontrollable emotions) brings the two souls near them, Dante tells them, he would like to speak with them. The souls stop and they thank Dante for his kindness and allow themselves to be interviewed. One of the two souls speaks of how they fell in love and it led to their death. Their murder takes place in Caina, a region of Hell where people who betray their Rin (relatives) are therefore punished.


Inferno Canto 5: The Second Circle: The Wanton. Minos. The Infernal Hurricane. Francesca da Rimini.

Dante feels pity for souls whose carnal Love (God is Pure Love) brought them eternal damnation 63. The pilgrim asks Francesca and Paolo, how they were led into adultery. She tells him that one day she and Paolo were reading the tale of how Lancelot (Knight of King Arthur’s Round Table) falls in love with King Arthur’s wife, Queen Guinevere. It was then that they recognized their desire for each other and succumbed to it. She says it was that book (Arthurian Tales) they were reading that led them to become sensual. As a result it is the 12th century author Geoffrey of Monmouth (1100 – 1155) the cleric British historiographer of tales of King Arthur, who led them towards physical intimacy. While she is speaking, the soul of Paolo is seen weeping by her side. This sight moves the Dante’s heart with such pity that he faints under the spell of this overwhelming emotion.

The two poets who have now descended into the Second Circle of Hell realise souls here are of unrepentant sinners. Virgil describes the second circle as one, which “holds … much more pain”. The punished souls express their pain in coarse wails and inarticulate cries. At the entrance of the second circle stands Minos.

In mythology Minos is the son of Zeus and Europa. He was the King of Crete and acclaimed for his wisdom and judicial qualities. In classical literature he is shown as the chief magistrate of the underworld. Dante the Poet depicts him as a judge but changes his physical appearance, so Minos is shows as a beast. Minos passes judgement on a soul by wrapping his tail around himself. The number of times the tail circles him points to the circle (of Hell) to which the soul is judged and assigned to be eternally damned.

Once again the Dante sees and hears the sounds of suffering all around him. For the first time Dante witnesses Minos chastising and the souls suffering their punishment. The oral picture he paints is especially effective. He experiences a most unsettling unbroken “sounds of weeping” pounding at him (guilt) in his mind from an area that has “no-light” at all (regret), but is lashed about by a violent whirlwind64. All here are lustful souls who have turned away from moral reason. Contrapasso or punishment for lust is ‘tempest’ in a ‘hellish storm’ rending through their bodies. They offer no resistance and endure helplessly while at the mercy of the whirling windstorm65. In the heart of darkness it is vacant everywhere and the eye sees no windows. Everywhere there is no chance to reason through such unawareness. This is the ignorance and darkness surrounding them in savagery of Hell. It is their everlasting punishment.

Dante the Poet compares the throng of lusting souls to flocks of various birds in the air that are borne aloft by the wind with a ‘promise’ of freedom but there is nowhere to bring the birds to a stop or start. The same wind is the enemy of the sinful souls, denying them both freedom and a place to rest.

Again Dante wants Virgil to identify these souls with uncontrolled appetites for the flesh. His guide Virgil points out Empress Semiramis, a famous queen of Assyria, the wife and successor of Ninus. He was a warrior king who founded the Assyrian empire of Nineveh and conquered the greater part of Asia. Semiramis indulged her passions without restraint and eventually ended legalizing lust (desire, passion, debauchery). Dante learned about her from Paulus Orosius the historian also says that it was Semiramis who rebuilt Babylon in his work “City of God”. Saint Augustine narrated a story about a conflict that existed between the City of God founded by Abraham and the City of Man rebuilt by Semiramis. For Dante Semiramis is both the personification of immoral passion and is also the founder of a degenerate society that opposes God’s laws. She ruled “all the land the Sultan rules”, (Mesopotamia and Egypt).

Virgil makes reference, to the one who “killed herself for love”; it is Dido, the queen of Carthage. When her husband Sichaeus dies, she vows to remain faithful to his memory, but when the Trojan survivors of war come to Carthage she falls in love with their leader, Aeneas. The two live together as husband and wife till the gods remind Aeneas of his higher destiny: founding Rome and the Roman Empire. He deserts Dido and leaves for Italy. She, in her grief, commits suicide.

Cleopatra the queen of Egypt from 68 to 30 BC is the daughter of Ptolemy Auletes (the last king of Egypt, before it was taken by the Romans). With the help of Julius Caesar the Roman general whom she seduces, she disposes of her husband (also her brother who according to Ptolemy custom allows royal brother and sister to marry) and becomes the ruler of Egypt. When Caesar dies, she sets up a relationship with Mark Anthony (another Roman general). This guarantees her continued favor of the Romans. After Anthony’s death she tries to seduce Octavianus (the Roman governor of Egypt). She fails this time and commits suicide to avoid coming under Roman domination.

Helen was the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. She was kidnapped and taken to Troy by Paris who is the son of Priam, the King of Troy). Menelaus aided by other Greek nobles attacks Troy to recover her. After a siege that lasted ten years Troy was sacked and the Greeks recovered Helen. Paris was killed during the long siege.

Dante earns his detailed knowledge of the Trojan War from early medieval works. These include Dares the Phrygian’s “De Excidio Trojae Mistoria” and Dictys of Gete’s “De Bello Trojano”. According to these stories Achilles (the unconquerable warrior) changes into an ordinary mortal. He falls in love with Polyxena the daughter of Priam, King of Troy and Hecuba. He desires to marry Polyxena. But her mother (Hecuba) and her brother Paris plot against Achilles. Achilles goes to a temple for his marriage. It is here that Paris kills him. Other occupants of this circle include Paris, the son of Priam (King of Troy) who abducts Helen and thus causes the Trojan War. He dies during this war.

Tristan is another soul pointed to by Virgil. He is a knight of Arthurian legends and the nephew of King Mark of Cornwall. He is sent by his uncle to fetch Isolt, whom his uncle wishes to marry. Meanwhile Tristan and Isolt fall in love with each other. Eventually Isolt marries Mark but secretly continues her affair with Tristan. One day Mark discovers them and the uncle kills Tristan.

Virgil points out many Shades of lust committed by sinners of intense desire. Dante is dazed and filled with profound pity. The presence of the beast Minos is a reminder there are souls condemned to Hell who are unrepentant sinners. It tells Dante they are unworthy of either God’s forgiveness or of human pity. Virgil defines lust practiced by Semiramis. By decreeing and making lust legal anyone can indulge freely in carnal sin. The sinners therefore lack remorse or guilt but they blaspheme Divine Justice. Dante does not have a handle on all this misunderstanding and substitutes his bewilderment with pity for these souls.

Soon Dante’s interest is caught by two souls moving together. He gently summons them and discovers they are Francesca and Paolo Malatesta. Francesca was the wife of Gianciotto de Verrucchio (Paolo’s brother). While married to Gianciotto she entered a love relationship with her brother-in-law Paola. One day they are discovered in a love embrace by Gianciotto, who then kills them both. Francesca is quick to discover the pity in Dante’s nature and it is to this that she appeals as she tells her story.

She begins three consecutive tercets (interlocking rhymes) with the word “Love” as if it absolves the two lovers of all blame and sin. It is to this “love” that she so strongly highlights. The tercets have more sexual than spiritual overtones. She says that Paolo loved her for the “beauty of my body” and her fixation with him to be physical as well. The two are damned to suffer their punishment together. She says her husband, who slew them both will go to Caina- a region in Hell where the souls of those who betray their kin are punished.

Dante feels pity for the plight of these lovers. The pilgrim asks her the circumstances of their killing. She says it happens while they were reading the story of “Lancelot” (one of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table.) Lancelot falls who was in love with Queen Guinevere confesses his love to her and the Queen kisses him. While they were reading this, according to Francesca, Paolo kisses her. Just as Gahelot brought Lancelot and Guinevere together, his writings also brought these two lovers together. She refers to it as “Our Gahelot”.

Also, their inseparableness in Hell is a part of their punishment. Paolo is shown as silently weeping – not a happy man. She refers to him coldly as “that one” or “this one”. They are each other’s reminder of their sin and their brutal death. Their constant togetherness will always remind them of their shame and the reason they are in Hell. Thus their transient joy in lust has become their own particular torture in Hell. However, after hearing her tale and witnessing Paolo’s weeping Dante is so overcome with pity that he faints.

Inferno Canto 6: The Third Circle: The Gluttonous. Cerberus. The Eternal Rain. Ciacco. Florence.

1. At the return of consciousness, that closed//Before the pity of those two relations//Which utterly with sadness had confused me,
2. New torments I beholds, and new tormented//Around me, whichsoever way I move//And whichsoever way I turn, and gaze.
3. In the third circle am I of the rain//Eternal, maledict, and cold, and heavy//Its law and quality are never new.
4. Huge hail, and water sombre-hued, and snow//Athwart the tenebrous air pour down amain//Noisome the earth is, that receiveth this.
5. Cerberus, monster cruel and uncouth//With his three gullets like a dog is barking//Over the people that are there submerged.
6. Red eyes he has, and unctuous beard and black//And belly large, and armed with claws his hands//He rends the spirits, flays, and quarters them.
7. Howl the rain maketh them like unto dogs//One side they make a shelter for the other//Oft turn themselves the wretched reprobates.
8. When Cerberus66 perceived us, the great worm//His mouths he opened, and displayed his tusks//Not a limb had he that was motionless.
9. And my Conductor, with his spans extended//Took of the earth, and with his fists well filled//He threw it into those rapacious gullets.
10. Such as that dog is, who by barking craves//And quiet grows soon as his food he gnaws//For to devour it he but thinks and struggles,
11. The like became those muzzles filth-begrimed//Of Cerberus the demon, who so thunders Over the souls that they would fain be deaf.
12. We passed across the shadows, which subdues//The heavy rain-storm, and we placed our feet//Upon their vanity that person seems.
13. They all were lying prone upon the earth//Excepting one, who sat upright as soon//As he beheld us passing on before him.
14. “O thou that art conducted through this Hell”//He said to me, “recall me, if thou canst//Thyself wast made before I was unmade.”
15. And I to him: “The anguish which thou hast//Perhaps doth draw thee out of my remembrance//So that it seems not I have ever seen thee.
16. But tell me who thou art, that in so doleful// A place art put, and in such punishment//If some are greater, none is so displeasing.”
17. And he to me: “Thy city, which is full//Of envy so that now the sack runs over//Held me within it in the life serene.
18. You citizens were wont to call me Ciacco67//For the pernicious sin of gluttony//I, as thou seest, am battered by this rain.
19. And I, sad soul, am not the only one//For all these suffer the like penalty//For the like sin;” and word no more spake he.
20. I answered him: “Ciacco, thy wretchedness//Weighs on me so that it to weep invites me//But tell me, if thou knowest, to what shall come
21. The citizens of the divided city//If any there be just; and the occasion//Tell me why so much discord has assailed it.”
22. And he to me: “They, after long contention//Will come to bloodshed; and the rustic party//Will drive the other out with much offence.
23. Then afterwards behoves it this one fall//Within three suns, and rise again the other//By force of him who now is on the coast.
24. High will it holds its forehead a long while//Keeping the other under heavy burdens//Howe’er it weeps thereat and is indignant.
25. The just are two, and are not understood there//Envy and Arrogance and Avarice//Are the three sparks that have all hearts enkindled.”
26. Here ended he his tearful utterance//And I to him: “I wish thee still to teach me//And make a gift to me of further speech.
27. Farinata and Tegghiaio68, once so worthy//Jacopo Rusticucci69, Arrigo70, and Mosca71//And others who on good deeds set their thoughts,
28. Say where they are, and cause that I may know them//For great desire constraineth me to learn// If Heaven doth sweeten them, or Hell envenom.”
29. And he: “They are among the blacker souls//A different sin downweighs them to the bottom//If thou so far descendest, thou canst see them.
30. But when thou art again in the sweet world//I pray thee to the mind of others bring me//No more I tell thee and no more I answer.”
31. Then his straightforward eyes he turned askance//Eyed me a little, and then bowed his head//He fell therewith prone like the other blind.
32. And the Guide said to me: “He wakes no more//This side the sound of the angelic trumpet//When shall approach the hostile Potentate72,
33. Each one shall find again his dismal tomb//Shall reassume his flesh and his own figure//Shall hear what through eternity re-echoes.”
34. So we passed onward o’er the filthy mixture//Of shadows and of rain with footsteps slow//   Touching a little on the future life.
35. Wherefore I said: “Master, these torments here//Will they increase after the mighty sentence//Or lesser be, or will they be as burning?”
36. And he to me: “Return unto thy science//Which wills, that as the thing more perfect is//The more it feels of pleasure and of pain.
37. Albeit that this people maledict//To true perfection never can attain//Hereafter more than now they look to be.”
38. Round in a circle by that road we went//Speaking much more, which I do not repeat//We came unto the point where the descent is;
39. There we found Plutus the great enemy.


Inferno Canto 6: The Third Circle: The Gluttonous. Cerberus. The Eternal Rain. Ciacco. Florence.

The Two Pilgrims find themselves in the Third Circle of Hell where gluttons are punished. Everywhere new sinners are being punished in a new but different way not previously seen. Victims are subjected to a constant heavy, freezing rainfall. Hail, grimy water and snowfall make the ground smell horrible because they putrefy the already waterlogged ground.

Cerberus a three-headed dog barks constantly and guards the Third Circle. Fierce-looking claws rip the souls in this circle.Mangled Shades are seen howling in pain. Cerberus detects the two poets and is ready to attack them. Virgil distracts the beast by flinging mud at him and it busies itself devouring it. Weary, all the sinner-souls here are lying flat on the stinking ground.

One soul rises on his feet and addresses Dante as if he remembers him. Dante does not recognise the severely battered Shade. The soul jogs Dante’s memory. He is Ciacco from Florence and is being punished for his gluttony. Dante expresses his sympathy for Ciacco’s sorry state. Dante is questioned about the political future of Florence but Ciacco makes a prophesy that the “rustic party” (White Guelphs) will come to power only for a short time (3 years). The other party (Black Ghibellines) with the help of Pope Boniface VIII will send Guelphs into exile. He predicts they (Blacks and Pope Boniface VIII) will holds onto power over Florence for a long time. He admits there are a few honest men in Florence but no one listens to them. Dante then asks Ciacco about of Farinata, Tegghiaio, Rusticucci, Arrigo and Mosca, who were all worthy men. Dante is told he will encounter them deeper down in Hell because they are being punished for an assortment sins. Ciacco asks Dante the Pilgrim to remember him to their mutual friends and then falls back to the ground.

Virgil tells Dante, Ciacco will awaken again on Judgement Day. As they walk onwards, the Dante questions his guide about Judgement Day (In Judeo-Christian and Muslim traditions, the day at the end of the world when God judges the moral worth of individual humans or the whole). Virgil says because these souls are moving increasingly closer to self-perfection, they will be reunited with their bodies. They move on and reach the ledge of the Circle and begin their descent towards the Fourth Circle. Here they meet Plutus whom Dante calls “humanity’s arch enemy”.


Inferno Canto 6: The Third Circle: The Gluttonous. Cerberus. The Eternal Rain. Ciacco. Florence.

Dante awakens to Infinity 73 to find himself in the Third Circle where Gluttons are punished. He writes the third tercet in the present tense and creates a sharp staccato effect of one word pounding against the other where rain, high winds and hail pound tumultuously at the sinners74. Then he has the Circle guarded by Cerberus who in classical Greek mythology is a fierce three-headed dog75. The beast guards the entrance to the underworld. It lets everyone enter but permits no one to escape 76. It not only stands guard over the Third Circle but also inflicts punishment on the souls of gluttons.

The beast uses claws to tear apart the overindulgent gluttonous subjects causing them hurt (bodily pain from diseases). These souls, who on Earth overindulged in appetites of the five senses (sex, food-alcohol, wants rather than need, possessiveness, domination) are punished with disproportionate pounding of the elements 77 on their five senses as well as on the five organs of action.

So severe is the onslaught of punishment on the overall-glutton that such a one-is beaten flat on the ground. An overall-glutton is a slow learner who has an overpowering desire to express likes and dislikes and habits so ingrained that corrective task-management reminders are rained on heavily, beating them down demoralised. Sense indulgence in all Faiths is allowed in moderation. It is overindulgence of the senses, reinforced by habits of likes-and-dislikes that are frowned on. Those who over-indulge are classified as gluttons of all the senses and they collapse their organs of action (limbs, eyes, mouth, ears, and digestive/sexual organs) with dismemberment through disease and illness of the body.

The rain is nourishment for earth and is the water-of-life. When abused it becomes a symbol of war, ruthlessness and death against human excesses. Cerberus, with his three throats gobbles up anything indiscriminately including the mud Virgil throws at him. The beast is a personification of wants of sensory appetites rather than need. Humankind is taught to eat to live and not live to eat. The purpose of human existence is for living a healthy purposeful life to enable the discovery of The Christ.

Gluttony of all the senses is therefore a sin because each sense indulges more than just enjoying the offerings of Nature because humankind has not invoked reason. This is true of Cerberus also. Sense-appetite when uncontrolled reactively lashes out at victims and pushes them towards excesses through overindulgence. Cerberus similarly lashes out at his victims with his claws causing set of symptoms of ailment and bodily mayhem. It pushes them into lives filled with howls of pain (Contrapasso or punishment for their overindulgence on Earth).

Cerberus bears three head, as does Lucifer and symbolises the distorted face of the Holy Trinity. Cerberus’ three throats upholds a loud painful snarling explaining the emotional discomfort of (mind and intellect) in the punished souls. The poet Dante has already guessed that habits of useless chattering, socialising and mindlessly listening to loud music while on earth are also excessive indulgences numbs the Silent soul. The sinners here “wish that they were deaf” and able to enter the Silence and Stillness so needed to reflect. According to the Law of Karma (Action and Reaction) the unforgiving Law overwhelms the senses with the unchanged Stimuli until excesses are suddenly realised as defect.

As the two poets advance, they pass souls lying weighed down on the ground overwhelmed by their own ‘survival packs’ of temporary joys. Dante describes these souls as “emptiness that looked like human form”. They are made of flesh and blood but in truth their bodies are on Earth in their graves, where they are left to resurrect in the future, according to Christian beliefs. In Hell they are pure spirit but despite this they experience being ripped apart and suffer sensory pain.

As the two poets advance, they trample over these many gluttons of different Shades covering the ground78. These souls are treated no better than objects. They are not denied a personality (mind-intellect-ego), but lie naked (body with senses and organs of action exposed) to be punished. Hell (living as materialist rather than according to spiritual doctrines) is depicted as a place of suffering the reactions to self-created uninformed actions. Most sense-gluttons are ignorant and therefore their punishment is to be experienced in unclear unpleasantness.

Different Shades and degrees of gluttony produce different kinds of suffering souls79, some are even unrecognisable, like Ciacco. The Pilgrim cannot identify this man from Florence who is to Ciacco dell’Anguilloia, a minor poet of Dante’s time. This man is also believed to be the Ciacco who appears in the stories of Boccaccio’s “Decameron IX, 8.

In Italian “Ciacco” translates to mean “pig” to mean “filthy” or “of a Swinish nature”. He turns to Dante and tells him: “You citizens gave me the name of Ciacco”. Ciacco says “rain…beats me weak” because of wasted excessive energy80 to munch through the objects of the mind, intellect and senses (food, drink, sex, over-activity, disturbed restlessness, anxiety, anger, worry and fear), while on Earth. He admits he is now drained of all energy.

Ciacco’s state and of those others who surround him move Dante’s heart to sympathy. Since he is talking to a Florentine he naturally asks Ciacco about the future of the city that is torn by the rivalry between the political factions. Guelph and Ghibelline Factions who are supporting, the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire in Italy during the 12th and 13th centuries and were also in conflict with each other. After the Guelphs finally defeat the Ghibellines in 1289 at Campaldino and Caprona, where Dante apparently fought for the Guelphs, they also began to fight among themselves.

By 1300, Dante’s city, Florence, was “divided” between the Black Guelphs, who continued to support the Papacy, and White Guelphs of Dante’s party. That year the Whites defeated the Blacks and forced them out of Florence, however, in 1302, the Blacks, with the help of Pope Boniface VIII, were victorious and the Whites, including Dante, were banished from Florence. Florence is now the divided city. The White Guelphs become a party residing in the woods. The Black Guelphs prevailed with help of Boniface. The rivalry between the Black and White Guelphs, that happens one after the other, leaves Dante “hungering” after peace and prosperity for Florence.

Historically, in 1289 AD Guelphs defeat the Ghibellines and take total control over Florence. In 1300 AD the Guelph party divides into two factions: “Whites” headed by the Florentine Banking Family – the Cerchi family (1219-1246) who joined the Franciscans and became powerful.

The “Black Nobility” was the oligarchic families of Italy, who in the 12th century established and solidified the power of the wealthy ruling class which consisted members of commercial aristocracy (among them the infamous Banking de’Medici family). Venice has remained in their hands ever since.

In 1204 the oligarchic family parceled out feudal enclaves to their members, and from this period dates the great building-up of power and pressure began until the government became a closed corporation of the leading Black Nobility families.

The Black Nobility earned its title through dirty tricks, so when the population revolted against the monopolies in government, as anywhere else, the leaders of the uprising were quickly seized and brutally hanged. The Black Nobility uses secret assassinations, murder, blackmail, the bankrupting of opposing citizens or companies, kidnapping, rape and so on. hence their name.

The “Blacks” Guelphs were led by the Donate family. Dante wishes to know the eventual fate of the city, if there are any honest men in it and why it is a victim to such conflict. Ciacco makes a prophecy about Florence. He sees the two factions fight and the “rustic white party” driven out. After three years the Blacks dominate them aided by Pope Boniface VIII. The domination lasts a long time because there are only a few (“two just men”) – honest (plainest and humblest manifestation of Truth) men in Florence. Also Ciacco says the voice of honesty is useless without knowing what to do to fix the face of “pride, envy, avarice.” Because they inflame men’s passions, brutality makes honesty a victim of humankind’s excesses. Aside from gluttony, there are other sins that make humankind transgress against them through covetousness which is the root cause of all greed, anger, jealousy, pride and want for self-esteem.

The different sins are represented as ‘Shades in Hell.’ They can foretell the future and know the past but cannot fathom the present they are existing. They do not know how to fix the face covetousness while ingrained with “pride, envy, avarice.” They are therefore unaware of what is happening on Earth at the present time. As regards Ciacco’s prophecy, history confirmed the conflict of May 1, 1300. In 1301 Blacks were expelled but returned in 1302 with the support of Pope Boniface VIII who sent the Whites (including Dante) into exile.

Dante describes Boniface VIII as “one now listing toward both sides” by a Pope who was not committed to either faction. This Pope is an example of covetousness whose secret goal was to side with the eventual winner. Dante wrote the “Divine Comedy” while in exile after these historical happenings. After satisfying his curiosity about the fate of Florence, Dante asks Ciacco about the fate of a few men who are now dead – Farinata, Tegghiaio, Rusticucci, Arrigo and Mosca.

He describes them as “worthy” and “bent on doing good” but is curious to know where they are. Dante seems uncertain about their fate despite their worthiness. Ciacco confirms such doubts are justified because even good actions come with private agendas that are unknown to the observer: are they in ‘service of a greater good’ or for self-aggrandisement?

As Dante descends into Hell, he meets Farinata in the Circle of Heretics (Canto X) and Tegghiaio and Rusticucci among the Sodomites (Canto (XVI). Mosca is among sowers of Conflict in (Canto CXXVIII) and there is no mention of Arrigo. Ciacco asks Dante to remember him to Ciacco’s friends who live in deeper Hell. Even in Hell souls are concerned about their worldly fame while alive on Earth. Although all is only in the memory of the past, Ciacco’s query to Dante is to trigger recollection of Ciacco in those who now live in Hell.

After making this request Ciacco falls back into a stupor and drops to the ground. Virgil pronounces he will awaken on the Day of Judgement when the wandering soul of Hell will reunite with his body and God will then pass eternal judgement. Dante is curious about Judgement Day and its effect on the awakened soul’s suffering. Virgil makes reference to the commonly held belief: the closer person reaches perfection through such suffering, the more deeply the soul understands both pleasure and pain. A suffered soul has metamorphosed and acutely experiences the change needed during human existence.

Joining the body (human birth) with a soul with karmic debt leads human expression towards a lifestyle that is near perfection. Positive and negative tendencies balance themselves on Judgement Day when the soul seeks a new body which will help them avoid from making the past mistakes. They are changing souls who make choices for the next human expression. Such blessed souls make reparations through a life in Purgatory and qualify for entrance into Paradise while still alive as humans. The reincarnating soul increasingly experiences God’s bliss ever more and more deeply.
The two poets know all about Spiritual Journeys and move forward to where the ledge goes ahead downwards into the fourth Circle of Hell. This is guarded by Plutus.

Inferno Canto 7: The Fourth Circle: The Avaricious and the Prodigal. Plutus. Fortune and her Wheel. The Fifth Circle: The Irascible and the Sullen. Styx.

1. “Pape Satan81, Pape Satan, Aleppe!”//Thus Plutus82 with his clucking voice began//And that benignant Sage, who all things knew,
2. Said, to encourage me: “Let not thy fear//Harm thee; for any power that he may have//Shall not prevent thy going down this crag.”
3. Then he turned round unto that bloated lip//And said: “Be silent, thou accursed wolf//Consume within thyself with thine own rage.
4. Not causeless is this journey to the abyss//Thus is it willed on high, where Michael wrought //Vengeance upon the proud adultery.”
5. Even as the sails inflated by the wind//Involved together fall when snaps the mast//So fell the cruel monster to the earth.
6. Thus we descended into the fourth chasm//Gaining still farther on the dolesome shore//Which all the woe of the universe in sacks.
7. Justice of God, ah! who heaps up so many//New toils and sufferings as I beheld?//And why doth our transgression waste us so?
8. As doth the billow there upon Charybdis83//That breaks itself on that which it encounters//So here the folk must dance their roundelay.
9. Here saw I people, more than elsewhere, many//On one side and the other, with great howls//  Rolling weights forward by main force of chest.
10. They clashed together, and then at that point//Each one turned backward, rolling retrograde//  Crying, “Why keepest?” and, “Why squanderest thou?”
11. Thus they returned along the lurid circle//On either hand unto the opposite point// Shouting their shameful metre evermore.
12. Then each, when he arrived there, wheeled about//Through his half-circle to another joust//And I, who had my heart pierced as it were,
13. Exclaimed: “My Master, now declare to me//What people these are, and if all were clerks//These shaven crowns upon the left of us.”
14. And he to me: “All of them were asquint//In intellect in the first life, so much//That there with measure they no spending made.
15. Clearly enough their voices bark it forth//Whene’er they reach the two points of the circle//  Where sunders them the opposite defect.
16. Clerks those were who no hairy covering//Have on the head, and Popes and Cardinals84//In whom doth Avarice practise its excess.”
17. And I: “My Master, among such as these//I ought forsooth to recognise some few//Who were infected with these maladies.”
18. And he to me: “Vain thought thou entertainest//The undiscerning life which made them sordid//Now makes them unto all discernment dim.
19. Forever shall they come to these two buttings//These from the sepulchre shall rise again//With the fist closed, and these with tresses shorn.
20. Ill giving and ill keeping the fair world//Have ta’en from them, and placed them in this scuffle//  Whate’er it be, no words adorn I for it.
21. Now canst thou, Son, beholds the transient farce//Of goods that are committed unto Fortune//For which the human race each other buffet;
22. For all the gold that is beneath the moon//Or ever has been, of these weary souls//Could never make a single one repose.”
23. “Master,” I said to him, “now tell me also//What is this Fortune85 which thou speakest of//That has the world’s goods so within its clutches?”
24. And he to me: “O creatures imbecile//What ignorance is this which doth beset you?//Now will I have thee learn my judgment of her.
25. He whose omniscience everything transcends//The heavens created, and gave who should guide them//That every part to every part may shine,
26. Distributing the light in equal measure//He in like manner to the mundane splendours// Ordained a general ministress and guide,
27. That she might change at times the empty treasures//From race to race, from one blood to another//Beyond resistance of all human wisdom.
28. Therefore one people triumphs, and another//Languishes, in pursuance of her judgment// Which hidden is, as in the grass a serpent.
29. Your knowledge has no counterstand against her//She makes provision, judges, and pursues//Her governance, as theirs the other gods.
30. Her permutations have not any truce//Necessity makes her precipitate//So often cometh who his turn obtains.
31. And this is she who is so crucified//Even by those who ought to give her praise//Giving her blame amiss, and bad repute.
32. But she is blissful, and she hears it not//Among the other primal creatures gladsome//She turns her sphere, and blissful she rejoices.
33. Let us descend now unto greater woe//Already sinks each star that was ascending//When I set out, and loitering is forbidden.”
34. We crossed the circle to the other bank//Near to a fount that boils, and pours itself//Along a gully that runs out of it.
35. The water was more sombre far than perse//And we, in company with the dusky waves//Made entrance downward by a path uncouth.
36. A marsh it makes, which has the name of Styx//This tristful brooklet, when it has descended// Down to the foot of the malign gray shores.
37. And I, who stood intent upon beholdsing//Saw people mud-besprent in that lagoon//All of them naked and with angry look.
38. They smote each other not alone with hands//But with the head and with the breast and feet//  Tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth.
39. Said the good Master: “Son, thou now beholdsest//The souls of those whom anger overcame//And likewise I would have thee know for certain.
40. Beneath the water people are who sigh//And make this water bubble at the surface//As the eye tells thee wheresoe’er it turns.
41. Fixed in the mire they say, ‘We sullen were//In the sweet air, which by the sun is gladdened// Bearing within ourselves the sluggish reek;
42. Now we are sullen in this sable mire’//This hymn do they keep gurgling in their throats//For with unbroken words they cannot say it.”
43. Thus we went circling round the filthy fen//A great arc ‘twixt the dry bank and the swamp//With eyes turned unto those who gorge the mire;
44. Unto the foot of a tower we came at last.


Inferno Canto 7: The Fourth Circle: The Avaricious and the Prodigal. Plutus. Fortune and her Wheel. The Fifth Circle: The Irascible and the Sullen. Styx

As the two poets enter the Fourth Circle, the assigned guardian of this domain, Plutus shouts at them. Virgil reassures Dante that Plutus is powerless to stop them because their journey is willed by Heaven, where Archangel Michael fought and defeated rebellious angels. Hearing this, Plutus falls over and stumbles to the ground. The poets now descend deeper into the Fourth Circle. Dante wonders loudly about the suffering he sees and speculates how people can sin when it ends in so much pain. He sees two groups of souls, each pushing gigantic weights against each other. They are the wasteful Prodigals and the tight-fisted Miserly. The Prodigals question the Miserly about the wisdom of hoarding. The Miserly question Prodigals on the wisdom of waste. With no answers forthcoming from either sides, they push each other continuously in this Fourth Circle. Each group is in a semicircle and together form a circle filled with their combined movements.

Dante is moved by anguish as he watches the two formless groups pitched against each other. He asks Virgil about their identity because he sees among them some tonsured priests. He inquires if the tonsured souls are miserly priests. Virgil explains: the Prodigals lack wisdom of using materialism wisely for themselves or sharing their prosperity for a Common Good. The second group of “priests, popes and cardinals” are grasping and materialistic who greedily hoarded property and wealth.

Dante should be able to recognize some of these imprisoned souls but Virgil says that is impossible, because none had great qualities to make them discernibly distinguishable. Most humans live such mundane lives. They live biological lives; they are born, play, set up a life of routine existence of sense indulgence, breed, aggrandise for wants more than needs, and then die decrepit. They leave earth without leaving any worthy footprints of their existence among mortals.

Having lived unremarkable lives of Covetousness on Earth, they are damned to fight each other eternally over their preoccupations of: “I-Me-Mine”. Even when they get their bodies at Resurrection, the Miserly will continue fighting with each other. Since their sins prodigality and miserliness makes them unworthy of Heaven they (Dante and Virgil) should stop continuing the discussion.

Virgil explains the value of wealth is short-lived because its possession depends on Fortune’s whims. But humankind mindlessly struggles to covet wealth. This great effort mocks back at humankind who never had control over it. Besides, not all the gold in the world has the power to reduce the agitation endured by these souls in Hell.

Dante wants to understand “Fortune” (Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth) better and asks his guide about it. Virgil instead addresses all humanity. He says Fortune is one of God’s angels who has power over losses or gains of prosperity, wealth and possessions. She forever changes fortunes of Humankind and Nations by raising or lowering gains and losses. She is not constant to any one person or country. She gives each its turn to reach the top and lowers them with defeat and disempowerment. All men fear and curse Fortune because of her inconsistency. She has no interest in human materialism. Her sacred power follows rules of influence. Attracted by vibrations of sharing for universal sufficiency Fortune recognises only acts of Goodness and Righteousness.

Virgil then suddenly points out that time is running and they must move on. They cross the circle and come across a stream that joins a swamp Styx which is full of souls physically fighting each other with blows, kicks and are biting each other. These Wrathful-souls are angry with each other. Deep beneath the swampy mud are souls of the slothful (lazy). From the depths of the mud the lazy and inactive on earth are so trapped they are incapable of speaking. They are only making clattering sounds in their throats. The two poets walk around the Styx, by walking along its dry bank. Eventually they find themselves at the foot of a high tower.


Inferno Canto 7: The Fourth Circle: The Avaricious and the Prodigal. Plutus. Fortune and her Wheel. The Fifth Circle: The Irascible and the Sullen. Styx

In classical mythology Plutus is the god of Prosperity and Wealth. He guards the Fourth Circle where both the Prodigal and the Miserly are punished because they have both sinned because they have not followed the rules of Prosperity. One group wasted it recklessly and remained unreasonably attached to it. Both groups do not understand the purpose of ‘plenty’. Plenty has Power and a Purpose. Plenty is used to fuel the engine of volunteering and building strong charitable opportunities of serving. By networking within humanity and engaging them in self-discovery humankind understands the purpose of Fortune.

When Plutus sees the two poets, he shrieks in a rage at them, “Pope Satan, Pope Satan aleppe!” Plutus is addressing Dante as “Satan” which usually means “enemy”. Despite Plutus’ fury he crumples before Virgil’s words when he is told Dante’s journey is willed by Heaven. Plutus the beast in Hell immediately becomes subservient to Heaven’s will86.

Virgil calls Plutus a “cursed wolf of Hell” – the kind the two poets met when they entered the forest of beasts, one of which is a she-wolf who rules over the Circle of Sensually Incontinent: Two, Three, Four and Five. Here are where the ‘crude, carnal, coarse, lecherous incontinent’ are incarcerated because they cannot restrain their sensory and sensual appetites. They are governed by ‘wants’ rather than ‘needs’. Such covetousness therefore triggers sins of anger and greed. The lawless souls in this Circle are a mixture of the Gluttonous; Prodigal, Miserly; Wrathful and are too Slothful to learn the Purpose of Human Existence.

Dante anguishes at the state of souls he sees. He wonders why and how humans allow sin to escort him/her to such horrific results. Parents warn children of impending consequences when doing wrong. Preachers of Abrahamic faiths warn the faithful about lowlife and the nightmare of Hell. Unrepentant sinners knowingly or unknowingly must endure Hell resulting from unrighteous actions. Dante seemingly is forewarning those who cross the line of virtue and prefer an earth life of iniquity. Indulging in the objectionable vices or Seven Sins is transgressions fatal to spiritual living and is a sure way to end up in Hell.

Mohandas Gandhi, the modern social and political activist, considers seven traits most spiritually perilous to humanity. They include Wealth without Work, Pleasure without Conscience, Science without Humanity, Knowledge without Character, Politics without Principle, Commerce without Morality and Worship without Sacrifice.

However Dante offers hope in his described marshlands of reprehensible over-indulgences. Virtues are proposed for nations and peoples of every colour and creed. Cardinal Virtues of prudence, temperance, courage, justice are considered necessary even by the Classical Greek philosophers. Early Christian Church theologians adopted these virtues and considered them to be equally important to all people. Theological Virtues of love, hope and faith are what Virgil offers Dante for those who are in a ‘fallen state’.

There are private ‘battles of the soul’ that go unnoticed. Humility, kindness, abstinence, chastity, patience, liberality, diligence are sins against the Ego. Practicing such virtues protects against temptations toward the Seven Deadly Sins. Virgil the pagan knows that a person practices humility to struggle with pride, observe kindness against envy and resist gluttony when enjoying the pleasures of eating and drinking. The poets understand the practice of chastity is the acceptable moral standard and behaviour against lust in all cultures. Dante is encouraged to practice patience against the anger he feels against the churchian politics he endures. For greed he teaches liberality and sharing are the antidotes to the Prodigal and the Miserly. If virtues are practiced with diligence, sloth is naturally obliterated. Those in Hell must believe they will attain both Purgatory and eventually Heaven through faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance and prudence.

Because the basic natures of the Prodigals and the Misers are opposed to each other, each seeks to convert the other to see the benefit (in their eyes) of their way in a circle. Fortune even from old times is a Pagan goddess with a wheel. She lifts a person above the wheel of time to enrich and when the wheel suddenly turns in reverse, he/she falls to the bottom of the materially deprived. But the Prodigals and Misers believe they can cheat Fortune by wasting money or hoarding it. They practice that on earth and in Hell must slave at the wheel of Fortune.

Dante expresses he will recognise the souls in Hell but Virgil says that is impossible because souls display as ‘Shades’ of sins each practiced. They are recognized Prodigals or Misers according to their bellowing at each other: “why hoard?” or “why waste?” Virgil tells the Pilgrim the two groups are doomed to an eternal conflict. After Resurrection the Miserly will be resurrected with “tight fists” and the Prodigals resurrected “without any hair”. This refers to an Italian proverb that prodigals ‘spend even the hair on their head.’

Virgil explains men’s attempt to control their wealth is ineffectual when it is the goddess Fortune who controls it all. The declaration “O foolish race of man” is not for Dante alone but for all mankind. She is the angel created by God to rule over the fortunes of men and nations alike. She spins her metaphoric wheel, and by its nature brings about change in lives of the fortunate and unfortunate alike.

Suddenly the guide points out the movement of stars and says they must move on because “the stars that rose …are going down”. It is past midnight and stars that are setting in the West are rising in the East. Virgil first encounters Dante in the “dark woods” on the evening of Good Friday and is advising the Pilgrim they must not linger. They follow a stream arising from a spring which leads to the swampy Styx. Souls consumed by anger fighting brutally with each with limbs and teeth rip each other apart. They are supported underneath by souls (detected by rising air bubbles) who are incarcerated because they were sluggishly lazy on Earth. Stuck inside this muddy quicksand they have lost the freedom and choice to move.

Even as they speak the poets are able to continue their journey by walking the dry bank of the Styx and reach the base of a high tower.

Inferno Canto 8: Phlegyas. Philippo Argenti. The Gate of the City of Dis.

1. I say, continuing, that long before//We to the foot of that high tower had come//Our eyes went upward to the summit of it,
2. By reason of two flamelets we saw placed there//And from afar another answer them//So far, that hardly could the eye attain it.
3. And, to the sea of all discernment turned//I said: “What sayeth this, and what respondeth//That other fire? and who are they that made it?”
4. And he to me: “Across the turbid waves//What is expected thou canst now discern//If reek of the morass conceal it not.”
5. Cord never shot an arrow from itself//That sped away athwart the air so swift//As I beheld a very little boat
6. Come o’er the water tow’rds us at that moment//Under the guidance of a single pilot//Who shouted, “Now art thou arrived, fell soul?”
7. “Phlegyas, Phlegyas87, thou criest out in vain//For this once,” said my Lord; “thou shalt not have us// Longer than in the passing of the slough.”
8. As he who listens to some great deceit//That has been done to him, and then resents it//Such became Phlegyas, in his gathered wrath.
9. My Guide descended down into the boat//And then he made me enter after him//And only when I entered seemed it laden.
10. Soon as the Guide and I were in the boat//The antique prow goes on its way, dividing//More of the water than ’tis wont with others.
11. While we were running through the dead canal//Uprose in front of me one full of mire//And said, “Who ‘rt thou that comest ere the hour?”
12. And I to him: “Although I come, I stay not//But who art thou that hast become so squalid?”// “Thou seest that I am one who weeps,” he answered.
13. And I to him: “With weeping and with wailing//Thou spirit maledict, do thou remain//For thee I know, though thou art all defiled.”
14. Then stretched he both his hands unto the boat//Whereat my wary Master thrust him back// Saying, “Away there with the other dogs!”
15. Thereafter with his arms he clasped my neck//He kissed my face, and said: “Disdainful soul//Blessed be she who bore thee in her bosom.
16. That was an arrogant person in the world//Goodness is none, that decks his memory//So likewise here his Shade is furious.
17. How many are esteemed great kings up there//Who here shall be like unto swine in mire// Leaving behind them horrible dispraises!”
18. And I: “My Master, much should I be pleased//If I could see him soused into this broth//Before we issue forth out of the lake.”
19. And he to me: “Ere unto thee the shore//Reveal itself, thou shalt be satisfied//Such a desire ’tis meet thou shouldst enjoy.”
20. A little after that, I saw such havoc//Made of him by the people of the mire//That still I praise and thank my God for it.
21. They all were shouting, “At Philippo Argenti88!”//And that exasperate spirit Florentine//Turned round upon himself with his own teeth.
22. We left him there, and more of him I tell not//But on mine ears there smote a lamentation// Whence forward I intent unbar mine eyes.
23. And the good Master said: “Even now, my Son//The city draweth near whose name is Dis/89/With the grave citizens, with the great throng.”
24. And I: “Its mosques already, Master, clearly//Within there in the valley I discern//Vermilion, as if issuing from the fire
25. They were.”  And he to me: “The fire eternal//That kindles them within makes them look red//As thou beholdsest in this nether Hell.”
26. Then we arrived within the moats profound//That circumvallate that disconsolate city//The walls appeared to me to be of iron.
27. Not without making first a circuit wide//We came unto a place where loud the pilot//Cried out to us, “Debark, here is the entrance.”
28. More than a thousand at the gates I saw//Out of the Heavens rained down, who angrily//Were saying, “Who is this that without death
29. Goes through the kingdom of the people dead?”//And my sagacious Master made a sign//Of wishing secretly to speak with them.
30. A little then they quelled their great disdain//And said: “Come thou alone, and he begone//Who has so boldly entered these dominions.
31. Let him return alone by his mad road//Try, if he can; for thou shalt here remain//Who hast escorted him through such dark regions.”
32. Think, Reader, if I was discomforted//At utterance of the accursed words//For never to return here I believed.
33. “O my dear Guide, who more than seven times//Hast rendered me security, and drawn me//From imminent peril that before me stood,
34. Do not desert me,” said I, “thus undone//And if the going farther be denied us//Let us retrace our steps together swiftly.”
35. And that Lord, who had led me thitherward//Said unto me: “Fear not; because our passage//None can take from us, it by Such is given.
36. But here await me, and thy weary spirit//Comfort and nourish with a better hope//For in this nether world I will not leave thee.”
37. So onward goes and there abandons me//My Father sweet, and I remain in doubt//For No and Yes within my head contend.
38. I could not hear what he proposed to them//But with them there he did not linger long//Ere each within in rivalry ran back.
39. They closed the portals, those our adversaries//On my Lord’s breast, who had remained without//And turned to me with footsteps far between.
40. His eyes cast down, his forehead shorn had he//Of all its boldness, and he said, with sighs//”Who has denied to me the dolesome houses?”
41. And unto me: “Thou, because I am angry//Fear not, for I will conquer in the trial//Whatever for defence within be planned.
42. This arrogance of theirs is nothing new//For once they used it at less secret gate//Which finds itself without a fastening still.
43. O’er it didst thou beholds the dead inscription//And now this side of it descends the steep//Passing across the circles without escort,
44. One by whose means the city shall be opened.”


Inferno Canto 8: Phlegyas. Philippo Argenti. The Gate of the City of Dis.

The two poets at the foot of this tower notice two flames suddenly flash at the top. Then another flare goes up in the far distance. Dante asks Virgil to explain something about these signals. Virgil directs Dante’s attention to the river Styx where they see a boat approaching them. Steering the boat is Phlegyas90 who threatens to capture Dante, but Virgil tells him that his outcry serves nothing. What he needs to do is to ferry the two poets across the river. Although the boatman is enraged at Virgil’s words he is powerless to do anything else but to obey God’s will. The two poets climb aboard. Virgil’s shadow is weightless but when the Pilgrim climbs aboard the boat sinks noticeably under Dante’s weight. They then swiftly begin moving across the river.

A shadow suddenly rises from the river’s water and questions the Pilgrim’s identity. Dante does not reveal his identity but instead asks the soul who he is. The angry Shade suddenly recognizes Dante; he curses him and then angrily tries to overturn the boat, but Virgil pushes him back into the river. Virgil approves of Dante’s resentment towards the sinner as justified because the Shade was always arrogant even on Earth. Also the Shade has no good deeds to his credit. The fates of many who regard themselves highly on Earth are filled with anger.

Dante has a desire to see the sinner’s soul dunked deep in the dirty river. Virgil says it is a worthy desire and will be fulfilled. Before long Dante witnesses a sinner (Filippo Argenti91) being mauled by a gang of angry souls. The victimized Shade is seen to go mad and bites him. Eventually the poets find themselves in the moat that encircles the city of Dis. Dante notices the iron fortifications guarding the city are sturdily placed in the soil around the city. They reach the entrance to the city and the boatman Phlegyas asks them to disembark at this point.

Many fiendish souls guard the entrance. They are angry about Dante’s presence because he is a breathing living man and only the dead disembodied souls are allowed in Hell. They want to speak to Virgil in secret but Dante begs Virgil to stay with him. Since the poets cannot progress any further, Dante suggests they should return to where they came from. Virgil reminds Dante that God has sanctioned their journey. He therefore asks Dante to wait for him because he has no plan to desert his ward. Virgil then leaves to talk with the fiendish souls who guard the entrance. Dante who is alone is brooding. He is for the first time a prey to self-doubt and has fear of making mistakes 92.

Dante cannot hear the exchanges between Virgil and the fiendish souls. The conversation is not for long and Dante sees them loudly slam shut the entrance gates on Virgil’s face. This rattles Dante but Virgil returns to Dante, obviously disheartened and downcast. He is denied entrance into the city. Virgil turns to bolster his ward’s spirit and tells him they will find a way to gain entry despite the souls’ refusal. Dante is told these souls are arrogant by nature. He recounts an incident of a past when they barred entrance at another gate which is presently forever open. They can gain access through that gate. He then points to a figure approaching who helps them gain entrance to the city.


Inferno Canto 8: Phlegyas. Philippo Argenti. The Gate of the City of Dis.

Phlegyas is the guardian of the Fifth Circle where sins of passion are punished. In Roman mythology Phlegyas is the son of Mars (the god of war and warriors). Phlegyas gets enraged with Apollo because he rapes his daughter Coronas. In his rage he burns down Apollo’s temple at Delphi. Eventually Apollo kills him and banishes him to Tartars. Thus it is fitting that Dante the poet appoints Phlegyas, a symbol of passions (want, lust, greed, anger, covetousness, jealousy, pride, ego), the guardian Upper Hell where the all passions are punished.

Phlegyas began by approaching the poets full of triumphant anger but Virgil stops him. Phlegyas reacts enraged when thwarted but is powerless against Divine Will. He consents to ferry them across the Styx, but during this journey a slimy shadowy soul rises from the dirty water. It is Filippo Argenti, a political enemy of Dante. He refuses to feel any pity for the damned soul of Argenti.

This attitude of carrying a grudge contrasts sharply with the way he reached out in compassion for other damned souls like Francesca and Ciacco the glutton. Dante is like someone being stung to death by one bee. He is not only angry and pitiless towards Argenti’s soul but will never achieve true happiness. His hate wants to see Argenti dunked in the dirty waters. Virgil is seen to comment Dante’s new mind-set of self-poisoning with resentment and ill-will. Shortly afterwards the two poets see Argenti attacked by other souls in the water. Argenti goes mad and bites himself because he has trouble expressing feelings. Dante is so pleased to see this that he thanks God for this sight.

Dante’s indignant resentment which rankles him with displeasure and persistent ill will is strong enough to justify retaliation because he is still deeply hurt. Personal injustice violated Dante’s rights. Although he is on a Spiritual Journey, such injustice ignites resentment in hearts. Dante suffered discrimination and oppression and has become revengeful. He is thinking of ways to get back at Argenti. But does revenge heal? Brain scans spark enough satisfaction when motivated ‘to get even’. This can be dangerous because it has the potential of causing more karmic injuries.

Virgil understands it is a natural human reaction to hurt them back and spurs him to settle the score, to get even. Emotions of hate and anger continue to annoy Dante who claims a supposed indifference when he began his Spiritual Journey. Virgil knows Dante is hurting himself physically, spiritually and emotionally.

A corrosive bitterness will open him to being devoured inside by hurt, guilt and bitterness. A grudge has handcuffed Dante to his negative past, causing him to irrationally remain on the past. This passionate display of anger shows Dante has a long way to go in his spiritual development. Virgil wants Dante to despise souls that sin without repenting. Dante still needs tempering of his ‘hatred’.

Punished within Dis are active doer (rather than passive) sinners. The fallen angels are also actively angry93 and not passive guards on duty in Hell. They cannot be convinced to allow them entry until they are later threatened by the Furies (goddesses of vengeance) and Medusa94. An angel had to be sent from Heaven finally to secure their entry into the next Circle. Phlegyas therefore reluctantly transports Dante and Virgil across the Styx in his boat. They are accosted by the unrepentant Filippo Argenti, a Black Guelph.

The two poets are still in the Fifth Circle of Hell where the wrathful who holds lifelong grudges95 are punished. They have already previously witnessed those who were lifelong sluggish slow learners96 in the Styx being punished. The two flames (wrathful and confused sinners) that shoot up from the tower are a signal to Phlegyas, the boatman of the Styx. He responds by rowing to the shore towards the two poets. He must ferry Dante and Virgil across the Styx97 to Satan’s wretched city of Dis which is populated by dead non-believers. The Fifth Circle is a wide plain surrounded by iron walls which is the boundary of outer Hell. The city of Dis is the beginning of the inner division of Hell. The first five circles are Upper Hell and the remaining circles are of Lower Hell.

As they progress, Dante dismisses Argenti as not worth the bother. His attention is drawn to the noise coming from the city of Dis. The louder wailing suggests the boat is approaching the protected by walls and occupied by “fierce” beings. He notices towers glowing red as if lit by fire. Virgil explains the glow comes from the “Eternal fire” that burns within the city but lights Hells for Lust, Glutton, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Violence and Jealousy and Pride. Walls of the city of Dis can be seen to demarcate the separation of Upper Hell and Lower Hell.

The Fifth Circle for the Angry in Lower Hell is inside the walls of Dis. It is here where ghosts associated with Fate are. They are both benevolent and antagonistic towards mortals. In the swamp-like river boundary between earth and underworld water of the river Styx, the wrathful are seen still fighting each other on the surface while the sullen lie gurgling beneath the water, withdrawn “into a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe.” Phlegyas the giant guardian of the Fifth Circle reluctantly transports Dante and Virgil. This reflects that souls even if in Hell are eternally fixed in the experiences of their past and will choose a new existence from where they left off. Virgil blesses them.

Dante’s beginning awareness is becoming obvious. He understands one makes choices after leaving one’s body. One makes choices for the next reincarnation – as an continuing active sin or a resignation to a deserved fate. Virgil is unsuccessful at gaining access into Hell through the regular gate and moves to another, “downcast”. All his “self-assurance is gone”.

Dante explains how souls of passion tried to stop Jesus through his journey through Hell. Only by transformation of Jesus to becoming The Christ allowed him entry through a new gate towards Eternity. All Spiritual Journeys are met with a divine messenger. They alone ensure the opening of the gates. Virgil knows a messenger will be sent from Heaven to aid them in the journey. The poets will drop from the fifth to the sixth circle and to the three rings of the seventh circle; and then again to the ten rings of the eighth circle, and finally down to the bottom, to the icy ninth circle.

Inferno Canto 9: The Furies and Medusa. The Angel. The City of Dis. The Sixth Circle: Heresiarchs.

1. That hue which cowardice brought out on me//Beholdsing my Conductor backward turn//Sooner repressed within him his new colour.
2. He stopped attentive, like a man who listens//Because the eye could not conduct him far//Through the black air, and through the heavy fog.
3. “Still it behoveth us to win the fight”//Began he; “Else. . .Such offered us herself//O how I long that some one here arrive!”
4. Well I perceived, as soon as the beginning//He covered up with what came afterward//That they were words quite different from the first;
5. But none the less his saying gave me fear//Because I carried out the broken phrase//Perhaps to a worse meaning than he had.
6. “Into this bottom of the doleful conch//Doth any e’er descend from the first grade//Which for its pain has only hope cut off?”
7. This question put I; and he answered me//”Seldom it comes to pass that one of us//Maketh the journey upon which I go.
8. True is it, once before I here below//Was conjured by that pitiless Erictho98//Who summoned back the Shades unto their bodies.
9. Naked of me short while the flesh had been//Before within that wall she made me enter//To bring a spirit from the circle of Judas99;
10. That is the lowest region and the darkest//And farthest from the heaven which circles all//Well know I the way; therefore be reassured.
11. This fen, which a prodigious stench exhales//Encompasses about the city dolent//Where now we cannot enter without anger.”
12. And more he said, but not in mind I have it//Because mine eye had altogether drawn me//Towards the high tower with the red-flaming summit,
13. Where in a moment saw I swift uprisen//The three infernal Furies100 stained with blood//Who had the limbs of women and their mien,
14. And with the greenest hydras were begirt//Small serpents and cerastes were their tresses// Wherewith their horrid temples were entwined.
15. And he who well the handmaids of the Queen//Of everlasting lamentation knew//Said unto me: “Beholds the fierce Erinnys101.
16. This is Megaera, on the left-hand side//She who is weeping on the right, Alecto//Tisiphone is between;” and then was silent.
17. Each one her breast was rending with her nails//They beat them with their palms, and cried so loud//That I for dread pressed close unto the Poet.
18. “Medusa102 come, so we to stone will change him!”//All shouted looking down; “in evil hour// Avenged we not on Theseus103 his assault!”
19. “Turn thyself round, and keep thine eyes close shut//For if the Gorgon104 appear, and thou shouldst see it//No more returning upward would there be.”
20. Thus said the Master; and he turned me round//Himself, and trusted not unto my hands//So far as not to blind me with his own.
21. ye who have undistempered intellects//Observe the doctrine that conceals itself//Beneath the veil of the mysterious verses!
22. And now there came across the turbid waves//The clangour of a sound with terror fraught//  Because of which both of the margins trembled;
23. Not otherwise it was than of a wind//Impetuous on account of adverse heats//That smites the forest, and, without restraint,
24. The branches rends, beats down, and bears away//Right onward, laden with dust, it goes superb// And puts to flight the wild beasts and the shepherds.
25. Mine eyes he loosed, and said: “Direct the nerve//Of vision now along that ancient foam//There yonder where that smoke is most intense.”
26. Even as the frogs before the hostile serpent//Across the water scatter all abroad//Until each one is huddled in the earth.
27. More than a thousand ruined souls I saw//Thus fleeing from before one who on foot//Was passing o’er the Styx with soles unwet.
28. From off his face he fanned that unctuous air//Waving his left hand oft in front of him//And only with that anguish seemed he weary.
29. Well I perceived one sent from Heaven was he//And to the Master turned; and he made sign//  That I should quiet stand, and bow before him.
30. Ah! how disdainful he appeared to me!//He reached the gate, and with a little rod//He opened it, for there was no resistance.
31. “O banished out of Heaven, people despised!”//Thus he began upon the horrid thresholds// “Whence is this arrogance within you couched?
32. Wherefore recalcitrate against that will//From which the end can never be cut off//And which has many times increased your pain?
33. What helpeth it to butt against the fates?//Your Cerberus, if you remember well//For that still bears his chin and gullet peeled.”
34. Then he returned along the miry road//And spake no word to us, but had the look//Of one whom other care constrains and goads
35. Than that of him who in his presence is//And we our feet directed tow’rds the city//After those holy words all confident.
36. Within we entered without any contest//And I, who inclination had to see//What the condition such a fortress holds,
37. Soon as I was within, cast round mine eye//And see on every hand an ample plain//Full of distress and torment terrible.
38. Even as at Arles105, where stagnant grows the Rhone106//Even as at Pola107 near to the Quarnaro108//That shuts in Italy and bathes its borders,
39. The sepulchres make all the place uneven//So likewise did they there on every side//Saving that there the manner was more bitter;
40. For flames between the sepulchres were scattered//By which they so intensely heated were//That iron more so asks not any art.
41. All of their coverings uplifted were//And from them issued forth such dire laments//Sooth seemed they of the wretched and tormented.
42. And I: “My Master, what are all those people//Who, having sepulture within those tombs//Make themselves audible by doleful sighs?”
43. And he to me: “Here are the Heresiarchs109//With their disciples of all sects, and much//More than thou thinkest laden are the tombs.
44. Here like together with its like is buried//And more and less the monuments are heated”//And when he to the right had turned, we passed
45. Between the torments and high parapets.


Inferno Canto 9: The Furies and Medusa. The Angel. The City of Dis. The Sixth Circle: Heresiarchs.

The lower parts of hell are contained within the walls of the city of Dis, which is itself surrounded by the Stygian marsh. Punished within Dis are active (rather than passive) sinners110. “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience we are made righteous” (Romans 5:19). Dante was taught that because of One man’s disobedience, all mankind was exposed to eternal condemnation – but hope of grace through faith in the mercy of God will make many righteous. The walls of Dis are guarded by ‘fallen angels’. Such terms are also existent in the Christian and Hebrew Bible.

Have ‘fallen angels’ in the ancient past mated with humankind? Mythology teaches us they have. There is a kernel of truth behind the world’s darkest evil traditions. They speak of gods taking human woman and creating demigods the world over to explain the existence of active and passive sinners.

Virgil is unable to convince the ‘fallen angel’ to let Dante and Virgil enter. An angel sent from Heaven then secures entry for the poets. Phlegyas reluctantly transports Dante and Virgil across the Styx in his boat. On the way they are accosted by Filippo Argenti, a Black Guelph from a prominent Florentine family.

The Heretics 111 are buried in Circle Six of Hell for eternity. They are trapped in flaming tombs. Dante converses with a pair of Florentines in one of the tombs: Farinata degli Uberti, a Ghibelline, and Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti, a Guelph who was the father of Dante’s friend; and of a fellow poet named Guido Cavalcanti. The lower parts of hell are contained within the walls of the city of Dis, which is also surrounded by the Stygian marsh.

Dante had made an intellectual decision with faith and without misgivings or doubt that Virgil could successfully make impossible achievable. Dante sees Virgil turning back unsuccessfuland he is filled with fear because of double-mindedness. Virgil puts on a brave face and scans the horizon for a fallen angel who will come to help them. He wonders aloud at the delay of Virgil’s promised help because Dante senses Virgil’s hesitation. He is quick at covering it up. Most of the New Testament references pertain to such double-mindedness.

This increases his doubt and Dante asks Virgil if anyone ever descended into Hell from Limbo. Virgil tells Dante he has made this same journey once before. A victim of magic by the witch Erictho was sent from Limbo to the deepest Hell pit where Judas lies in misery. She sent Virgil there to fetch a spirit for her. He therefore knows the way well and tells Dante the only way to enter Dis (encompassing sixth to ninth circles) now is by unleashing The Force.

Just while Virgil is talking, Dante’s attention is drawn to the tower’s top. There he sees three demonic Furies appear suddenly. They are all females and are well known to Virgil. He names them fierce Erinyes and their names are Megaera, Alecto and Tisiphone. Furies are used by Hades to punish people, usually those who break an oath. The three Furies are beating their breasts with their hands and then tearing them with their nails. This activity along with their loud shrieking scares Dante and he moves closer to Virgil. The Furies summon Medusa, to turn Dante into stone. Virgil fearing Medusa’s predisposition warns Dante to turn his back to the tower and to close his eyes. To ensure his safety, Virgil covers the Dante’s eyes with his own hands.

Soon the air of Hell is filled with a loud sound and the noise disturbs all of Hell. Virgil removes his hands covering Dante’s eyes and bids him look at the marsh’s surface. He sees an angel walking across the surface of the Styx. All the sinner-souls who are in the river fearfully clear the path for the angel. Virgil signals the Dante to remain quiet and bow down before the angel assigned to protect and guide the group. She touches the Gates of Dis with her wand and they open effortlessly. The guardian angel scolds the fallen angels for opposing Divine Will and reminds them of the results of such vain opposition. She reminds the fallen angels about the fate of Cerberus resulting from such resistance. Then she turns around and goes back the way she had come.

After the angel leaves, the two poets easily enter the city, unopposed and comforted by the recent holy visit. Dante looks around and sees pain all around. There are open burning tombs everywhere. Within tombs that are inhabitants aflame who are subjected to high temperatures. They are crying out in pain from suffering112 (Eastern faiths accept pain as poetic justice for sins of passion and heresy against humankind). Virgil tells Dante the occupants of these tombs are all arch-heretics (bad religious leaders who have controversial opinions and publicly dissent from Roman Catholic dogma)) lacking disciplines. Heretics113 of a particular type lie buried with their own group-type. The intensity of heat causing them pain depends on their type and magnitude of sin. The heretical Shades are burned more.

The two poets now turn to the right and move ahead along the city. Despite Virgil’s assurance Dante’s fear does not abate. Dante is aware of the unbelievable nature of his unique spiritual journey. He is afraid he will not complete it especially since he is unsure if a guide from Limbo is helping him make such a journey. Virgil reassures Dante such a journey is possible even from the “sphere that circles all” (Limbo). Virgil however agrees one cannot enter the city without outside intervention to get the city gates opened.

Suddenly the appearance of three grotesque Furies on the tower draws Dante’s attention. He recognises them as Tisiphone, Megaera and Alecto from his knowledge of classical mythology. Their task is to avenge crimes. They are hellish looking and are a distortion of the Holy Trinity114. They are also the opposites of the three Heavenly Holy ladies (Mary, Lucia and Beatrice). The three Furies are “handmaidens” to the wife of Pluto, the “queen of timeless woe”. Pluto is the classical god of the underworld and his wife is Persephone or Hecate. The Furies summon another devilish woman, Medusa, a Gorgon on her head, instead of hair, she had serpents and anyone who looked at her face is turned to stone. Virgil, well versed in classical mythology, fears Medusa and covers Dante’s eyes with his hands to prevent any possible harm.

The three Furies want to destroy Dante. They mention their regret over the light treatment meted to Theseus. Theseus was a great King of Athens and a Greek hero. He had come to Hades with his friend Pirithous (king of the Lapthal) to abduct Proserpina for his friend. Pluto instead took her to be his queen in Hades and kills Pirithous. Theseus of the Furies is regretting he was not punished. They want to ensure the Dante does not escape.

Dante is sure of the imminent arrival of a guardian angel (Advent of The Christ)115; Christian Churches observe expectant waiting time for mortals who are on a Spiritual Journey. The coming of an angel is the First Advent of Christ when a seeker descends into Hell and into a time when Jesus offers redemption to those who follow the Path Jesus walked to reach The Christ. During the Second Advent humankind undergoes battles against sin and keeps a careful watch in the heart. In the Third Advent, ‘The Christ’ makes an appearance while in the depths of meditation on Judgement Day when Karma is destroyed. Descent into Hell is similar to the first Advent. The next two Coming are to experience “Purgatorio” (transformation through self-correction); and finally “Paradiso” where spiritual revelation unfolds for human existence. The three Advents of realisation of The Christ were a commonly held belief of medieval Christians during Dante’s time.

The angel’s appearance at the First Advent in Hell is with the blast of noise that is so loud that Hell shakes. Dante compares this to violent unstoppable winds that whip through his own inner forest (mysterious place occupied by dangerous strange creatures). It scatters trees (activating uprooting of malefic tendencies), animals (collective unconscious habits, tendencies and effects of past actions is understood to achieve a richer way of life) and shepherds (past flawed teachings). It underlines the power and majesty of God and his servants, where His will is supreme. Hell and its guardians are powerless before the Might of Nature116.

Souls of sinners clear a path for the angel who can effortlessly walk on the water of the Styx. The two poets bow respectfully before the angel who touches his wand to open the Gates of Dis. He mentions the pile of mangled bodies of evil spirits guarded by Cerberus and how Hercules braved the Underworld to rescue Theseus, the founder-king of Athens, who volunteered to be a victim of the Minotaur. During this the angel chains Cerberus (the three-headed dog of Hell) and drags him out of Hell thus tearing the skin around his neck. Just as Cerberus was helpless against Hercules, so are the sinners before God, and any who are against God.

Having performed his mission the angel returns to Heaven. The two poets, under protection now move into the city. They meet with opposition. They are now in the Sixth Circle where the Heretics are punished. Heretics disbelieve the Christian doctrine. Dante uses the imagery of Artes and Pola to describe the terrain of the Sixth Circle.

Artes a province city was near the Rhonal delta. It was the site of a famous Roman cemetery of Aliscamps. It was covered by many tombs. Pola, a city in Istria (now Yugoslavia) on the Quarnaro Bay was also known for its ancient burying ground. This circle, like these cities is covered by many tombs. These tombs are fiery and in flames so the souls inside are burning and in great pain. The cries are coming from open tombs.

Virgil tells Dante the pilgrim on a spiritual journey that arch-heretics and their followers suffer in these tombs. Heretics have sinned more grievously and therefore lie with similar type of sinners and burn even more. Then the two poets turn right and move on. Usually they circle to the left but here and they turn left. Why they do this is unclear.


Inferno Canto 9: The Furies and Medusa. The Angel. The City of Dis. The Sixth Circle: Heresiarchs.

In the Sixth Circle of Heresy is Lower Hell where there is the City of Dis which is mostly reserved for intellectual sins rather than sins of passion. Crowds of demons swarm here. The suburbs house heretics and violent criminals. In the central rings are found various frauds. Here sinners are punished and Heretics are trapped in burning tombs. Lower Hell leads to the of the Earth where, the Devil or Lucifer lies impaled. Intellectual cruelties of all kinds are demons and sinners of the worst brand of cruelty, because Intellectual sins are more complex in detail, more violent in intent and violate trust between an individual and God. Such actions create negative karma by violating moral and ethical codes of conduct.

In the Sixth Circle, Heretical Epicureans (who say “the soul dies with the body”) are trapped in flaming tombs. Dante holds discourse with a pair of Epicurean Florentines in one of the tombs: Farinata degli Uberti (1212-1264) was a heretic military leader, an aristocrat and a Ghibelline. Cavalcanti de’ Cavalcanti was a Guelph, who was the father of Dante’s friend – an associate poet Guido Cavalcanti. Their political affiliation allowed them to discuss Epicurus (341-270 BC), the Greek philosopher and author of an ethical philosophy on simple pleasure, friendship, and retirement. They were unclear about: Is God willing to prevent evil, but cannot? Then he must be ineffective. If he can, but is not willing, then He is spiteful. If He is both able and willing why did the German Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250), and the schismatic heretic patriarch of Constantinople Pope Anastasias II (496-498) succeed in creating spiritual schisms and promoted oligarchy?
Farinata degli Uberti the powerful Florentine Ghibelline then makes a disturbing prophecy about Dante’s worldly future. He predicts Dante will be exiled within fifty moons (he was banished in 1302 within fifty months). He asks Farinata to explain himself. Farinata tells him that they can only see the future but not the present. Their knowledge of the present comes from other people who come to Hell. Thus after the Day of Judgement, when past, present and future all become one, these Shades will lose all knowledge Therefore, when “the portal of the future has been shut,” it will no longer be possible for them to know anything. A troubled Dante walks back to Virgil who notices his ward is disturbed. Dante is confused. He knows that Shades in Hell can tell the future. But Cavalcante’s (Guido’s father) question implies ignorance of the present.

He pauses for a moment before the steep descent to the foul-smelling Seventh Circle. Here violence, suicide, murder, blasphemy, sodomy and usury are punished. Virgil explains the geography and reason of Lower Hell, in which violent sins117 and malicious or deceitful misdeeds (symbolised by the leopard who with its spotted pelt will disguise himself from a potential creature of prey) are punished.

He refers to the need for living according to “Nicomachean Ethics’118 proposed by Aristotle. He asserts there are only two legitimate sources of wealth119: natural resources (“nature”) and through human activity (“art”). Usury, meaning taking loans at excessive interest rates is punishable because it is an offence against both types of legitimate earning of income and wealth. Usury is therefore condemned and equated with heresy, punishable by the Inquisition at the Council of Vienne in 1311. Main tasks of the council was about the Templars; their assistance given to the Holy Land; and the reform of the clerical order and of morals.

Medieval theologians considered the lending of money at interest to be sinful. Thomas Aquinas considered usury was like sodomy; because “it is not by nature that money should increase from natural goods and not from money itself.” Dante’s father was himself a usurer or moneychanger. “From these two, art and nature, it is fitting, if you recall how Genesis begins, for men to make their way, to gain their living; and since the usurer prefers another pathway, he scorns both nature in herself and art her follower; his hope is elsewhere.”

Sodomy understood as sexual orientation had strong theological and legal declarations in the Middle Ages condemning such for being “contrary to nature.” In Dante’s day male-male relations between a mature man and an adolescent were common in Florence despite these denunciations. Penalties included confiscation of property and even capital punishment.

Inferno Canto 10: Farinata and Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti. Discourse on the Knowledge of the Damned.

1. Now onward goes, along a narrow path//Between the torments and the city wall//My Master, and I follow at his back.
2. “O power supreme, that through these impious circles//Turnest me,” I began, “as pleases thee//  Speak to me, and my longings satisfy;
3. The people who are lying in these tombs//Might they be seen? Already are uplifted//The covers all, and no one keepeth guard.”
4. And he to me: “They all will be closed up//When from Jehoshaphat120 they shall return//Here with the bodies they have left above.
5. Their cemetery have upon this side//With Epicurus121 all his followers//Who with the body mortal make the soul;
6. But in the question thou dost put to me//Within here shalt thou soon be satisfied//And likewise in the wish thou keepest silent.”
7. And I: “Good Leader, I but keep concealed//From thee my heart, that I may speak the less//Nor only now hast thou thereto disposed me.”
8. “O Tuscan,122 thou who through the city of fire//Goest alive, thus speaking modestly//Be pleased to stay thy footsteps in this place.
9. Thy mode of speaking makes thee manifest//A native of that noble fatherland//To which perhaps I too molestful was.”
10. Upon a sudden issued forth this sound//From out one of the tombs; wherefore I pressed//Fearing, a little nearer to my Leader.
11. And unto me he said: “Turn thee; what dost thou?//Beholds there Farinata123 who has risen//From the waist upwards wholly shalt thou see him.”
12. I had already fixed mine eyes on his//And he uprose erect with breast and front//E’en as if Hell he had in great despite.
13. And with courageous hands and prompt my Leader//Thrust me between the sepulchres towards him//Exclaiming, “Let thy words explicit be.”
14. As soon as I was at the foot of his tomb//Somewhat he eyed me, and, as if disdainful//Then asked of me, “Who were thine ancestors?”
15. I, who desirous of obeying was//Concealed it not, but all revealed to him//Whereat he raised his brows a little upward.
16. Then said he: “Fiercely adverse have they been//To me, and to my fathers, and my party//So that two several times I scattered them.”
17. “If they were banished, they returned on all sides”//I answered him, “the first time and the second//But yours have not acquired that art aright.”
18. Then there uprose upon the sight, uncovered//Down to the chin, a shadow at his side//I think that he had risen on his knees.
19. Round me he gazed, as if solicitude//He had to see if someone else were with me//But after his suspicion was all spent,
20. Weeping, he said to me: “If through this blind//Prison thou goest by loftiness of genius//Where is my son? and why is he not with thee?”
21. And I to him: “I come not of myself//He who is waiting yonder leads me here//Whom in disdain perhaps your Guido had.”
22. His language and the mode of punishment//Already unto me had read his name//On that account my answer was so full.
23. Up starting suddenly, he cried out: “How Saidst thou,–he had?  Is he not still alive?//Does not the sweet light strike upon his eyes?”
24. When he became aware of some delay//Which I before my answer made, supine//He fell again, and forth appeared no more.
25. But the other, magnanimous, at whose desire//I had remained, did not his aspect change//Neither his neck he moved, nor bent his side.
26. “And if,” continuing his first discourse//”They have that art,” he said, “not learned aright//That more tormenteth me, than doth this bed.
27. But fifty times shall not rekindled be//The countenance of the Lady who reigns here//Ere thou shalt know how heavy is that art;
28. And as thou wouldst to the sweet world return//Say why that people is so pitiless//Against my race in each one of its laws?”
29. Whence I to him: “The slaughter and great carnage//Which have with crimson stained the Arbia, cause//Such orisons in our temple to be made.”
30. After his head he with a sigh had shaken//”There I was not alone,” he said, “nor surely//Without a cause had with the others moved.
31. But there I was alone, where every one//Consented to the laying waste of Florence//He who defended her with open face.”
32. “Ah! so hereafter may your seed repose”//I him entreated, “solve for me that knot//Which has entangled my conceptions here.
33. It seems that you can see, if I hear rightly//Beforehand whatsoe’er time brings with it//And in the present have another mode.”
34. “We see, like those who have imperfect sight//The things,” he said, “that distant are from us//So much still shines on us the Sovereign Ruler.
35. When they draw near, or are, is wholly vain//Our intellect, and if none brings it to us//Not anything know we of your human state.
36. Hence thou canst understand, that wholly dead//Will be our knowledge from the moment when// The portal of the future shall be closed.”
37. Then I, as if compunctious for my fault//Said: “Now, then, you will tell that fallen one//That still his son is with the living joined.
38. And if just now, in answering, I was dumb//Tell him I did it because I was thinking//Already of the error you have solved me.”
39. And now my Master was recalling me//Wherefore more eagerly I prayed the spirit//That he would tell me who was with him there.
40. He said: “With more than a thousand here I lie//Within here is the second Frederick124//And the Cardinal, and of the rest I speak not.”
41. Thereon he hid himself; and I towards//The ancient poet turned my steps, reflecting//Upon that saying, which seemed hostile to me.
42. He moved along; and afterward thus going//He said to me, “Why art thou so bewildered?”//And I in his inquiry satisfied him.
43. “Let memory preserve what thou hast heard//Against thyself,” that Sage commanded me//”And now attend here;” and he raised his finger.
44. “When thou shalt be before the radiance sweet//Of her whose beauteous eyes all things beholds// From her thou’lt know the journey of thy life.”
45. Unto the left hand then he turned his feet//We left the wall, and went towards the middle//Along a path that strikes into a valley,
46. Which even up there unpleasant made its stench.


Inferno Canto 10: Farinata and Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti. Discourse on the Knowledge of the Damned.

The two poets move along to the city and Dante asks Virgil if it is possible to see the souls that lie in tombs. The tombs are open and unguarded. Virgil tells Dante these souls are to lie in them for eternity. Even after joining with their bodies they return to Hell from Jehoshaphat and once again find themselves entombed. Virgil points out this is where Epicurus and his followers are entombed. This silences Dante’s question. Virgil assures his ward he will soon have all unexpressed wishes fulfilled. Virgil now asks him to speak sparingly.

A voice from one of the tombs addresses Dante, the Tuscan from Florence, the city that treated him so harshly during his lifetime. The Shade, also from Florence, praises Dante’s style of communication. The voice from the tomb scares Dante and he moves closer to Virgil who asks Dante to turn around and look at Farinata, the Shade now raised, waist up, from his tomb. Dante turns around and sees the entombed Farinata standing. Virgil encourages Dante to approach the soul and talk to him. Dante reaches Farinata who asks Dante who his ancestors were.

He listens to Dante’s comprehensive answer. Farinata responds by saying they were all his political enemies and driven away from Florence, twice. Dante replies his ancestors came back, both times. He adds the feats by Farinata’s people could never have achieved success. While this discussion is on between the two Florentines, another soul appears from within the tomb. This Shade looks around to see if another Shade is accompanying Dante. Seeing none he asks the pilgrim the whereabouts of his son. Dante points out that he is accompanied by Virgil, who was earlier scorned by his son’s guide. The Shade takes Dante’s answer to mean his son is dead and asks Dante if this is true. At witnessing Dante’s silence he sinks back into his tomb.

Farinata is disinterested in the interruption and continues his conversation where they had left off when Cavalcante (Guido’s father) interrupted them. He says his men’s continual exile, pains him more than his punishment in Hell. He prophesises Dante and his party’s exile; he asks why Dante’s party is so harsh with the Farinata clan. Dante replies the bloodshed at the Battle near Arabian Sea is why they are so exacting with Farinata clan. Farinata says he was not alone in the battle that led to so much bloodshed, but he alone stood up for Florence’s defence when others wanted to destroy the city.

Dante is confused. He knows the Shades in Hell can tell the future. But Cavalcante (Guido’s father) question implies ignorance of the present times. Dante asks Farinata to explain this. Farinata says they can only see the future but not the present. Their knowledge of the present comes from new people who come to Hell. On the Day of Judgement, when past, present and future become one, these Shades will lose all knowledge. Dante entrusts Farinata with a message for Cavalcante.

Virgil calls out to Dante who before leaving asks Farinata who else lies in the tomb with him. Farinata says that there are more than a thousand souls there. Here are ‘famous’ names entombed like the powerful “second Frederick”(1194-1250) and “the Cardinal”. Three successive Popes wrestled for power with Emperor Frederick II Hohenstaufen (1194-1250), and at one point excommunicated him on the flimsy excuse of not having started a Crusade on time. He retaliated by signing a treaty with the Sultan of the Holy Land allowing Christian pilgrims entry to the holy sites; then for good measure crowned himself King of Jerusalem. Guelphs (the Papal faction) and Ghibellines (the Emperor’s faction) fought on and off for 30 years, before the waning of Imperial power with the death of Frederick, a cultured man in whose court Arabs, Jews and Europeans co-existed in harmony.

Dante walks back to Virgil thinking about Farinata’s prophecy. As they begin to walk, Virgil asks Dante why he looks so troubled. Dante reveals that the prophecy worries him. Virgil asks him to remember it and says that Beatrice will reveal all of his future to him. Virgil turns left and leaving the walls behind, walks toward the . They are following a path that leads to an ill smelling valley.


Inferno Canto 10: Farinata and Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti. Discourse on the Knowledge of the Damned.

Circle VII or Seventh Circle of Violence is divided into three rings: the Outer Ring sinners were known for Violence against Neighbours and are left in Burning Sands. The Middle Ring Sinners were violent against selves and left in the lost Woods of Suicides. Inner Ring had sinners who were Violent against God and therefore also left in Burning Sands. Of these, Blasphemers (irreverent) were assigned to lie in hot sand while Usurers (gouging moneylender) were made to crouch on hot sand with heavy moneybags around their necks. The Sodomites (male prostitute) were those who must wander forever on those hot sands.

The entry to the seventh circle is guarded by a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man – Minotaur. It is divided into three rings: The Outer ring houses the violent against people and property, and are immersed in Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood and fire, to a level that is proportionate with their sins: Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) who united Greece, led the Corinthian League and annexed a brutally conquered Persian Empire, now lived here. Dionysius I of Syracuse (432-367 BC) the Greek tyrant who was eventually poisoned at the instigation of his son is also incarcerated here. Azzolino da Romano(1194-1259) the bloodthirsty Italian Brute and Guy de Montfort (1244-1288) who took part in the Third Crusade are also entombed here. Obizzo d’Este (1247-1293) of the Guelph Party, Ezzelino III da Romano (1194-1259) the feudal lord and Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo who were all blood-thirsty robber barons are also seen in the blazing River Phlegethon.

They are compared with references to Atilla the Hun (434-453) the barbarian ruler of Hunnic Empire who hastened the fall of the Roman Empire. There are Centaurs here, a race of creatures that were part human, and are commanded by the First Centaur. Chiron the wise centaur and Pholus who is a friend of Hercules are also living in a cave. They patrol the ring, shooting arrows into any sinner who emerges higher out of the river than each is allowed. The famous centaur Nessus who was once killed by Heracles guides the two poets along Phlegethon and across a fiord in the widest, shallowest stretch of the river.

Dante recognises the Gianfigliazzi family identified as Catello in the inner ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell where the wicked are eternally punished in a hot burning desert pelted with a continuous rain of fire. He was known for being a wicked practitioner of usury in France but was still made a knight on his return to Florence.

In the Middle Ring are incarcerated the suicides who were violent against Self. They are transformed into gnarled thorny bushes and trees and then fed upon by winged spirits who constantly their steal food. They are known the Harpies. Dante breaks a twig off one of the bushes and from the bleeding broken branch, he hears the tale of Pietro della Vigne (1190-1249).

He was the Italian chief minister, jurist and diplomat of the Holy Roman Church, who committed suicide after falling out of favour with Emperor Frederick II. The trees are a metaphor for the state of mind in which suicide is committed. The other residents of this ring are the profligates, who destroyed other’s lives by destroying their means for sustaining themselves with money and property. They are forever chased and mauled by ferocious dogs through the undergrowth

The Inner Ring has violent blasphemers who are against nature. They are sodomites and usurers. They all live in a desert of flaming sand with fiery flakes raining from the sky: a fate similar to Sodom and Gomorrah. The blasphemers lie on the sand, the usurers sit, and the sodomites wander about in groups.

Dante sees the warrior Capaneus who for blasphemy against Zeus was struck down with a thunderbolt during the Siege of Thebes (335BC) when Alexander the Great fought his rebellious vassals. Dante converses with two Florentine sodomites from different groups. One of them is Dante’s mentor, Brunetto Latini (1220-1294) a statesman philosopher who was a sodomite. Dante is surprised and touched by this encounter and shows Brunetto great respect for what he has taught him: “you taught me how man makes himself eternal//And while I live, my gratitude for that / must always be apparent in my words”.

Dante follows Virgil. The two poets move along in the circle of the Heretics. The lids of the tomb are open and unguarded. Dante asks his guide whether the occupants can be seen and Virgil replies these souls are doomed for eternity. He mentions they will bring back their bodies from Jehoshaphat and come back here. The Old Testament prophet Joel stated that Jehoshaphat will be at the site of the last judgement. Here every soul reunites with its body and then returns to Heaven or Hell for eternity. Jehoshaphat is located between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives.

The Epicureans are in Hell and punished as heretics with Epicures. Epicurus was the Greek philosopher. In 306 BC he started a school of thought in Athens, which was named after him. According to this school highest good is found in temporal happiness (emanates from money as long as one perceives money as an end goal of everything) and this is obtained by being virtuous. During Dante’s time Epicureans were considered heretics because they stressed temporal happiness and ignored or denied the soul’s immortality and afterlife. Epicurus was a pagan (he was born before the birth of Christ) belongs to an existence in Limbo. But since he denies the immortality of the soul he has been consigned to the Sixth Circle. This is because even the pagans or ancients were aware the human soul is immortal. Epicurian philosophy denies this belief and is considered a heretic.

Virgil is acquainted with how Dante’s mind works. He is aware of Dante’s unstated wish: to know if Farinata is among the heretics. Dante wants to know how Shades in Hell can see the future. One Shade hears Dante talking in Tuscan (classical Italian as spoken in Tuscany) and rises from a tomb to address him. The Shade is of a fellow Tuscan, named Farinata.

Farinata whose full name was Mennonite di Jacopo Degli Uberti was from an old and respected Florentine family. He was politically active and supported the Ghibelline party. He led the party as its leader in 1239 and died in 1264, one year before Dante’s birth. Farinata is a proud man from a respectable bloodline. His smugness shows in the way he stands in the tomb “he stood out tall, with his chest and brow proclaiming his disdain for all this Hell.” His spirit is not intimidated by the pain he suffers in Hell. He is concerned with matters of lineage as is revealed in his first question to Dante the pilgrim.

He asks Dante about his ancestors. Dante comes from a noble family as well. Although his family belonged to the party of Guelphs, they were political enemies of the Ghibelline. Ghibellines expelled the Guelphs twice from Florence in 1248 and 1260. But they came back both times in 1251 and 1267. But when the Ghibellines drove the Uberti family from Florence, they were unable to return back. This is what is meant by Dante’s remark, “…an art your men, however never mastered…” addressed to Farinata.

The conversation between the two Florentines is interrupted by the appearance of another Shade from the same tomb. It is Cavalcante de’ Cavalcante, also from a respectable Florentine family and the father of Guido Cavalcanti. Both are well known Epicureans. Guido, born in 1255, was a major poet of his time and a good friend of Dante’s whose poetry is much influenced by Guido’s poetic style. Both the Cavalcanti were Guelphs and Guido was married to Farinata’s daughter Beatrice. This marriage led to a short period of peace between the two parties: Guelphs and Ghibellines. Guido died in the August of 1300.

Cavalcante recognizes Dante and naturally asks Dante about his son. He wishes to know why his son Guido is not accompanying the Pilgrim. Dante’s reply is misinterpreted. He believes that Guido is dead. He then asks Dante if this true. His ignorance surprises Dante who lapses into silence. Dante is under the impression that the Shade knew all about the present and future. Cavalcante’s lack of knowledge naturally surprises him. Believing his son Cavalcanti is dead Cavalcante descends back into his tomb in grief.

Farinata resumes the conversation, mischievously ignoring the recent interruption. It is in keeping with Farinata’s proud nature and his sense of self-importance. It is this pride that is the foundation of Farinata’s heresy: intellectual pride. During his lifetime he was so full of self-importance and so sure of himself that he dismissed the truth of religion. He says that the failure of his family to return to Florence hurts him more than the tortures of Hell. His pride is more important to him than pain, which he easily dismisses. He then makes a prophecy about Dante’s future: in fifty month’s time Dante will find himself exiled from Florence. Then he asks Dante why the Guelphs are so harsh with his clan (the Uberti family) in their laws. He is referring to the fact that when the Ghibellines were forgiven and allowed to return to Florence (in 1280). Dante’s family members were not pardoned and had to remain in exile. Dante states the reason is the bloodshed that occurred on the banks of Arabia (near Siena). The reference is to a vicious battle between the Florentine Guelphs and Ghibellines (1260). At this battle the Guelphs were defeated by Ghibellines (led by Farinata).

In his defense Farinata states that he was only one of many Ghibellines at that battle and he had good reason to fight. He claims when the Council in Empoli (after the Ghibelline victory) and other Ghibellines wanted to destroy Florence he was the only one who stood up in Florence’s defence.

Dante then requests him to clear his confusion about the Shade’s accessibility to the future but his inability to know the present125. Farinata answers that their knowledge is imperfect but experiences of Past have created ongoing lessons in their Present and they can visualise their self-determined Future. Access to the Future will be shut off and Past memories will be lost because in the illusion of Time where there is no past, present or future.

Human Mind has always wondered about the Mystery of Existence in the Vast Universe. There are always Eternal Questions about the Reality of Time in Space. The most authentic means of knowledge is perception and logical inference but are considered of secondary importance but is still valid. Space-Time is a continuum of movements of a present from a past into a future. Time is therefore a co-operative movement of a past and an unborn present projecting into the future. Dante now realizes Cavalcanti’s confusion about his son’s present existence and becomes silent. Dante asks Farinata to explain to Cavalcanti the reason behind his confused silence and also to inform him that his son Guido lives.

Before going back to Virgil who is summoning him, Dante asks Farinata about the other occupants of his tomb. Farinata admits that there are more than a thousand souls in there. But he mentions only two: Second Frederick II and the Cardinal. The proud Farinata deems only the Cardinal and the Emperor as worthy of mention and summarily dismisses other less illustrious souls.
According to the Shade’s individual karmas, the judge decides the final outcome of rewards and punishment depending on its deed or karma. The Shades are intimately associated within the causal body, just as a tree remains within its seed. Dante understands.

The “Second Frederick” refers to the Emperor Frederick II (1194 -11250) of the Hohenstaufen dynasty was considered an eccentric genius. He was an Epicurean and therefore lies in the Sixth Circle of Hell. The “Cardinal” Ottaviano Degli Ubaldini is a Ghibelline and also a papal legate in Lombardy and Romagna until his death in 1273. It is believed that he once said, “If I have a soul, I have lost it for the Ghibellines”. These words imply he doubted immortality of the soul. It is this doubt that made Dante tag him as a heretic.

Even during Dante’s time, all living in his Medieval Times were exposed to two primary beliefs about the philosophy of materialism which contrast to each other: Idealism, and materialism. These two categories pertain to the Nature of Reality. They were made to answer two fundamental questions: “what does Reality consist of and how does it originate?” To the Idealists, Spirit of Mind or its ideas are of highest importance, and Matter is secondary. To the Epicurean Materialists matter is primary, and Mind or Spirit or ideas are secondary because they are the product of matter acting on matter. Dante is devout Roman Catholic and therefore not enchanted by materialism.

Farinata retreats into his tomb and Dante is preoccupied with Farinata’s prophecy. He rejoins Virgil who senses his disquiet. Dante admits he is troubled by his thoughts. Virgil advises him to remember Farinata’s words but also adds Beatrice will reveal his (Dante’s) entire future to him. With these words he turns left and the two poets continue their journey heading towards an ill-smelling valley.

Inferno Canto 11: The Broken Rocks. Pope Anastasius; General Description of Inferno and its Divisions.

1. Upon the margin of a lofty bank//Which great rocks broken in a circle126 made//We came upon a still more cruel throng;
2. And there, by reason of the horrible//Excess of stench the deep abyss throws out//We drew ourselves aside behind the cover
3. Of a great tomb, whereon I saw a writing//Which said: “Pope Anastasius127I holds//Whom out of the right way Photinus128 drew.”
4. “Slow it behoveth our descent to be//So that the sense be first a little used//To the sad blast, and then we shall not heed it.”
5. The Master thus; and unto him I said//”Some compensation find, that the time pass not//Idly;” and he: “Thou seest I think of that.
6. My son, upon the inside of these rocks”//Began he then to say, “are three small circles//From grade to grade, like those which thou art leaving.
7. They all are full of spirits maledict//But that hereafter sight alone suffice thee//Hear how and wherefore they are in constraint.
8. Of every malice that wins hate in Heaven//Injury is the end; and all such end//Either by force or fraud afflicteth others.
9. But because fraud is man’s peculiar vice//More it displeases God; and so stand lowest//The fraudulent and greater dole assails them.
10. All the first circle of the Violent129 is//But since force may be used against three persons//In three rounds ’tis divided and constructed.
11. To God, to ourselves, and to our neighbour can we//Use force; I say on them and on their things// As thou shalt hear with reason manifest.
12. A death by violence, and painful wounds//Are to our neighbour given; and in his substance// Ruin, and arson, and injurious levies;
13. Whence homicides, and he who smites unjustly//Marauders, and freebooters, the first round//  Tormenteth all in companies diverse.
14. Man may lay violent hands upon himself//And his own goods; and therefore in the second// Round must perforce without avail repent
15. Whoever of your world deprives himself//Who games, and dissipates his property//And weepeth there, where he should jocund be.
16. Violence can be done the Deity//In heart denying and blaspheming Him//And by disdaining Nature and her bounty.
17. And for this reason doth the smallest round//Seal with its signet Sodom and Cahors//And who, disdaining God, speaks from the heart.
18. Fraud, wherewithal is every conscience stung//A man may practise upon him who trusts//And him who doth no confidence imburse.
19. This latter mode, it would appear, dissevers//Only the bond of love which Nature makes// Wherefore within the second circle nestle
20. Hypocrisy, flattery, and who deals in magic//Falsification, theft, and simony//Panders, and barrators, and the like filth.
21. By the other mode, forgotten is that love//Which Nature makes, and what is after added// From which there is a special faith engendered.
22. Hence in the smallest circle, where the point is//Of the Universe, upon which Dis is seated// Whoe’er betrays for ever is consumed.”
23. And I: “My Master, clear enough proceeds//Thy reasoning, and full well distinguishes//This cavern and the people who possess it.
24. But tell me, those within the fat lagoon//Whom the wind drives, and whom the rain doth beat// And who encounter with such bitter tongues,
25. Wherefore are they inside of the red city//Not punished, if God has them in his wrath//And if he has not, wherefore in such fashion?”
26. And unto me he said: “Why wanders so//Thine intellect from that which it is wont?//Or, sooth, thy mind where is it elsewhere looking?
27. Hast thou no recollection of those words//With which thine Ethics thoroughly discusses//The dispositions three, that Heaven abides not,–
28. Incontinence, and Malice, and insane Bestiality?//And how Incontinence//Less God offendeth, and less blame attracts?
29. If thou regardest this conclusion well//And to thy mind recallest who they are//That up outside are undergoing penance,
30. Clearly wilt thou perceive why from these felons//They separated are, and why less wroth//  Justice divine doth smite them with its hammer.”
31. “O Sun, that healest all distempered vision//Thou dost content me so, when thou resolvest//That doubting pleases me no less than knowing!
32. Once more a little backward turn thee,” said I//”There where thou sayest that usury offends// Goodness divine, and disengage the knot.”
33. “Philosophy,” he said, “to him who heeds it//Noteth, not only in one place alone//After what manner Nature takes her course
34. From Intellect Divine, and from its art//And if thy Physics carefully thou notest//After not many pages shalt thou find,
35. That this your art as far as possible//Follows, as the disciple doth the master//So that your art is, as it were, God’s grandchild.
36. From these two, if thou bringest to thy mind//Genesis at the beginning, it behoves//Mankind to gain their life and to advance;
37. And since the usurer takes another way//Nature herself and in her follower//Disdains he, for elsewhere he puts his hope.
38. But follow, now, as I would fain go on//For quivering are the Fishes on the horizon//And the Wain wholly over Caurus lies,
39. And far beyond there we descend the crag.”


Inferno Canto 11: The Broken Rocks. Pope Anastasius; General Description of Inferno and its Divisions.

The two poets are exploring Circle Six further and are moving onwards. They reach a steep bank and from below comes an overpowering stench. They step back in revulsion under its impact. Dante arrives at the tomb of Pope Anastasius. The inscription on the tomb reads that Photinus led the Pope astray.

Dante and Virgil are forced to stop their journey only to get adapted to the stench before they can move on. Meanwhile, Dante asks Virgil a way to ignore the stench creatively. Virgil had already intended to use this instance to teach Dante about the circles they will come across. He therefore tells Dante that beyond the bank of boulders are three concentric circles, each tightly packed with souls. He tells him sins of malice can be either sins of violence or fraud and Heaven hates both. Of the two sins God hates fraud more than violence. Therefore fraud is punished deeper down in Hell because fraud is more grievously onerous than violence.

The next circle (seventh circle) is reserved for sins of violence. Under the caption of Sins by violence Dante describes three types: against a neighbour or his goods, against oneself or one’s goods or against God. Methods of vicious violence against neighbours can be by arson, wilful destruction or by robbing them. Therefore murderers and plunderer are punished in the first round but in dissimilar groups found in different pouches.

Violence against Oneself, Virgil says can be self-inflicted physically, by carelessness through wasting assets and property that are a gifts to life (Luke 15:30130), but these humans never learn from their mistakes. Those who commit suicide or gamble life and their wealth suffer on Earth through self-created poverty. Their Shades are punished in the second pouch of the Circle of Violence.

Humankind’s violence against God is committed by disbelieving or by cursing God. It is visible as disrespect in treating Nature and Her gifts with contempt and scorn. They are imprisoned in the third pouch of the seventh circle where they are punished for violence against God and Nature. They are citizens of detestable cities of Sodom and Cahors who hate God. Those who curse his name live here also.

Fraud against one who trusts or does not trust you is also a sin, Virgil says. Fraud destroys the inherent human quality of faith that naturally exists between people. Exploitation of the natural bond of Love which Nature infuses amongst humankind is therefore a sin. Betraying the naturally imbued faith of humans is betraying trust God instils in mankind. Fraud is therefore also punished in the Eighth Circles where sins of hypocrisy, flattery, sorcery, falsification, simony, pandering, seducing and grafting are punished. As a consequence fraud is a bigger sin and is punished in the deeper circle in Hell which is the one around and nearest to Dis or Lucifer.

Dante wishes to know why the Lustful, Gluttons, Hoarders and Spendthrifts along with the wrathful and slothful are not punished in the city of Dis. Virgil reminds him of “Aristolean Ethics” which defines all action, whether good or bad, must match the subject matter. The sinners Dante has asked about have committed sins of Incontinence (weakness in controlling physical desires) and intemperance (against his conscience).

The three types of sins mentioned in “Ethics” are those of incontinence, malice and bestiality. Every sin originates in reason,but the judgment of reason is overcome. Of all these, the sins of incontinence are the least grievous and punished outside the walls of city of Dis. The city walls demarcate the boundary between the sins of incontinence and sins of malice. The sins of malice are more harmful and deliberate and therefore are punished more fiercely than sins of incontinence.

Dante understands these distinctions of Ethics or Moral Philosophy which recommends concepts of right and wrong conduct based on moral principles, and ethics of a communal culture. The rules of conduct of sinners must therefore be appraised according to moral values. Virgil says if humankind is made in the image of God, each plant, creature and being is a god, within the body of God. If the ethics of service is at war with a craving for gain, man sins through fraud. Dante understands man sins for immediate happiness and ignores virtue.

He now asks how the sin of usury offends God’s goodness. Virgil reminds him of what “Aristolean Physics131” says about Nature and man’s work to uphold its natural order. Man earns his living from his work to serve the natural order and benefit from Nature’s bounty. A usurer unlawfully and undeservedly uses fraud to sponge on Nature’s bounty and then make money at excessive rates from what was never his. This is an abuse of Natural Resources132 gifted by Nature. It fragments God’s purpose of providing Growth and Prosperity for all people in all nations.

Virgil now asks Dante to move along. He notes according to the stars (Fish is on the horizon and the wain over Caucus) dawn is near and they must hurry. They move along the bank towards a passage that leads them down to deeper circles. According to the Ancients133, stars travelled around earth on the transparent hollow heavenly sphere. It was thought in those days, the constellations represent the vestiges of a primal gospel that God gave to early man. According to this theory, God gave Adam the full plan of salvation. His early descendants preserved that Knowledge by naming the constellations and stars (Universe transcribed in Brain134). With the coming of the written Word of God, the gospel message in the stars was no longer needed and faded from use. With the passage of time, ungodly men perverted the original gospel in the stars. By willfully misquoting the ancient pagan knowledge as mythology churchians eventually turned Truth into the religion of churchianity. Misunderstandings have created schisms in society.


Inferno Canto 11: The Broken Rocks. Pope Anastasius; General Description of Inferno and its Divisions.

In Dante’s structure of the universe, earth is at the and Hell is an enormous funnel-shaped cone stretching from the earth’s surface to its base centre, which is also the centre of the universe and the farthest point from God. On the sides of the cavity are pouches in decreasing sizes as they approach the central depth. At each of these pouches are classes of the impenitent who are punished. At each lower circle and pouch, severity of punishment is more because of a worse offense. Jerusalem, the place of Jesus’ Crucifixion, is in the centre of the land hemisphere, in line with the innermost axis of Hell. The area is all water except for the mountain of Purgatory. Dante’s journey begins at the edge of the pit and his journey is downwards and further downwards along river. He then travels upwards to the shores of Purgatory.

Circle Seven harbours the Violent who suffer three types of punishments. Pouch one holds the Violent against acquaintances and strangers. These killers are immersed in blood. The more people they have killed, the deeper the blood. Pouch two holds those who are Violent against self (suicides) and they are souls trapped in inanimate objects like trees, and their old discarded bodies are left impaled nearby. Pouch three holds all who were Violent against nature (blasphemers, sodomites, usurers) and they are left naked on burning sand with fire and are rained down from unnatural clouds.

Circle Eight is divided into ten pouches, ditches or bolgia holding the Fraudulent against those with whom they share no special trust. They are subjected to ten types of punishment. Pouch 1 holds Pimps and seductresses who are continuously whipped by devils. Pouch 2 has Flatterers covered with excrement. Pouch 3 holds Simonists who are church officials who engaged in bribery or buy church offices. They are flipped upside down in holes and their feet are set on fire. Pouch 4 holds Barraters who as government officials, lawyers and judges took bribes. They are covered in boiling pitch, and are persistently poked by demons with pitchforks. Pouch 5 holds soothsayers and false prophets, astrologers and predictors of the future who have their heads twisted around backward so they can only see what is behind them, not what is in front of them. Pouch 6 has Hypocrites who are forced to wear lead mantles. Pouch 7 has thieves and robbers imprisoned in a snake pit where half of them are transformed into snakes. They regain a human form by stealing it from the other half with snakebites. Pouch 8 has evil counselors whose true nature is concealed in flames. Pouch 9 houses sowers of discord, troublemakers, who were wounding people and mutilating others. Pouch 10 houses falsifiers who practiced as alchemists, quacks, impersonators, counterfeiters and liars. They are afflicted with same ailments resulting from their treatments of leprosy, madness, dropsy, and fevers.

In Circles 1 to 5 are representatives of “Incontinence” where mortals copy negative human tendencies and cannot control their passions; intemperance cannot overcome habits of likes-and-dislikes. The severity of the punishment, and the punishment itself, has a direct correlation to the sin committed. Dante’s Hell has two divisions: Upper Hell is devoted to perpetrators of Sins of Incontinence. Lower Hell is devoted to those who perpetrated Sins of Malice. The divisions of Hell are split into pouches matching the gravity of sin. At each divisions of Circles 7, 8, and 9 Dante uses similar historical or mythological figures to explain the enormity of sin. The circle that houses the violent is guarded by the Minotaur, and it is divided into three rings: Ring I is an Outer ring housing those who are violent against people and property. They are immersed in Pyrihlegethon, a flaming river of fire (one of five rivers surrounding Hades). The boiling blood in the lower world is running in an unbroken continuity causing burns but does not consume the sinner. Dante assigns this wrongdoing equal to their sins. The Centaurs, who are fused race of part horse and part human creatures are commanded by Chiron. They patrol the ring. The centaur Nessus who historically tried to seduce the wife of Hercules and killed with a poisoned arrow, guides the poets Dante and Virgil along Pyrihlegethon and across a fiord in the river.

Ring II – The Middle ring holds those who die of suicides and are transformed into gnarled thorny bushes and trees. They are pulled apart and left ragged by the beautiful winged spirits of Harpies who become winged monsters. They constantly steal food from Phineus the serpent who is seen with a continuously open mouth. Different from the other dead, are those who die of suicides and will not be bodily resurrected after the final judgment. Instead they will keep their bushy form, with their own corpses hanging from the limbs.

Dante breaks a twig off one of the bushes and hears the tale of Pier delle Vigne (1190-1249), the Italian jurist, diplomat, chancellor and secretary at the court of the emperor. He died through suicide after falling out of favour with Emperor Frederick II. Other residents of this ring are the recklessly extravagant and wasteful, who destroy their lives by destroying the means by which life is sustained (money and property). They are perpetually chased by ferocious dogs through the thorny undergrowth. The trees are a metaphor to describe privileges gained by reaching up to the night sky. But if stuck because of lack of rain, flower and prosperity in life is the only way to relieve suffering from the pain of suicide and a life in Hell. In Hell, the only form of relief of this suffering is through pain endured when breaking the limbs and to bleed.

Ring III – Inner ring holds those who were violent against blasphemers, the sodomites who were sadistic against nature, and the aggressive against unlawful lenders and buyers of art (usurers). All here reside in a desert of flaming sand with fiery flakes raining from the sky. The blasphemers lie on the sand, the usurers sit around, and the sodomites wander about in groups. Dante converses with two Florentine sodomites from different groups: Brunetto Latini (1220-1294) a poet, philosopher and statesman; and Iacopo Rusticucci, a 13th century Florentine factional politician, a Guelph who comes from humble beginnings and blames his wife for his fate in hell.

It was not for Dante to decide how sodomites should be punished when intended for hellfire, because repentant sodomites were also found on the top of Mount Purgatory. Many among those punished here are several Florentines: Catello di Rosso Gianfigliazzi (1292) gave loans seeking excessive interest; this politician was put into hell for setting up a usurer system in France and then shockingly made a knight on his return to Florence. Other Florentines politicians punished for usury include Ciappo Ubriachi involved in the Guelph-Ghibelline Conflict, Giovanni di Buiamonte a banker; and Paduans Reginaldo degli Scrovegni, a noble from the Guelph faction; and Vitaliano di Iacopo Vitaliani for being a fraudulent wicked usurer.

The two poets draw back from the banks of the river in the valley because of the overpowering stench emanating from below. Dante detects Pope Anastasius’ tomb with the inscription informing him that the Pope was “lured away from the straight path” by Photinus. The Byzantine Pope mentioned here is Anastasius II who held the papal position from 496 to 498. Photinus was deacon of Thessalonica who followed the heresy of Acacias. This heresy said that Christ was not conceived immaculately but was the son of a mortal man, not the Son of God. Pope Anastasius II allowed Photinus to take communion thereby implicitly supporting this heresy. As a consequence Pope Anastasius was labeled a heretic. This belief was commonly held for many centuries, until proved wrong. Dante was probably confusing the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (491 -518) for Pope Anastasius II. Photinus had convinced Emperor Anastasius the heresy about Christ’s birth was true. But Dante was unaware of this mix-up and believed the Pope to be a heretic.

The two poets have to stop awhile to get accustomed to the overpowering stench before they can continue their journey. Dante suggests to Virgil that they find a way to use this time gainfully. Please note that Dante has become an eager student avid to learn more. Virgil had the same idea in mind and gives Dante a lecture about the structure of Hell into which they will travel soon. The valley consists of three circles. In it are punished the sins of violence and fraud. This distinction has been taken from Cicero’s “De Officiis”. Fraud is a sin committed only by a thinking creature like man. It is a bigger sin and punished in a deeper Hell than violence.

Sins of Violence punished in the seventh circle are given increasing negativity three types–against one’s neighbour or his goods, against one’s self or one’s property and finally against God. Sinners of the last type include citizens of Sodom and Cahors and all men who hate God and curse His name. Sodom is the Biblical city that was full of vicious sexual offenses. For this it was destroyed by God and all its citizens perished. Cahors is a city in the south of France. During Dante’s time it was known as being a hotbed of usury. Sodom and Cahors stand for the sins of sodomy and usury respectively. Its sinners are punished in the last round (also the smallest) of the seventh circle.

Fraud used against trusting people is more grievous because it not only abuses a special trust someone puts in you but also breaks bond of common decency among men. Therefore it is punished in the deepest Hell (around the throne of Dis). Abuses of good faith in Nature creates sinners because they are hypocrites, flatterers, dabblers in sorcery, falsifiers, thieves, and simonists, panders, seducers, grafters. They are all types of cheaters who defraud their people.

Dante is confused because the deeper circles have sinners hated by God. But since the sinners in outer circles are suffering as well but are outside the walls of Dis are they not hated by God? He puts this question to Virgil. Virgil reminds him of what he has studied in the “Ethics”.

He is referring to Aristotle’s “Ethica Nicomachea” a work with which Dante was thoroughly acquainted. The distinction between Sins of Incontinence and Violence is taken from Aristotle’s works. But Aristotle divided sins into three classes: Incontinence, Malice and Bestiality. In “Inferno” Dante divides sins into two classes Incontinence and Malice. Malice is further split into sins of violence and fraud. Sinners in the ante-Inferno, Limbo and the sixth circle do not fall into either of these classes (Incontinence and Violence). Sinners in ante-Inferno are punished because of their failure to act or to commit themselves to a cause) whereas the ones in Limbo and the sixth circle are punished because they held erroneous belief systems. Thus the first two groups are not in Hell proper and the Heretics are in the region separating sins of Incontinence from those of Malice and belong to neither types of sin.

Virgil reminds him that sins of Incontinence (first five circles) are less severely punished by God than those of Malice. Therefore the sinners of the first type (incontinent sinners) are place outside the walls of Dis. They are indeed punished by God but not as much as souls whose sins are of Malice. Incontinence means unrestrained passions or appetites whereas Malice involves deliberate harm to others for gain.

Now, Dante seeks to know how usury (making money by charging disproportionate interest on loans) is a sin. Virgil explains this using Aristotle’s “Physics” that says Art (or human industry) is a child of Nature. Man works to earn the bounty offered by Nature. Hence human work which is a child of Nature is God’s grandchild. Since God is the creator of Nature and thus is Her parent. So any action (like that of usury) that does violence to the human industry does violence to God.

He adds what the book of Genesis says that man has to earn his living by his labour. Any attempt to earn otherwise (and not by honest work) abuses Nature and other men’s effort and is thus commits a sin of violence against God and His creation.

Virgil talks about the position of the stars in the sky and says it is time for them to move on. Virgil knows the time by the location of stars. But paradoxically, the stars cannot be seen from Hell. But Dante the Poet does not explain this fact. The Constellation of Pisces (fish) is on the horizon while the Great Bear (Wain) and Caurus the west-north-west wind is piercing the ground. Pisces is followed by Aries in the sky. And as Canto I reveals the sun is currently rising in Aries, and sunrise is two hours away. (Each sign of the Zodiac remains for two hours on the horizon). So, rushed for time, the two poets move towards the bank that lies over the valley.

Inferno Canto 12: The Minotaur. The Seventh Circle: The Violent. The River Phlegethon. The Violent against their Neighbours. The Centaurs. Tyrants.

1. The place where to descend the bank we came//Was alpine, and from what was there, moreover// Of such a kind that every eye would shun it.
2. Such as that ruin is which in the flank//Smote, on this side of Trent, the Adige135//Either by earthquake or by failing stay,
3. For from the mountain’s top, from which it moved//Unto the plain the cliff is shattered so//Some path ‘twould give to him who was above;
4. Even such was the descent of that ravine//And on the border of the broken chasm//The infamy of Crete136 was stretched along,
5. Who was conceived in the fictitious cow//And when he us beheld, he bit himself//Even as one whom anger racks within.
6. My Sage towards him shouted: “Peradventure//Thou think’st that here may be the Duke of Athens//Who in the world above brought death to thee?
7. Get thee gone, beast, for this one cometh not//Instructed by thy sister, but he comes//In order to beholds your punishments.”
8. As is that bull who breaks loose at the moment//In which he has received the mortal blow//Who cannot walk, but staggers here and there,
9. The Minotaur137 beheld I do the like//And he, the wary, cried: “Run to the passage//While he wroth, ’tis well thou shouldst descend.”
10. Thus down we took our way o’er that discharge//Of stones, which oftentimes did move themselves//Beneath my feet, from the unwonted burden.
11. Thoughtful I went; and he said: “Thou art thinking//Perhaps upon this ruin, which is guarded//By that brute anger which just now I quenched.
12. Now will I have thee know, the other time//I here descended to the nether Hell//This precipice had not yet fallen down.
13. But truly, if I well discern, a little//Before His coming who the mighty spoil//Bore off from Dis, in the supernal circle,
14. Upon all sides the deep and loathsome valley//Trembled so, that I thought the Universe//Was thrilled with love, by which there are who think
15. The world ofttimes converted into chaos//And at that moment this primeval crag//Both here and elsewhere made such overthrow.
16. But fix thine eyes below; for draweth near//The river of blood, within which boiling is//Whoe’er by violence doth injure others.”
17. Blind cupidity, O wrath insane//That spurs us onward so in our short life//And in the eternal then so badly steeps us!
18. I saw an ample moat bent like a bow//As one which all the plain encompasses//Conformable to what my Guide had said.
19. And between this and the embankment’s foot//Centaurs138 in file were running, armed with arrows// As in the world they used the chase to follow.
20. Beholdsing us descend, each one stood still//And from the squadron three detached themselves//  With bows and arrows in advance selected;
21. And from afar one cried: “Unto what torment//Come ye, who down the hillside are descending?//Tell us from there; if not, I draw the bow.”
22. My Master said: “Our answer will we make//To Chiron139, near you there; in evil hour//That will of thine was evermore so hasty.”
23. Then touched he me, and said: “This one is Nessus//Who perished for the lovely Dejanira140//And for himself, himself did vengeance take.
24. And he in the midst, who at his breast is gazing//Is the great Chiron, who brought up Achilles//That other Pholus is, who was so wrathful.
25. Thousands and thousands go about the moat//Shooting with shafts whatever soul emerges//Out of the blood, more than his crime allots.”
26. Near we approached unto those monsters fleet//Chiron an arrow took, and with the notch// Backward upon his jaws he put his beard.
27. After he had uncovered his great mouth//He said to his companions: “Are you ware// That he behind moveth whate’er he touches?
28. Thus are not wont to do the feet of dead men”//And my good Guide, who now was at his breast// Where the two natures are together joined,
29. Replied: “Indeed he lives, and thus alone//Me it behoves to show him the dark valley//Necessity, and not delight, impels us.
30. Some one withdrew from singing Halleluja//Who unto me committed this new office//No thief is he, nor I a thievish spirit.
31. But by that virtue through which I am moving//My steps along this savage thoroughfare//Give us some one of thine, to be with us,
32. And who may show us where to pass the ford//And who may carry this one on his back//For ’tis no spirit that can walk the air.”
33. Upon his right breast Chiron wheeled about//And said to Nessus:”Turn and do thou guide them//  And warn aside, if other band may meet you.”
34. We with our faithful escort onward moved//Along the brink of the vermilion boiling//Wherein the boiled were uttering loud laments.
35. People I saw within up to the eyebrows//And the great Centaur said: “Tyrants are these//Who dealt in bloodshed and in pillaging.
36. Here they lament their pitiless mischiefs; here//Is Alexander141, and fierce Dionysius142//Who upon Sicily brought dolorous years.
37. That forehead there which has the hair so black//Is Azzolin;143 and the other who is blond//Obizzo is of Esti, who, in truth,
38. Up in the world was by his stepson slain”//Then turned I to the Poet; and he said//”Now he be first to thee, and second I.”
39. A little farther on the Centaur stopped//Above a folk, who far down as the throat//Seemed from that boiling stream to issue forth.
40. A Shade he showed us on one side alone//Saying: “He cleft asunder in God’s bosom//The heart that still upon the Thames is honoured.”
41. Then people saw I, who from out the river//Lifted their heads and also all the chest//And many among these I recognised.
42. Thus ever more and more grew shallower//That blood, so that the feet alone it covered//And there across the moat our passage was.
43. “Even as thou here upon this side beholdsest//The boiling stream, that aye diminishes”//The Centaur said, “I wish thee to believe
44. That on this other more and more declines//Its bed, until it reunites itself//Where it behoveth tyranny to groan.
45. Justice divine, upon this side, is goading//That Attila144, who was a scourge on earth//And Pyrrhus145, and Sextus;146 and forever milks
46. The tears which with the boiling it unseals//In Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo147//Who made upon the highways so much war.”
47. Then back he turned, and passed again the ford.


Inferno Canto 12: The Minotaur. The Seventh Circle: The Violent. The River Phlegethon. The Violent against their Neighbours. The Centaurs. Tyrants.

The descent down the bank is rocky. Dante compares the scene with the landslide that occurred at Trent (in Italy). The slope of the bank is steep and strewn with shattered rocks making the descent difficult. Guarding the bank at its bottom is Minotaur (“infamy of Crete”), who is a half man and a half bull. He is the guardian of the Seventh Circle where the violent are punished.

When Minotaur detects the two poets he goes into a paroxysm of rage and bites himself. Virgil enrages him further by saying that they are not from the Duke of Athens. The Duke with the help of Minotaur’s half-sister had sent the half beast half-man to his death. He adds the Pilgrim is just an observer come to learn about Hell. This reminder, of the man who had killed him, sends Minotaur into such a violent fit of rage the two poets can make a hasty escape.

As they move, the rocks are disturbed by the weight of Dante’s body. Virgil explains that this landslide also occurred during Jesus’ descent into Hell. They were not there when Virgil first came there (sent by Erichtho). This event occurred after that, when The Christ came to Limbo to collect some chosen souls to take them to Heaven. He explains Jesus’ descent in pagan philosophy (“the universe felt love”) resulted in chaos. This descent resulted in crumbling of the rocky bank in several places.

Virgil points out the valley where a river of boiling blood flows. This is the river Phlegethon that flows in the seventh circle. In it are punished souls who used violence against others. This is the first round in the circle of the violent. Dante the poet exclaims at how greed and anger can lead to everlasting damnation. Guarding this river are many centaurs (half-horse, half-men). They shoot arrows at the sinners in the river to ensure that each sinner remains at the depth prescribed to him (according to his sin).

When the centaurs see the two poets three centaurs come towards them. One of them (Nessus) asks to explain their presence there. Virgil asks to speak to their leader Chiron. Virgil tells Dante the centaur who is questioning them is Nessus who died because of Dejanira and used his own blood to avenge his death. He then points out Chiron, who was the teacher to Achilles and the centaur Cholus who was known for his drunken wrath.

Chiron notices that Dante is alive because he sees his body weight disturbs the rocks. The souls in Hell have no body weight and therefore appear as Shades. Virgil admits his observation is true and that he is guiding the Dante through Hell at the bidding of Beatrice (“a spirit came, from singing Alleluia”). Also that God sanctions their journey. He asks Chiron for a centaur to carry Dante to the fiord and across the river. Chiron assigns Nessus and tells him to discourage all other centaurs from stopping the poets. As they move along Dante can hear the shrieks of the souls who are boiling in the river. Nessus points to souls sunk till their eyelids in the boiling river. He tells them that they were tyrants who killed people and looted their wealth. Among these souls he points out Alexander, Dionysius, Azzolino and Opizzo d’ Esti who was killed by his own stepson. At this, Virgil tells Dante to pay heed to Nessus’ words.

When they reach souls sunk till their necks Nessus points out Gury de Montfort (“There stands the one who, in God’s keep, murdered…”). Others souls, many of whom Dante recognizes, have their heads and chests above the river. Finally the depth of the river decreases so it covers sinners only ankle deep. They reach the fiord and cross the river. Nessus tells them the other side of the river the depth increases both ways in the circular river till it reaches its deepest point. Here are punished tyrants like Attila the Hun, Pyrrhus, Seetus, Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Razzo (both highway robbers). Leaving them across the river, Nessus turns back to the fiord and goes back to the other side.


Inferno Canto 12: The Minotaur. The Seventh Circle: The Violent. The River Phlegethon. The Violent against their Neighbours. The Centaurs. Tyrants.

As they cross from the sixth to the seventh circle, where the Violent are punished, Virgil finally begins explaining the layout of Hell. We learn that all human sins are divided into three big categories: incontinence (or lacking self-control), violence, and fraud. Everything Dante has witnessed so far has fallen under the first category. The seventh circle will show all the violent sinners. Then the final two circles will include all the sinners of ordinary fraud and treacherous fraud.

Dante compares the rocky descent down the bank to a natural historical happening known as the ‘Great Landslide’. It happened near the commune of Trent in northern Italy in the year 883 AD. It caused the river Adige to divert its course. The shattered rocks make the descent a difficult one for Dante. The landslide occurred because of an earthquake caused by Jesus’ descent into Hell.

The Seventh circle of the violent is presided over by Minotaur, described by Dante the poet as “the infamy of Crete”. Minotaur is half-man, half bull. He was the son of Pasiphae, wife of king Minors of Crete. She disguised herself as a cow (entering a wooden town) and mated with a bull. This is how Minotaur was conceived. He was killed by Theseus (Duke of Athens) with the help of his half sister Ariadne (Pasiphae’s human daughter). Minotaur’s conception was unnatural, and therefore an act of violence against nature (punished in the third round of this circle). Therefore it is fitting that he guards this circle. Besides violence is viewed bestial in nature.

By reminding Minotaur about the Duke of Athens puts him into a fit of rage and the two poets make a hasty escape. Virgil uses the half-beast’s innate rage to attack against itself and to outwit it. Rage148, clouds the rational mind and it can prove destructive to its owner. Minotaur’s rage renders him incapable of anything rational.

Virgil describes the ruined and rocky terrain around them. It was not so when Virgil first descended into Hell (sent by Erichtho a Thessalian sorceress who was employed by Pompey’s son Sextus who believed in the forgiveness of sin based on quick fixes and vague emotions). It happened after that, when The Christ descended into Hell and takes the souls of the Elect from the Limbo to Heaven. His descent causes an earthquake and shatters the rocky bank of this circle. He uses the Empedoclean doctrine to describe this descent. According to this pagan philosophy, Hate149 leads to creating the universe from merging four elements. And Love unites all the different elements of creation and recreates new harmony (original chaos) that has been disturbed by Hate. Thus the earthquake leading to chaos in this circle is what is meant by “the universe felt love”. That earthquake shook the entire Hell.

Virgil points to a river of boiling blood (Phlegethon) where souls of those who used violence against others and, or their property are punished. It is a fitting Contrapasso. These sinners shed the blood of others on earth and now they are boiled in hotblood in Hell as their everlasting punishment. Ensuring that these souls stay in the river are the observant centaurs that use arrows to keep the sinners in the river. It is these that guard the souls of tyrants and murderers 150 who are guilty of such bestial sins.

Of the three centaurs that approach the poets are Nessus, Chiron and Pholus. Virgil dubs Nessus “rash”, thoughtless and hasty (Mathew 7:12)151. Nessus lusted after Hercules’ wife Dejanira. When he tried to rape her Hercules shoots him. Before dying he gives Dejanira his blood-soaked robe. He tells her it would preserve her husband’s love. She gives it to Hercules and it causes his death. And Dejanira hangs herself.

Virgil asks to be allowed to address Chiron, who is a quiet thoughtful figure but through the violence, fraud and angry threats ensnared his victim. According to mythology he was the son of Saturn and Philyra. Saturn disguises himself as a horse while he is with Philyra to prevent his wife from discovering him. Chiron was known for his wisdom and well versed in the science of medicine. He was believed to have taught Achilles, Aesculapius and Hercules among many others.

Pholus is described as well known for his “drunken wrath”. During the wedding of Pirithous and Hippodamia the centaurs get drunk and try to rape the Lapithaean women. Pholus, in his drunk state tries to rape Pirithous, who is the bride!

Chiron notices the pilgrim’s feet cause the rocks to move. A soul in Hell cannot do this because it is weightless. Thus he discovers that Dante is alive. Virgil agrees with this and explains the special nature of their journey and seeks help to cross the river. Because Dante cannot fly and needs help to cross the boiling blood, Chiron commands Nessus to help them.

Nessus leads them across the river and points out various sinners along the way. The souls are sunk in the river at varying depths. The depth increases in proportion to the atrocity of their sinful actions. First they come across those Shades that in their lifetime had killed men as well as looted their wealth. Since they committed violence against their fellow men as well against their property they are sunk till their eyelids in the boiling blood that now burns them. Nessus points out Alexander. This could be Alexander the Great (356 B.C. – 323 BC).

Dante’s chief source of ancient history was Orosius who describes Alexander the Great as a violent and vicious man. But many modern critics believe the reference is to Alexander, tyrant of Pherae (4th century BC). Both Cicero and Valerius Maximus wrote of his extreme cruelty. Adding substance to this theory is both these writers connect Alexander of Pherae with the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse who is the next soul Nessus points out. This could be Dionysius the Elder, tyrant of Syracuse (405 BC – 367 BC) who was known for his savage cruelty. It is also possible that it is his son Dionysius the Younger who followed his father as a tyrant in 367 BC and was equally vicious. “Azzaline” is a Ghibelline chief and tyrant called Ezzelino III da Romano (1194 -1259 A.D.). He was so savage that he was called a “Son of Satan”.

Opizzo d’ Esti was the Marquis of Ferrara; a cruel tyrant he was believed to have been murdered by his son Azzo. Although Dante refers to Azzo as his stepson, this could be because he wanted to underline the unnatural crime (killing his own father) or because he believed Azzo to be the son of another man borne by Obizzo d’ Esti’s wife. This could explain why Dante looks at Virgil when Nessus says “stepson”; because Azzo was believed to be Esti’s son,

Dante does not question Virgil as profusely as he did earlier. Now he is aware that Virgil is responsive even of his unstated doubts and will clear them. However, he is heeding Virgil’s earlier advice (Canto X) and talks sparingly. Besides he has become an avid learner and uses observation as a tool on the journey towards Heaven. Virgil proves his knowledge of his pupil’s unstated doubts by advising him to read Nessus’ words. Dante therefore turns towards his guide in surprise at the mention of the word “stepson”.

As they go further they reach souls that are immersed in the hotblood up to their throats. These are souls who did violence against men but not their property. Their punishment is less severe than for the former Shades who did violence to men as well as their wealth. Nessus points out to a lone Shade, “the one, who in God’s keep murdered the heart still dripping blood above the Thames.”

The reference is to Guy de Montfort, one of Charles d’ Anjou’s emissaries. Edward I, King of England, killed Guy’s father. To get revenge Guy stabs Edward I’s cousin Prince Henry (son of Richard, Earl of Cornwall) during Holy Mass at the church in Viterbo in 1272 AD. History says that Guy puts Henry’s heart in a cup and places it over the London Bridge over the river Thames. Dante writes “still dripping blood over the Thames”. This shows that Henry’s murder remains un-avenged. Dante recognizes other souls guilty of murder in the boiling river but does not name them.

They reach the shallow part of the river (the fiord) and soon find themselves across on the other side. Nessus tells them the river at the opposite bank increases in-depth on both arms of the circular river till it reaches the deepest point. At this depth the cruelest of all tyrants are sunk all the way in. Here therefore lies the suffering “Atilla, known as scourge of earth”. Attila was the king of the Huns (406 – 453 AD). He was so cruel that he was called the “scourge of God”. Also punished here is “Pyrrhus”, referring to Pyrrhus (318 -272 BC) who was the king of Epirus and fought thrice against the Romans during the years 280 276 B.C. The Romans finally defeated him.

Commentators like Boccaccio believe that Dante is referring to an ancestry of the King of Epirus, that is, Pyrrhus the son of Achilles. “Sextus” is thought to be the younger son of Pompey the Great. He became a pirate and caused famine in Rome by stopping the supply of grain from Africa. Or it could be, according to some critics, Sextus Tarquinus Superbus, who raped and caused the death of his cousin’s wife Lucretia. Also punished here are Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Lazzo two highway robbers well known in Dante’s day: After depositing the two poets across the bloody boiling river (Phlegethon by name) Nessus turns back to rejoin the other centaurs.

Inferno Canto 13: The Wood of Thorns. The Harpies. The Violent against themselves. Suicides. Pier della Vigna. Lano and Jacopo da Sant’ Andrea.

1. Not yet had Nessus reached the other side//When we had put ourselves within a wood // That was not marked by any path whatever.
2. Not foliage green, but of a dusky colour//Not branches smooth, but gnarled and intertangled// Not apple-trees were there, but thorns with poison.
3. Such tangled thickets have not, nor so dense//Those savage wild beasts, that in hatred holds// ‘Twixt Cecina and Corneto152 the tilled places.
4. There do the hideous Harpies153 make their nests//Who chased the Trojans154 from the Strophades155//With sad announcement of impending doom;
5. Broad wings have they, and necks and faces human//And feet with claws, and their great bellies fledged// They make laments upon the wondrous trees.
6. And the good Master: “Ere thou enter farther//Know that thou art within the second round”// Thus he began to say, “and shalt be, till
7. Thou comest out upon the horrible sand//Therefore look well around, and thou shalt see//Things that will credence give unto my speech.”
8. I heard on all sides lamentations uttered//And person none beheld I who might make them// Whence, utterly bewildered, I stood still.
9. I think he thought that I perhaps might think//So many voices issued through those trunks//From people who concealed themselves from us;
10. Therefore the Master said: “If thou break off//Some little spray from any of these trees//The thoughts thou hast will wholly be made vain.”
11. Then stretched I forth my hand a little forward//And plucked a branchlet off from a great thorn//And the trunk cried, “Why dost thou mangle me?”
12. After it had become embrowned with blood//It recommenced its cry: “Why dost thou rend me?//Hast thou no spirit of pity whatsoever?
13. Men once we were, and now are changed to trees//Indeed, thy hand should be more pitiful// Even if the souls of serpents we had been.”
14. As out of a green brand, that is on fire//At one of the ends, and from the other drips//And hisses with the wind that is escaping;
15. So from that splinter issued forth together//Both words and blood; whereat I let the tip//Fall, and stood like a man who is afraid.
16. “Had he been able sooner to believe”//My Sage made answer, “O thou wounded soul//What only in my verses he has seen,
17. Not upon thee had he stretched forth his hand//Whereas the thing incredible has caused me//To put him to an act which grieveth me.
18. But tell him who thou wast, so that by way//Of some amends thy fame he may refresh//Up in the world, to which he can return.”
19. And the trunk said: “So thy sweet words allure me//I cannot silent be; and you be vexed not// That I a little to discourse am tempted.
20. I am the one who both keys had in keeping//Of Frederick’s156 heart, and turned them to and fro// So softly in unlocking and in locking,
21. That from his secrets most men I withheld//Fidelity I bore the glorious office//So great, I lost thereby my sleep and pulses.
22. The courtesan who never from the dwelling//Of Caesar157 turned aside her strumpet eyes//Death universal and the vice of courts,
23. Inflamed against me all the other minds//And they, inflamed, did so inflame Augustus//That my glad honours turned to dismal mournings.
24. My spirit, in disdainful exultation//Thinking by dying to escape disdain/Made me unjust against myself, the just.
25. I, by the roots unwonted of this wood//Do swear to you that never broke I faith//Unto my lord, who was so worthy of honour;
26. And to the world if one of you return//Let him my memory comfort, which is lying//Still prostrate from the blow that envy dealt it.”
27. Waited awhile, and then: “Since he is silent”//The Poet said to me, “lose not the time//But speak, and question him, if more may please thee.”
28. Whence I to him: “Do thou again inquire// Concerning what thou thinks’t will satisfy me//For I cannot, such pity is in my heart.”
29. Therefore he recommenced: “So may the man//Do for thee freely what thy speech implores// Spirit incarcerate, again be pleased
30. To tell us in what way the soul is bound//Within these knots; and tell us, if thou canst//If any from such members e’er is freed.”
31. Then blew the trunk amain, and afterward//The wind was into such a voice converted//”With brevity shall be replied to you.
32. When the exasperated soul abandons//The body whence it rent itself away//Minos consigns it to the seventh abyss.
33. It falls into the forest, and no part//Is chosen for it; but where Fortune hurls it//There like a grain of spelt it germinates.
34. It springs a sapling, and a forest tree//The Harpies, feeding then upon its leaves//Do pain create, and for the pain an outlet.
35. Like others for our spoils shall we return//But not that any one may them revest//For ’tis not just to have what one casts off.
36. Here we shall drag them, and along the dismal//Forest our bodies shall suspended be//Each to the thorn of his molested Shade.”
37. We were attentive still unto the trunk//Thinking that more it yet might wish to tell us//When by a tumult we were overtaken,
38. In the same way as he is who perceives//The boar and chase approaching to his stand//Who hears the crashing of the beasts and branches;
39. And two beholds! upon our left-hand side//Naked and scratched, fleeing so furiously//That of the forest, every fan they broke.
40. He who was in advance: “Now help, Death, help!”//And the other one, who seemed to lag too much//Was shouting: “Lano158, were not so alert
41. Those legs of thine at joustings of the Toppo”159//And then, perchance because his breath was failing//He grouped himself together with a bush.
42. Behind them was the forest full of black//She-mastiffs, ravenous, and swift of foot//As greyhounds, who are issuing from the chain.
43. On him who had crouched down they set their teeth//And him they lacerated piece by piece// Thereafter bore away those aching members.
44. Thereat my Escort took me by the hand//And led me to the bush, that all in vain//Was weeping from its bloody lacerations.
45. “O Jacopo,” it said, “of Sant’ Andrea160//What helped it thee of me to make a screen?//What blame have I in thy nefarious life?”
46. When near him had the Master stayed his steps//He said: “Who wast thou, that through wounds so many//Art blowing out with blood thy dolorous speech?”
47. And he to us: “O souls, that hither come//To look upon the shameful massacre//That has so rent away from me my leaves,
48. Gather them up beneath the dismal bush//I of that city was which to the Baptist161//Changed its first patron, wherefore he for this
49. Forever with his art will make it sad//And were it not that on the pass of Arno162//Some glimpses of him are remaining still,
50. Those citizens, who afterwards rebuilt it//Upon the ashes left by Attila//In vain had caused their labour to be done.
51. Of my own house I made myself a gibbet.”


Inferno Canto 13: The Wood of Thorns. The Harpies. The Violent against themselves. Suicides. Pier della Vigna. Lano and Jacopo da Sant’ Andrea.

As they advance, the two poets find themselves in a dark forest. It is unmarked by any path and is dark with trees that have black leaves and branches are gnarled and twisted. Dante states that he has never seen such a dense and inhospitable forest even between the towns of Cecina and Corneto, a region known for its swamps. This is the wood of suicides where the poets now find themselves. It is the second round of the seventh circle where those who did violence to their bodies and or their property are punished.

Presiding over these worlds are the nagging Harpies, who are bird-women who are half-woman, half-beast like creatures. The Harpies had driven the Trojans from Strophades islands by making a prediction of their disaster. Virgil tells Dante to look around to learn the nature of the place firsthand, for his verbal explanation would be too incredible to be believed.

Virgil asks Dante to satisfy all and any further curiosity. Dante is overwhelmed with pity and asks Virgil to do the questioning for him. Virgil therefore asks a Shade why souls are transformed into shrubs and if they ever recover their bodies. The plant (Pier delle Vigne an accomplished poet, jurist and diplomat 1190-1249) replies that Minos (one of three judges of the underworld) sends the souls of people who have committed suicide to the seventh circle. The soul falls at random in this wood like a seed and soon germinates and turns into a tree. The ravenous winged monsters, the Harpies feed on its leaves thus subjecting the plant to pain. The wound, where the leaves are torn off bleeds and vents out the pain verbally. The plants communicate only through wounds, which serve as mouth. On the Day of the Judgement these souls will also get their bodies like all the others. But the soul will not be able to enter the resurrected body. The soul will remain a shrub and the body will hang on one of the shrub’s thorns.

They hear sounds of a chase approaching them: like a wild animal being hunted by dogs. They see two naked and bleeding souls being chased. The two souls are tearing down the bushes in their rush to escape. These are the souls of Lano (a Sienese), Giacomo (a Paduan) and Jacopo da Sant Andreas, a Florentine. They are in Hell for having done violence to their property. They are the Profligates, who in their lifetime were recklessly extravagant and thus wasted their wealth.

Lano is faster than Giacomo. He accuses Lano of being unable to run away fast enough from the Battle at Toppo between Arezzo and Siena. Giacomo falls down and hides himself in a thorny bush while Lano runs ahead. The dogs fall on a hidden Shade, tear his body apart and run away with mouthfuls of his limbs in their jaws. In this skirmish the bush also gets torn. Jacopo laments about his injuries and Virgil asks the Shade to identify itself.

The Shade Jacopo says he is from the city of Florence, which changed its patron God from Mars to the Baptist. And Mars being thus disowned swore to destroy Florence. Because parts of Mars’ statue still lie on the Arno Bridge it saved the city from entire destruction. Otherwise the Florentines would be unable to rebuild on the ruins left behind by Atilla. The unnamed Florentine says that he killed himself by hanging himself in his house.


Inferno Canto 13: The Wood of Thorns. The Harpies. The Violent against themselves. Suicides. Pier della Vigna. Lano and Jacopo da Sant’ Andrea.

The two poets are in the second round in a pouch of the seventh circle where punished souls did violence to their bodies or to their wealth. The place is a barren, unproductive place. Instead of bearing fruit which is normally culminating plant life, the plants bear thorns163 symbolic of sufferings of sin, sorrow and agony. The whole atmosphere is negative. Dante compares it to the vast swampland that lies between the towns of Cecina and Corneto and says that even that rugged area is not as dark and hostile as these woods.

The round is presided over by the Harpies. They were the daughters of Thamus and Electra. They are malicious creatures and were exiled to the Strophades Islands for their cruelties. When Aeneas and his followers from Troy came there, they predicted a grim and hard future for them and drove the Harpies away from the Islands. Dante describes them as having human faces and necks. But with clawed feet and feathered bellies like birds. They sit in the trees and constantly shriek, thus adding to the temperature of the place.

Virgil says the second round ends at the “dreadful sands” and asks Dante to see for himself the incredible character of the place. Virgil’s words will not convince him of the bizarre nature of these places but hearing wails around him the pilgrim assumes that they come from souls hiding behind the trees. Virgil reads his mind and asks him to pluck a branch164 from a plant and it starts bleeding at the tear. It then begins to speak from its wound. It accuses Dante of mistreating it with cruelty. It tells Dante the plants were once the souls of humankind. Dante is horrified at the idea of transmigration and reincarnation165 and stands transfixed with fear.

Virgil apologizes and explains that he had to resort to this violence to convince Dante of the truth about such matters. Dante has forgotten that Virgil had once written about such matters. Virgil therefore makes reference to his “Verses” in his work “Aeneid” where Aeneas tears a branch from a shrub and causes it to bleed. And a voice comes from under the ground where Polydorus, the youngest son of Priam and Hecuba of the Trojan War, is buried.

Every soul in Hell the two poets meet wants to be remembered on Earth and stay alive in people’s memories166. Virgil entices the plant to reveal his identity by promising him that Dante will remind those on Earth of its name. Therefore the plant reveals itself to be the soul of Italian Pier delle Vigne. He was a favourite courtier of Emperor Frederick II at his court at Palermo. This earned Pier the envy167 of other courtiers. Envious courtier’s hated168 Pier and turned Frederick against Pier who put him in jail. Pier commits suicide by hitting his head against the prison wall. He hoped to escape the shame of imprisonment and prove his loyalty. He tells the two poets the pilgrim should make others on Earth aware of his unchanged loyalty (faithfulness) to his Emperor.

The pilgrim is overcome with intense pity – not because Pier’s soul is suffering in Hell, but because of the lies that led him to be unjustly punished by Frederick II. The pilgrim is aware there is even-handedness of punishment of sin and sees suicide carrying a penalty without any mercy. Pier also realizes his sin169 when he says “My mind…. Made me unjust to one, who was all just.” His lament is not against the punishment but the injustice meted out to him on Earth.

Virgil asks Pier for Dante’s benefits how a soul ends as a plant and if it will ever regain170 his or her normal figure. Pier explains that Minos sends the souls of those who commit suicide to the seventh circle. They fall at random in these woods. He describes the punishment Contrapasso meted out to those who do violence to themselves. Those who treat their bodies carelessly fall at random in these woods as thoughtlessly strewn seeds. They germinate under the ground and spread out as a plant. These plants are food to the Harpies who feast on their leaves. When this happens the plant bleeds and suffers agony. They talk only through a wound made in the plant. Otherwise the soul is wordless and dishonoured at the mercy of Fate171.

Souls who give up their lives and free will on Earth are denied any freedom of movement or will in Hell. On the Day of Judgement when souls are reunited with their bodies these souls will get theirs too, but they will be unable to use it. They will keep their plant shape and their body will be hanging by a thorn on their side. These souls who were so eager to leave their bodies on Earth are forever denied entrance into that body again. It is a cruel and gruesome punishment. It forces home that fact that our bodies are a gift of the soul’s temple and is to be treated with respect.

Now the two poets witness two souls being chased by vicious black dogs. These are the souls of two Profligates: Lano and Giacomo da Sant Andreas who indulged in reckless waste of their property and wealth. They are wildly extravagant with their wealth and wasteful172 with worldly goods. They were violent towards property and are punished in the second round of the seventh circle.

Lano belonged to the rich Maroni family of Siena. And Giacomo da Sant Andreas was from Padua. Both were famous for destroying (through wastefulness and excessiveness) their own money and property. Seeing Lano runs so fast that Giacomo makes a gibe that he did not run so fast at the “tournament of Toppo”. He is referring to the battle where Sienese in 1287 was defeated by Aretines at a river ford near Arezzo. Lano fought at this battle. By this time he had lost all his money and joined the battle to die. He didn’t run away but stayed and fought till death. This explains Giocomo’s gibe, seeing Lano run so fast now.

Giacomo is attacked and torn to shreds by the dogs that then run away with mouthfuls of his body parts. These vicious and violent dogs are the punishment inflicted on the wasteful Profligates. During their lifetime they were violently driven to destroy their wealth through excessiveness. These dogs are the personification of that same violence. Now in Hell that same violence turns on them and destroys them as they destroyed their property.

Giacomo’s skirmish with the dogs leads to some destruction of the bush in which he had hidden. This torn and bleeding plant now cries out in pain. Virgil asks it to identify itself. He reveals himself to be from Florence the city that had taken on John the Baptist as its new patron thus displacing Mars, the God of War. Mars was the first patron of Florence. For this act of disloyalty Mars vowed to destroy the city. But some pieces of a statue of Mars that remained on the Ponte Vecchio (“the Arno’s bridge”) till 1333 saved the city that was rebuilt on the ruins left behind by Atilla. This refers to Atilla the Hun but in medieval times Attila was confused with Totila, king of the Ostrogoths who had destroyed the city in the sixth century. Thus Dante means Totila when he wrongly writes down Attila.

The suicide note says he hung himself at home. He remains unnamed and is a symbol representing Florence and her self-destructing fate. Just like the suiciding are damned to Hell, Florence is slowly destroying herself (Dante thinks) through its internecine (group conflict) struggles. This can be seen as Mar’s revenge. She is converting herself into a hanging place which will lead to her own death.

Inferno Canto 14: The Sand Waste and the Rain of Fire. The Violent against God. Capaneus. The Statue of Time, and the Four Infernal Rivers.

1. Because the charity of my native place//Constrained me, gathered I the scattered leaves//And gave them back to him, who now was hoarse.
2. Then came we to the confine, where disported//The second round is from the third, and where//A horrible form of Justice is beheld.
3. Clearly to manifest these novel things//I say that we arrived upon a plain//Which from its bed rejecteth every plant;
4. The dolorous forest is a garland to it//All round about, as the sad moat to that//There closes upon the edge we stayed our feet.
5. The soil was of an arid and thick sand//Not of another fashion made than that//Which by the feet of Cato173 once was pressed.
6. Vengeance of God, O how much oughtest thou//By each one to be dreaded, who doth read// That which was manifest unto mine eyes!
7. Of naked souls beheld I many herds//Who all were weeping very miserably//And over them seemed set a law diverse.
8. Supine upon the ground some folk were lying//And some were sitting all drawn up together//And others went about continually.
9. Those who were going round were far the more//And those were less who lay down to their torment//But had their tongues more loosed to lamentation.
10. O’er all the sand-waste, with a gradual fall//Were raining down dilated flakes of fire//As of the snow on Alp without a wind.
11. As Alexander, in those torrid parts//Of India, beheld upon his host//Flames fall unbroken till they reached the ground.
12. Whence he provided with his phalanxes//To trample down the soil, because the vapour//Better extinguished was while it was single;
13. Thus was descending the eternal heat//Whereby the sand was set on fire, like tinder//Beneath the steel, for doubling of the dole.
14. Without repose forever was the dance//Of miserable hands, now there, now here//Shaking away from off them the fresh gleeds.
15. “Master,” began I, “thou who overcomes//All things except the demons dire, that issued//Against us at the entrance of the gate,
16. Who is that mighty one who seems to heed not//The fire, and lieth lowering and disdainful//So that the rain seems not to ripen him?”
17. And he himself, who had become aware//That I was questioning my Guide about him//Cried: “Such as I was living, am I, dead.
18. If Jove should weary out his smith, from whom//He seized in anger the sharp thunderbolt// Wherewith upon the last day I was smitten,
19. And if he wearied out by turns the others//In Mongibello174 at the swarthy forge//Vociferating, ‘Help, good Vulcan175, help!’
20. Even as he did there at the fight of Phlegra176//And shot his bolts at me with all his might//He would not have thereby a joyous vengeance.”
21. Then did my Leader speak with such great force//That I had never heard him speak so loud//”O Capaneus177, in that is not extinguished
22. Thine arrogance, thou punished art the more//Not any torment, saving thine own rage//Would be unto thy fury pain complete.”
23. Then he turned round to me with better lip//Saying: “One of the Seven Kings was he//Who Thebes besieged, and held, and seems to holds
24. God in disdain, and little seems to prize him//But, as I said to him, his own despites//Are for his breast the fittest ornaments.
25. Now follow me, and mind thou do not place//As yet thy feet upon the burning sand//But always keep them close unto the wood.”
26. Speaking no word, we came to where there gushes//Forth from the wood a little rivulet//Whose redness makes my hair still stand on end.
27. As from the Bulicame178 springs the brooklet//The sinful women later share among them//So downward through the sand it went its way.
28. The bottom of it, and both sloping banks//Were made of stone, and the margins at the side// Whence I perceived that there the passage was.
29. “In all the rest which I have shown to thee//Since we have entered in within the gate//Whose thresholds unto no one is denied,
30. Nothing has been discovered by thine eyes//So notable as is the present river//Which all the little flames above it quenches.”
31. These words were of my Leader; whence I prayed him//That he would give me largess of the food//For which he had given me largess of desire.
32. “In the mid-sea there sits a wasted land”//Said he there afterward, “whose name is Crete//Under whose king the world of old was chaste.
33. There is a mountain there, that once was glad//With waters and with leaves, which was called Ida// Now ’tis deserted, as a thing worn out.
34. Rhea once chose it for the faithful cradle//Of her own son; and to conceal him better//Whene’er he cried, she there had clamours made.
35. A grand old man stands in the mount erect//Who holds his shoulders turned tow’rds Damietta179// And looks at Rome as if it were his mirror.
36. His head is fashioned of refined gold//And of pure silver are the arms and breast//Then he is brass as far down as the fork.
37. From that point downward all is chosen iron//Save that the right foot is of kiln-baked clay//And more he stands on that than on the other.
38. Each part, except the gold, is by a fissure//Asunder cleft, that dripping is with tears//Which gathered together perforate that cavern.
39. From rock to rock they fall into this valley//Acheron, Styx180, and Phlegethon181 they form//Then downward go along this narrow sluice
40. Unto that point where is no more descending//They form Cocytus182; what that pool may be  Thou shalt beholds, so here ’tis not narrated.”
41. And I to him: “If so the present runnel//Doth take its rise in this way from our world//Why only on this verge appears it to us?”
42. And he to me: “Thou knowest the place is round//And notwithstanding thou hast journeyed far//Still to the left descending to the bottom,
43. Thou hast not yet through all the circle turned//Therefore if something new appear to us//It should not bring amazement to thy face.”
44. And I again: “Master, where shall be found//Lethe and Phlegethon, for of one thou’rt silent//And sayest the other of this rain is made?”
45. “In all thy questions truly thou dost please me’//Replied he; “but the boiling of the red//Water might well solve one of them thou makest.
46. Thou shalt see Lethe, but outside this moat//There where the souls repair to lave themselves// When sin repented of has been removed.”
47. Then said he: “It is time now to abandon//The wood; take heed that thou come after me//A way the margins make that are not burning,
48. And over them all vapours are extinguished.”


Inferno Canto 14: The Sand Waste and the Rain of Fire. The Violent against God. Capaneus. The Statue of Time, and the Four Infernal Rivers.

Moved by the love for Florence the pilgrim picks up the scattered leaves and places them near the soul of the anonymous Florentine who had committed suicide. The poets reach the end of the woods and are now at the border of the third round where men who did violence to God and Nature are punished. These include the Blasphemers, Usurers and the Sodomites. The third round is a flat desert where nothing grows. It is dry with burning sand. He compares the place with the hot desert crossed once by Marcus Cato the Younger (95-46BC), politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, remembered for his lengthy conflict with Gaius Julius Caesar, and moral integrity. He was the, son of Cato Licinianus made consul in 118 BC, but died in Africa in the same year. Seeing God’s justice, Dante the poet reminds his readers that they should let this description of Hell be a warning to them and lead a virtuous good life183 so it counts for me even if it annoys another.

Many souls are suffering in the desert184. They are in separate groups each with its own unique punishment. Some lie on their backs on the burning sand, others are crouching while the third group keeps roaming around without stopping. Majority of the souls are damned to wander on the desert185 sand. During these forty years God through Moses helped slaves from Egypt so they lacked nothing (Nehemiah 9: 21). The journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, in the land of Canaan was done on foot, with their flocks and families. The Israelites needed four decades in the desert to transcend a culture of slavery to habits, likes-and-dislikes and tendencies. Therefore far fewer lie on the sands but they suffer more pain186 because they cry out more for renunciation and cleansing than the others. The desert is being rained on with a firestorm187 similar to what fell on Alexander and his troops while crossing India. Alexander and his men tried to stomp it out, but were unsuccessful (right karma needs right time and right direction).

The persisting falling of fire (an earnest plunging in constant spiritual practices for liberation is like crossing the river of fire) in this round makes the sand red-hot and even more capable of self-inflicted suffering. The sinners have to use their hands, to brush away the fire (reactions to past karma) from their bodies, living in the now and accepting what is. Suffering that is a self-inflicted hurt does not make them righteous. Humble souls are willing to bear any pain and walk along lonely pathways for the sake of winning genuine Yoga (communion) with the Father.

Dante the pilgrim asks Virgil the identity of one soul stretched out proudly on the sand. Why does the raining fire cause aloofness in this soul? The soul hears Dante’s question and says his death and damnation will not break his spirit because he was killed by a thunderbolt Jupiter, ruler of gods of rain, clouds, lightning and thunder. He says ‘not all the thunderbolts (meteorites) made in Mongibello (city in Italy or Sicily) can scare him.’ He will give Jupiter no satisfaction by showing pain when seeking enlightenment. This is the soul of Capaneus. Virgil addresses him harshly saying that his anger at Jupiter and his fate is the best punishment for his proud soul. He tells Dante that Capaneus is one of the seven kings who besieged Thekes. He once scorned God’s name188 and now his blustering proud words hurt him because they are in vain as he lies there damned in Hell.

He asks Dante to move on taking care not to step on the hot sands but to stay along the boundary of the woods. They reach a stream, emerging from the woods. Its water is red. Dante compares it to the stream that comes from Bulicame whose waters from the hot springs is shared by prostitutes. This stream with its stony bed and rock-strewn bank runs across the desert over its rough bank to cross the burning desert. Virgil tells him that out of all the wonders he has seen so far in Hell, this is the most remarkable one. He realises the journey through Hell is filled with a series of opening doors. He notices each passageway has a gap which leads towards an unhindered study of mysticism. There is a noteworthy but subtle link of karmas of past lives with events in the self-created hell. The soul in this hellish environment also wants a ‘present’ karmic-free afterlife existence.

His curiosity is aroused and Dante asks his guide Virgil to explain what he means by his remark. Virgil therefore talks of the island of Crete whose king once ruled a pure world. On that island was the mountain Ida. Once it was a fertile haven where Rhea (daughter of the sky god Uranus and earth-goddess Gaia), hid her son. To disguise his presence her servants used to shout and scream whenever he cried.

Mount Ida may be either Calvary or Purgatory, both “ladders” to the Heavenly Kingdom) which was a barren place made of gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay and in its centre stood an image of an Old Man. The old man’s back was towards Damietta (Egypt) which symbolised a Greco-Roman symbol of stability. He was facing Rome symbolising the Roman Catholic Church. Beneath Mount Ida three mythological rivers sprang (Acheron, Styx and Phlegethon). This mixture of various elements making up every physical humankind would be found if they looked deeper.

The iron foot is described in Daniel189 as that metal that “breaks to pieces and shatters all crushes (Daniel 2:40).” Iron is the element associated with weaponry and war – a violent element appropriate to the circle of the violent. Clay, symbolises man’s human frailty, in the riddle of the right foot. The people in Hell fall because they rely on flawed humanity rather than on divine providence of intellect, symbolised by the unshattered golden head. Dante explains the feet (mixed iron and clay) represents an ill-made empire shall be a “divided kingdom” with “some of the firmness of it,” that is “partly strong and partly brittle” representing separation of church and state.

Crete, once ruled by Minos sends people to the various places in Hell (Canto V). He is an image of humanity’s wasteland lives. Rhea, the wife of Saturn (Canto XIV), covertly giving birth to Jupiter seems similar to Revelation about the birth of The Christ. According to Virgil, the Acheron, or the river of woe, leads to Cocytus, the river pool of lamentation where Satan is fixed. Charon ferries the dead over the Acheron. The Styx is the river by which the gods swear the unbreakable oath but Dante changes this stream to a marsh for the wrathful. Phlegethon is the river of fire and a rivulet of blood in the circle of the violent. Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, is found at the top of Mount Purgatory. His head was made of gold, his arms of silver and his legs are brass. The rest of his body is made of iron except his right foot, which is fashioned, from terra-cotta. This foot supports more of his weight than the other. His golden head is intact but the rest of him has a fissure. Tears fall down this opening and drip to his feet. They erode the cave’s rock beneath his feet as they run and drain down the stones flowing towards Hell. These tears cause the rivers of Hell, namely the Acheron, Sty and Phlegethon.

These fluid-rivers the poets now see running across the desert (third round of the seventh circle). Finally this water drains into the Cocytus (the wailing river in the underworld). Which Virgil tells the pilgrim he will eventually see for himself. Dante asks Virgil why he hasn’t seen this stream before, starting as it does on Earth. Virgil explains that Dante has come so far down the circular hell without completing a full round of any of the circles (“turning only to the left, you still have not completed a full circle”). And therefore there are some things he has not seen.

Dante wants to know if they will come across the rivers Lethe (river of oblivion) and Phlegethon (flaming river of fire). Virgil does not mention the first river. Dante points out and then adds that according to Virgil the second has for its source as the Old Man of Crete tears. Virgil says the stream with its red water should answer one of Dante’s questions. And he tells Dante he will see Lethe in Purgatory (where souls collect to wash themselves //When penitence has freed them of their guilt).

They move on, leaving the woods behind. They walk along the bank of the river to avoid the burning sands. Also the fire does not rain over the stream and its banks. Thus it affords the poets a safe passage across the desert.


Inferno Canto 14: The Sand Waste and the Rain of Fire. The Violent against God. Capaneus. The Statue of Time, and the Four Infernal Rivers.

As they cross from the sixth to the seventh circle, where the Violent are punished, Virgil finally explains the layout of Hell. We learn that all human sins are divided into three big categories: incontinence (from lack of self-control), violence, and fraud. Everything Dante has witnessed so far has fallen under the first category. The Seventh Circle shows all the violent sinners. The final two circles include all the sinners of ordinary fraud (intentional misrepresentation) and treacherous fraud (scams by entering criminal agreement).

The two poets now face the burning sands that are the third round where the souls who have done violence to God and Nature are punished. Dante compares the barren, dry desert to the one crossed by Cato. The Cato mentioned here is Cato of Utica (born 95 BC) who supported Pompeii during the Roman Civil War. After Pompeii’s defeat Cato goes to Africa to join Metellus Scipio (98-46 BC) who had married Pomppeii’s daughter Cornelia. In January 49 Metellus proposed before the Senate that Caesar be declared an enemy of the state if he refused to disband his army. During the ensuing Civil War Metellus was assigned to govern Syria, where his activities are an atypically savage passage of Caesar’s Civil Wars. Cato leads a march across Libya in 47 BC. It is this crossing of his hot Libyan desert that Dante is talking about.

The groups of souls that are punished in this desert are: the Blasphemers, Usurers and the Sodomites. The sterile sands of the punishment underline the sterility of their sinful acts on Earth. The Blasphemers who cursed Gods name and did violence to him suffer maximum punishment: they are lying on their backs on the burning sands with fire raining down on them. Usurers who extorted money from others by charging excessive interest on loans suffer a degree lesser: they sit crouched in the desert. The Sodomites (male homosexuals) who violated the laws of nature (heterosexuality) suffer the least relative punishment. Only their feet are in contact with the desert sand as they run nonstop in the hot sands.

Usurers also do Violence to Nature because they do not make money by honest labour as Nature intended man to. All sinners here are rained on with fire. And their hands are continuously moving in a grotesque Lance to brush the fire away from their bodies. These souls who did violence to God and Nature are now conquered to violence to their own person from which there is no escape.
Dante compares the fire rains with downing of Alexander and his troops when in India which they tried trampling to smother. Alexander had written to Aristotle describing the snowstorm and then a firestorm that struck him in India. He had his troop trample the snow in the Himalayan Mountains and then the fires the Old Indians trapped them with.

Dante notices one of the blasphemers lying scornfully on the burning sands, proudly ignoring the extreme discomfort. He hears Dante and reveals himself to be Capaneus, one of the seven Kings who attacked Thebes. Capaneus had cursed Jupiter who killed him with a thunderbolt. Now in Hell he is as proud as ever and as defiant of the fire falling on him. Because thunderbolt killed him he died with blasphemy on his lips. Virgil addresses Capaneus with an anger that he has not so far shown. He scorns Capaneus’ pride and says that although the fire may not burn him his angry pride that rages through him surely burns him within. His pride which causes him so much suffering is powerless before God and His justice is enough of a punishment.

Avoiding the hot sands the two poets reach a stream that emerges from woods and rivers across from the desert. Its red waters remind Dante of the Bulicame hot springs, rich in sulfur and making it popular as a bathing and watering place of mineral rich water. Prostitutes living near Bulicame were required to live away and a special stream channeled for them to live.

Dante realizes they can walk on the stony banks of this stream. Virgil explains the source of this stream. He talks of the island of Crete – the birthplace of the Trojan civilization. The Trojan Aeneas founded Rome. Crete is also seen as the birthplace of the Roman civilization. Crete lies at the middle of the known world (consisting of Asia, Africa and Europe). According to Roman mythology Rhea chose Mt. Ida in Crete to hide her infant son Jupiter from Saturn, his father. It was Saturn’s practice to consume all newborn sons. To keep his hiding place a secret Rhea had her servants scream when the baby cried.

Dante’s “Old Man of Crete” is the symbol in all “Inferno”. Damietta was an important seaport in Egypt and is therefore the symbol of the pagan world. Rome stands for the Christian civilization. The “Old Man” symbol is taken from the Book of Daniel. But Dante gives it a different meaning. The golden head stands for the Golden Age of man. According to Christianity this was before man fell from Grace. The three declining ages of men are indicated by the silver arm and breast, brass trunk and iron legs.

The terra-cotta (clay) foot symbolizes the Church. The clay foot shows the church weakened by corruption and politics. The whole statue has cracks except the golden head. And through these clefts run the tears of the Old Man. They are sign of man’s sins and sorrows in all the ages except the first (The Golden Age which was the age of innocence). These tears run down the mountain, into Hell forming the rivers of Hell. All these rivers are circular and connected by tributary streams. Mount Ida was once like Eden but now is like a barren wasteland. And the Old Man in the now barren mountain is like the state of man after his fall from Grace (because of the original Sin in the Garden of Eden). The cracks in the statue are displaying man’s sins.

The pilgrim is curious to know about the rivers. Virgil tells him the river of boiling blood they met before is the Phlegethon. And he will see the Lethe in Purgatory. He tells Dante to walk on the “margins” or the riverbanks, which do not burn. And walking along these the two poets begin their journey across the burning desert.

Inferno Canto 15: The Violent against Nature. Brunetto Latini.

1. Now bears us onward one of the hard margins//And so the brooklet’s mist o’ershadows it//From fire it saves the water and the dikes.
2. Even as the Flemings190, ‘twixt Cadsand191 and Bruges//Fearing the flood that tow’rds them hurls itself//Their bulwarks build to put the sea to flight;
3. And as the Paduans192 along the Brenta193//To guard their villas and their villages//Or ever Chiarentana194 feel the heat;
4. In such similitude had those been made//Albeit not so lofty nor so thick//Whoever he might be, the master made them.
5. Now were we from the forest so remote//I could not have discovered where it was//Even if backward I had turned myself,
6. When we a company of souls encountered//Who came beside the dike, and every one//Gazed at us, as at evening we are wont
7. To eye each other under a new moon//And so towards us sharpened they their brows//As an old tailor at the needle’s eye.
8. Thus scrutinised by such a family//By some one I was recognised, who seized//My garment’s hem, and cried out, “What a marvel!”
9. And I, when he stretched forth his arm to me//On his baked aspect fastened so mine eyes//That the scorched countenance prevented not
10. His recognition by my intellect//And bowing down my face unto his own//I made reply, “Are you here, Ser Brunetto?”
11. And he: “May’t not displease thee, O my son//If a brief space with thee Brunetto Latin195// Backward return and let the trail go on.”
12. I said to him: “With all my power I ask it//And if you wish me to sit down with you//I will, if he please, for I go with him.”
13. “O son,” he said, “whoever of this herd//A moment stops, lies then a hundred years//Nor fans himself when smiteth him the fire.
14. Therefore go on; I at thy skirts will come//And afterward will I rejoin my band//Which goes lamenting its eternal doom.”
15. I did not dare to go down from the road//Level to walk with him; but my head bowed//I held as one who goeth reverently.
16. And he began: “What fortune or what fate//Before the last day leadeth thee down here?//And who is this that showeth thee the way?”
17. “Up there above us in the life serene”//I answered him, “I lost me in a valley//Or ever yet my age had been completed.
18. But yestermorn I turned my back upon it//This one appeared to me, returning thither//And homeward leadeth me along this road.”
19. And he to me: “If thou thy star do follow//Thou canst not fail thee of a glorious port//If well I judged in the life beautiful.
20. And if I had not died so prematurely//Seeing Heaven thus benignant unto thee//I would have given thee comfort in the work.
21. But that ungrateful and malignant people//Which of old time from Fesole196 descended//And smacks still of the mountain and the granite,
22. Will make itself, for thy good deeds, thy foe//And it is right; for among crabbed sorbs//It ill befits the sweet fig to bear fruit.
23. Old rumour in the world proclaims them blind//A people avaricious, envious, proud//Take heed that of their customs thou do cleanse thee.
24. Thy fortune so much honour doth reserve thee//One party and the other shall be hungry//For thee; but far from goat shall be the grass.
25. Their litter let the beasts of Fesole//Make of themselves, nor let them touch the plant//If any still upon their dunghill rise,
26. In which may yet revive the consecrated//Seed of those Romans, who remained there when//The nest of such great malice it became.”
27. “If my entreaty wholly were fulfilled”//Replied I to him, “not yet would you be//In banishment from human nature placed;
28. For in my mind is fixed, and touches now//My heart the dear and good paternal image//Of you, when in the world from hour to hour
29. You taught me how a man becomes eternal//And how much I am grateful, while I live//Behoves that in my language be discerned.
30. What you narrate of my career I write//And keep it to be glossed with other text//By a Lady who can do it, if I reach her.
31. This much will I have manifest to you//Provided that my conscience do not chide me//For whatsoever Fortune197 I am ready.
32. Such handsel is not new unto mine ears//Therefore let Fortune turn her wheel around//As it may please her, and the churl his mattock.”
33. My Master thereupon on his right cheek//Did backward turn himself, and looked at me//Then said: “He listeneth well who noteth it.”
34. Nor speaking less on that account, I go//With Ser Brunetto, and I ask who are//His most known and most eminent companions.
35. And he to me: “To know of some is well//Of others it were laudable to be silent//For short would be the time for so much speech.
36. Know them in sum, that all of them were clerks//And men of letters great and of great fame//In the world tainted with the selfsame sin.
37. Priscian198 goes yonder with that wretched crowd//And Francis of Accorso199; and thou hadst seen there//If thou hadst had a hankering for such scurf,
38. That one, who by the Servant of the Servants//From Arno was transferred to Bacchiglione200// Where he has left his sin-excited nerves.
39. More would I say, but coming and discoursing//Can be no longer; for that I beholds//New smoke uprising yonder from the sand.
40. A people comes with whom I may not be//Commended unto thee be my Tesoro201 // In which I still live, and no more I ask.”
41. Then he turned round, and seemed to be of those//Who at Verona run for the Green Mantle202// Across the plain; and seemed to be among them
42. The one who wins and not the one who loses.


Inferno Canto 15: The Violent against Nature. Brunetto Latini.

The pilgrim is curious to know about the rivers of Lette and Phylegethon, which he thought were in Hell. Virgil tells him the river of boiling blood they met before is the Phylegethon and he will see the Lethe in Purgatory. The geography of Hell is the most distinctive feature of Inferno. Virgil uses the waiting time, behind boulders, to explain to Dante where the path they have been following will take them. Dante uses ‘breaks’ to give brief explanations of arranging Hell – the next circle, Circle VII, is divided into three smaller pouches that house sinners of violence, which are, symbolically, the sins of the lion.

The first pouch features sinners against neighbours, murderers, and the makers of war203. Dante makes no distinction between punishment for acts of violence against people and violence against property whether through blackmail of arson, plunder, threat and extortion. The second pouch of Circle VII houses those who sinned against themselves with suicide. The third and final pouch houses those who committed the sin of violence against God, Art and Nature (2 Timothy 3:1-7)204.
People in the third pouch are the blasphemers (impious and irreverent), sexual deviants (paraphilia), and usurers (money lenders). Dante holds usurers in great contempt, believing that charging any interest on a loan (LaRiba205) is a great sin. Art in this use means industry and Dante believes that industry206 should be the sole means of man’s prosperity. To go against this plan was to go against God. Virgil says that Art is the Grandchild of God, meaning grandchild copies his master and is the child of Nature. To act against Nature is a sin207 of violence against God.


Inferno Canto 15: The Violent against Nature. Brunetto Latini.

One of the most important figures in Dante’s life and in the Divine Comedy, Brunetto Latini is featured among the sodomites in one of the central cantos of the Inferno. Although the poet imagines Brunetto in hell, Dante-character and Brunetto show great affection and respect for one another during their meeting in Inferno. Brunetto (1220 – 1294) was a prominent Guelph who spent many years living in exile in Spain and France, where he composed his encyclopedic work, Trésor (“Treasure” before returning to Florence in 1266. He began assuming positions of great responsibility in the commune and region as notary, scribe, consul and prior and as the “initiator and master in refining the Florentines.

Brunetto played a major part in Dante’s informal education, most likely as a mentor through his example of using knowledge and intelligence in the service of the city. Apart from the reputed frequency of sexual relations among males in this time and place, there is no independent documentation to explain Brunetto’s appearance in Dante’s poem among the sodomites208. Brunetto was married with four children and was perhaps an old fertility worshipper.

Inferno Canto 16: Guidoguerra, Aldobrandi, and Rusticucci. Cataract of the River of Blood.

1. Now was I where was heard the reverberation//Of water falling into the next round//Like to that humming which the beehives make,
2. When shadows three together started forth//Running, from out a company that passed//Beneath the rain of the sharp martyrdom.
3. Towards us came they, and each one cried out//”Stop, thou; for by thy garb to us thou seemest// To be some one of our depraved city.”
4. Ah me! what wounds I saw upon their limbs//Recent and ancient by the flames burnt in!//It pains me still but to remember it.
5. Unto their cries my Teacher paused attentive//He turned his face towards me, and “Now wait,”//He said; “to these we should be courteous.
6. And if it were not for the fire that darts//The nature of this region, I should say//That haste were more becoming thee than them.”
7. As soon as we stood still, they recommenced//The old refrain, and when they overtook us// Formed of themselves a wheel, all three of them.
8. As champions stripped and oiled are wont to do//Watching for their advantage and their holds// Before they come to blows and thrusts between them,
9. Thus, wheeling round, did every one his visage//Direct to me, so that in opposite wise//His neck and feet continual journey made.
10. And, “If the misery of this soft place//Bring in disdain ourselves and our entreaties”//Began one, “and our aspect black and blistered,
11. Let the renown of us thy mind incline//To tell us who thou art, who thus securely//Thy living feet dost move along through Hell.
12. He in whose footprints thou dost see me treading//Naked and skinless though he now may go// Was of a greater rank than thou dost think;
13. He was the grandson of the good Gualdrada//His name was Guidoguerra209, and in life//Much did he with his wisdom and his sword.
14. The other, who close by me treads the sand//Tegghiaio Aldobrandi 210is, whose fame//Above there in the world should welcome be.
15. And I, who with them on the cross am placed//Jacopo Rusticucci211 was; and truly//My savage wife, more than aught else, doth harm me.”
16. Could I have been protected from the fire//Below I should have thrown myself among them// And think the Teacher would have suffered it;
17. But as I should have burned and baked myself//My terror overmastered my good will//Which made me greedy of embracing them.
18. Then I began: “Sorrow and not disdain//Did your condition fix within me so//That tardily it wholly is stripped off,
19. As soon as this my Lord said unto me//Words, on account of which I thought within me//That people such as you are were approaching.
20. I of your city am; and evermore//Your labours and your honourable names//I with affection have retraced and heard.
21. I leave the gall, and go for the sweet fruits//Promised to me by the veracious Leader//But to the first I needs must plunge.”
22. “So may the soul for a long while conduct//Those limbs of thine,” did he make answer then// “And so may thy renown shine after thee,
23. Valour and courtesy, say if they dwell//Within our city, as they used to do//Or if they wholly have gone out of it;
24. For Guglielmo Borsier212, who is in torment//With us of late, and goes there with his comrades// Doth greatly mortify us with his words.”
25. “The new inhabitants and the sudden gains//Pride and extravagance have in thee engendered//  Florence, so that thou weep’st thereat already!”
26. In this wise I exclaimed with face uplifted//And the three, taking that for my reply//Looked at each other, as one looks at truth.
27. “If other times so little it doth cost thee”//Replied they all, “to satisfy another//Happy art thou, thus speaking at thy will!
28. Therefore, if thou escape from these dark places//And come to rebeholds the beauteous stars//When it shall pleasure thee to say, ‘I was,’
29. See that thou speak of us unto the people”//Then they broke up the wheel, and in their flight//It seemed as if their agile legs were wings.
30. Not an Amen could possibly be said//So rapidly as they had disappeared//Wherefore the Master deemed best to depart.
31. I followed him, and little had we gone//Before the sound of water was so near us//That speaking we should hardly have been heard.
32. Even as that stream which holdseth its own course//The first from Monte Veso213 tow’rds the East// Upon the left-hand slope of Apennine,
33. Which is above called Acquacheta, ere//It down descendeth into its low bed//And at Forli is vacant of that name,
34. Reverberates there above San Benedetto214//From Alps, by falling at a single leap//Where for a thousand there were room enough;
35. Thus downward from a bank precipitate//We found resounding that dark-tinted water//So that it soon the ear would have offended.
36. I had a cord around about me girt//And therewithal I whilom had designed//To take the panther with the painted skin.
37. After I this had all from me unloosed//As my Conductor had commanded me//I reached it to him, gathered up and coiled,
38. Whereat he turned himself to the right side//And at a little distance from the verge//He cast it down into that deep abyss.
39. “It must needs be some novelty respond”//I said within myself, “to the new signal//The Master with his eye is following so.”
40. Ah me! how very cautious men should be//With those who not alone beholds the act//But with their wisdom look into the thoughts!
41. He said to me: “Soon there will upward come//What I await; and what thy thought is dreaming//Must soon reveal itself unto thy sight.”
42. Aye to that truth which has the face of falsehood//A man should close his lips as far as may be// Because without his fault it causes shame;
43. But here I cannot; and, Reader, by the notes//Of this my Comedy to thee I swear//So may they not be void of lasting favour,
44. Athwart that dense and darksome atmosphere//I saw a figure swimming upward come// Marvellous unto every steadfast heart,
45. Even as he returns who goeth down//Sometimes to clear an anchor, which has grappled//Reef, or aught else that in the sea is hidden,
46. Who upward stretches, and draws in his feet.


Inferno Canto 16: Guidoguerra, Aldobrandi, and Rusticucci. Cataract of the River of Blood.

As the two poets move along the Third Pouch of the Circle of Violence they begin to hear the sound of a waterfall which symbolises rejuvenation and cleansing and running off negative emotions and psychological issues. The stream (symbolising a flow of deep emotional thoughts) they just left becomes a waterfall at the outer edge of the circle where it then falls into the seventh circle. Here they meet Shades who recognise215 Dante to be a Florentine. The sight of their burnt bodies causes Dante much grief. Virgil asks Dante to wait for them because these are souls deserving of

Dante’s respect. Virgil, like the Shades they are to meet, led balanced lives and were changing towards kinship with one another and therefore worthy of respect.

Once humans take on a caretaker role, it is often difficult to step out of that position at work or in responsibilities. However, the biggest duty is to take care of one’s self. Every human seeks to be respected but does not respect self. Many feel not deserving of giving one’s body and soul to the Higher Self. The functioning towards satisfaction and respect that body-mind-intellect (BMI) needs and deserves is left for a ‘later’ time.

The two poets stop and three Shades surround them. While looking at Dante, one of the three Shades asks Dante who he is and how he can be with them and yet be alive and walk safely through Hell. He identifies one of the trios as Guido Guerra (1220-1272), the grandson of Gualdrada. He belonged to nobility in the 13th century and was a Guelph leader. He was both a wise politician and a great warrior, deserving of respect.

The other is Tegghiaio Aldobrandi, who had already died when Dante was born. As a Guelph, he was a Captain of the Commune of Florence in 1260. He and his own forces and followers would give up the Florentine Gate of Santo Vito, which is on the road to Arezzo. In the intervening time, deceitful and treacherous friars, came to Florence with letters and seals from royalty and church. They were offered as means whereby for peace and for honour of the people and common good of Florence. The nobles of great Guelph houses of Florence, including Count Guido Guerra, joined them. None knew they pretended oligarchy and attacked them. The Sienese and the Florentine refugees were left in an even worse plight than they were in before. The voice for the all displaced Florentines was a respected Guelph, Tegghiaio Aldobrandi.

The third Shade is Jacopo Rusticucci. He was also a Guelph politician with humble beginnings but became a rich merchant and a reputed warrior. His wife216 was an offensive argumentative woman whom he sent back to her parental house. His Shade became the spokesperson for the three Shades. He blames his sodomy (was he a member of the Canaanite fertility rite?) to his wife’s obnoxious nature. He is driven to Sodomy217 as a backlash by his uncooperative wife.

Dante would have embraced these great Florentines but the fear of being burnt (because he as a respected poet feared feelings of his irresponsible lifestyle) stops him. Dante expresses his respect for them and grief at their state218. The essence of human existence is to pray throughout ome’s life. Keeping in mind such scriptural teachings, Dante was especially aware that he must be fearlessly truthful during the last twenty-four hours of a mortal existence.

Rusticucci asks Dante about the city’s condition. He had heard disturbing news about Florence from Guglielmo Borsiere the purse-maker, also accused of sodomy and who has recently joined them in Hell. Guglielmo Borsiere was a good man despite his miserliness. He also was of good breeding, and conversed freely on diverse matters with other Genoese. His cultured influence was so enduring that change was brought by Gulielmo’s words. His ways were liberal, gracious and lavishly honoured by both strangers and his fellow-citizens.

Dante tells the Shades Florence’s decline is because of a new breed of people who are not under the influence of powerful people from the church and politics. Before leaving, the Shades ask Dante to refresh the memories of those on Earth about them. Dante promises to do so and the three souls run away quickly.

As they move towards the waterfall the sound becomes deafening. Dante compares it to Acquacheta River that rises from Monte Veso on the Apennine Mountains. During its course it falls down loudly at the rocky precipice of the waterfall near San Benedetto. Virgil now takes the cord fastened around Dante’s waist and flings it down the precipice. Virgil reads the pilgrim’s mind. Then an incredible sight appears before them: a monstrous figure swimming towards them comes from the depths below where the cord was flung.


Inferno Canto 16: Guidoguerra, Aldobrandi, and Rusticucci. Cataract of the River of Blood.

In this Canto Dante meets a trio of noble warriors219 all punished here for the Babylonian Fertility ritual of Sodom. As Virgil points out that all these three men deserve Dante’s respect because they led the Guelphs in many battles. Guido Guerra was wise and told Florentine Guelphs not to attack Siena in 1260. They did not heed his wise counsel and this battle destroyed the power of Guelphs in Florence. He was the grandson of “good Gualdrada” the daughter of Bellincione Berti of Florence who was married to Guido Guerra IV.

The second of the trio, Tegghiaio Aldobrandi was also against the Guelph attack of Siena in 1260. His words were ignored and the Guelph power in Florence was crushed. This explains why Dante says “the world would have done well to listen to” his words. Jacopo Rusticucci is the spokesperson for these Enlightened Ones who were perhaps members of the secret society of warrior – Sodomites. He blames his membership with Sodomy to his wife’s obnoxious nature.

The nature of their great accomplishments earns Dante’s respect. He anguishes for their state in Hell. Dante is aware their loyalty towards Florence, which merits his respect for them but he grieves for their suffering. They ask Dante about their beloved Florence. They are worried because, a newcomer to their group, Guglielmo Borsiere, has told them that Florence is decaying. He was a knight of the court, and a peacemaker. They estimate he probably died around 1300. Dante affirms this fact. He charges the decaying condition of Florence to “A new breed of people with their sudden wealth.” He is referring to the rural population of freed feudal slaves that joined the old cultured Florentine gentry. Dante and Virgil move on. The sound of the waterfall is now deafening.
Dante compares this to the fall of the Monotone River near the San Benedetto dell Alpe monastery. In Dante’s time the river was called Acquacheta till Frdi and from then on it was called Montone. Today the entire river is called Montone. One Conti Guidi, who ruled this region planned to build houses for his vassals near this waterfall. But he died before he could carry out this plan. This plan is what Dante is referring to in his line, where at least a thousand vassals could be housed.

When they reach the rocky precipice Virgil takes the cord fastened around Dante’s waist and throws it down the precipice. It is the third and last division of hell dealing with the sin of fraud that is symbolized by the leopard. The cord symbolises the leopard and Dante’s emotional self-confidence. Virgil reasons with Dante asking him to let go this misplaced confidence. He asks Dante to face Fraud by relying totally on Reason. For only reason can render fraud powerless. The cord also serves as a signal and Geryon, a personification of fraud, comes up towards the poet. For it is Geryon, the monster that Dante sees rising to meet them.

Inferno Canto 17: Geryon. The Violent against Art. Usurers. Descent into the Abyss of Malebolge.

1. “Beholds the monster Geryon220 with the pointed tail//  Who cleaves the hills, and breaketh walls and weapons//Beholds him who infecteth all the world.”
2. Thus unto me my Guide began to say// And beckoned him that he should come to shore//  Near to the confine of the trodden marble;
3. And that uncleanly image of deceit//  Came up and thrust ashore its head and bust//  But on the border did not drag its tail.
4. The face was as the face of a just man//  Its semblance outwardly was so benign//  And of a serpent all the trunk beside.
5. Two paws it had, hairy unto the armpits//  The back, and breast, and both the sides it had//  Depicted o’er with nooses and with shields.
6. With colours more, groundwork or broidery//  Never in cloth did Tartars make nor Turks,221//  Nor were such tissues by Arachne222 laid.
7. As sometimes wherries lie upon the shore//  That part are in the water, part on land//  And as among the guzzling Germans223 there,
8. The beaver plants himself to wage his war// So that vile monster lay upon the border//  Which is of stone, and shutteth in the sand.
9. His tail was wholly quivering in the void//  Contorting upwards the envenomed fork//  That in the guise of scorpion armed its point.
10. The Guide said: “Now perforce must turn aside// Our way a little, even to that beast//  Malevolent, that yonder coucheth him.”
11. We therefore on the right side descended//  And made ten steps upon the outer verge//  Completely to avoid the sand and flame;
12. And after we are come to him, I see//  A little farther off upon the sand//  A people sitting near the hollow place.
13. Then said to me the Master: “So that full//  Experience of this round thou bear away//  Now go and see what their condition is.
14. There let thy conversation be concise//  Till thou returnest I will speak with him//  That he concede to us his stalwart shoulders.”
15. Thus farther still upon the outermost//  Head of that seventh circle all alone//  I went, where sat the melancholy folk.
16. Out of their eyes was gushing forth their woe//  This way, that way, they helped them with their hands//  Now from the flames and now from the hot soil.
17. Not otherwise in summer do the dogs//  Now with the foot, now with the muzzle, when//  By fleas, or flies, or gadflies, they are bitten.
18. When I had turned mine eyes upon the faces//  Of some, on whom the dolorous fire is falling//  Not one of them I knew; but I perceived
19. That from the neck of each there hung a pouch//  Which certain colour had, and certain blazon//  And thereupon it seems their eyes are feeding.
20. And as I gazing round me come among them//  Upon a yellow pouch I azure saw//  That had the face and posture of a lion.
21. Proceeding then the current of my sight//  Another of them saw I, red as blood//  Display a goose more white than butter is.
22. And one, who with an azure sow and gravid//  Emblazoned had his little pouch of white//  Said unto me: “What dost thou in this moat?
23. Now get thee gone; and since thou’rt still alive//  Know that a neighbour of mine, Vitaliano//  Will have his seat here on my left-hand side.
24. A Paduan am I with these Florentines//  Full many a time they thunder in mine ears//  Exclaiming, ‘Come the sovereign cavalier,
25. He who shall bring the satchel with three goats;'”//  Then twisted he his mouth, and forth he thrust//  His tongue, like to an ox that licks its nose.
26. And fearing lest my longer stay might vex//  Him who had warned me not to tarry long//  Backward I turned me from those weary souls.
27. I found my Guide, who had already mounted//  Upon the back of that wild animal//  And said to me: “Now be both strong and bold.
28. Now we descend by stairways such as these//  Mount thou in front, for I will be midway//  So that the tail may have no power to harm thee.”
29. Such as he is who has so near the ague//  Of quartan that his nails are blue already//  And trembles all, but looking at the Shade;
30. Even such became I at those proffered words//  But shame in me his menaces produced//  Which maketh servant strong before good master.
31. I seated me upon those monstrous shoulders//  I wished to say, and yet the voice came not//  As I believed, “Take heed that thou embrace me.”
32. But he, who other times had rescued me//  In other peril, soon as I had mounted//  Within his arms encircled and sustained me,
33. And said: “Now, Geryon, bestir thyself//  The circles large, and the descent be little//  Think of the novel burden which thou hast.”
34. Even as the little vessel shoves from shore//  Backward, still backward, so he thence withdrew//  And when he wholly felt himself afloat,
35. There where his breast had been he turned his tail//  And that extended like an eel he moved//  And with his paws drew to himself the air.
36. A greater fear I do not think there was//  What time abandoned Phaeton224 the reins//  Whereby the heavens, as still appears, were scorched;
37. Nor when the wretched Icarus his flanks//  Felt stripped of feathers by the melting wax//  His father crying, “An ill way thou takest!”
38. Than was my own, when I perceived myself//  On all sides in the air, and saw extinguished//  The sight of everything but of the monster.
39. Onward he goeth, swimming slowly, slowly//  Wheels and descends, but I perceive it only//  By wind upon my face and from below.
40. I heard already on the right the whirlpool//  Making a horrible crashing under us//  Whence I thrust out my head with eyes cast downward.
41. Then was I still more fearful of the abyss//  Because I fires beheld, and heard laments//  Whereat I, trembling, all the closer cling.
42. I saw then, for before I had not seen it//  The turning and descending, by great horrors//  That were approaching upon divers sides.
43. As falcon who has long been on the wing//  Who, without seeing either lure or bird//  Maketh the falconer say, “Ah me, thou stoopest,”
44. Descendeth weary, whence he started swiftly//  Thorough a hundred circles, and alights//  Far from his master, sullen and disdainful;
45. Even thus did Geryon place us on the bottom// Close to the bases of the rough-hewn rock//  And being disencumbered of our persons,
46. He sped away as arrow from the string.


Inferno Canto 17: Geryon. The Violent against Art. Usurers. Descent into the Abyss of Malebolge.

Geryon the grandson of Medusa who comes and rests on the edge of the precipice. Virgil points him out as a symbol of deliberate Fraud who has an honest looking human face but a deceptive body of a snake. He has two clawed paws and the limbs are covered with hair that extends to his armpits. His hind limbs and stomach are covered in grades of colours. His body ends in a poisonous forked tail which he keeps hidden behind him. The poets move towards Geryon.

Near the precipice’s edge and close to Geryon, Dante notices people crouched on the sand. These are the usurers225. Virgil advises Dante to discover their punishment. These are the third set of sinners punished in this round. They are in great pain from the searing heat of the desert sand and the rain of fire. They use their hands to brush away both sand and fire that torments them. Dante compares their plight to a dog fighting off fleas and flies226. Dante does not recognize any of the ‘Illuminated Shades’. Around each neck there is a differently coloured pouch emblazoned with a coat of arms on it suggesting they belonged to nobility227. Each usurer’s attention is focused covetously228 on each other’s pouch.

Dante notices a yellow pouch with a blue lion crest229. Then he sees a red purse with a white goose symbol; and another white one with a fat blue sow on it. The wearer addresses Dante rudely and tells him that Vitaliano will soon join the usurers. The speaker is from Padua while the other sinners are all from Florence. These ‘Illuminated’ Florentines of Nobility are waiting for the arrival someone with the symbol of three goats on his pouch. The speaker then sticks out his tongue at Dante.

Virgil had already told Dante not to take too long and hurries to find Virgil already astride on Geryon. He encourages Dante to climb the monster who will take them to the seventh circle. Virgil does not trust Geryon and places himself between Dante and Geryon’s poisonous tail. Scared and ashamed of his fear230 Dante climbs on Geryon’s shoulders. Virgil is conscious of Dante’s fear and reassuringly puts his arms around him. At Virgil’s command, Geryon starts flying down the precipice. Dante compares his fear to that of Phaethon the son of the sun god and how Icarus might have felt when they flew too near the Sun with his artificial wax wings. Phaethon lost control of his father’s chariot in the sky and Icarus’ wax wings started melting as he flew.

Geryon descends along a spiral path and the roar of the waterfall231 is again audible to Dante. Dante suddenly realises he has reached some success on his lackluster performance while on his journey in Hell. He has gradually internalised and made a dramatic emotional healing. His revitalised thought waves have swept over his many old fears and the waterfall roars back at him reassuringly. He is mentally undergoing a rejuvenating cleansing.

Dante then looks down and sees flames and hears hurting cries232 coming from residents there. This again increases his fears and he trembles with dread. As they near the bottom, Dante sees suffering everywhere233. He compares Geryon’s decent to an unsuccessful hunting falcon. The two poets go ashore and Geryon immediately flies away.


Inferno Canto 17: Geryon. The Violent against Art. Usurers. Descent into the Abyss of Malebolge.

The monster Geryon that approaches the two poets symbolized fraud whose face is human, gracious and honest-looking, but his body is part bear (symbolising a teacher with a message) and serpent (symbolic of flawed humanity), and a tail with a scorpion’s sting (teacher as maternal self). Virgil tells Dante go speak with some Shades who are sitting nearby on the hot flaming sand (karmic effects of chosen celebrity hot lifestyle) nearby, while he confers with Geryon. Dante approaches a group of despondent people who were flicking off flakes of fire that continuously fell on them. Purses decorated with emblems hung from their necks, suggesting their elite ancestry of nobility. The Shade with a white pouch and a blue pregnant sow asks Dante what he was doing here in Hell. Dante is told that Vitaliano234 would be punished here in good time. The same was prescribed for someone who has a green purse emblazoned with three goats.

By then, Virgil has come to an agreement with Geryon who will allow them to ride him and take them down to the next circle. Dante is embarrassed by his innate distrust but is really frightened. Dante is told to holds on to Virgil tightly when Geryon swims out into the air. They descend in great sweeps among and through many tormented sinners. He finally sets his passengers down on a rock (an immovable foundation of a way of life)235, and then disappears.

Geryon who appears in classical mythology is made up of three human bodies or three heads with one body and is not associated with fraud. In Dante’s work, the connection is with a monster: someone practicing fraud appears to be just and good. Geryon’s head is noble in appearance but the hidden motives of a fraud are evil, just as Geryon’s body is bestial, and his tail is venomous which he hangs at the edge over the ravine, where it is not seen.

The sinners Dante sees are usurers236, and their purses bear emblems to identify the family nobilities from Florence. The Blue lion on yellow or gold refers to the Florentine Gianfigliazzi nobility. The one who speaks who has a sow on his purse is Reginaldo degli Scrovegni; his son tried to atone for his father’s ill-gotten wealth by commissioning the great Italian painter of the Middle Ages Giotto to paint a chapel named for him.

Here Dante the author predicts. Vitaliano with the three goats was not dead when the Inferno was written. However usurers who were elite ‘Enlightened Ones’ belonging to the Secret Saturnian Societies were promoted by Nobility, Banks and the Roman Church. They and their Secret Societies were known to the people of Florence. Ownership rights of land, banks and commerce still belonged to the former feudal blueblood masters, but they allowed ordinary citizens believe they were part of the team. By calling the one with the three goats the “sovereign cavalier,” Dante mocks the willingness of Florentines to grant nobility to a banker and usurer like Giovanni Buiamonte de Becchi.

In Classical mythology Geryon is the three-bodied giant who ruled Spain and was killed by Hercules during his twelve labours. His appearance is perfect for defrauding others. He has an honest face able to beguile his victims and strikes unsuspecting victims with his poisonous tail. His obvious honesty fools victims whom he exploits. To defraud one must first win his or her trust and then get what you want. The Geryon with his threefold nature is an example of human perversion and denial of the Holy Trinity. In Eastern and Catholic faiths, the Trinity is used to represent God as a triune being. Dante uses Geryon as representing as a triune monster.

Dante’s description of Geryon’s colourful belly makes reference to the fabric made during the Middle Ages by the best weavers who were Turks and the Tartars. The richly coloured and ornate fabrics were popular. Dante compares the complexity of Geryon’s colourful belly with the skills of the mortal weaver Arachne who boasted her spinning skill was greater than of the goddess Athena. Arachne was from Lydia and an expert weaver. She was so good that she asked goddess Minerva to hold a competition of weaving. Seeing Arachne’s woven cloth, the angry Minerva tears it in her rage. Arachne hangs herself but the goddess loosens the rope turning it into a web. She then turns Arachne into a spider237.

Virgil advises Dante to take a look at the usurers who were noble leaders, sitting near a more fearful abyss. These sinners, near the abyss are atop the Eighth circle. Here is where sins of Fraud are punished with the complexity of Geryon’s colourful belly to the webs of scheme that Arachne spun.

Geryon sitting on the edge of the precipice is facing the poets and his tail is hidden from view like the deceitful beaver who fishes with his tail. It sits on the water’s edge while his tail dips in the water – a posture of Fraud. It presents an honest face, while keeping its evil plans out of sight, and appearing harmless and attractive.

Virgil advises Dante to take a look at the Usurers sitting near the abyss – so near the abyss leading to the Eighth circle. This symbolism is similar when Geryon sits in the 7th circle but has its tail hanging into the 8th Circle. Dante the poet is describing a sinning transition from Violence to Fraud, similar to sinning from Incontinence to Violence through the sin of Anger. That happens when the poets cross the River of the Wrathful. Dante now moves Fraud through to the sin of usury.

The usurers are crouched on hot sand with flames raining down on them. Around each usurer’s neck is hung a money pouch. Their gaze is riveted to it, suggesting that even in Hell, they cannot overcome the greed that led to their damnation. Each pouch bears an identifiable coat of arms with which they are completely absorbed. Wealth and ‘nobility’ makes them usurers and allows them to lose their virtuous human personality of values and ethics.

The rich and famous have materialistic moral rules that are habituated to oneself. That is obvious from the self-aggrandising emblematic values given to them even in Hell. The Gian Figliazzi, the Ubriachi and the Paduan Scrovegni family have all brought with them their imagined self-worth. The Paduan addresses Dante rudely telling him they will soon be joined by Vitaliano, a new Paduan arrival as “any neighbour”. The Paduan points out that he is also one among those many materialistic self-important Florentines who lived ‘grandly’ through ‘big talk’.

Decay and dominance through greed and materialism is active and continuing in Florence and the Florentine Shades are now waiting for Giovanni Buiamonte, from the Bacchii Florentine family. He was active in public affairs and given the title of “knight” in 1298. His family got wealth by money lending, but lost it all when Giovanni died in 1310, without a penny.

Virgil and Dante will descend into the 8th Circle on Geryon’s back. Dante’s description of Geryon’s violent and forceful descent gives proof of the beast’s anger. It is compared to that of a falcon unsuccessful in his hunt and is angry. Virgil protects Dante from Geryon’s poisonous tail and lands nearer to the jagged cliffs. Anger is unconscious revenge and has a habit of being a futile gesture because in the end the two poets are now safe and in the Eighth circle.

During the Middle Ages the stories of Phaethon and Icarus were used to highlight the pitfalls attached to the inwards emotion of excessive pride giving oneself an inflated self-value. Dante shows that pride and resentful emotion of jealousy238 are sins punished in Lower Hell. Geryon deposits the two poets in the Eighth circle and flies off quickly. Geryon is angry too. He has been outwitted by Virgil and has to serve as a means of transport for the two poets. Here Virgil’s reason for declaring war against fraud claimed a justifiable victory through a thoughtful scheme of making Geryon justifiably serve Virgil.

Inferno Canto 18: The Eighth Circle, Malebolge: The Fraudulent and the Malicious. The First Bolgia: Seducers and Panderers. Venedico Caccianimico. Jason. The Second Bolgia: Flatterers. Allessio Interminelli. Thais.

1. There is a place in Hell called Malebolge239//  Wholly of stone and of an iron colour//  As is the circle that around it turns.
2. Right in the middle of the field malign//  There yawns a well exceeding wide and deep//  Of which its place the structure will recount.
3. Round, then, is that enclosure which remains//  Between the well and foot of the high, hard bank//  And has distinct in valleys ten its bottom.
4. As where for the protection of the walls//  Many and many moats surround the castles//  The part in which they are a figure forms,
5. Just such an image those presented there//  And as about such strongholds from their gates//  Unto the outer bank are little bridges,
6. So from the precipice’s base did crags//  Project, which intersected dikes and moats//  Unto the well that truncates and collects them.
7. Within this place, down shaken from the back//  Of Geryon, we found us; and the Poet//  Held to the left, and I moved on behind.
8. Upon my right hand I beheld new anguish//  New torments, and new wielders of the lash//  Wherewith the foremost Bolgia was replete.
9. Down at the bottom were the sinners naked//  This side the middle came they facing us//  Beyond it, with us, but with greater steps;
10. Even as the Romans, for the mighty host//  The year of Jubilee, upon the bridge//  Have chosen a mode to pass the people over;
11. For all upon one side towards the Castle//  Their faces have, and go unto St. Peter’s240//  On the other side they go towards the Mountain.
12. This side and that, along the livid stone//  Beheld I horned demons with great scourges//  Who cruelly were beating them behind.
13. Ah me! how they did make them lift their legs//  At the first blows! and sooth not any one//  The second waited for, nor for the third.
14. While I was going on, mine eyes by one//  Encountered were; and straight I said: “Already//  With sight of this one I am not unfed.”
15. Therefore I stayed my feet to make him out//  And with me the sweet Guide came to a stand//  And to my going somewhat back assented;
16. And he, the scourged one, thought to hide himself//  Lowering his face, but little it availed him//  For said I: “Thou that castest down thine eyes,
17. If false are not the features which thou bearest//  Thou art Venedico Caccianimico241//  But what doth bring thee to such pungent sauces?”
18. And he to me: “Unwillingly I tell it//  But forces me thine utterance distinct//  Which makes me recollect the ancient world.
19. I was the one who the fair Ghisola242//  Induced to grant the wishes of the Marquis//  Howe’er the shameless story may be told.
20. Not the sole Bolognese am I who weeps here//  Nay, rather is this place so full of them//  That not so many tongues to-day are taught
21. ‘Twixt River Reno and Savena to say ‘sipa;’//  And if thereof thou wishest pledge or proof//  Bring to thy mind our avaricious heart.”
22. While speaking in this manner, with his scourge//  A demon smote him, and said: “Get thee gone//  Pander, there are no women here for coin.”
23. I joined myself again unto mine Escort//  Thereafterward with footsteps few we came//  To where a crag projected from the bank.
24. This very easily did we ascend//  And turning to the right along its ridge//  From those eternal circles we departed.
25. When we were there, where it is hollowed out//  Beneath, to give a passage to the scourged//  The Guide said: “Wait, and see that on thee strike
26. The vision of those others evil-born//  Of whom thou hast not yet beheld the faces//  Because together with us they have gone.”
27. From the old bridge we looked upon the train//  Which tow’rds us came upon the other border//  And which the scourges in like manner smite.
28. And the good Master, without my inquiring//  Said to me: “See that tall one who is coming//  And for his pain seems not to shed a tear;
29. Still what a royal aspect he retains!//  That Jason243 is, who by his heart and cunning//  The Colchians244 of the Ram245 made destitute.
30. He by the isle of Lemnos passed along//  After the daring women pitiless//  Had unto death devoted all their males.
31. There with his tokens and with ornate words//  Did he deceive Hypsipyle246, the maiden//  Who first, herself, had all the rest deceived.
32. There did he leave her pregnant and forlorn//  Such sin unto such punishment condemns him//  And also for Medea is vengeance done.
33. With him go those who in such wise deceive//  And this sufficient be of the first valley//  To know, and those that in its jaws it holds.”
34. We were already where the narrow path//  Crosses athwart the second dike, and forms//  Of that a buttress for another arch.
35. Thence we heard people, who are making moan//  In the next Bolgia, snorting with their muzzles//  And with their palms beating upon themselves
36. The margins were incrusted with a mould//  By exhalation from below, that sticks there//  And with the eyes and nostrils wages war.
37. The bottom is so deep, no place suffices//  To give us sight of it, without ascending// The arch’s back, where most the crag impends.
38. Thither we came, and thence down in the moat//  I saw a people smothered in a filth//  That out of human privies seemed to flow;
39. And whilst below there with mine eye I search//  I saw one with his head so foul with ordure//  It was not clear if he were clerk or layman.
40. He screamed to me: “Wherefore art thou so eager//  To look at me more than the other foul ones?”//  And I to him: “Because, if I remember,
41. I have already seen thee with dry hair//  And thou’rt Alessio Interminei of Lucca247//  Therefore I eye thee more than all the others.”
42. And he thereon, belabouring his pumpkin://  “The flatteries have submerged me here below//  Wherewith my tongue was never surfeited.”
43. Then said to me the Guide: “See that thou thrust//  Thy visage somewhat farther in advance//  That with thine eyes thou well the face attain
44. Of that uncleanly and dishevelled drab//  Who there doth scratch herself with filthy nails//  And crouches now, and now on foot is standing.
45. Thais the harlot is it, who replied//  Unto her paramour, when he said, ‘Have I//  Great gratitude from thee?’–‘Nay, marvellous;’
46. And herewith let our sight be satisfied.”


Inferno Canto 18: The Eighth Circle, Malebolge: The Fraudulent and the Malicious. The First Bolgia: Seducers and Panderers. Venedico Caccianimico. Jason. The Second Bolgia: Flatterers. Allessio Interminelli. Thais.

These last two circles of Hell (8 and 9) punish sins that involve conscious fraud or treachery 248. The circles can be reached only by descending a vast cliff 249, which Dante and Virgil do on the back of Geryon. He is a winged monster represented by Dante as having the face of an honest man and a body that ends in a scorpion-like stinger. Circle VII is reserved for ‘ordinary fraud’ and Geryon, the grandson of Medusa is the guardian of the Circle. In confined spaces it holds mobs and crowds of sinners who in life promoted scandals, schisms and dispute within church and politics, or committed some deception.

The pilgrim Dante describes the Eighth circle. It is made up of ten concentric rounds called “Malebolge”. Each round is made up of gray stone and is surrounded by high stony cliffs. Each of these rounds is connected to the other by a bridge. After these ten rounds, Bolgia becomes a deep pit. The pilgrim reserves describing this pit for later. Rocks cut across the Ten Bolgia end at the deep pit to form the bridges across every Bolgia. There are many such rocky bridges connecting the ten Bolgia of the Eighth circle. They are like spokes of a wheel with the pit as the centre. He says that this Bolgia is full of many Bologneses who became Pimps (solicitors for brothels in return for share of earnings) because of their greed. A devil whips Venedico250 forcing him to move on. At that sight, Dante rejoins his guide. They reach the bridge and walk on it. They have turned right and are now facing the seducers251.

Bolgia or Group 1 holds the fraudulent who are guilty of deliberate evil and are located in a circle named Malebolge (“Evil Pockets”). They walk across ditches, with bridges spanning the ditches: Here panderers252 and seducers walk naked forever in separate lines in opposite directions, whipped by demons.

Bolgia 2 houses Flatterers who were insincere in their excessive compliments to win favour. Dante depicted this group as wading in human excrement in the 8th Circle of Hell. Here, their hearts are full of conceit (arrogance of self-importance), deceit (pretence), pride (satisfaction) and a perverted (distorted) but exaggerated opinion of oneself. They are immersed in human excrement where flatterers meet the evil at dinner.

Bolgia 3 is filled with Simoniacs who perfected the art of buying and selling offices and sacraments and fees for ecclesiastical pardons. Dante makes his most biting criticism against the Catholic Church demanding payment for sacraments. For these legislators, Dante punishes them by holding them upside down in flame. Those who committed simony (buying and selling for sacraments and holy offices) are placed head-first in holes in the rock, with flames burning on the soles of their feet. One of them, Pope Nicholas III, denounces two simonists who were his successors, Pope Boniface VIII and Pope Clement V.

Bolgia 4 – Sorcerers (magician who get knowledge by using the supernatural), soothsayers (fortune-telling claiming to predict the future) and false prophets (claimers of being gifted with prophecy or divine inspiration) have their heads twisted around on their bodies. Their heads are turned backward, so they can only see what is behind them.

Bolgia 5 – has corrupt politicians (who corrupt institutions through smear campaigns and illegitimate self-serving connections) who are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch, and are guarded by devils. They are the Malebranche (“Evil Claws”) who are nine demons guarding Bolgia 5. Their leader, Malacoda (Lucifer’s top lieutenant in the circle of Fraud), assigns a group to escort Virgil and Dante to the next bridge. The troop hooks and torments Ciampolo253, who identifies other Italian grafters254 and then tricks the Malebranche to escape back into the pitch.

Bolgia 6 – the Bridge over this Bolgia is broken: the poets climb down into it and find people who were Hypocrites255 – they are listlessly walking along wearing gold-gilded lead cloaks impersonating what they were not. Dante speaks with Catalano and Loderingo who were Bologna residents and members of the Jovial Friars of the Dominican Monastery. They were chosen by Pope Clement IV to overthrow the Ghibellines under the guise of unbiased administration. They were to keep the peace in Florence but acted hypocritically. While in the company of hypocrites, the poets also discover the guardians of the fraudulent,(Malebranche) are hypocrites themselves. The pilgrims discover they have been lied to by giving them false directions, but are at the same time punishing liars, for sins of hypocrisy.

Bolgia 7 holds thieves who change their form256. They are guarded by the centaur Cacus, the fire-breathing giant and son of Vulcan who was later killed by Hercules for terrorizing the Palatine Hill before founding Rome. The poets are pursued by biting snakes257. The snake bites make the sinners undergo various transformations258, with some resurrected after being turned to ashes, some mutating into new creatures, and still others exchanging natures with the snakes by becoming snakes themselves. They then chase other thieves in turns.

Bolgia 8 houses fraudulent counselors who mislead by their false appearances and deceive through disguise. Their souls are encased in flames. Dante includes Ulysses and Diomedes together for their role in the Trojan War. Ulysses, the king of Ithaca the Greek island, tells the tale of his fatal final voyage: he left his home responsibilities and family to sail to the end of the Earth because he bracketed together his life in the pursuit of knowledge. He was sure humanity can gain knowledge through effort. While on his search God sank his ship outside Mount Purgatory.

Dante used this story to symbolize the disability of an individual to carve out one’s own salvation – being protected from harm is a divine plan interactive with life’s duties to one and family. Dante decides salvation needs total subservience to the will of God. Guido da Montefeltro (1223-1298) recounts how his advice (impersonating God as judge) on eternal salvation to Pope Boniface VIII resulted in his damnation, despite Boniface’s promise of absolution259. Dante condemned him for acting God.

Bolgia 9 harboured Sowers of Scandal and Schism. A sword-wielding devil hacks at the sowers of conflict. As they make their rounds the wounds heal spontaneously, only to have the devil tear apart their bodies again. Muhammad (instigator of Mohammadan-ism) tells Dante to warn the heretic Fra Dolcino (1250-1307) against schismatic activities. Fra. Dolcino 260 was a radical Christian preacher who rejected churchian and politically inspired feudalism and was later burnt at the stake with others who belonged to the Dulcinian Movement 261.

Bolgia 10 – holds Falsifiers who have contaminated minds and bodies and are afflicted with different types of diseases. There were alchemists, forgers, perjurers, and impersonators. Falsifiers of Metals have scabs covering their body. Falsifiers of People are changed into hogs chasing others. Falsifiers of Coins endure eternal thirst, cracked tongue, and a bloated belly. Falsifiers of Words have continuous fever and the smoke/heat is cooking their body.


Inferno Canto 18: The Eighth Circle, Malebolge: The Fraudulent and the Malicious. The First Bolgia: Seducers and Panderers. Venedico Caccianimico. Jason. The Second Bolgia: Flatterers. Allessio Interminelli. Thais.

The seducers and pimps are kept in motion under the whips of devils in the first bolgia. Virgil points out one of them who is impervious to pain. He tells Dante that it was the unrepentant seducer Jason262 the Greek mythological hero who became famous for his seducing role while in their search for the Golden Fleece from the Colchians. In Greek legend, despite his nobility and leadership qualities, when he voyaged on his ship the Argo with his companion Argonauts, he proved to be a corrupt vindictive seducer and heartbreaker. When they stopped at the island of Colchis Jason romanced Medea to gain her support in getting the fleece and helping him and his men. Hypsipyle was the princess of Lemnos. When the women of Lemnos, furious at their husbands’ betrayal, murdered all the men on the island, Hypsipyle hid her father and aided his escape. She became queen of the island and welcomed the Argonauts when they landed; eventually she bore twin sons to the Argonaut Jason. When the other women learned that she had spared her father, she was deposed and sold into slavery to Lycurgus, king of Nemea. Jason later abandoned her also but she avenged herself by killing the children she had with Jason. Jason then went to the Isle of Semnes and seduced their princess Hypsipyle. He eventually deserted her and his child.

While recalling this story, the two poets move along the bridge and reach the edge of the second bolgia. From here they hear the sounds of souls being slapped around. They are whimpering in pain. Walls of this Bolgia are covered with fecal filth giving off a bad stench. They climb the next bridge and look down into the bolgia where they see souls immersed in excrement. Dante stares at one who is covered with filth and recognizes him as Alessio Interminei from Lucca. His family was important in the Guelph party. Alessio beats himself over the head and admits he deserves his punishment.

Punished here are the flatters and Alessio is one such. Virgil asks Dante to note one particular Shade. She is Thais, a harlot who with exaggerated praise flattered her lover. The seducers too are kept in motion under whips of the devils. Virgil points out one of them who seem impervious to pain. He tells Dante that he is like Jason who with Medea conned the Colchians of their Golden Ram.

In contrast to the honorable sodomites who belonged to secret societies sponsored by church and politics, the sinners here are represented as shameful and disgusting. Even Jason the Greek deceiver who wooed in deception cannot hold much dignity here, and is made to perpetually run around. They do not ask Dante about the outside world, and avoid recognition. Since their sins are all based on deception 263 they do not wish to lose whatever good reputation they still have here in Hell.

Dante recognizes one of the pimps who is at first eager to keep his identity hidden. This sinner, unlike the others Dante meets, does not wish to be remembered on earth for his shameful sins. Dante recognizes him as Venedico Caccianemico, the Guelph. He was born in 1228 and led the Guelphs in Bologna from 1260 to 1297. He bartered his own sister Ghisolabella to the lustful designs of a high ranking noblemen to satisfy the sexual needs of Marquis to Este (to either Obizzo II or his son, Azzo VIII) to get in the good books with him. Venedico says there are more pimps here in Hell than there are in present-day residents of land stretching from Savena and Reno rivers.

The punishment of the flatterers is the most disgusting but fitting. Two classes of sinners are punished in the First Bolgia: the pimps and the seducers. Each moves in a single file but in opposite directions. Their punishment is to walk endlessly in this circular bolgia. If they stop, they are whipped by horned devils guarding them. Dante compares progressing these souls to pilgrims who come to Rome for a Jubilee in 1300. Half the pilgrims crossed the bridge going towards Castel Sant Angelo and St. Peter’s while the other half moves in the opposite direction heading towards Monte Giordano, a small hill on a river. The Shades are Flatters who were habituated to complimenting others without sincerity. They are therefore covered in are immersed and covered in excrement of their wealth of lying words and for its filth.

Inferno Canto 19: The Third Bolgia: Simoniacs. Pope Nicholas III. Dante’s Reproof of corrupt Prelates.

1. Simon Magus264, O forlorn disciples//  Ye who the things of God, which ought to be//The brides of holiness, rapaciously
2. For silver and for gold do prostitute//  Now it behoves for you the trumpet sound//  Because in this third Bolgia ye abide.
3. We had already on the following tomb//  Ascended to that portion of the crag//  Which o’er the middle of the moat hangs plumb.
4. Wisdom supreme, O how great art thou showest//  In heaven, in earth, and in the evil world//  And with what justice doth thy power distribute!
5. I saw upon the sides and on the bottom//  The livid stone with perforations filled//  All of one size, and every one was round.
6. To me less ample seemed they not, nor greater//  Than those that in my beautiful Saint John265//  Are fashioned for the place of the baptisers,
7. And one of which, not many years ago//  I broke for some one, who was drowning in it//  Be this a seal all men to undeceive.
8. Out of the mouth of each one there protruded//  The feet of a transgressor, and the legs//  Up to the calf, the rest within remained.
9. In all of them the soles were both on fire//  Wherefore the joints so violently quivered//  They would have snapped asunder withes and bands.
10. Even as the flame of unctuous things is wont//  To move upon the outer surface only//  So likewise was it there from heel to point.
11. “Master, who is that one who writhes himself//  More than his other comrades quivering,”//  I said, “and whom a redder flame is sucking?”
12. And he to me: “If thou wilt have me bear thee//  Down there along that bank which lowest lies//  From him thou’lt know his errors and himself.”
13. And I: “What pleases thee, to me is pleasing//  Thou art my Lord, and knowest that I depart not//  From thy desire, and knowest what is not spoken.”
14. Straightway upon the fourth dike we arrived//  We turned, and on the left-hand side descended//  Down to the bottom full of holes and narrow.
15. And the good Master yet from off his haunch//  Deposed me not, till to the hole he brought me//  Of him who so lamented with his shanks.
16. “Whoe’er thou art, that standest upside down//  O doleful soul, implanted like a stake,”//  To say began I, “if thou canst, speak out.”
17. I stood even as the friar who is confessing//  The false assassin, who, when he is fixed//  Recalls him, so that death may be delayed.
18. And he cried out: “Dost thou stand there already//  Dost thou stand there already, Boniface266//  By many years the record lied to me.
19. Art thou so early satiate with that wealth//  For which thou didst not fear to take by fraud//  The beautiful Lady, and then work her woe?”
20. Such I became, as people are who stand//  Not comprehending what is answered them//  As if bemocked, and know not how to answer.
21. Then said Virgilius: “Say to him straightway//  ‘I am not he, I am not he thou thinkest.'”//  And I replied as was imposed on me.
22. Whereat the spirit writhed with both his feet//  Then, sighing, with a voice of lamentation//  Said to me: “Then what wantest thou of me?
23. If who I am thou carest so much to know//  That thou on that account hast crossed the bank//  Know that I vested was with the great mantle;
24. And truly was I son of the She-bear//  So eager to advance the cubs, that wealth//  Above, and here myself, I pocketed.
25. Beneath my head the others are dragged down//  Who have preceded me in simony//  Flattened along the fissure of the rock.
26. Below there I shall likewise fall, whenever//  That one shall come who I believed thou wast//  What time the sudden question I proposed.
27. But longer I my feet already toast//  And here have been in this way upside down//  Than he will planted stay with reddened feet;
28. For after him shall come of fouler deed//  From tow’rds the west a Pastor without law//  Such as befits to cover him and me.
29. New Jason will he be, of whom we read//  In Maccabees267; and as his king was pliant//  So he who governs France268 shall be to this one.”
30. I do not know if I were here too bold//  That him I answered only in this metre://  “I pray thee tell me now how great a treasure
31. Our Lord demanded of Saint Peter269 first//  Before he put the keys into his keeping?//  Truly he nothing asked but ‘Follow me.’
32. Nor Peter nor the rest asked of Matthias270//  Silver or gold, when he by lot was chosen//  Unto the place the guilty soul had lost.
33. Therefore stay here, for thou art justly punished//  And keep safe guard o’er the ill-gotten money//  Which caused thee to be valiant against (Charlemagne) Charles271.
34. And were it not that still forbids it me//  The reverence for the keys superlative//Thou hadst in keeping in the gladsome life,
35. I would make use of words more grievous still//  Because your avarice afflicts the world//  Trampling the good and lifting the depraved.
36. The Evangelist you Pastors had in mind//  When she who sitteth upon many waters//  To fornicate with kings by him was seen;
37. The same who with the seven heads was born//  And power and strength from the ten horns received//  So long as virtue to her spouse was pleasing.
38. Ye have made yourselves a god of gold and silver;”  And from the idolater how differ ye//  Save that he one, and ye a hundred worship?
39. Ah, Constantine272 of how much ill was mother//  Not thy conversion, but that marriage dower//  Which the first wealthy Father took from thee!”
40. And while I sang to him such notes as these//  Either that anger or that conscience stung him//  He struggled violently with both his feet.
41. I think in sooth that it my Leader pleased//  With such contented lip he listened ever//  Unto the sound of the true words expressed.
42. Therefore with both his arms he took me up//  And when he had me all upon his breast//  Remounted by the way where he descended.
43. Nor did he tire to have me clasped to him//  But bore me to the summit of the arch//  Which from the fourth dike to the fifth is passage.
44. There tenderly he laid his burden down//  Tenderly on the crag uneven and steep//  That would have been hard passage for the goats
45. Thence was unveiled to me another valley.


Inferno Canto 19: The Third Bolgia: Simoniacs. Pope Nicholas III. Dante’s Reproof of corrupt Prelates.

This canto opens with a condemnation of the simonists, who are followers of Simon Magus. Dante and Virgil come to the next section of Malebolge, where the discoloured rock was perforated by large holes. There are feet stuck out of each hole (the sinner was buried head-downwards in the rock) and the feet are on fire, kicking and writhing desperately. One of them seems more tormented than the rest, and Dante wanted to know who it is. Virgil suggests they descend to find out where Dante asks the sinner to speak.

The poets are at the bridge over the third Bolgia. Punished below are the simonists, who practiced buying and selling of church offices. Dante begins by addressing Simon Magus from whose name the word Simony is derived. He criticizes Magus and all those who follow his greedy path of trading offices for money. From his position on the bridge the pilgrim can see the tomb of Magus below him. Dante the poet praises divine justice273 that metes out punishment for sin. The third Bolgia’s rocky surface is covered with holes like baptismal fonts. Dante tells readers he had to break a font to rescue someone drowning in it.

Dipped in these holes are the Simonists: their head and chest are in the hole and their legs from the calf upwards are jutting upwards in the air and are on fire. The legs are twitching in great pain. The feet from heel to toe are fed with oil and fire feeds on this area only. Dante notices one pair of legs in greater agony than in the rest, with feet burning a brighter flame. Virgil carries Dante down the bridge to that Shade which has aroused his ward’s curiosity. Here Virgil puts down Dante and asks the twitching pair of legs if they can communicate.

Dante compares his situation to that of a priest who is called back by a dying villain who wants to confess his sins. He is damned in Hell for his greed and for corrupting the Church274 with his simoniacal practices. He predicted another pope would also be punished there also, as would his successor pope: “a lawless shepherd from the west.”

The Shade (Nicholas III) mistakes Dante for Boniface and expresses surprise at the Pope’s early arrival. It accuses Boniface for abusing his powers and making money by cheating the Church. Dante prompted by Virgil tells the Shade that he is not Boniface. The Shade then reveals that he was once a pope (Pope Nicholas III275) and used his position to make money. He reveals that those pushed below him are other simonists. And the arrival of Boniface will push him below to join the others squeezed tightly in the clefts of the rock. He says the arrival of Boniface will soon be followed by the arrival of another (Pope Clement V276 1264-1314). He compares Pope Clement to Jason in their manipulation of their respective kings to gain positions.

Dante gives the example of Saint Peter whose unselfish devotion prompts electing Matthias277 as an apostle – and that too without any bribery. He was meaning to denounce the sin of simony before the Shade of Pope Nicholas III. He faults him for his greed and his dishonest actions against Charles d’ Anjou278. He further denounces simony and the harm it does. He sees the corrupted church and its greedy popes. He compares the love of money to that of idolatry.

He invokes the name of Emperor Constantine (who converted to Christianity) who started the tradition of paying money to popes. Dante’s words increase agitates the Shade but win the approval of Virgil. Virgil carries Dante back to the bridge over the third Bolgia. And then he carries him to the top of the arch above the next Bolgia.


Inferno Canto 19: The Third Bolgia: Simoniacs. Pope Nicholas III. Dante’s Reproof of corrupt Prelates.

Dante’s begins with Simon Magus from whose name the word simony is derived. Simon was a magician. He saw the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles John and Peter and wanted the same for himself. Peter condemned him for thinking that money could buy the gift of God. “Simony” deals with the sale of fraudulent control of ecclesiastical offices. The Pilgrim is yet unaware of the sin that is punished in this Bolgia. The poet’s passionate emotional outburst is to seize the attention and to arouse hatred for the sin of trading sacred Christian objects. What is unclear is whether simony was encouraged to avoid paying taxes to the church. Purchase of sacraments and privileges is frowned on by Eastern faiths as well.

Dante writes simony is prostituting the Holy Church “for the price of gold and silver” similar to the grotesque image of Thai, the whore. Simony is a bigger sin than prostitution because it brings corruption to the House of God (Church) on Earth and is therefore more shameful. The harm done to the Holy Church (“Lovely Lady’) is underlined in “that wealth for which you did not fear to take by guile / the lovely lady, then tear her asunder;” and again “her who sits / upon the waters playing whore with kings”. He refers to the Church reduced by officials279 (Popes) who indulge in politics. In disgust he denounces them and adds: “Now, in your honor, I must sound my trumpet”, like to the medieval town crier to announce this grievous sin that corrupts the fabric of organized Christian religion. He addresses Divine Justice, in praise of the proper punishment meted out to such sinners.

He immerses them in upside down holes in the rocky surface of a baptismal font. The legs of the sinners are protruding in air, the oiled feet fed on by flames. He punishes Simonists who pervert the Church by another perverted immersion, the exact opposite of the real baptism280! This example gives insight how Simony leads to destroying the Church.

Virgil carries Dante to one pair of wildly waving legs later revealed to be of Pope Nicholas III whose preordained name is Gian Gaetano degli Orsini. He refers to himself as the “she bears son” and “my cubs” for his insatiable ends. Orsini was an honest man before he became the Pope in 1277, but during the three years he held the pope’s office (died in 1280) he indulged freely in Simony. He put relatives in important ecclesiastical positions, picked up land and grew more powerful. He gave public power to his kinsmen and got them married into important royal families of Europe.

Pope Nicholas III whose reign lasted only three years (1277-1280) gave out principalities in the Papal States among members of his family, and giving them land and political power. He addresses Dante and realises he has mistaken him for the expected Pope Boniface VIII281 who was pope from 1294 to 1303)”is uglier in deed.” Pope Boniface VIII ruled all through papal authority. What started as a minor squabble with King Philip IV of France over taxing the clergy resulted in the excommunication of the king and a release of a decree that “every human creature is subject to the Roman pontiff.” He therefore is known as destroyer and forfeiter of all Italian family’s property which he later shares among his family members. He was kidnapped, held in captivity only to die a month later. Although Boniface VIII was still alive when exiled, when writing his Divine Comedy, Dante placed Boniface in his version of Hell anyway.

Nicholas III reveals the arrival of the sinner Boniface would pushed deeper in the hole because he is a bigger sinner of the two. Deeper down in the hole, is where many Simonists are squeezed into openings in the rocky depths, which then completes punishing Simonists. Eventually they are stuffed in the stony depths of the Earth, invisible from the surface but suffering a punishment of total oblivion from others. Their sins smear the face of the church and in Hell their discreditable faces are buried deep into the Earth.

In 1294 Pope Nicholas III with the help of Charles II of Naples started the plan for destroying the Guelphs in 1300, the Party that Dante belonged to. Eventually it was Pope Boniface VIII who was behind Dante’s exile in 1302. The Shade of Pope Nicholas III predicts the arrival of Boniface who will be followed by the arrival of Pope Clement V of Gascony282 who later died in 1314. He became the Pope with the help Philip the fair, king of France. For this Clement V agreed to help Philip in his political affairs. He helped Philip in the latter’s destruction and plunder of the Templars.

Dante compares Pope Clement V to Jason who became a high priest of the Jews by bricking King Antiochus of Syria. By furthering King Philips political interests, Clement V becomes the Pope who used fraudulent practices to gain their positions. Dante states God did not have to bribe to get his power and neither did Matthias to become an apostle. After Judas was removed all the apostles cast lots to get a new apostle and the Will of God got Matthias elected, not bribery. If the Church is an extension of God it cannot be made a marketplace for furthering men’s greed and ambition. Dante’s anger at Nicholas III refers to a plot against Chares d Anjou and aided by Michael Palaeologus, the Emperor of Greece and his money. In this plot Nicholas III supported Giovanni da Procida.

A series of greedy Popes (Nicholas III, Boniface VIII, Clement III) are condemned by Dante. He talks of the vision of John the Evangelist (“You shepherds it was the Evangelist had in mind”). The Evangelist prophesised corruption would come to Rome when shepherds and the Popes convert the Church to a “whore” and use it to further the political ambitions of various kings. Dante refers to the Church as “one who with the seven heads was born / and from her ten horns…”. Seven heads represent the seven Holy Sacraments and the ten horns represent the Ten Commandments. The Church would remain powerful as long as not defiled by the greed of its servants and the Popes.

Last Dante addresses Constantine the Emperor of Rome (306-377). He converted to Christianity in the year 312 and made Constantinople the capital of the residual Roman Empire. He did that by transferring the capital from the eastern Mediterranean lands he had conquered. By so doing the western empire was placed under the power of the Church in Rome. Allegedly the move was to repay Pope Sylvester (” the first wealthy fatr”) who cured Constantine of his leprosy. This was believed as truth in Dante’s times, but later proved a Churchian and Papal fraud. In Dante’s eyes Constantine gave wealth to the Church and unwittingly started the Church on its path of greed and corruption.

Dante condemns the sin of Simony and Virgil is so pleased that he carries Dante clasped to his breast when crossing from bridge to another bridge of the next bolgia.

Inferno Canto 20: The Fourth Bolgia: Soothsayers. Amphiaraus, Tiresias, Aruns, Manto, Eryphylus, Michael Scott, Guido Bonatti, and Asdente. Virgil reproaches Dante’s Pity. Mantua’s Foundation.

1. Of a new pain behoves me to make verses//  And give material to the twentieth canto//  Of the first song, which is of the submerged.
2. I was already thoroughly disposed//  To peer down into the uncovered depth//  Which bathed itself with tears of agony;
3. And people saw I through the circular valley//  Silent and weeping, coming at the pace//  Which in this world the Litanies assume.
4. As lower down my sight descended on them//  Wondrously each one seemed to be distorted//  From chin to the beginning of the chest;
5. For tow’rds the reins the countenance was turned//  And backward it behoved them to advance//  As to look forward had been taken from them.
6. Perchance indeed by violence of palsy//  Some one has been thus wholly turned awry//  But I ne’er saw it, nor believe it can be.
7. As God may let thee, Reader, gather fruit//  From this thy reading, think now for thyself//  How I could ever keep my face unmoistened,
8. When our own image near me I beheld//  Distorted so, the weeping of the eyes//  Along the fissure bathed the hinder parts.
9. Truly I wept, leaning upon a peak//  Of the hard crag, so that my Escort said//  To me: “Art thou, too, of the other fools?
10. Here pity lives when it is wholly dead//  Who is a greater reprobate than he//  Who feels compassion at the doom divine?
11. Lift up, lift up thy head, and see for whom//  Opened the earth before the Thebans’ eyes283//  Wherefore they all cried: ‘Whither rushest thou,
12. Amphiaraus284?  Why dost leave the war?’//  And downward ceased he not to fall amain//  As far as Minos285, who lays holds on all.
13. See, he has made a bosom of his shoulders!//  Because he wished to see too far before him//  Behind he looks, and backward goes his way
14. Beholds Tiresias286, who his semblance changed//  When from a male a female he became//  His members being all of them transformed;
15. And afterwards was forced to strike once more//  The two entangled serpents with his rod//  Ere he could have again his manly plumes.
16. That Aruns287 is, who backs the other’s belly//  Who in the hills of Luni, there where grubs//  The Carrarese288 who houses underneath,
17. Among the marbles white a cavern had//  For his abode; whence to beholds the stars//  And sea, the view was not cut off from him.
18. And she there, who is covering up her breasts//  Which thou beholdsest not, with loosened tresses//  And on that side has all the hairy skin,
19. Was Manto, who made quest through many lands//  Afterwards tarried there where I was born//  Whereof I would thou list to me a little.
20. After her father had from life departed//  And the city of Bacchus289 had become enslaved//  She a long season wandered through the world.
21. Above in beauteous Italy lies a lake//  At the Alp’s foot that shuts in Germany//  Over Tyrol, and has the name Benaco290.
22. By a thousand springs, I think, and more, is bathed//  ‘Twixt Garda and Val Camonica, Pennino291//  With water that grows stagnant in that lake.
23. Midway a place is where the Trentine Pastor//  And he of Brescia, and the Veronese//  Might give his blessing, if he passed that way.
24. Sitteth Peschiera292, fortress fair and strong//  To front the Brescians293 and the Bergamasks294//  Where round about the bank descendeth lowest.
25. There of necessity must fall whatever//  In bosom of Benaco cannot stay//  And grows a river down through verdant pastures.
26. Soon as the water doth begin to run//  No more Benaco is it called, but Mincio//  Far as Governo, where it falls in [River] Po.
27. Not far it runs before it finds a plain//  In which it spreads itself, and makes it marshy//  And oft ’tis wont in summer to be sickly.
28. Passing that way the virgin pitiless//  Land in the middle of the fen descried//  Untilled and naked of inhabitants;
29. There to escape all human intercourse//  She with her servants stayed, her arts to practice//  And lived, and left her empty body there.
30. The men, thereafter, who were scattered round//  Collected in that place, which was made strong//  By the lagoon it had on every side;
31. They built their city over those dead bones//  And, after her who first the place selected//  Mantua295 named it, without other omen.
32. Its people once within more crowded were//  Ere the stupidity of Casalodi296 //  From Pinamonte had received deceit.
33. Therefore I caution thee, if e’er thou hearest//  Originate my city otherwise//  No falsehood may the verity defraud.”
34. And I: “My Master, thy discourses are//  To me so certain, and so take my faith//  That unto me the rest would be spent coals.
35. But tell me of the people who are passing//  If any one note-worthy thou beholdsest//  For only unto that my mind reverts.”
36. Then said he to me: “He who from the cheek//  Thrusts out his beard upon his swarthy shoulders//  Was, at the time when Greece was void of males,
37. So that there scarce remained one in the cradle//  An augur, and with Calchas gave the moment//  In Aulis, when to sever the first cable.
38. Eryphylus297 his name was, and so sings//  My lofty Tragedy in some part or other//  That knowest thou well, who knowest the whole of it.
39. The next, who is so slender in the flanks//  Was Michael Scott, who of a verity//  Of magical illusions knew the game.
40. Beholds Guido Bonatti, beholds Asdente298//  Who now unto his leather and his thread//  Would fain have stuck, but he too late repents.
41. Beholds the wretched ones, who left the needle//  The spool and rock, and made them fortune-tellers//  They wrought their magic spells with herb and image.
42. But come now, for already holds the confines//  Of both the hemispheres, and under Seville//  Touches the ocean-wave, Cain299 and the thorns,
43. And yesternight the moon was round already//  Thou shouldst remember well it did not harm thee//  From time to time within the forest deep.”
44. Thus spake he to me, and we walked the while.


Inferno Canto 20: The Fourth Bolgia: Soothsayers. Amphiaraus, Tiresias, Aruns, Manto, Eryphylus, Michael Scott, Guido Bonatti, and Asdente. Virgil reproaches Dante’s Pity. Mantua’s Foundation.

The two poets are on the bridge over the Fourth Bolgia. Dante notices the floor is soaking wet with the sinner’s tears. They are moving in a slow circle below him with necks twisted around. Their faces look backwards above their buttocks and are moving back to front with their feet looking backwards. Dante comments he is witnessing so ghastly a sight that it brings tears to his eyes. The sinners are weeping and tears are flowing down their left buttocks.

Virgil rebukes Dante for feeling pity for souls who manipulate Divine Will. He points out Amphiaraus, who tried to look into the future and is now relegated by Minos to this Bolgia where his face and his walk are backwards. Virgil then points out Tiressias the blind prophet of Thebes famous for clairvoyance and transformed into a woman for seven years. To become a man again he had to strike two copulating snakes with a wand. Tiressias is followed by Aruns who lived in a marble cave in Luni and could see the sea and the stars clearly. Then there is Manto, who is from the same place as Virgil.

Virgil relates that Manto was Tiressias’ daughter. After her father’s death, when her city was enslaved, she wandered off into the world. After many years she reached Italy. Lake Benaco in Italy is near the mountains that mark the German border. Alpine Mountain streams drain into the lake which has an island in it . On its southeast shore is the fortress and town of Peschiera. The overflow from Lake Benaco is the stream Mencio which becomes a marshland. Manto wished to avoid human contact and inhabits it with her servants. Here she practiced magic till she died. Inhabitants of the island built a city there over her grave and called it Mantua. Many lived there but their numbers became less after Casalodi, drove away some people from there. Virgil ends the story by reaffirming this is the true version of the city’s origin.

Dante now asks Virgil to introduce note-worthy Shades to him. Virgil points to one with a flowing dark beard. It is Eurypylus, the king of Thessaly and one of the heroes during the siege of Troy. With him is Calchas the famous soothsayer in the Trojan War who with Eurypylus told the Greeks the best time to launch the Greek fleet from the sea port of Aulis. Virgil wrote about him in his book “Aeneid”. Virgil also points out Michael Scot, Guido Bonatti and Asdente. He says that Asdente is repenting having given up his trade as a cobbler to become a magician. He also shows Dante women who practiced magic for selfish reasons, who are now in Hell.

Finally Virgil points out the time by the location of the moon in the sky and says that it is time for them to move on. He reminds Dante moonlight aids300 them just as it did when he was lost in the dark night forest. They therefore continue talking but moving onwards.


Inferno Canto 20: The Fourth Bolgia: Soothsayers. Amphiaraus, Tiresias, Aruns, Manto, Eryphylus, Michael Scott, Guido Bonatti, and Asdente. Virgil reproaches Dante’s Pity. Mantua’s Foundation.

In this valley Dante sees sad processions of weeping spirits whose heads are set backwards on their bodies so that tears run down their backs. Virgil tells Dante it is inappropriate to feel pity for them especially because God laid down the punishment. He told him to look up and see Amphiaraus, and Tiressias who had turned into a woman and back again, and Aruns, and the sorceress Manto. She had founded Virgil’s home-city, Mantua Virgil says.

Dante asks Virgil if any of the passing souls were worthy of notice, and accordingly Virgil pointed out Eurypylus, an augur of the time of the Trojan War, as well as Michael Scot, Guido Bonatti, and Asdente. There were also women who left their spinning to become diviners. Dante and Virgil then continue on their way, because time is short.

The sinners here are diviners, astrologers, and magicians, and their activities are punished in the seventh circle. Their sins are all classified as fraud. It implies they used trickery rather than genuine magic. Dante does not believe in astrology. During the 13th century most people did not believe in magic. Practitioners were persecuted as heretics and impious witches. Their arts provoked both apprehension and wonder in many ordinary people. Because they tried to foresee the future, their heads are now turned backwards so that they never see in front of themselves. Virgil tells Dante not to weep at the misery of soothsayers.

Amphiaraus is another of the seven kings who fought Thebes. He foresaw his death and tried to avoid battle, but died in an earthquake all the same. Manto was a Theban soothsayer. Michael Scot and Guido Bonatti were court astrologers and Asdente was a shoemaker who prophesied in Parma at the end of the 13th century

Virgil then gives his narrative by describing the lake “beyond the Tyrol, know as Lake Benaco”. This lake (now called Lake Garda) is in northern Italy. It lies at the centre of the triangle formed by the three cities of Trent, Brescia, and Verona. It is fed by water from the “Alps” where the Alps refer to the range between the Camonica Valley and the city of Garda. Mantua lies at the meeting of rivers Mincio and Po. But before Mencio meets Po it forms a marsh. In this marsh lies an island Manto (“the savage virgin”) where Mantua stopped her wandering. She stayed here, with her servants and practiced magic till the time of her death. The people of the region eventually built the city of Mantua on this island, naming it after her.

Virgil says that the place was quite populated before Casalodi followed Pinamonte’s advice. Alberto da Casalodi was a Guelph count of Brescia. He was the lord of Mantua in 1272. He was unpopular with the people. The Ghibelline Pinamonte de Bonacolsi duped him into believing that he could retain his power only if he exiled nobles from Mantua. Casalodi follows the advice and ends up losing all his allies and supporters. This allows Pinamonte to come into power and he banishes the Guelphs and rules till 1291.

Virgil points out another Shade Eurypylus. Eurypylus a soldier is sent to the Oracle in Delphi301 to find out from Apollo the last time to sail from Troy. The next soothsayer brought to the pilgrim’s attention is Michael Scot. He was a Scottish philosopher belonging to the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II302 at Palermo. He was believed to be a magician and augur. The last two soothsayers mentioned are Guido Bonatti and Asdente. Guido was from Forli and a well known astrologer and diviner. He was consulted by many lords; including among them were Frederick II, Ezzelino III (the feudal lord of Treviso and ally of Frederic) and Guido da Montefeltro (a Ghibelline strategist and lord of Urbino who became monk in later life). Dante asks for more stories before deciding he cannot speak any longer while on the journey. He says Asdente (to mean toothless) is Benvenuto, a cobbler from Parma who was said to have magical powers. He was made famous for his prophesies against Frederick II.

Virgil therefore turns his attention to the moon’s position (“Cain with his thorn-bush”, the medieval Italian equivalent of the modern “Man in the Moon”) directly above the line separating the Northern (land) and the southern (water) Hemispheres.

The moon is setting on the western horizon (“waves below Seville”). The time is about six at dawn. Virgil further points out the moon has guided him and Dante ever since he was lost in the dark woods. Thus he should heed the moon and the two poets move on.

Inferno Canto 21: The Fifth Bolgia: Peculators. The Elder of Santa Zita. Malacoda and other Devils.

1. From bridge to bridge thus, speaking other things//  Of which my Comedy cares not to sing//  We came along, and held the summit, when
2. We halted to beholds another fissure//  Of Malebolge303 and other vain laments//  And I beheld it marvellously dark.
3. As in the Arsenal of the Venetians//  Boils in the winter the tenacious pitch//  To smear their unsound vessels o’er again,
4. For sail they cannot; and instead thereof//  One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks//  The ribs of that which many a voyage has made;
5. One hammers at the prow, one at the stern//  This one makes oars, and that one cordage twists//  Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen;
6. Thus, not by fire, but by the art divine//  Was boiling down below there a dense pitch//  Which upon every side the bank belimed.
7. I saw it, but I did not see within it//  Aught but the bubbles that the boiling raised//  And all swell up and resubside compressed.
8. The while below there fixedly I gazed//  My Leader, crying out: “Beware, beware!”//  Drew me unto himself from where I stood.
9. Then I turned round, as one who is impatient//  To see what it behoves him to escape//  And whom a sudden terror doth unman,
10. Who, while he looks, delays not his departure//  And I beheld behind us a black devil//  Running along upon the crag, approach.
11. Ah, how ferocious was he in his aspect!//  And how he seemed to me in action ruthless//  With open wings and light upon his feet!
12. His shoulders, which sharp-pointed were and high//  A sinner did encumber with both haunches//  And he held clutched the sinews of the feet.
13. From off our bridge, he said: “O Malebranche//  Beholds one of the elders of Saint Zita304//  Plunge him beneath, for I return for others
14. Unto that town, which is well furnished with them.//  All there are barrators, except Bonturo305//  No into Yes for money there is changed.”
15. He hurled him down, and over the hard crag//  Turned round, and never was a mastiff loosened//  In so much hurry to pursue a thief.
16. The other sank, and rose again face downward//  But the demons, under cover of the bridge//  Cried: “Here the Santo Volto306 has no place!
17. Here swims one otherwise than in the Serchio//  Therefore, if for our gaffs thou wishest not//  Do not uplift thyself above the pitch.”
18. They seized him then with more than a hundred rakes//  They said: “It here behoves thee to dance covered//  That, if thou canst, thou secretly mayest pilfer.”
19. Not otherwise the cooks their scullions make//  Immerse into the middle of the caldron//  The meat with hooks, so that it may not float.
20. Said the good Master to me: “That it be not//  Apparent thou art here, crouch thyself down//  Behind a jag, that thou mayest have some screen;
21. And for no outrage that is done to me.//  Be thou afraid, because these things I know//  For once before was I in such a scuffle.”
22. Then he passed on beyond the bridge’s head//  And as upon the sixth bank he arrived//  Need was for him to have a steadfast front.
23. With the same fury, and the same uproar//  As dogs leap out upon a mendicant//  Who on a sudden begs, where’er he stops,
24. They issued from beneath the little bridge//  And turned against him all their grappling-irons//  But he cried out: “Be none of you malignant!
25. Before those hooks of yours lay holds of me//  Let one of you step forward, who may hear me//  And then take counsel as to grappling me.”
26. They all cried out: “Let Malacoda go;”//  Whereat one started, and the rest stood still//  And he came to him, saying: “What avails it?”
27. “Thinkest thou, Malacoda, to beholds me//  Advanced into this place,” my Master said//  “Safe hitherto from all your skill of fence,
28. Without the will divine, and fate auspicious?//  Let me go on, for it in Heaven is willed//  That I another show this savage road.”
29. Then was his arrogance so humbled in him//  That he let fall his grapnel at his feet//  And to the others said: “Now strike him not.”
30. And unto me my Guide: “O thou, who sittest//  Among the splinters of the bridge crouched down//  Securely now return to me again.”
31. Wherefore I started and came swiftly to him// And all the devils forward thrust themselves//  So that I feared they would not keep their compact.
32. And thus beheld I once afraid the soldiers//  Who issued under safeguard from Caprona307//  Seeing themselves among so many foes.
33. Close did I press myself with all my person//  Beside my Leader, and turned not mine eyes//  From off their countenance, which was not good.
34. They lowered their rakes, and “Wilt thou have me hit him,”//  They said to one another, “on the rump?”// And answered: “Yes; see that thou nick him with it.”
35. But the same demon who was holdsing parley//  With my Conductor turned him very quickly//  And said: “Be quiet, be quiet, Scarmiglione”308
36. Then said to us: “You can no farther go//  Forward upon this crag, because is lying//  All shattered, at the bottom, the sixth arch.
37. And if it still doth please you to go onward//  Pursue your way along upon this rock//  Near is another crag that yields a path.
38. Yesterday, five hours later than this hour//  One thousand and two hundred sixty-six//  Years were complete, that here the way was broken.
39. I send in that direction some of mine//  To see if any one doth air himself//  Go ye with them; for they will not be vicious.
40. Step forward, Alichino309 and Calcabrina”310//  Began he to cry out, “and thou, Cagnazzo311//  And Barbariccia312, do thou guide the ten.
41. Come forward, Libicocco313 and Draghignazzo314//  And tusked Ciriatto315 and Graffiacane316///  And Farfarello317 and mad Rubicante318;
42. Search ye all round about the boiling pitch//  Let these be safe as far as the next crag//  That all unbroken passes o’er the dens.”
43. “O me! what is it, Master, that I see?//  Pray let us go,” I said, “without an escort//  If thou knowest how, since for myself I ask none.
44. If thou art as observant as thy wont is//  Dost thou not see that they do gnash their teeth//  And with their brows are threatening woe to us?”
45. And he to me: “I will not have thee fear//  Let them gnash on, according to their fancy//  Because they do it for those boiling wretches.”
46. Along the left-hand dike they wheeled about//  But first had each one thrust his tongue between//  His teeth towards their leader for a signal;
47. And he had made a trumpet of his rump.


Inferno Canto 21: The Fifth Bolgia: Peculators. The Elder of Santa Zita. Malacoda and other Devils.

The two poets reach the bridge over the fifth bolgia and can hear lamentations. They notice the bolgia is darkened with tar. Dante mentally compares the sight of hot tar of this bolgia to what he recalls seeing hot tar used to reinforce ships in the Venetian Shipyards. It is also used to keep the place warm through the winter.

Tar covering the surface of the bolgia banks is of a bubbling black residue. Suddenly Virgil shouts a warning. Dante turns around and sees a black fiend chasing them. The evil spirit is bearing a Shade across his shoulders. It is the devil with a fearsome face and wings on his back. He has claws instead of hands. He deposits the Shade in front of a second devil, Malebranche and instructs him to put him in the hot tar. He adds that he will be back with more sinners from the city of Lucca prone to state-simony. They practiced interactive graft among corrupt practitioners. Bonturo singly scorned the practice of golden bribes and selling honours of his state. The City of Lucca was famous for opening all doors to illegal services, including bribery but Bonturo Dati successfully expelled the state’s political enemies and regained control of the government.

Alichino ( one of the many devils guarding Bolgia Five) is one of the devils and member of the Malebranche, whose mission is to guard Bolgia Five in the Eighth Circle, the Malebolge; Alichino while flying tries to catch Bonturo Dati. He persuades the other devils to leave Bonturo Dati alone. Bonturo is supposed to summon other sinners from the lake of boiling pitch. They are afraid to appear when the devils are near. Dante wants to speak with them but Bonturo does not call his friends. Instead he fools the devils and escape back into the lake. Alichino tries in vain to catch him. This causes a fight between the devils Alichino and Calcabrina, which makes them both fall into the lake. The other devils are angry and blame Virgil and Dante. Theyturn on them vexed.
At first the fiend flings his victim in the hot tar. He then leaves hurriedly by floating to fetch another sinner. When a sinner floats on the tar surface, one of the devils mocks and threatens the Shade and grapples him with hooks and pushes him ever deeper into the tar. Dante compares the sight with what scullery boys do when pushing meat into the gravy with their forks.

Virgil and the pilgrim hide behind rocks to avoid being seen. Virgil advises Dante not to be fear the spiteful devils or their speech because Virgil knows how to handle them from his experience with them. Virgil then crosses over to the sixth bank, but he is alone. On seeing him the fiends chase him like dogs chasing a vagabond. They block Virgil’s trajectory with their pitchforks. Virgil asks to speak with one of the devils.

They send Malacoda to him and Virgil tells him about the special nature of their journey. On hearing that both Virgil and Dante are travelling under God’s protection the devils restrain all further attacks319. Virgil calls Dante out from hiding and they continue with their journey, even though Dante is still fearful. He compares his dread with what soldiers felt when leaving the Caprona Castle. Even though a truce was declared soldiers were terrified of passing through enemy territory. Dante therefore remains faithfully close to his guide320. The devils were about to attack him but are stopped by Malacoda who then warns them the bridges across the sixth bolgia are broken and therefore impassable.

The poets are told there is another bridge further on, which will be broken in 5 hours time. The time would be 1266 years and a day since these bridges fell. Malacoda was planning to send some of his devils to ensure all sinners are in the tar. He advised the poets to accompany the devils. He assures them the devils will not attack them. He assigns Barbariccia as the captain of the squad consisting of Alichino, Calcabrina, Cagnazzo321, Libicocco, Draghignazzo, Ciriatto, Graffiacane, Farfarello and Rubicante. He tells them to work at their assignment and also take the two poets safely to the bridge.

Dante is unhappy with this turn of events. He pleads with Virgil to go on without any escort. He does not trust the devils and believes that they mean them harm. Virgil reassures Dante the anger witnessed in the devils is directed at the sinners and therefore Dante need not fear them. Before leave-taking the devils salute their captain by blowing burps through their mouths and passing flatulence through their anus, as if breaking wind. Then they all turn left to continue their journey accompanied by the two poets.


Inferno Canto 21: The Fifth Bolgia: Peculators. The Elder of Santa Zita. Malacoda and other Devils.

Dante compares the fifth bolgia with a Venetian shipyard in Venice constructed in 1104 and was the most renowned in Europe. The purpose of introducing the shipyard is to provide the imagery of bustling activity in a shipyard where dark pitch is used. This tar is what covers the fifth Bolgia. The guardians of Bolgia Five of the Eighth Circe are devils called the ‘Malebranche’ to mean fiends with ‘evil claws’ instead of hands.

The 17th century French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715) famously argues ‘we see all things in God’ based on the Doctrine of ‘Vision in God’. He states God-perception in material things can be seen as a purely intellectual cognition in objects (immanence) and with in abstract truths (transcendence). The theological motivation for the doctrine in the Vision in God places each of us in immediate contact with God. He is found in our everyday experience, with the world and in our most private thoughts and musings. Both of these virtues are manifest in the doctrine of Vision in God but is rejected by Roman Catholics of Dante’s days.

St. Zita (1218-1278) is the patron saint of the City of Lucca. Zita came from a poor, but a deeply inspired devotional family. To help support the family, she became a maid of a wealthy Fatinelli family where she worked loyally for 48 years. Zita expressed concern for the poor and helpless of Lucca. Her reputation as a devout woman spread and the needy began to seek her out. This did not sit well with the Fatinelli family but God helped each rime. As the story goes, the Lord intervened as necessary. On one such event, Zita left her chore of baking bread to tend to someone in need. When the Fatinelli went to investigate, they found angels in the Fatinelli kitchen, picking up Zita’s slack.

Once the elder Fatinelli was in the midst of a fit of fury when Zits gave away a prized coat to a shivering poor at the doo;. Later an elderly man came to the door and returned the heirloom. When townsfolk heard of the event, they named the doorway of the St. Fredaino church in Lucca the “Angel Portal”. Besides being the patron saint for domestic workers and maids, she is the one can ask for help to find lost keys.

Malebranche said he was going back for more of St. Zita’s elders because there were plenty of grafters in Hell from that city. Whenever a sinner tried to get out of the pitch, other demons thrust him down with long hooks, taunting him all the while. Virgil told Dante not to be afraid of the demons, and went over to speak with them. At first they looked menacing, but when Virgil told them they were there by divine will, the head demon, Malacoda, gave them an escort made up of many demons: Alichino, Calcabrina, Cagnazzo, Barbariccia, Libicocco, Draghignazzo, Ciriatto, Graffiacane, Farfarello and Rubicante.

The sinners are being punished for simony which includes selling agencies of offices. While this is as serious as a simony by officials entrusted with tax paying citizens expecting fair treatment, Dante considers it a lesser sin than oligarchy against the well-being and morality of the Church. Dante was exiled from Florence for simony against state.

Venetians were famous ship builders who caulked their ships with pitch. Their ships and sailors were famous for ferrying merchants travelling on trading ships protected by a strong navy. These businesses were supervised by ten senior corrupt citizens who were also officials from Lucca. Because they shared executive authority with the chief magistrate, their acts of simony gave Florence the reputation of chronic bitter internal political strife. Bologna had a reputation for sexual immorality and Lucca was coupled with widespread corruption.

The various names of the devils have a variety of extraordinary meanings: Malebranche to mean “evil-claws” is derived from a family name in Lucca. Malacoda is “evil-tail.” Alichino originates from “harlequin”; Calcabrina is “he who can walk on brine”; Cagnazzo: “big dog” is another family name in Lucca; Libicocco stands for “winds”; Barbariccia is one who carried a “curly beard”; Draghignazzo is the “big nasty dragon” known for causing devastation. Ciriatto is a “wild hog.” Farfarello is an “evil ghost.” Rubicante is one who blushes or “he who grows red.” Graffiacane is “he who scratches dogs” and is also a family name from Lucca. Dante was not pleased to have any of the devils as escort, but Virgil again told him not to be scared: the demons’ growling faces were meant to scare the sinners. As a signal to begin, the leader of the devils, Barbariccia, “made a trumpet of his ass322.”

The devils want the sinners brought to this Bolgia as “One of Santa Zita’s elders” meaning representing themselves as one of the city’s government officials. His words reveal Lucca is full of grafters except that ‘Bonturo’ was the most corrupt of them all. Grafters are corrupt public officials who make profit by dishonest means and take advantage of their government and public positions. The devil states “You can change a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ for cash in Lucca” to mean public officials can be bribed to agree to do anything. The devil throws the sinner in hot pitch and devils ensure he stays submerged. They boil for eternity in hot tar, unable to escape. There is no escape for demeaning the sanctity of their offices by taking bribes and cheating.

When the sinner floats up with arms outstretched the devils mock him with, “You shouldn’t imitate the Holy Face.” Dante is making reference to the “Holy Face” of a wooden crucifix in Lucca. Another remark reminds the sinner, “The swimming’s different here from in the Serchio” to mean the River Serchio near Lucca where people swam for pleasure on their backs and arms outstretched; but the souls in the pitch are in hot viscous fluid for punishment. The devils act like scullery boys trying to keep the cooking meat submerged in the hot gravy. The devils take wicked pleasure in tormenting the sinners.

Virgil from previous experience is careful to caution Dante about Malebranche and advises him to remain hidden. Losing his cool with aggression will do no good. Dante is warned: “then decide if you still care to grapple”. Virgil meanwhile ventures to address Malacoda by informing him their pilgrimage is by Divine Will. The words act like magic and Malacoda tells his fellow devils to escort the poets to where they need to be. Despite the truce Dante’s fear is greatly visible. Dante’s mistrust is proven correct. One of the devils, Scarmiglione323, cheered by others is about to attack Dante but Malacoda lets out a warning and stops Dante from suffering at the hands of the bloodthirsty devil.

Malacoda tells Virgil the next bridge is broken since many years (1266 years) ago. He adds that in five more hours it will be 1266 years and a day since the bridge crumpled. Jesus’ crucifixion on a Good Friday in 34 AD will be remembered in 5 hours on earth according to Malacoda. By then Jesus dies it is 1266 years ago yesterday. ‘Today’ therefore is the morning of Holy Saturday in the year 1300. The earthquake324 that occurred after Jesus’ crucifixion shatters the bridge.

Malacoda assures both travellers he will help them reach that bridge. He will allow other brother devils to act as guides along the way where they also have a duty to ensure all grafters remain immersed in the hot tar. Barbariccia is the captain of this squad. Despite reassurances, Dante is uneasy because he sees the fiends grinding their teeth and winking at one another. The usually observant Virgil sees and suspects nothing and reassures Dante that their behaviour is messages against the sinners in the pitch.

Before parting, the devils doubly salute Malacoda and toot and hoot through the mouth and anus. They set off on their journey and the devils give their captain Malacoda a double salute.

Inferno Canto 22: Ciampolo, Friar Gomita, and Michael Zanche. The Malebranche quarrel.

1. I have erewhile seen horsemen moving camp//  Begin the storming, and their muster make//  And sometimes starting off for their escape;
2. Vaunt-couriers325 have I seen upon your land//  O Aretines326, and foragers go forth//  Tournaments stricken, and the joustings run,
3. Sometimes with trumpets and sometimes with bells//  With kettle-drums, and signals of the castles//  And with our own, and with outlandish things,
4. But never yet with bagpipe so uncouth//  Did I see horsemen move, nor infantry//  Nor ship by any sign of land or star.
5. We went upon our way with the ten demons//  Ah, savage company! but in the church//  With saints, and in the tavern with the gluttons!
6. Ever upon the pitch was my intent//  To see the whole condition of that Bolgia//  And of the people who therein were burned.
7. Even as the dolphins, when they make a sign//  To mariners by arching of the back//  That they should counsel take to save their vessel,
8. Thus sometimes, to alleviate his pain//  One of the sinners would display his back//  And in less time conceal it than it lightens.
9. As on the brink of water in a ditch//  The frogs stand only with their muzzles out//  So that they hide their feet and other bulk,
10. So upon every side the sinners stood//  But ever as Barbariccia near them came//  Thus underneath the boiling they withdrew.
11. I saw, and still my heart doth shudder at it//  One waiting thus, even as it comes to pass//  One frog remains, and down another dives;
12. And Graffiacan327, who most confronted him//  Grappled him by his tresses smeared with pitch//  And drew him up, so that he seemed an otter.
13. I knew, before, the names of all of them//  So had I noted them when they were chosen//  And when they called each other, listened how.
14. “O Rubicante (leader of elemental archfiends of Flames), see that thou do lay//  Thy claws upon him, so that thou mayst flay him,”//  Cried all together the accursed ones.
15. And I: “My Master, see to it, if thou canst//  That thou mayst know who is the luckless wight//  Thus come into his adversaries’ hands.”
16. Near to the side of him my Leader drew//  Asked of him whence he was; and he replied://  “I in the kingdom of Navarre328 was born;
17. My mother placed me servant to a lord//  For she had borne me to a ribald knave//  Destroyer of himself and of his things.
18. Then I domestic was of good King Thibault (the IV and count of Champagne)//  I set me there to practise barratry//  For which I pay the reckoning in this heat.”
19. And Ciriatto (wild dog), from whose mouth projected//  On either side, a tusk, as in a boar//  Caused him to feel how one of them could rip.
20. Among malicious cats the mouse had come//  But Barbariccia clasped him in his arms//  And said: “Stand ye aside, while I enfork him.”
21. And to my Master he turned round his head//  “Ask him again,” he said, “if more thou wish//  To know from him, before some one destroy him.”
22. The Guide: “Now tell then of the other culprits//  Knowest thou any one who is a Latian//  Under the pitch?”  And he: “I separated
23. Lately from one who was a neighbour to it//  Would that I still were covered up with him//  For I should fear not either claw nor hook!”
24. And Libicocco: “We have borne too much;”//  And with his grapnel seized him by the arm//  So that, by rending, he tore off a tendon.
25. Eke Draghignazzo (Big Nasty Dragon) wished to pounce upon him//  Down at the legs; whence their Decurion//  Turned round and round about with evil look.
26. When they again somewhat were pacified//  Of him, who still was looking at his wound//  Demanded my Conductor without stay
27. “Who was that one, from whom a luckless parting//  Thou sayest thou hast made, to come ashore?”//  And he replied: “It was the Friar Gomita329,
28. He of Gallura, vessel of all fraud//  Who had the enemies of his Lord in hand//  And dealt so with them each exults thereat;
29. Money he took, and let them smoothly off//  As he says; and in other offices//  A barrator was he, not mean but sovereign.
30. Foregathers with him one Don Michael Zanche330//  Of Logodoro; and of Sardinia//  To gossip never do their tongues feel tired.
31. me! see that one, how he grinds his teeth//  Still farther would I speak, but am afraid//  Lest he to scratch my itch be making ready.”
32. And the grand Provost, turned to Farfarello (Goblin)//  Who rolled his eyes about as if to strike//  Said: “Stand aside there, thou malicious bird.”
33. “If you desire either to see or hear,”//  The terror-stricken recommenced thereon//  “Tuscans or Lombards, I will make them come.
34. But let the Malebranche cease a little//  So that these may not their revenges fear//  And I, down sitting in this very place,
35. For one that I am will make seven come//  When I shall whistle, as our custom is//  To do whenever one of us comes out.”
36. Cagnazzo [bad dog – devil]331 at these words his muzzle lifted//  Shaking his head, and said: “Just hear the trick//  Which he has thought of, down to throw himself!”
37. Whence he, who snares in great abundance had//  Responded: “I by far too cunning am//  When I procure for mine a greater sadness.”
38. Alichin [devil] held not in, but running counter//  Unto the rest, said to him: “If thou dive//  I will not follow thee upon the gallop,
39. But I will beat my wings above the pitch//  The height be left, and be the bank a shield//  To see if thou alone dost countervail us.”
40. thou who readest, thou shalt hear new sport!//  Each to the other side his eyes averted//  He first, who most reluctant was to do it.
41. The Navarrese selected well his time// Planted his feet on land, and in a moment//  Leaped, and released himself from their design.
42. Whereat each one was suddenly stung with shame//  But he most who was cause of the defeat//  Therefore he moved, and cried: “Thou art o’ertakern.”
43. But little it availed, for wings could not//  Outstrip the fear; the other one went under//  And, flying, upward he his breast directed;
44. Not otherwise the duck upon a sudden// Dives under, when the falcon is approaching//  And upward he returneth cross and weary.
45. Infuriate at the mockery, Calcabrina332//  Flying behind him followed close, desirous//  The other should escape, to have a quarrel.
46. And when the barrator had disappeared//  He turned his talons upon his companion//  And grappled with him right above the moat.
47. But sooth the other was a doughty sparhawk//  To clapperclaw him well; and both of them//  Fell in the middle of the boiling pond.
48. A sudden intercessor was the heat//  But ne’ertheless of rising there was naught//  To such degree they had their wings belimed.
49. Lamenting with the others, Barbariccia333//  Made four of them fly to the other side//  With all their gaffs, and very speedily
50. This side and that they to their posts descended//  They stretched their hooks towards the pitch-ensnared//  Who were already baked within the crust,
51. And in this manner busied did we leave them.


Inferno Canto 22: Ciampolo, Friar Gomita, and Michael Zanche. The Malebranche quarrel.

The devils are walking and playing the bugle march with crude ‘instrument’ of pots and pans. While the poets go with them, Dante notices the sinners stay out of the tar as much as possible when they dare to. They dive back quickly when they see the demons approaching. One is too slow to sink and Graffiacane pulls him up by his hair. The demons want to tear him to pieces. Dante asks Virgil to find out who he is.

Virgil asks and is told he is from Navarre and took graft in the households of King Thibault. He added there is another Italian under the pitch close by, a Fra Gomita of Gallura who is a supreme ruler of all swindlers. He took money from his Lord’s enemies and set them free by grafting334 on a big scale. There is also among them another sinner: a Sardinian named Don Michele Zanche. Gomita now spends his time with Michele Zanche of Logodoro talking about Sardinia. Afraid of the devil leering at him menacingly the Navarrese suddenly shuts up. Noticing this Barbariccia warns Farfarello away from the sinner.

The Navarrese says that he can bring other souls to the surface if the Malebranche releases him. When all around is safe, the Navarrese falsely whistles to tell others it is safe to rise to the surface. Cagnazzo the archfiend of water mistrusts the Navarrese who provokes others to rise and be caught by the devils. Alichino whose mission is to guard Bolgia Five is positive he can catch any sinner if he tries to jump and agrees to help the Navarrese proposition. The devils move to a ledge to hide in case any sinner leaps from his ‘jail’. Cagnazzo raises objection to this scheme. The devils would be ashamed if they were ever outwitted.

Therefore, as soon as a sinner rises from the pitch, Alichino flies after the offender but it is always too late, because the lawbreaker prompted by terror, disappears into the pitch. Alichino tries to catch Bonturo Dati335 who is trying to escape. Alichino persuades the other devils to leave Bonturo Dati alone. Bonturo is supposed to send for other sinners from the lake of boiling pitch but dare not appear when the devils are near. Dante wants to speak with them. Bonturo does not call his friends. Instead he fools the devils and escapes back to the lake.

Alichino tries in vain to catch him. Calcabrina is waiting for a chance to pick a quarrel and attacks Alichino when Bonturo escapes. They claw at each other, while suspended above the pitch. Soon both fall in the hot depths below. The heat makes them release each other but they are unable to fly out because the tar has made their wings sticky and heavy. Barbariccia sends four devils with their hooks to their rescue. The other devils put the blame on Virgil and Dante and hunt them vexed. While the devils are thus engaged, the two poets move on.

Virgil accepts his devilish escort in a mock flippant but philosophical manner. The predatory devils are compared to falcons and hawks and their victims who are the sinners are compared with dolphins, frogs, an otter, a mouse and a wild duck. One sinner is captured by the devils and Virgil gets a chance to question him, even when it is obvious the devils thirst for the Nazarene’s blood. The sinner makes a piteous picture of helplessness that suffering is the tacit result of a life lived in moral weaknesses of greed and corruption.

The victim is native of Navarre known as Ciampolo336 who first served a Spanish noble and then worked in the court of Thibault II. He took advantage of his position in the court and turned to frequent incitement of quarrels for purposes of making money from litigations. Thibault II was Count of Champagne and later King of Navarre during the midthirteenth century.

Virgil speaks to other Italians who live in the pitch. Fra Gomita is a Sardinian Friar, a chancellor to Nino Visconti, and Governor of Pisa; From 1275 to 1296 Nino Visconti was a judge of Gallura, one of the 4 districts into which Sardinia was divided in the 13th century. He took advantage of his position and the trust the Visconti placed in him and sold public offices. When his corruption was discovered by Visconti, Fra Gomita was hanged. Now Fra Gomita spends his time engaged in conversation with Don Michele Zanche who is believed to have been the governor of Logodoro.


Inferno Canto 22: Ciampolo, Friar Gomita, and Michael Zanche. The Malebranche quarrel.

Dante’s makes a solemn discussion of Barbariccia the fiend leader of his troop of devils trained to obey and perform involuntary rude actions. These demons are crude, and frightening in appearance. They are made to appear pure and ‘righteous’ escorting crafty sinners. The harassed Navarrese escapes punishment through trickery. Resentment from an imprisoned offender was current in Dante’s time, but is current to this day by resentfully demanding (human rights) sinners337.

Trickster tales alternating between cleverness and stupidity or kindness and cruelty were also important tall tales and fables throughout the Middle Ages. Dante is familiar with Aesop’s parables by the ‘greatest of all liars’. The theme of an unscrupulous character escaping through trickery from the authorities is played out by Ciampolo. Whether sinning or not, despite the trickster’s faulty morals, all loyally follow togetherness in Hell. Vulgar and quarrelsome, the demons’ duty is to force the corrupt politicians (barrators) to stay under the surface of a boiling lake of pitch

The Navarrese shows his unwillingness to get his companions in trouble. A social network has developed among the sinners and they are against their barrators. They have alert signals to warn if the demons’ coming and whenever it is all clear. These sinners’ unanimously resent the nature of their punishment and are pitted against the stupid devils. Whether sinners or righteous it is always helpful to band together and cooperate. It seems to relieve the natural state of despair of a damned spirit.

Inferno Canto 23: Escape from the Malebranche. The Sixth Bolgia: Hypocrites. Catalano and Loderingo. Caiaphas.

1. Silent, alone, and without company//  We went, the one in front, the other after//  As go the Minor Friars338 along their way.
2. Upon the fable of Aesop was directed//  My thought, by reason of the present quarrel//  Where he has spoken of the frog and mouse;
3. For ‘mo’ and ‘issa’ are not more alike//  Than this one is to that, if well we couple//  End and beginning with a steadfast mind.
4. And even as one thought from another springs//  So afterward from that was born another//  Which the first fear within me double made.
5. Thus did I ponder: “These on our account//  Are laughed to scorn, with injury and scoff//  So great, that much I think it must annoy them.
6. If anger be engrafted on ill-will//  They will come after us more merciless//  Than dog upon the leveret which he seizes,”
7. I felt my hair stand all on end already//  With terror, and stood backwardly intent//  When said I: “Master, if thou hidest not
8. Thyself and me forthwith, of Malebranche//  I am in dread; we have them now behind us//  I so imagine them, I already feel them.”
9. And he: “If I were made of leaded glass//  Thine outward image I should not attract//  Sooner to me than I imprint the inner.
10. Just now thy thoughts came in among my own//  With similar attitude and similar face//  So that of both one counsel sole I made.
11. If peradventure the right bank so slope//  That we to the next Bolgia can descend//  We shall escape from the imagined chase.”
12. Not yet he finished rendering such opinion//  When I beheld them come with outstretched wings//  Not far remote, with will to seize upon us.
13. My Leader on a sudden seized me up//  Even as a mother who by noise is wakened//  And close beside her sees the enkindled flames,
14. Who takes her son, and flies, and does not stop//  Having more care of him than of herself//  So that she clothes her only with a shift;
15. And downward from the top of the hard bank//  Supine he gave him to the pendent rock,.// That one side of the other Bolgia walls.
16. Ne’er ran so swiftly water through a sluice//  To turn the wheel of any land-built mill//  When nearest to the paddles it approaches,
17. As did my Master down along that border//  Bearing me with him on his breast away//  As his own son, and not as a companion.
18. Hardly the bed of the ravine below//  His feet had reached, ere they had reached the hill//  Right over us; but he was not afraid;
19. For the high Providence, which had ordained//  To place them ministers of the fifth moat//  The power of thence departing took from all.
20. A painted people there below we found//  Who went about with footsteps very slow//  Weeping and in their semblance tired and vanquished.
21. They had on mantles with the hoods low down//  Before their eyes, and fashioned of the cut//  That in Cologne they for the monks are made.
22. Without, they gilded are so that it dazzles//  But inwardly all leaden and so heavy//  That Frederick339 used to put them on of straw.
23. everlastingly fatiguing mantle!//  Again we turned us, still to the left hand//  Along with them, intent on their sad plaint;
24. But owing to the weight, that weary folk//  Came on so tardily, that we were new//  In company at each motion of the haunch.
25. Whence I unto my Leader: “See thou find//  Some one who may by deed or name be known//  And thus in going move thine eye about.”
26. And one, who understood the Tuscan speech//  Cried to us from behind: “Stay ye your feet//  Ye, who so run athwart the dusky air!
27. Perhaps thou’lt have from me what thou demandest.”//  Whereat the Leader turned him, and said: “Wait//  And then according to his pace proceed.”
28. I stopped, and two beheld I show great haste//  Of spirit, in their faces, to be with me//  But the burden and the narrow way delayed them.
29. When they came up, long with an eye askance//  They scanned me without uttering a word.//  Then to each other turned, and said together
30. “He by the action of his throat seems living//  And if they dead are, by what privilege//  Go they uncovered by the heavy stole?”
31. Then said to me: “Tuscan, who to the college//  Of miserable hypocrites art come//  Do not disdain to tell us who thou art.”
32. And I to them: “Born was I, and grew up//  In the great town on the fair river of Arno//  And with the body am I’ve always had.
33. But who are ye, in whom there trickles down//  Along your cheeks such grief as I beholds?//  And what pain is upon you, that so sparkles?”
34. And one replied to me: “These orange cloaks//  Are made of lead so heavy, that the weights//  Cause in this way their balances to creak.
35. Frati Gaudenti340 were we, and Bolognese//  I Catalano, and he Loderingo341//  Named, and together taken by thy city,
36. As the wont is to take one man alone//  For maintenance of its peace; and we were such//  That still it is apparent round Gardingo (Spanish for individual inferior to the Dukes and counts).”
37. “O Friars,” began I, “your iniquitous. . .”//  But said no more; for to mine eyes there rushed//  One crucified with three stakes on the ground.
38. When me he saw, he writhed himself all over//  Blowing into his beard with suspirations//  And the Friar Catalan342, who noticed this,
39. Said to me: “This transfixed one, whom thou seest//  Counselled the Pharisees (Jews) that it was meet//  To put one man to torture for the people.
40. Crosswise and naked is he on the path//  As thou perceivest; and he needs must feel//  Whoever passes, first how much he weighs;
41. And in like mode his father-in-law is punished//  Within this moat, and the others of the council//  Which for the Jews was a malignant seed.”
42. And thereupon I saw Virgilius marvel//  O’er him who was extended on the cross//  So vilely in eternal banishment.
43. Then he directed to the Friar this voice://  “Be not displeased, if granted thee, to tell us//  If to the right hand any pass slope down
44. By which we two may issue forth from here//  Without constraining some of the black angels//  To come and extricate us from this deep.”
45. Then he made answer: “Nearer than thou hopest//  There is a rock, that forth from the great circle//  Proceeds, and crosses all the cruel valleys,
46. Save that at this ’tis broken, and does not bridge it//  You will be able to mount up the ruin//  That sidelong slopes and at the bottom rises.”
47. The Leader stood awhile with head bowed down//  Then said: “The business badly he recounted//  Who grapples with his hook the sinners yonder.”
48. And the Friar: “Many of the Devil’s vices//  Once heard I at Bologna, and among them//  That he’s a liar and the father of lies.”
49. There at my Leader with great strides went on//  Somewhat disturbed with anger in his looks//  Whence from the heavy-laden I departed
50. After the prints of his beloved feet.


Inferno Canto 23: Escape from the Malebranche. The Sixth Bolgia: Hypocrites. Catalano and Loderingo. Caiaphas.

The two poets steal away from the quarrelling devils in the tarpit and continue their journey. Dante’s thoughts turn to an Aesop’s fables when thinking about the fate of the two devils that are stuck in the pitch. The parable is about a frog and a mouse being duped. He knew the devils were duped because of Virgil’s wish to talk to and Italian sinner. Dante fears they are in greater danger from the two duped devils than from the now angry Malebranche. He tells that to Virgil who agrees and suggests they both escape down to the bank.

Even as they speak they see the angry Malebranche is getting closer to them. Without wasting time Virgil grabs holds of Dante, and slides down the side of the rocky bank and into the next Bolgia. While sliding down Virgil clasps Dante to him like a mother clasps her child. When they are in the next bolgia the devils reach the side of the bank, but by then the two poets are safe now because it is forbidden for the devils to enter the sixth Bolgia.

The sinners in this Bolgia are the Hypocrites343 who are seen to be walking slowly, shedding tears and looking exhausted. They are wearing cloaks, with a hood covering their eyes. Dante compares them with the hooded Benedictine monks at Cluny344. The cloaks are golden on the outside. But lined with lead on the inside, making them heavy. It is the weight of the cloak that causes them fatigue.

The two poets turn to the left and walk with the sinners. Virgil asks Dante to look at the sinners and to point out one who is familiar to him. One soul, who hears Dante speak Tuscan, addresses him. Virgil advises Dante to slow down when he sees two Shades approaching them – they are walking as quickly as they can with their heavy cloaks. After seeing Dante they address each other. The Shade notices that Dante is alive and wonder why he is not punished, as they are.

Dante tells them he is from Florence and is indeed still alive. He asks them their identity and about their painful garments. The two hypocrites reveal the cloaks are laden with lead crushing them under their weight. They are two Jovial Friars from Bologna: Catalano and Loderingo. They reveal they were both joint mayors of Florence. Evidence for this truth could be found in Gardingo.
Dante begins to address them but breaks off suddenly when he sees a Shade impaled to the ground with stakes. The impaled Shade is seen twitching in pain. Friar Catalano tells Dante the impaled figure on the ground is the man who talked the Pharisees into sacrificing a human being345 for the benefit of others. All the Shades living in this Bolgia step on him as they walk.

This Shades father-in-law and council members are also punished similarly in this Bolgia. Virgil stares in amazement at the crucified man. Then he asks one of the Friars a way out of the Bolgia. He says he does not want to take the devil’s help to go to the next Bolgia. The Friar reveals the bridge across this Bolgia is broken, but they can climb over the ruins of the bridge to go across. Hearing this Virgil realizes Malacoda lied to them about the bridge. The Friar walks quickly away from there and is followed by Dante.


Inferno Canto 23: Escape from the Malebranche. The Sixth Bolgia: Hypocrites. Catalano and Loderingo. Caiaphas.

Dante while walking single file with Virgil describes their journey as being similar to the way friars walk. The “minor friars” are Franciscans who usually journey in a single file. Dante again mulls over the recent happenings and compares them to one of Aesop’s fables. The parable he is referring to is about a mouse who wishes to cross a stream. He asks a frog to help him across and the frog agrees. The frog ties the mouse to his leg and jumps into the water. Once in the water the frog tries to keep the mouse afloat but both are captured by a swooping hawk. The hawk eats the frog and sets the mouse free. The mouse is equated with the two poets and the frog with the Malebranche who wishes them harm but lies about his intent to drown the mouse instead of helping them cross the 6th Bolgia. Divine justice (justice carried out by the Divine which decides fate in life: bold sins carry greater penalties than those committed out of weakness) similarly rescues the two poets from their fiendish enemies.

Virgil is in accord with Dante’s fears about the Malebranche. The two poets manage to escape by sliding down the bank to the next bolgia. The devils are powerless to leave their own Bolgia. Punished in this Bolgia are Hypocrites. Their punishment is wearing leaded cloaks on the inside linings. Hypocrisy is pretence of having a virtuous character that one does not have. For projecting ‘falseness’ the Hypocrites are justifiably punished for feigning virtue. In Sweden, ‘hypocrisy’ is a ‘death metal’. The leaded cloaks that crush them in Hell are their gilded punishment dazzling on the outside. The heavy lead makes each step a misery. Hypocritical words brought ‘golden promises’ in the lives of others on earth and the same cloaks now bring them misery in Hell where they are damned for eternity.

The Hypocrites wear hooded cloaks to cover their eyes, similar to the elegant hooded cloaks worn by the Benedictine monks at Cluny. Saint Bernard346 criticized such extravagance on dress. Dante makes reference to point out the hypocrisy of Benedictine monks when choosing such pretentious garments. There is a reference being made to the capes used by King Frederick II, the grandson of Frederick Barbarossa. He used capes gilded with lead to punish traitors. The traitors were made to wear leaden capes, which were then melted on their bodies.

Eventually Dante gets to speak with two sinners, both “Jovial Friars from Bologna.” They are from the order of Cavalieri di Beata Santa Maria founded in Bologna in 1261. Their task was to bring peace between political factions (Guelphs and Ghibellines) and to help the poor. The organization had liberal rules and was called “Jovial Friars.” Of the two Catalano de Malavolti (1210 – 85) and Loderingo degli Andalo (1210-93, the former was a Guelph and the latter a Ghibelline). Both were jointly elected to the Office of Mayor in Florence. It was believed if the two men from the different factions worked together it would lead to peace in the city.

That did not happen and in 1266 Ghibellines were expelled from Florence. Gardingo was a palatial town hall area of Florence around the Palazzo Vecchio. Here the heads of the Florentine Ghibellines, the Uberti Family had their palace. The palace was destroyed during the strife of 1266 and that was the handiwork of hypocritical actions by the two friars. That is the “evidence” that Catalano speaks of.

Virgil’s relationship with the 35 year old Dante highlights the paternal nature of Virgil’s love for him. Virgil is seen to carry Dante tenderly down the cliff. The spirits of Homer and his companions (of which Virgil is one) are giants and Virgil among them is a huge imposing character. The filial conversation between Dante and Brunetto who is a known homosexual is evidence of Renaissance paternal and filial conversation.

The Jovial Friars, also known as the Knights of Saint Mary, were founded for keeping peace between warring factions. The Friars often neglected their duties and instead oversaw increased violence. The fact is that neither faction was willing to let someone from outside exercise power over them. The two hypocritical friars were allegedly tasked to bring peace to Florence, but triggered an uprising of 1266 instead. The two Friars were in fact puppets in the hands of Pope Clement IV347 who got them elected to destroy the Ghibellines and install Guelphs in power. For their hypocritical actions they are now in Hell.

The “impaled figure” that causes Dante to break off in midsentence is of Caiaphas348, the High priest of the Jews. He convinced other Jews to sacrifice companion Jews to ensure the safety of the then corrupt Hebrew nation. Caiaphas’ father-in-law Annas brings Jesus to be tried and at the trial is convicted to die on the cross. These men brought misery to all Jews and (became the “seed of evil for all Jews”). To avenge Jesus’ death God causes Jerusalem to be destroyed and the Hebrew people scatter to all parts of the globe. Now these men find themselves trodden on by all Hypocrites. He lies impaled and crucified on the ground just as they caused Jesus to be crucified. These men are evil, counselors and their deceitful guidance brought much misery to others. Virgil is amazed to beholds the crucified figure.

Virgil asks the friar for a way to the neat Bolgia. The friar’s words bring home to Virgil the fact that Malacoda also had lied to him about there being a bridge across the sixth Bolgia. The friar reveals there is no such way across the bridge which is broken. Deceit349 again is an important theme which begins with Malacoda’s lying about the bridge. The devil never intends to actually help the poets. He sends them off with the Malebranche, promising them all will be well. Malacoda’s intent is to get the two poets into trouble.

Even Virgil is easily deceived by his hypocrisy of lies and now is ashamed at being victimised by deceit. He realises that even Logic and Reason350 cannot fathom Fraud easily. Fraud is always able to hide evidence of wrongdoing which usually ends becoming embarrassing information. The friars’ words that a devil’s word is the “father of all lies” annoy Virgil. Virgil rebukes his gullibility. Stung by these words he marches away in anger. And Dante follows “those cherished footprints.” Obviously Virgil’s fallibility does not reduce Dante’s respect for him.

Inferno: Canto 224: The Seventh Bolgia: Thieves. Vanni Fucci. Serpents.

1. In that part of the youthful year wherein//  The Sun his locks beneath Aquarius tempers//  And now the nights draw near to half the day,
2. What time the hoar-frost copies on the ground//  The outward semblance of her sister white//  But little lasts the temper of her pen,
3. The husbandman, whose forage faileth him//  Rises, and looks, and seeth the champaign//  All gleaming white, whereat he beats his flank,
4. Returns in doors, and up and down laments//  Like a poor wretch, who knows not what to do//  Then he returns and hope revives again,
5. Seeing the world has changed its countenance//  In little time, and takes his shepherd’s crook// And forth the little lambs to pasture drives.
6. Thus did the Master fill me with alarm//  When I beheld his forehead so disturbed//  And to the ailment came as soon the plaster.
7. For as we came unto the ruined bridge//  The Leader turned to me with that sweet look//  Which at the mountain’s foot I first beheld.
8. His arms he opened, after some advisement//  Within himself elected, looking first//  Well at the ruin, and laid holds of me.
9. And even as he who acts and meditates//  For aye it seems that he provides beforehand//  So upward lifting me towards the summit
10. Of a huge rock, he scanned another crag//  Saying: “To that one grapple afterwards//  But try first if ’tis such that it will holds thee.”
11. This was no way for one clothed with a cloak//  For hardly we, he light, and I pushed upward//  Were able to ascend from jag to jag.
12. And had it not been, that upon that precinct//  Shorter was the ascent than on the other//  He I know not, but I had been dead beat.
13. But because Malebolge tow’rds the mouth//  Of the profoundest well is all inclining//  The structure of each valley doth import
14. That one bank rises and the other sinks.//  Still we arrived at length upon the point//  Wherefrom the last stone breaks itself asunder.
15. The breath was from my lungs so milked away//  When I was up, that I could go no farther//  Nay, I sat down upon my first arrival.
16. “Now it behoves thee thus to put off sloth,”//  My Master said; “for sitting upon down//  Or under quilt, one cometh not to fame,
17. Withouten which whoso his life consumes//  Such vestige leaveth of himself on earth//  As smoke in air or in the water foam.
18. And therefore raise thee up, o’ercome the anguish//  With spirit that o’ercometh every battle//  If with its heavy body it sink not.
19. A longer stairway it behoves thee mount//  ‘Tis not enough from these to have departed//  Let it avail thee, if thou understand me.”
20. Then I uprose, showing myself provided//  Better with breath than I did feel myself//  And said: “Go on, for I am strong and bold.”
21. Upward we took our way along the crag//  Which jagged was, and narrow, and difficult//  And more precipitous far than that before.
22. Speaking I went, not to appear exhausted//  Whereat a voice from the next moat came forth//  Not well adapted to articulate words.
23. I know not what it said, though o’er the back//  I now was of the arch that passes there//  But he seemed moved to anger who was speaking.
24. I was bent downward, but my living eyes//  Could not attain the bottom, for the dark//  Wherefore I: “Master, see that thou arrive
25. At the next round, and let us descend the wall//  For as from hence I hear and understand not//  So I look down and nothing I distinguish.”
26. “Other response,” he said, “I make thee not//  Except the doing; for the modest asking//  Ought to be followed by the deed in silence.”
27. We from the bridge descended at its head//  Where it connects itself with the eighth bank//  And then was manifest to me the Bolgia;
28. And I beheld therein a terrible throng//  Of serpents, and of such a monstrous kind//  That the remembrance still congeals my blood
29. Let Libya boast no longer with her sand//  For if Chelydri, Jaculi, and Phareae351//  She breeds, with Cenchri352 and with Amphisbaena353,
30. Neither so many plagues nor so malignant//  E’er showed she with all Ethiopia//  Nor with whatever on the Red Sea is!
31. Among this cruel and most dismal throng//  People were running naked and affrighted.//  Without the hope of hole or heliotrope354.
32. They had their hands with serpents bound behind them//  These riveted upon their reins the tail//  And head, and were in front of them entwined.
33. And lo! at one who was upon our side//  There darted forth a serpent, which transfixed him//  There where the neck is knotted to the shoulders.
34. Nor ‘O’ so quickly e’er, nor ‘I’ was written//  As he took fire, and burned; and ashes wholly//  Behoved it that in falling he became.
35. And when he on the ground was thus destroyed//  The ashes drew together, and of themselves//  Into himself they instantly returned.
36. Even thus by the great sages ’tis confessed//  The phoenix dies, and then is born again//  When it approaches its five-hundredth year;
37. On herb or grain it feeds not in its life//  But only on tears of incense and amomum//  And nard and myrrh are its last winding-sheet.
38. And as he is who falls, and knows not how//  By force of demons who to earth down drag him//  Or other oppilation that binds man,
39. When he arises and around him looks//  Wholly bewildered by the mighty anguish//  Which he has suffered, and in looking sighs;
40. Such was that sinner after he had risen.//  Justice of God! O how severe it is//  That blows like these in vengeance poureth down!
41. The Guide thereafter asked him who he was//  Whence he replied: “I rained from Tuscany//  A short time since into this cruel gorge.
42. A bestial life, and not a human, pleased me//  Even as the mule I was; I’m Vanni Fucci355//  Beast, and Pistoia356 was my worthy den.”
43. And I unto the Guide: “Tell him to stir not//  And ask what crime has thrust him here below//  For once a man of blood and wrath I saw him.”
44. And the sinner, who had heard, dissembled not//  But unto me directed mind and face//  And with a melancholy shame was painted.
45. Then said: “It pains me more that thou hast caught me// Amid this misery where thou seest me//  Than when I from the other life was taken.
46. What thou demandest I cannot deny//  So low am I put down because I robbed//  The sacristy of the fair ornaments,
47. And falsely once ’twas laid upon another//  But that thou mayst not such a sight enjoy//  If thou shalt e’er be out of the dark places,
48. Thine ears to my announcement ope and hear://  Pistoia first of Neri groweth meagre//  Then Florence doth renew her men and manners;
49. Mars 357draws a vapour up from Val di Magra358//  Which is with turbid clouds enveloped round//  And with impetuous and bitter tempest
50. Over Campo Picen359 shall be the battle//  When it shall suddenly rend the mist asunder//  So that each Bianco360 shall thereby be smitten.
51. And this I’ve said that it may give thee pain.”


Inferno: Canto 24: The Seventh Bolgia: Thieves. Vanni Fucci. Serpents.

In January frost covers the ground and looks like snow cover. It is early morning and the peasant mistakes the frost for snow. He is disappointed. The sheep will not be able to graze through the snow, but when he returns outside, he sees the ground is frost-free and his spirits lift. He brings his sheep out to graze. The pilgrim compares his sorrow with that of the farmer who is saddened by seeing the ground covered with, what he thinks, is snow. The Pilgrim’s anguish comes from seeing Virgil’s troubled look but later disappears. Dante expresses happiness at discovering he is wrong about Virgil because when they reach the ruins of the bridge Virgil is in good cheer.
After studying the ruins of the Bolgia and deciding on how to climb down, Virgil lifts Dante to make their way up the rocks easier. Even with help, Dante finds the climb difficult. He comments this bank is not as steep as the one they slid down on. The structure of the “Evil Pits” or Malebolge is that each depository leads to the next one which is lower than the bank above. When they finish their climb Dante is out of breath and too tired to move on; so he sits down to rest. Virgil encourages him to move on saying laziness361 is no way to become successful when on a journey. He tells Dante to triumph over his weariness362 with inner strength, for they still have to complete their journey through Hell. The Pilgrim stands and pretends he has recovered363. He asks Virgil to continue the journey.

They make their way to the bridge over the next Bolgia. Here Dante hears an indistinct voice from below. He cannot decipher what is being said. There is an impression the speaker is running while he speaks. Dante cannot see anything from the bridge and suggests they descend into the pit of the seventh Bolgia. Virgil agrees and they both climb down. There is now a clear picture of the scene there.

There are many monstrous looking snakes364 of many varieties everywhere. He never saw such a variety even when he was in Libya which is home to many snakes. He comments that even if Libya, Ethiopia and the area around Red Sea were combined, it would not hold so many serpents. Among these snakes are frightened people running around to find a hiding place. The sinners are naked with hands tied with snakes behind their backs. The head and tail of the snakes pass through their bodies and emerge at their groins where they are knotted.

The snakes found here are fantastic: the “Chelydri” is thought to leave a smoking trail; the “Jaculi” hollow out paths with their tails; the “Cenchres” make wavering tracks in the sand and the “Amphisbences” are known to have two heads, one at each end. These snakes are all described in the “Charsalia” written by Lucan. Dante therefore says the snakes he now sees are more fearsome than these from Libya.

A sinner runs past the two poets and a snake strikes him. The Shade collapses into a pile of ash which scatters. The ash then comes together and changes into the shape of a man. Dante compares this scene to the rebirth of the phoenix after 500 years of going from life. The phoenix must feed on the juice of frankincense365 balm (dried balsamic sap from tree used as aromatic incense – a symbol of Jesus’ humanity; gifted by the magi who visit infant Jesus) and yellow dyes of spikenard366 (Symbol of Love; a Himalayan saffron – an aromatic spring flower used in perfumes and oils) and myrrh (bitter resin of a fragrant sap . The sinner rises groggily to his feet, like a man awakened from an epileptic fit. He is in pain from his recent attack. Dante wonders what cruel justice God meted out to these sinners.

At Virgil’s enquiry the sinner reveals himself to be a Tuscan named Vanni Fucci. He had a bestial temperament, was born illegitimate and comes from a place called Pistoia. Dante knew him as a wrathful man and asks Virgil what sin he is being punished for in Hell. Vanni Fucci overhears the question and shamefully looks at the Pilgrim. He tells Dante he is more remorseful at being found here by Dante than when he lost his life. He says he is here because he was a thief. He stole the sacristy treasure but an innocent man was accused of the crime. He asks the Dante to hide he met him here.

Vanni Fucci then makes a prophecy about Florence: the Blacks will be expelled from Pistoia. Further, they will take over Florence by driving out the Whites. A man from Valdimagre will battle with the Pisonian in an area near Piceno’s fields. This man (Marcello Malaspina) will triumph over the whites (Pisonian). The thief ends his prophecy with the frank admission that he has revealed all this to upset the pilgrim, Dante.


Inferno: Canto 24: The Seventh Bolgia: Thieves. Vanni Fucci. Serpents.

The canto opens with a metaphor: a shepherd in early spring is discouraged to see the fields white with frost, but a couple hours later it is warm and green and he takes his flocks out to graze.

Dante opens the canto with an elaborate simile comparing the changing moods of the peasant with his own reactions towards Virgil. Virgil’s anger passes quickly and turns into the sweetness with which he usually treats Dante. They clamber up the great crevices and crags between the pouches where the hypocrites are lodged and through much effort enter the next pouch. When Dante runs out of breath, Virgil encourages him. They almost climb down to the next valley when Dante sees masses of venomous serpents. He then sees naked sinners running among the snakes. One sinner is bitten, and after bursting into flames and then into ashes, his dust remoulds into a human shape367, like the phoenix.

Virgil is told the remoulded person is Vanni Fucci from Pistoia. Dante knew him, and the sinner was ashamed he is damned for stealing ornaments from the sacristy. Then Vanni Fucci predicts the misfortunes of the White Guelphs, which he tells Dante “to make [him] grieve.”

The shepherd metaphor is a reminder that Dante lives among ordinary people whose livelihood depended on the seasons368 not just with the heroic Shades of long-dead versifiers. The phoenix the mythological bird that burns itself to death every five-hundred years is a reminder that events rise from the ashes unharmed if the intent of the life’s actor369 is righteous.

Vanni Fucci stole from the treasury of San Jacopo, which was kept in the sacristy of the Cathedral of Pistoia. Rampino Foresi was accused of the crime and was nearly executed, while Fucci escaped. Punished in this Bolgia are the thieves370 (can be poseurs, imitators, fakers of all castes and classes). Their punishment is not just limited to being tormented by snakes. It is revealed when a snakebites a thief. He flares up and turns to ashes. These ashes then collect again to form the metamorphosis of the man-phoenix. When the phoenix becomes 500 years old (cycles of birth and death) it burns down into a heap of ashes. From these ashes emerges a worm371, which three days later turns into the phoenix again (lying belly crawlers defeated). The phoenix is a mythical creature mentioned by both Ovid and Brunetto Latini.

The sinner reveals he is Vanni Fucci, the illegitimate son of Fuccio de Lazzari. He was the leader of Blacks in Pistoia and well-known for his might and anger372. Fucci should have been punished in the 7th circle with the Wrathful. Fucci then tells Dante he is both angry and ashamed (anger is caused by want for perfection, but absolute perfection is not possible in action) to have been recognized. He is angry because the truth of his thieving is now revealed.

In 1293 the treasury of San Iacopo church of San Zeno at Pistoia was looted. At first an innocent Rampino Foresi was accused. However Fucci escaped and remained free till he died in 1300. Now he does not want anybody to know he is in the Borgia nor that he is a thief. This sinner does not wish to be remembered. Serious sinners like Fucci want to remain forgotten. Fucci himself becomes red with a “look of ugly shame”373.

Out of pure spite to grieve Dante, Fucci makes a prophecy about the coming strife in Florence. Expelled blacks will join hands with Florentine Blacks and take Florence. The Whites he said will be driven out. Valdimagre territory374 was ruled by Moroello Malaspina who the thief calls the “bolt of lightning.” Malaspina will lead troops against Pistoia. The Pistoia’s (“thick, foreboding clouds”) will fight him at Serravalle, a town near “Piceno’s fields.” But eventually Malaspina will win by destroying the Pistonians.

All this occurred when the events were prophesied. The Pistonian Whites expelled the Blacks in May 1301. These Blacks with Florentine Blacks, expelled the Whites and look over Florence in 1301. Charles of Valois aided them in this. Then in 1302, Moroello Malaspina from Valdimagre led a force of Florentines and Luccans against Pistoia. The Pistonian catch him unawares and attack him at the Battle of Serravalle, near “Piceno’s fields” Moroello emerges victorious. Pistonians are defeated. Since the Blacks are in power over Florence it causes Dante misery. In 1300 Dante was one of the six priors of Florence.

In 1301, following the threatened interference of Charles of Valois against the Guelphs, he was sent as an ambassador to Pope Boniface VIII in Rome. Political deception meant Dante never again set foot in his native city. He was banished from Florence in 1309, accused of opposing the Pope and Charles of Valois, and sentenced to death in his absence. Thus the spiteful Fucci tells Dante the future in store for Dante is to cause him unhappiness. Fucci is angry with his fate and is eager to cause misery in others.

Inferno Canto 25: Vanni Fucci’s375 Punishment. Agnello Brunelleschi, Buoso degli Abati, Puccio Sciancato, Cianfa de’ Donati, and Guercio Cavalcanti376.

1. At the conclusion of his words, the thief//  Lifted his hands aloft with both the figs//  Crying: “Take that, God, for at thee I aim them.”
2. From that time forth the serpents were my friends//  For one entwined itself about his neck//  As if it said: “I will not thou speak more;”
3. And round his arms another, and rebound him//  Clinching itself together so in front//  That with them he could not a motion make.
4. Pistoia377, ah, Pistoia! why resolve not//  To burn thyself to ashes and so perish//  Since in ill-doing thou thy seed excellest?
5. Through all the sombre circles of this Hell//  Spirit I saw not against God so proud//  Not he who fell at Thebes down from the walls!
6. He fled away, and spake no further word//  And I beheld a Centaur378 full of rage//  Come crying out: “Where is, where is the scoffer?”
7. I do not think Maremma379 has so many//  Serpents as he had all along his back//  As far as where our countenance begins.
8. Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape//  With wings wide open was a dragon lying//  And he sets fire to all that he encounters.
9. My Master said: “That one is Cacus380, who//  Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine//  Created oftentimes a lake of blood.
10. He goes not on the same road with his brothers//  By reason of the fraudulent theft he made//  Of the great herd, which he had near to him;
11. Whereat his tortuous actions ceased beneath//  The mace of Hercules381, who peradventure//  Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten.”
12. While he was speaking thus, he had passed by//  And spirits three had underneath us come//  Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader,
13. Until what time they shouted: “Who are you?”//  On which account our story made a halt//  And then we were intent on them alone.
14. I did not know them; but it came to pass//  As it is wont to happen by some chance//  That one to name the other was compelled,
15. Exclaiming: “Where can Cianfa382 have remained?”//  Whence I, so that the Leader might attend//  Upward from chin to nose my finger laid.
16. If thou art, Reader, slow now to believe//  What I shall say, it will no marvel be//  For I who saw it hardly can admit it.
17. As I was holdsing raised on them my brows//  Beholds! a serpent with six feet darts forth//  In front of one, and fastens wholly on him.
18. With middle feet it bound him round the paunch//  And with the forward ones his arms it seized//  Then thrust its teeth through one cheek and the other;
19. The hindermost it stretched upon his thighs//  And put its tail through in between the two//  And up behind along the reins outspread it.
20. Ivy was never fastened by its barbs//  Unto a tree so, as this horrible reptile//  Upon the other’s limbs entwined its own.
21. Then they stuck close, as if of heated wax//  They had been made, and intermixed their colour//  Nor one nor other seemed now what he was;
22. E’en as proceedeth on before the flame//  Upward along the paper a brown colour//  Which is not black as yet, and the white dies.
23. The other two looked on, and each of them//  Cried out: “O me, Agnello, how thou changest!//  Beholds, thou now art neither two nor one.”
24. Already the two heads had one become//  When there appeared to us two figures mingled//  Into one face, wherein the two were lost.
25. Of the four lists were fashioned the two arms//  The thighs and legs, the belly and the chest//  Members became that never yet were seen.
26. Every original aspect there was cancelled//  Two and yet none did the perverted image//  Appear, and such departed with slow pace.
27. Even as a lizard, under the great scourge//  Of days canicular, exchanging hedge//  Lightning appeareth if the road it cross;
28. Thus did appear, coming towards the bellies//  Of the two others, a small fiery serpent//  Livid and black as is a peppercorn.
29. And in that part whereat is first received//  Our aliment, it one of them transfixed//  Then downward fell in front of him extended.
30. The one transfixed looked at it, but said naught//  Nay, rather with feet motionless he yawned//  Just as if sleep or fever had assailed him.
31. He at the serpent gazed, and it at him//  One through the wound, the other through the mouth//  Smoked violently, and the smoke commingled.
32. Henceforth be silent Lucan383, where he mentions//  Wretched Sabellus and Nassidius//  And wait to hear what now shall be shot forth.
33. Be silent Ovid385, of Cadmus and Arethusa//  For if him to a snake, her to fountain//  Converts he fabling, that I grudge him not;
34. Because two natures never front to front//  Has he transmuted, so that both the forms//  To interchange their matter ready were.
35. Together they responded in such wise//  That to a fork the serpent cleft his tail//  And eke the wounded drew his feet together.
36. The legs together with the thighs themselves//  Adhered so, that in little time the juncture//  No sign whatever made that was apparent.
37. He with the cloven tail assumed the figure//  The other one was losing, and his skin//  Became elastic, and the other’s hard.
38. I saw the arms draw inward at the armpits//  And both feet of the reptile, that were short//  Lengthen as much as those contracted were.
39. Thereafter the hind feet, together twisted//  Became the member that a man conceals//  And of his own the wretch had two created.
40. While both of them the exhalation veils//  With a new colour, and engenders hair//  On one of them and depilates the other,
41. The one uprose and down the other fell//  Though turning not away their impious lamps//  Underneath which each one his muzzle changed.
42. He who was standing drew it tow’rds the temples//  And from excess of matter, which came thither//  Issued the ears from out the hollow cheeks;
43. What did not backward run and was retained//  Of that excess made to the face a nose//  And the lips thickened far as was befitting.
44. He who lay prostrate thrusts his muzzle forward//  And backward draws the ears into his head//  In the same manner as the snail its horns;
45. And so the tongue, which was entire and apt//  For speech before, is cleft, and the bi-forked//  In the other closes up, and the smoke ceases.
46. The soul, which to a reptile had been changed//  Along the valley hissing takes to flight//  And after him the other speaking sputters.
47. Then did he turn upon him his new shoulders//  And said to the other: “I’ll have Buoso run//  Crawling as I have done, along this road.”
48. In this way I beheld the seventh ballast//  Shift and reshift, and here be my excuse//  The novelty, if aught my pen transgress.
49. And notwithstanding that mine eyes might be//  Somewhat bewildered, and my mind dismayed//  They could not flee away so secretly
50. But that I plainly saw Puccio Sciancato386//  And he it was who sole of three companions//  Which came in the beginning, was not changed;
51. The other was he whom thou, Gaville387, weepest.


Inferno Canto 25: Vanni Fucci’s388 Punishment. Agnello Brunelleschi, Buoso degli Abati, Puccio Sciancato, Cianfa de’ Donati, and Guercio Cavalcanti389.

After finishing making his prophecy the angry thief (Vanni Fucci) makes an obscene gesture against God. This Canto 25 also opens with the same sinner, Fucci, making “figs” with his hands and blaspheming God. A Centaur, Cacus, races up to the group and asks to find the blasphemer. Virgil explains to Dante that Cacus does not live with his comrades at the banks of Phlegethon because he stole Hercules’ cattle. Hercules avenges the theft by clubbing Cacus to death and he continues clubbing long after Cacus was dead. Suddenly, hoards of serpents390 climb on to Fucci and a dragon perches on his shoulders.

Dante is pleased when Fucci the thief is attacked by many snakes. One snake wraps itself around Fucci’s neck making it impossible for him to say any more. Another wraps itself around his arms making the thief incapable of any movement. The Pilgrim wishes that Pistoia should burn since he caused the city of Florence so much destruction. The Pilgrim Dante admits Fucci is the most arrogant of sinner-souls he meets in Hell. His disrespect against God (Psalm 78: 40-42)391 is similar if not more grotesque than the disrespect shown by Capaneus (“he who fell from Thebes’ high walls”).

Fucci runs away and a centaur, half covered with snakes, comes there looking for him. The Pilgrim says Fucci has more snakes on him than are near Maremma. A fire- spitting dragon sits on the centaur’s back. Virgil tells the Pilgrim Dante the Centaur is Cacus, who killed many people living in the area below Mount Aventine. He is punished in the Bolgia because he stole his neighbour’s cattle-herd. His brothers, the other centaurs are the guardians of the first round of the seventh circle where the wrathful are punished. Cacus is not there because he committed theft. He died at the hands of Hercules.

The Centaur leaves and three sinners appear, obviously concerned and asking if a sinner named Cianfa has fallen back. Cacus gallops away from there and three Shades arrive. They ask the poets to identify themselves. The Pilgrim does not recognize any of them. Then one Shade asks another the whereabouts of Cianfa. The Pilgrim signals his guide to keep quiet.

He sees a six-footed serpent attack one of the Shades. The serpent wraps his middle feet round the sinner’s abdomen and the front ones around the sinner’s thighs. At that moment the six-legged lizard fastens itself to one of the three sinners, Agnello, and weaves itself through the sinner’s body, melding it with the sinner, like hot wax. The two beasts become one and the other two sinners mock Agnello. The serpent bites the sinner on both his cheeks. The serpent’s tail slides through the sinner’s legs and reaches upwards on the Shade’s back. The Shade and the serpent are now tightly bound, with the limbs entangled. Then both begin dissolving and recombining with each other.

A small black monster runs up to one of the remaining two sinners and bites near the belly button. A mutual transformation begins. The monster takes on the human form and the sinner takes on the monster’s form. Repeated transformations of snake-monsters are seen as symbols of life, death and rebirth. Each metamorphoses looks different.

The other two Shades address the melting sinner as Agnello and shout that he is changing form and looks neither like himself nor like the serpent. Recurring happening of the same suggests a fear of an unresolved issue. The fact the sinners are bitten after a brief struggle, promises the situation the sinners are struggling with is some kind of unsolved problem.

The heads of the two combine to form another face. The arms of the two creatures are burnt off. The legs emerge as monstrous limbs from the abdomen unlike anything seen in creatures of Earth. The newly formed creature bears no likeness to the original two. They emerge as a deformed mixture of both. This new creature then moves off slowly from there. The vision seems like a challenge where the biting monster reminds the sinner he is going through an initiation.

Was this a psychological and spiritual trial that has the potential to change the sinner’s life for the better if it bravely gives up something, or takes a stand for principles or faith? Soon a little black serpent bites both the thieves. After biting the sinner the serpent falls to the ground. The wounded thief is feverish and yawns but the snake keeps eye contact. Smoke starts emerging from the sinner’s navel and the serpent’s mouth and these smokes mingle in a fume of sighs. Dante compares what he sees to Lucan’s story of Nasidiusis and Sabella and to Ovid’s story of Cadmus’ and Arethusa’ metamorphosis which he claims happened before his eyes and was far more fantastic.

The serpent’s tail splits into two and the sinner’s legs join into one mass. The serpent’s skin loses its scale and becomes like human skin. Then the sinner’s skin picks up scales. The sinner’s arms shrink and the snake’s legs grow in size proportionate to shrinking the sinner’s legs. The serpent spouts out human male genitals while the sinner’s penis turns into two legs. The smoke from one is moving towards the other and bringing about a full interchange of appearance. At the end of it the serpent turns into a human form and the sinner turns into a serpent and they slither away from there. All the while this transformation is happening the two keep eye contact. There is hate in both eyes. The newly formed man addresses the remaining Shade and saying that it is fitting that Buoso is a serpent like he used to be.

Although the Pilgrim was dazed by what he witnesses he still recognizes the two Shades. One is Luccio Sciancato, the only of the three Shades that remains unchanged. The other man is the one who brought misery to Gauille. This is Francesco Cavalcanti.


Inferno Canto 25: Vanni Fucci’s392 Punishment. Agnello Brunelleschi, Buoso degli Abati, Puccio Sciancato, Cianfa de’ Donati, and Guercio Cavalcanti393.

The angry thief Vanni Fucci is making an obscene gesture (fig) to God, a sacrilege that is immediately punished by two snakes coiling around the thief and makes him incapable of further sacrilege394. Vanni Fucci is unrepentant and proud of being in Hell and refuses to bow down before God. Vanni Fucci’s arrogance surpasses even that of Capaneus395. Dante breaks into a passionate apostrophe addressed to Pistoia, lamenting the evil that its citizens caused. He calls on the evil city to destroy itself for its sins have even surpassed its evil founders. Pistoia was founded by a group of soldiers who survived after Caitlin’s army was defeated.

Cacus is a centaur and the son of a Vulcan. He was a fire- breathing monster and lived in a cave beneath Mt. Avetine. He terrorized the natives of that area and Hercules killed him when he stole Hercules’ cattle. Cacus is in the Bolgia of thieves, unlike other centaurs who are in the seventh circle in the Bolgia of the wrathful.

Cacus leaves and the poets are joined by Shades that are looking for Cianfa Donati, the leader of the Black Guelphs in Florence. A six-footed serpent attacks one of the Shades. The sinner Agnello and the serpent blend into one creature. This blending is an individualised view of Dante’s real wisdom about sacrilege, sin and punishment. This strange attack is a result meted out to thieves. Agnello is a Florentine from the Brunelleschi family.

Next, another three Shades are attacked by a serpent. This time the result is a total exchange of bodies. The sinner Buoso da Duera is a noble from a feudalistic Ghibelline family. He was bribed by the French to betray his side. He turns into a serpent while the serpent gets a human form. Dante devotes many lines to this exchange. He says it supersedes any incident written by “Lucan” or “Ovid “.

He is referring to Lucan’s “Pharsalia” about two soldiers of Cato’s army, these two men, Sabella turns into ashes and Nasidiusis into a formless mass. In “Metamorphoses” Ovid tells how Cadmus becomes a serpent and Arethuse turns into a fountain. Dante says his story surpasses theirs because in this transformation there is a reciprocal exchange while theirs was a “one-way” transformation. The sinner that he just turned into a serpent is “Buoso”. His identity is Buoso Degli Abadi or perhaps even Buoso Donati.

Stunned as he is by what he has just witnessed Dante however recognizes the two Shades before him. One is Puccio Sciancato, the only one of the original three that has kept his own form. He was a supporter of the Ghibellines and a member of the Galigai family. He was exiled from Florence in 1268. The second is Francisco Cavalcanti (serpent turned into man). He was killed by the people of Gaville, a small town near Florence in the Arno valley. He sees Gaville’s reason to mourn because to avenge his death the Cavalcanti family killed all the people of Fraville.

In keeping with Dante’s theme of retribution396, where the punishment fits the sin, the Thieves in the seventh bolgia consistently steal one another’s forms, and they are condemned to spend eternity with their hands bound. Just as they stole from others in life, they have their only substance (body forms) stolen throughout their eternal damnation in death.

Dante becomes afraid when Virgil shows signs of confusion (loss of clarity in thought) and weakness (in recognizing approaching symbols). Dante relies on Virgil, who symbolizes human reason and wisdom (knowing the solution of everything and making right decisions), to deliver him from Hell, and when his guide shows signs of failure (prevention strategies), he becomes fearful. Virgil’s confusion sketches the fallibility of human wisdom (because of moral strength, courage and will). Dante uses this fallibility397 to sketch his notion that only things that are divine can reach perfection, even though Virgil is a great guide, he cannot ever reach perfection.

The main action in the seventh chasm begins with Vanni Fucci, who was a Black Guelph in Piceno and accused of stealing from the sacristy. His presence in this pit is not as significant as his malicious prophecy against Dante, who was a White Guelph. His prophecy is there will be a battle at Pistoia and the battle will result in wounding the Whites. This did happen in 1302, before Dante wrote his ‘Commedy’. Fucci pays for his maliciousness and blasphemy soon. Besides the serpents swarming Fucci and obscuring him, are actions surrounding the Five Thieves of Florence. These thieves of Florence are five nobles damned to spend eternity stealing one another’s forms.

Inferno Canto 26: The Eighth Bolgia: Evil Counsellors. Ulysses and Diomedes. Ulysses’ Last Voyage.

1. Rejoice, O Florence, since thou art so great//  That over sea and land thou beatest thy wings//  And throughout Hell thy name is spread abroad!
2. Among the thieves five citizens of thine//  Like these I found, whence shame comes unto me//  And thou thereby to no great honour risest.
3. But if when morn is near our dreams are true//  Feel shalt thou in a little time from now//  What Prato398, if none other, craves for thee.
4. And if it now were, it were not too soon//  Would that it were, seeing it needs must be//  For ’twill aggrieve me more the more I age.
5. We went our way, and up along the stairs//  The bourns had made us to descend before//  Remounted my Conductor and drew me.
6. And following the solitary path//  Among the rocks and ridges of the crag//  The foot without the hand sped not at all.
7. Then sorrowed I, and sorrow now again//  When I direct my mind to what I saw//  And more my genius curb than I am wont,
8. That it may run not unless virtue guide it//  So that if some good star, or better thing//  Have given me good, I may myself not grudge it.
9. As many as the hind (who on the hill//  Rests at the time when he who lights the world///  His countenance keeps least concealed from us,
10. While as the fly gives place unto the gnat)//  Seeth the glow-worms down along the valley//  Perchance there where he ploughs and makes his vintage;
11. With flames as manifold resplendent all//  Was the eighth Bolgia, as I grew aware//  As soon as I was where the depth appeared.
12. And such as he who with the bears avenged him//  Beheld Elijah’s399 chariot at departing//  What time the steeds to heaven erect uprose,
13. For with his eye he could not follow it//  So as to see aught else than flame alone//  Even as a little cloud ascending upward,
14. Thus each along the gorge of the intrenchment//  Was moving; for not one reveals the theft//  And every flame a sinner steals away.
15. I stood upon the bridge uprisen to see//  So that, if I had seized not on a rock//  Down had I fallen without being pushed.
16. And the Leader, who beheld me so attent//  Exclaimed: “Within the fires the spirits are//  Each swathes himself with that wherewith he burns.”
17. “My Master,” I replied, “by hearing thee//  I am more sure; but I surmised already//  It might be so, and already wished to ask thee
18. Who is within that fire, which comes so cleft//  At top, it seems uprising from the pyre//  Where was Eteocles400 with his brother placed.”
19. He answered me: “Within there are tormented//  Ulysses401and Diomedes, and thus together//  They unto vengeance run as unto wrath.
20. And there within their flame do they lament//  The ambush of the horse, which made the door//  Whence issued forth the Romans’ gentle seed;
21. Therein is wept the craft, for which being dead//  Deidamia still deplores Achilles//  And pain for the Palladium402 there is borne.”
22. “If they within those sparks possess the power//  To speak,” I said, “thee, Master, much I pray//  And re-pray, that the prayer be worth a thousand,
23. That thou make no denial of awaiting//  Until the horned flame shall hither come//  Thou seest that with desire I lean towards it.”
24. And he to me: “Worthy is thy entreaty//  Of much applause, and therefore I accept it;.// But take heed that thy tongue restrain itself.
25. Leave me to speak, because I have conceived//  That which thou wishest; for they might disdain//  Perchance, since they were Greeks, discourse of thine.”
26. When now the flame had come unto that point//  Where to my Leader it seemed time and place//  After this fashion did I hear him speak
27. “O ye, who are twofold within one fire//  If I deserved of you, while I was living//  If I deserved of you or much or little
28. When in the world I wrote the lofty verses//  Do not move on, but one of you declare//  Whither, being lost, he went away to die.”
29. Then of the antique flame the greater horn//  Murmuring, began to wave itself about//  Even as a flame doth which the wind fatigues.
30. Thereafterward, the summit to and fro//  Moving as if it were the tongue that spake//  It uttered forth a voice, and said: “When I
31. From Circe403 had departed, who concealed me//  More than a year there near unto Gaeta404//  Or ever yet Aeneas named it so,
32. Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence//  For my old father, nor the due affection//  Which joyous should have made Penelope405,
33. Could overcome within me the desire//  I had to be experienced of the world//  And of the vice and virtue of mankind;
34. But I put forth on the high open sea//  With one sole ship, and that small company//  By which I never had deserted been.
35. Both of the shores I saw as far as Spain//  Far as Morocco, and the isle of Sardes//  And the others which that sea bathes round about.
36. I and my company were old and slow//  When at that narrow passage we arrived..// Where Hercules his landmarks set as signals,
37. That man no farther onward should adventure.//  On the right hand behind me left Is Seville//  And on the other already had left Ceuta.
38. ‘O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand//  Perils,’ I said, ‘have come unto the West//  To this so inconsiderable vigil
39. Which is remaining of your senses still//  Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge//  Following the sun, of the unpeopled world.
40. Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang//  Ye were not made to live like unto brutes//  But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.’
41. So eager did I render my companions//  With this brief exhortation, for the voyage//  That then I hardly could have held them back.
42. And having turned our stern unto the morning//  We of the oars made wings for our mad flight//  Evermore gaining on the larboard side.
43. Already all the stars of the other pole//  The night beheld, and ours so very low//  It did not rise above the ocean floor.
44. Five times rekindled and as many quenched//  Had been the splendour underneath the moon//  Since we had entered into the deep pass,
45. When there appeared to us a mountain, dim//  From distance, and it seemed to me so high//  As I had never any one beheld.
46. Joyful were we, and soon it turned to weeping//  For out of the new land a whirlwind rose//  And smote upon the fore part of the ship.
47. Three times it made her whirl with all the waters//  At the fourth time it made the stern uplift//  And the prow downward go, as pleased Another,
48. Until the sea above us closed again.”


Inferno Canto 26: The Eighth Bolgia: Evil Counsellors. Ulysses and Diomedes. Ulysses’ Last Voyage.

Dante begins with a passionate address saying there are many Florentines populating Hell because of the terrible actions by its citizens. Dante prophesises that a day of mourning will come to Florence and it will not be a day too soon. The poets move on to the eighth chasm where Dante sees thousands of little flames. The sight reminds him of fireflies on a hillside. He leans so far forward on the ledge of the bridge that he almost falls into the abyss.

Virgil says each flame contains a sinner, who is hidden from view by the fire engulfing him or her. These are the Evil Councilors. They are people who used their authority and their brainpower for evil. Dante remarks he has before now figured out that each flame contains a sinner. He wishes to speak with a great flame that splits away into two projections of flames. This two-pronged flare hides Ulysses and Diomede, who are in Hell because of three evil deeds: they ambushed of the Trojan horse; Achilles abandonment of the weeping of Deidamia, the King’s daughter; and for stealing Pallas Athena’s statue at the Palladium. Because Dante is Italian, Virgil suggests that he should speak to the Greek citizens instead. The Greeks would not recognise him and may scorn Dante’s manner of speaking in Italian.

Virgil speaks to the larger flame who is Ulysses, who begins to tell the story of his death. He had wanderlust and convinced a few of his friends to take a long journey with him. They sailed for five months beyond the Hercules’ Pillars and came to a giant mountain. As they sailed towards it, a storm broke out and it sank the ship.

Virgil allows the flame of Ulysses and Diomede to leave. He then turns his attention to another flame that is eager to tell his tale. This flame encloses the soul of Count Guido da Montefeltro, who wants news from the upper world about his native city, Romagna. Dante starts with an ironic comment because he finds the five most respectable Florentines are in the Bolgia of Thieves.
The two poets climb back to the bridge and make their way along the difficult rocky path. What he sees makes him sad. The Eighth Bolgia is filled with many flames. They light up the ground and allow Dante to see within their pits even while standing on the bridge. At first he sees only flames just as Elisha sees only fire and not the fiery chariot that Prophet Elijah’s fiery chariot rising to heaven. Dante guesses each flame holds a sinner inside it.

The Pilgrim therefore leans over the bridge to have a better look. Virgil meanwhile reveals each flame holds a sinner being scorched as punishment. Dante admits he guessed that but then points out to a flame tip split in two. The divided flame reminds Dante of the flame from the pyre of Eteocles and his brother. Virgil reveals Ulysses and Diomedes are being punished together in that flame. They were always angry with each other’s presence when they sinned on Earth. They are now swearing profanities at the way they were duped by the Greeks who left a wooden horse hiding Trojan soldiers. They are now paying the price for causing Achilles to abandon Deidamia and for stealing the Palladium.

The Pilgrim begs Virgil to wait for the two sinners. He wishes to hear what they have to say. Virgil grants this request, but tells Dante to remain quiet and allow Virgil to talk to the two sinners. Virgil knows what questions to ask of the two men who are Greek and may not understand Dante’s Italian language.

Virgil addresses the two Greek souls in the flame with respect. He tells them if they think him worthy, to please stay and tell him how they met their ends. The taller of the two flames starts swaying and the voice of Ulysses answers. He speaks of the sun’s daughter and sorcerer Circe, who held him for a year near Gaeta. When he eventually returned home he again went on an adventure and abandoned his old father, his wife Penelope and their son.

He sets out on a ship with a few of his remaining men. They pass Spain, Morocco and Sardinia and finally reach the Pillars of Hercules (promontories flanking the Straits of Gibraltar) at the entrance beyond which it was forbidden to travel. They cross these anyway and reach Seville and Ceuta. Although he and his men are old he urges them to travel on to see places they have never seen. He says they are all Greek and their goal is knowledge and excellence. Inspired by his words they continue their journey forward always keeping to the left. In the Southern Hemisphere, they see the constellations in the night sky. After crossing the Pillar of Hercules they see a huge mountain in the distance. At first they are excited at having discovered a new land. Then a storm whips their ship around three times. The fourth strong gust sinks the ship and drowns them all.


Inferno Canto 26: The Eighth Bolgia: Evil Counsellors. Ulysses and Diomedes. Ulysses’ Last Voyage.

Dante’s discovery of five Florentines in this Bolgia disappoints him because his beloved city gave birth to such appalling sinners. He is ashamed of both the city and sinners. Dante makes a prophecy: “But if early morning dreams have any truth” this is an illusion that dreams of occurring and becomes true. Florence will soon be a victim to political trouble and violence and will be caused by “Prato and the others”.

Blacks of Prato were expelled from their home in 1309 by Florentine Whites. Prato like other small Tuscan towns, was under Florentine domination, and will rise against Florence. This happening is causing him grief for Florence. Dante wishes to dismiss this event as soon as possible. Despite his anguish, he climbs to bridge over the eighth Bolgia. Here he sees many moving flames on the floor of the Bolgia. When he sees the flames he is convinced each holds a sinner but cannot make out who they are. He compares the image with Prophet Elisha (“As he who was avenged by bears”) witnessing Elijah’s journey to Heaven in a fiery chariot. Elisha curses and is “avenged by bears” but still cannot see Elijah’s fiery shape within the brilliant light.

Dante and Virgil lean so far over the bridge that Dante almost falls over. Virgil confirms the Pilgrim’s assumption there is a sinner in each flame. They are clothed in burning fire for eternity. They suffer unrelenting agony for deceiving while the Shades were mortals. He then sees a flame that looks different from the rest: its tip is split in two. The spectacle reminds him of the joint pyre of Eteocles and Polynices, who are were the sons of Oedipus and Jocasta. Both wanted the Throne of Thebes. That led to the conflict called ‘The Seven against Thebes’. Eventually the two brothers slew each other. Their bodies were cremated on the pyre, but their hatred for each other caused the flame to split forever.

The split flame they were observing contained Ulysses and Diomedes. Ulysses was the son of Laertes, important in the Trojan War. Diomedes was the son of Tydeus and Deipyle. Diomedes ruled Argos and was a major Greek figure in the Trojan War. Ulysses and Diomedes were always together in many adventures. They therefore must now suffer together in their fiery punishment because their expeditions brought them neither joy nor sorrow. Their punishment is: “Ulysses and Diomed are suffering in anger with each other” for their crimes on Earth. Their joint suffering is comparable to that of Paslo and Francisco who aided and encouraged each other in sin. Their continued presence with one another is a constant reminder of what each wishes to forget – their ghastly deeds. They feel anger406 but are forced to be with each other (Conquer anger by non-anger. Conquer evil by good. Conquer miserliness by liberality. Conquer a liar by truthfulness.” (Dhammapada: v.233).

“And they lament seeds to issue forth” and “Therein they mourn Palladium.” They feel “ambushed407” in the wooden horse the Greeks leave outside their city. Romans think it is a sign of the Greek surrender and bring the horse (hiding Greek soldiers), inside the city. The Greek soldiers emerge and destroy their enemy. The Fall of Troy led to Paneas and his followers (“noble seed”408) to set out on a journey that leads to establishing a new nation on Italian shores, which eventually became the heart of the Roman Empire. Thus Ulysses and Diomedes cleverly defeated the Trojans by deception (by breeding scheme) and now are suffering for the sin of deceit (distorted truth).

“Therein they mourn the trick played for the Palladium.” Dante gives the example of Thetis who disguises her son Achilles as a woman and takes him to the court of King Lycomedes on the island of Scyros. She hoped Achilles would not fight in the Trojan War. Achilles meanwhile falls in love with Deidamia and fertilises her. Ulysses and Diomedes come to look for him (Achilles) and “trick” him into revealing his identity. They bring gifts of King Lycomedes’ daughters, which also include a shield and a lance.

Unlike other women Achilles is taken up with the weapons. This leads to the unravelling of his identity as man. Urged by Ulysses and Diomedes, Ulysses abandons the pregnant Deidamia. He leaves with them to join the war. It is through such understanding they caused Deidamia grief through deceit and they now suffer in Hell. Their present suffering causes them to wish they had not sinned.

“They pay for the Palladium” a statue of goddess Pallas Athena. As long as it remained in Troy, nobody was able to conquer it. Ulysses and Diomedes stole it and took it to Arges. Here one of the three Cyclopes (Polyphemus, Cyclops and Odysseus) helps in the victory of the Greeks over the Trojans.

Dante is eager to hear these celebrated souls speak but Virgil tells Dante that they speak Greek and do not understand Italian. He asks Ulysses and Diomedes to relate the events that led to their death. Ulysses the greater of the two replies in an uninterrupted account. Diomedes means no disrespect when he does not add to Ulysses’ story.

Ulysses starts the tale with the time he spent with Circe. When he journeys to Ithaca from Troy; Circe, the daughter of the sun, captures him and he stays with her for more than a year. Circe the enchantress usually turned her men into swine, but she kept Ulysses close to Gaeta, the promontory that lies along the coast of southern Italy, above Naples. Aeneas was King of Troy’s cousin and they were allies in the Trojan War. Aeneas gave it the name of Gaeta in memory of his nurse who died there.

Once home, Ulysses was restless to explore the world. Even his duty to his family did not stop his wandering lust. He left his father Laertes, his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. Therefore “he sinned against the classical notion of Pietas409” and went against the old Roman Religion on daily life410. In Ulysses words “not recurrence I owned Penelope to make her happy” reveal that he was aware that he was deserting his duty to his family. Nevertheless he set sail with a few of his remaining loyal men.

He sailed from Greece, passed Sardinia, Morocco and Spain. Finally he reaches the strait of Gibraltar. He and his men were by now, as he puts it, “old and tired”. He describes the strait of Gibraltar as “the marrow neck and where Hercules put up his signal – pillars.” During old times the strait was known as the Pillars of Hercules: Mt. Abyla on the North African coast and Mt. Calpe in Europe are these two pillars. It was believed they were originally one mountain, which Hercules split to mark the boundary of the world. It was not possible for any man to cross this boundary. But Ulysses and his men boldly crossed the strait and sailed on into the Atlantic Ocean. This reveals the fearless spirit on these men, undeterred either by age or fear.

“On my right I saw Seville… Ceuta had already sunk behind me.” Ceuta is a town on the North African coast found opposite Gibraltar. Seville is the Iberian Peninsula and marks Hercules’ boundary. After crossing these, the North African coast is located opposite Gibraltar.

Ulysses encourages his men to discover what lies beyond the twilight zone. He reminds them of their Greek heritage of intelligence and courage. He reminds them of the dangers they have so far overcome. Inspired with his words the men were always eager to sail on. They move (“with our stern…to the left”) down the West Coast of Africa, thus moving to the Southern Hemisphere. As they sail on, 5 months elapse since their crossing of the strait. Then they see a dark mountain looming in the distance.

This mountain in the Southern Hemisphere that Ulysses and his men see from afar is the Mount of Purgatory, which rises from the sea in the Southern Hemisphere, the polar opposite of Jerusalem.” The Greek sailors were joyous at having discovered a new land. But when a storm from the mountain lashes against their ship they become aware of imminent disaster. The strong wind turns their ship around thrice in the now churning ocean. The fourth attack of the wind sinks their ship and all in it drown to their death. Ulysses says that this sinking was as according to God, (“as pleased Another’s will”). His words show his acceptance of the fact that eventually, men, even fearless ones must bow down before the will of God411 .

The retribution the sinners of the eighth chasm suffer fits with the sin that they perpetuated in life. They gave evil counsel (to religious leaders), and therefore, abused God’s gifts of knowledge and learning. These souls worked in hidden ways, and they will spend eternity hidden from sight and burning in flames that symbolize a guilty conscience412.

The most dramatic event is Dante’s meeting with Ulysses. Ulysses and Diomedes are punished for events satisfactory, in the time they lived. Dante’s sinners are punished according to social standards of his time. Ulysses carried out the strategy of the Trojan horse, which led to the fall of Troy and eventually to the founding of the Roman line by Aeneas. Dante sees this act as evil when another sees it as virtuous. Ulysses is eroded for two other acts: convincing Achilles to go on another journey, which caused Deidamia to die of heartbreak. Also, the stealing a statue of Pallas from the Palladium ensured the downfall of Troy.

Virgil asks Dante not to speak to Ulysses and Diomedes perhaps because the two Shades would see Dante as a descendant of unacceptable Roman (Italian) associated with the fallen Trojans. Dante does not speak Greek.

Inferno Canto 27: Guido da Montefeltro413. His deception by Pope Boniface VIII.

1. Already was the flame erect and quiet//  To speak no more, and now departed from us// With the permission of the gentle Poet;
2. When yet another, which behind it came//  Caused us to turn our eyes upon its top//  By a confused sound that issued from it.
3. As the Sicilian bull 414(that bellowed first//  With the lament of him, and that was right//  Who with his file had modulated it)
4. Bellowed so with the voice of the afflicted//  That, notwithstanding it was made of brass//  Still it appeared with agony transfixed;
5. Thus, by not having any way or issue//  At first from out the fire, to its own language//  Converted were the melancholy words.
6. But afterwards, when they had gathered way//  Up through the point, giving it that vibration//  The tongue had given them in their passage out,
7. We heard it said: “O thou, at whom I aim//  My voice, and who but now wast speaking Lombard//  Saying, ‘Now go thy way, no more I urge thee,’
8. Because I come perchance a little late//  To stay and speak with me let it not irk thee//  Thou seest it irks not me, and I am burning.
9. If thou but lately into this blind world//  Hast fallen down from that sweet Latian land//  Wherefrom I bring the whole of my transgression,
10. Say, if the Romagnuols have peace or war//  For I was from the mountains there between//  Urbino and the yoke whence Tiber bursts.”
11. I still was downward bent and listening//  When my Conductor touched me on the side//  Saying: “Speak thou: this one a Latian is.”
12. And I, who had beforehand my reply//  In readiness, forthwith began to speak://  “O soul, that down below there art concealed,
13. Romagna thine is not and never has been//  Without war in the bosom of its tyrants//  But open war I none have left there now.
14. Ravenna stands as it long years has stood//  The Eagle of Polenta there is brooding//  So that she covers Cervia with her vans.
15. The city which once made the long resistance//  And of the French a sanguinary heap//  Beneath the Green Paws finds itself again;
16. Verrucchio’s415 ancient Mastiff416 and the new//  Who made such bad disposal of Montagna417/  Where they are wont make wimbles of their teeth.
17. The cities of Lamone and Santerno//  Governs the Lioncel of the white lair//  Who changes sides ‘twixt summer-time and winter;
18. And that of which the Savio bathes the flank//  Even as it lies between the plain and mountain//  Lives between tyranny and a free state.
19. Now I entreat thee tell us who thou art//  Be not more stubborn than the rest have been//  So may thy name holds front there in the world.”
20. After the fire a little more had roared//  In its own fashion, the sharp point it moved//  This way and that, and then gave forth such breath
21. “If I believed that my reply were made//  To one who to the world would e’er return//  This flame without more flickering would stand still;
22. But inasmuch as never from this depth//  Did any one return, if I hear true//  Without the fear of infamy I answer,
23. I was a man of arms, then Cordelier418//  Believing thus begirt to make amends//  And truly my belief had been fulfilled
24. But for the High Priest419, whom may ill betide//  Who put me back into my former sins//  And how and wherefore I will have thee hear.
25. While I was still the form of bone and pulp//  My mother gave to me, the deeds I did//  Were not those of a lion, but a fox.
26. The machinations and the covert ways//  I knew them all, and practised so their craft//  That to the ends of earth the sound went forth.
27. When now unto that portion of mine age//  I saw myself arrived, when each one ought//  To lower the sails, and coil away the ropes,
28. That which before had pleased me then displeased me//  And penitent and confessing I surrendered//  Ah woe is me! and it would have bestead me;
29. The Leader of the modern Pharisees420//  Having a war near unto Lateran//  And not with Saracens nor with the Jews,
30. For each one of his enemies was Christian//  And none of them had been to conquer Acre//  Nor merchandising in the Sultan’s land,
31. Nor the high office, nor the sacred orders//  In him regarded, nor in me that cord//  Which used to make those girt with it more meagre;
32. But even as Constantine sought out Sylvester421//  To cure his leprosy, within Soracte422//  So this one sought me out as an adept
33. To cure him of the fever of his pride.//  Counsel he asked of me, and I was silent423//  Because his words appeared inebriate.
34. And then he said: ‘Be not thy heart afraid//  Henceforth I thee absolve; and thou instruct me//  How to raze Palestrina to the ground.
35. Heaven have I power to lock and to unlock//  As thou dost know; therefore the keys are two// The which my predecessor held not dear.’
36. Then urged me on his weighty arguments//  There, where my silence was the worst advice;/  And said I: ‘Father, since thou washest me
37. Of that sin into which I now must fall//  The promise long with the fulfilment short//  Will make thee triumph in thy lofty seat.’
38. Francis came afterward, when I was dead//  For me; but one of the black Cherubim424//  Said to him: ‘Take him not; do me no wrong;
39. He must come down among my servitors//  Because he gave the fraudulent advice//  From which time forth I have been at his hair;
40. For who repents not cannot be absolved//  Nor can one both repent and will at once//  Because of the contradiction which consents not.’
41. miserable me! how I did shudder//  When he seized on me, saying: ‘Peradventure//  Thou didst not think that I was a logician!’
42. He bore me unto Minos, who entwined//  Eight times his tail about his stubborn back//  And after he had bitten it in great rage,
43. Said: ‘Of the thievish fire a culprit this’//  Wherefore, here where thou seest, am I lost//  And vested thus in going I bemoan me.”
44. When it had thus completed its recital//  The flame departed uttering lamentations//  Writhing and flapping its sharp-pointed horn.
45. Onward we passed, both I and my Conductor//  Up o’er the crag above another arch//  Which the moat covers, where is paid the fee
46. By those who, sowing discord, win their burden.


Inferno Canto 27: Guido da Montefeltro425. His deception by Pope Boniface VIII.

Virgil finishes his conversation with the flame holding Ulysses and Diomedes and another flame is approaching them but its tip is emitting sounds. The flame of Ulysses and Diomedes was silent, and Virgil gives it permission to leave. Dante and Virgil’s attention is drawn by the strange noise coming from another flame. It reminds Dante of the Sicilian Bronze bull. Dante compares this with Phalaris’ bronze bull used for torturing enclosed humans. The bull would be heated and cries of the victim inside could be heard as a bellowing of the bull. The painful sounds coming from the flames seemed reminiscent of the torturing in the bronze bull.

The sinner now tells Virgil he has previously heard him at a discussion in Lombard. He wants to know the fate of the Romagnols. He reveals he is from Montefeltro, a region between Urbino and Mount Coronaro (“the mountain chain that lets the Tiber loose.”). Since the sinner is Italian, Virgil asks Dante to speak to him about Romagna – the soul’s homeland. Dante answers that Romagna is at peace, though there is continuing war in its tyrants’ hearts.

He gives detailed descriptions of the various cities. Ravenna and Carvia are still under domination of the Polenta Family. The city of Forli (“the land that … bloody heap”) is taken over by the Ordelaffi Family. Verrocchio’s rulers, Malatesta and his firstborn son (“New Mastiff”) killed Montagna. They are still exploiting the people, Dante says. The cities on the banks of river Lamone and Santerno are ruled by Maghinardo Pagani da Susinana (“the Lion of the white Liar”), who is politically unstable. Cessna’s government is marked both by freedom and control. The Pilgrim asks the soul to reveal his identity so he might tell the world about him.

The Shade did not think Dante could return to the world, and so was not too ashamed to say that he was first a soldier, then a friar, and finally is in Hell trying to make amends for his misdeeds. The sinner says he has no wish to be talked about on but will reveal his identity. He admits he became a friar because of misdeeds as a soldier, but moving up to the position of Pope Boniface VIII caused him to sin again. When Pope Boniface VIII (“Prince of the New Pharisees”) became engaged in a conflict with the Lateran he threw aside all scruples. Ignoring his sacred vows he suggested a strategy to defeat his enemies. These evil tactics promoted sin with a promise of forgiveness by the Pope.

The Shade had a reputation for craftiness. Meanwhile the Pope had already asked Council for support to wage illegitimate warfare against unfaithful Christians. The friar was asked for direction but he did not want to compromise his soul, but when the Pope offered to absolve him in advance, the friar gave him the advice he wanted. When he died, Saint Francis came for him (he had been a Franciscan friar) but a devil claimed him instead because he had given fraudulent advice to the ruling pope.

Because one cannot be absolved of a sin without repenting, and one cannot repent about something when he willed it at the same time, the Pope’s absolution did him no good, and he was damned. The Pope was also given an ‘insider’s’ advice on how to conquer the Palestrina fortress. That is a sin but the Pope assures the sinning friar a place in Heaven. The friar moved up to become a pope also but neither understood the supremacy and sanctity of the Pope’s office.

When the sinner dies a black Cherubin prevents Saint Francis from taking him to Heaven. The Cherubim says that he deserves hell because he gave false counsel. He adds that forgiveness is granted after regret and the good of the repentance is negated by the sinful act he has brought with him to Hell. The cherub assumes the sinner probably never figured the cherubim might see through his flawed logic.

The sinner is brought to Minos who assigns him to the eighth Bolgia of the Eight Circles where deceivers burn in fire. Now the sinner spends all his time in anger against Pope Boniface VIII, the man who caused him to sin. The sinner stops talking, groans in pain and moves away. The two poets advance till they reach the next bridge over the ninth Bolgia where the sowers of discord are punished.


Inferno Canto 27: Guido da Montefeltro426. His deception by Pope Boniface VIII.

During the 1300s Guido Vecchio, the head of the Polento Family governed Ravenna and the surrounding region, which contained the small town of Cervia, near the Adriatic sea. The Polenta Coat of Arms bore an Eagle. Dante refers to “the eagle of Polento” to point to Polentian domination over the area.

Pilgrim refers to “the land that stood…verdant claws” to mean the City of Forli which was attacked by the French and Guelph troops. In 1282 the citizens of Forli led by Guido da Montefeltro defeated their enemy, but by 1300 Forli came under the rule of the tyrannical Ordelaffi Family. Their insignia was a Green Lion and Dante says the city then was “beneath the verdant claws.”
Dante speaks of the city of Rimini which was under Malatesta the Lord of Rimini from 1295 to 1312. He is the “old Mastiff”. The Rimini citizens gave the Castle of Verrucchio to his first-born for their services. After defeating the Ghibellines of Rimini in 1295, Malatesta imprisoned the head of the Ghibelline party – Montagna de Parcitati. However Montagna was murdered in prison by Malatestino and Dante asserts both father and son were “bad guardians of Montagna.”

The Pilgrim then speaks of two other cities – Faenza and Imola, both governed by Maghinardo Pagani da Susinana. His insignia was a Blue Lion on a White Backdrop. Dante comments about Maghinardo, who “changes parties every season” because he is defective in political loyalty. He once supported the Guelphs in Tuscany and later sided with the Ghibellines in Romagna.
Unlike other cities mentioned Cesena was not under the rule of any tyrant “town whose side the savior bathes.” Its government was determined by the people and led by a competent ruler, Galasso da Montefeltro (Guido’s cousin). In Dante’s opinion a mixed democratic and autocratic rule gives its citizens “lives between freedom and tyranny.”

Through his conversation, Dante manages to give Guido all the information he seeks. Dante then asks him to reveal his identity. Guido replies if his name is being spoken of on Earth his sinful deeds would reveal themselves as dishonourable. Here in deeper Hell sinners are reputedly ashamed of their past deeds and their present fate.

Guido first reveals that he was once a soldier. Then in 1260 he joined the Franciscan order to repent for his sins. He would have succeeded if it had not been for the interfering “High-Priest” Pope Boniface VIII) who led Guido back into a life of sin. Guido admits he has a mind of a “fox” and understands “the miles and court paths” of tactics and strategies of general command over others to achieve state-run goals. The tactics he employed made him famous but they were devious and corrupt. As he grew older he again wished to repent and therefore became a monk.

His predecessor Pope Celestine V renounced the papacy in 1294, 5 months after being elected at Boniface’s insistence. He says “these keys my predecessor did not cherish” to mean that Celestine did not want this ‘power’ bestowed by the papacy: he disapproved of the ‘papal power’ to give or deny men admission into Heaven. This is where Guido makes his mistake. He breaks his vows by giving in to the sinful Pope Boniface. While still alive, he believed he was absolved of all wrongdoing but in Hell he discovered that was untrue.

In 1297 Pope Boniface VIII clashed with the Colonna Family who lived near the Pope’s home in the Lateran Palace. The Pope therefore asked Guido to defeat the Colonnas. Guido’s hesitation was countered by the Pope who assured him it is preordained his unlawful activity is already absolved by the Pope. The Pope freed all his loyal followers who were guilty of wrong by the ‘power’ vested in him by God. The Pope proudly displayed his ‘power’ – to prove himself he can “level Palestine to the ground.”

The Colonna Family disapproved of Boniface VIII and did not consider the compulsory resignation enforced on Pope Celestine V legitimate. They therefore did not accept Boniface VIII as their new pope. When the Pope excommunicated the Colonna family they went into hiding in the Fortress Palestrina some 25 miles east of Rome. The fox-like Guido gave Boniface cunning advice. He misleadingly promised the Colonna family safe passage by granting them pardon for contradicting Boniface. Believing this they surrendered and lost everything. Because Boniface always lied about pardons Guido’s advice helped Boniface avenge himself against his enemies. In similar conflicts many fellow Christians were forced to reject the wily Pope Boniface VIII as an equitable church leader. This pope was always busy fighting people were loyal to the faith.

Acre was the last Christian strongholds in the Holy Land of Galilee where Jesus spent most of his life. Crusaders were left abandoned by Pope Boniface when Christians fought against the Muslim Saracens in Acre and finally conquered in 1291. Boniface had personal reasons for going against the Ninth Crusading Christians. At first, the bitter antagonism between the Greek and Roman churches effectually prevented all unity of action for two decades of Crusading. Boniface similarly ignored his sacred office and its duty. He forced the Templars and others to flee because they had no supplies or hope of being supplied by human help. With devoted prayer they committed their souls to Christ, rushed out strenuously threw down many Saracens. They were all finally killed by the Saracens.

Boniface approached Guido for a strategy to defeat his enemy (Colonna Family among others) who had insulted him by not accepting him as Pope. Guido compares this to the help a pagan leprous Constantine sought from a snubbed Pope Sylvester.

When Guido dies Saint Francis comes to take his soul to Heaven, but he is stopped by a “Black Cherubim” who claims Guido’s soul for Hell. The Cherubim are the eight orders of angels. Some were changed into demons in the Eighth Bolgia of Hell. The Black Cherubim reveals Guido is going to hell because of “false counsel” he gave Boniface. Guido deceives himself with the Pope’s illogical promise. He already knew nobody can be absolved of sinful actions – reactions are awaiting their rightfully deserved effect. The black Cherubim points out this lie and claims Guido’s soul and he is told: “Perhaps you never stopped to think that I might be somewhat of a logician.” Guido had hoped to outwit Divine Justice but the Cherubim’s words strike home. Guido meant to defraud and deceive Divine Justice.

Minos therefore assigns Guido to the Eighth Circle of Fraud where the Deceivers are punished (“…those the thievish fire burns.”) The “resentment” that Guido feels is directed at Pope Boniface VIII who is responsible for his damnation and curses “his soul be damned” for Simony.

Inferno Canto 28: The Ninth Bolgia: Schismatic. Mahomet and Ali. Pier da Medicina427, Curio, Mosca, and Bertrand de Born.

1. Who ever could, e’en with untrammelled words//  Tell of the blood and of the wounds in full Which now I saw, by many times narrating?
2. Each tongue would for a certainty fall short//  By reason of our speech and memory//  That have small room to comprehend so much.
3. If were again assembled all the people//  Which formerly upon the fateful land//  Of Puglia were lamenting for their blood
4. Shed by the Romans and the lingering war//  That of the rings made such illustrious spoils//  As Livy428 has recorded, who errs not,
5. With those who felt the agony of blows//  By making counterstand to Robert Guiscard429//  And all the rest, whose bones are gathered still
6. At Ceperano, where a renegade//  Was each Apulian and at Tagliacozzo//  Where without arms the old Alardo conquered,
7. And one his limb transpierced, and one lopped off//  Should show, it would be nothing to compare//  With the disgusting mode of the ninth Bolgia.
8. A cask by losing -piece or cant//  Was never shattered so, as I saw one//  Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.
9. Between his legs were hanging down his entrails//  His heart was visible, and the dismal sack//  That maketh excrement of what is eaten.
10. While I was all absorbed in seeing him//  He looked at me, and opened with his hands//  His bosom, saying: “See now how I rend me;
11. How mutilated, see, is Mahomet430// In front of me doth Ali weeping go//  Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;
12. And all the others whom thou here beholdsest//  Disseminators of scandal and of schism//  While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.
13. A devil is behind here, who doth cleave us//Thus cruelly, unto the falchion’s edge//Putting again each one of all this ream,
14. When we have gone around the doleful road//By reason that our wounds are closed again//  Ere any one in front of him repass.
15. But who art thou, that musest on the crag//Perchance to postpone going to the pain//That is adjudged upon thine accusations?”
16. “Nor death hath reached him yet, nor guilt doth bring him”//My Master made reply, “to be tormented; But to procure him full experience,
17. Me, who am dead, behoves it to conduct him//  Down here through Hell, from circle unto circle//And this is true as that I speak to thee.”
18. More than a hundred were there when they heard him//  Who in the moat stood still to look at me//Through wonderment oblivious of their torture.
19. “Now say to Fra Dolcino431 then, to arm him//  Thou, who perhaps wilt shortly see the sun//If soon he wish not here to follow me,
20. So with provisions, that no stress of snow//  May give the victory to the Novarese//Which otherwise to gain would not be easy.”
21. After one foot to go away he lifted//This word did Mahomet say unto me//Then to depart upon the ground he stretched it.
22. Another one, who had his throat pierced through//  And nose cut off close underneath the brows//  And had no longer but a single ear,
23. Staying to look in wonder with the others//Before the others did his gullet open//  Which outwardly was red in every part,
24. And said: “O thou, whom guilt doth not condemn//And whom I once saw up in Latian land//  Unless too great similitude deceive me,
25. Call to remembrance Pier da Medicina//  If e’er thou see again the lovely plain//  That from Vercelli slopes to Marcabo,
26. And make it known to the best two of Fano// To Messer Guido and Angiolello432 likewise//  That if foreseeing here be not in vain,
27. Cast over from their vessel shall they be//And drowned near unto the Cattolica//By the betrayal of a tyrant fell.
28. Between the isles of Cyprus and Majorca//  Neptune433 ne’er yet beheld so great a crime//Neither of pirates nor Argolic people.
29. That traitor, who sees only with one eye//And holds the land, which some one here with me//Would fain be fasting from the vision of,
30. Will make them come unto a parley with him//  Then will do so, that to Focara’s wind//  They will not stand in need of vow or prayer.”
31. And I to him: “Show to me and declare//  If thou wouldst have me bear up news of thee//  Who is this person of the bitter vision.”
32. Then did he lay his hand upon the jaw//  Of one of his companions, and his mouth//  Oped, crying: “This is he, and he speaks not.
33. This one, being banished, every doubt submerged//  In Caesar by affirming the forearmed//  Always with detriment allowed delay.”
34. how bewildered unto me appeared//  With tongue asunder in his windpipe slit//Curio, who in speaking was so bold!
35. And one, who both his hands dissevered had//  The stumps uplifting through the murky air//  So that the blood made horrible his face,
36. Cried out: “Thou shalt remember Mosca also//  Who said, alas! ‘A thing done has an end!’//  Which was an ill seed for the Tuscan people.”
37. “And death unto thy race,” thereto I added//  Whence he, accumulating woe on woe//  Departed, like a person sad and crazed.
38. But I remained to look upon the crowd//  And saw a thing which I should be afraid// Without some further proof, even to recount,
39. If it were not that conscience reassures me//  That good companion which emboldens man//  Beneath the hauberk of its feeling pure.
40. I truly saw, and still I seem to see it//  A trunk without a head walk in like manner//  As walked the others of the mournful herd.
41. And by the hair it held the head dissevered//  Hung from the hand in fashion of a lantern//  And that upon us gazed and said: “O me!”
42. It of itself made to itself a lamp//  And they were two in one, and one in two//  How that can be, He knows who so ordains it.
43. When it was come close to the bridge’s foot//  It lifted high its arm with all the head//  To bring more closely unto us its words,
44. Which were: “Beholds now the sore penalty//  Thou, who dost breathing go the dead beholdsing//  Beholds if any be as great as this.
45. And so that thou may carry news of me//  Know that Bertram de Born434 I am, the same//  Who gave to the Young King the evil comfort.
46. I made the father and the son rebellious//Achitophel435 not more with Absalom//  And David436 did with his accursed goadings.
47. Because I parted persons so united//  Parted do I now bear my brain, alas!//  From its beginning, which is in this trunk.
48. Thus is observed in me the counterpoise.”


Inferno Canto 28: The Ninth Bolgia: Schismatic. Mahomet and Ali. Pier da Medicina437, Curio, Mosca, and Bertrand de Born.

The Pilgrim arrives at the ninth Bolgia where mutilated and wounded souls of bloodied Shades live. They outnumber the combined wounded of many battles including the ones in Puglia and by Robert Guiscard. One particular Shade has a split open from his mouth to anus with entrails spilling out of the cut. He tears open his chest with his own hands and reveals himself to be Mahomet. He points to Ali whose face is cut from his chin to the forehead. Mahomet tells the two poets the ninth Bolgia houses sowers of scandal and schism438 in human existence. They are causes of dispute in already set up ancient religions. Their self-serving actions tore apart nations and are therefore they are being physically rendered to pieces as their eternal punishment. He is repeatedly inflicted with a new injury with the devil’s sword because at completing each round, the old wound has healed.

On seeing Dante on the bridge Mohamet involuntarily assumes he is also a sinner. Virgil candidly tells Mahomet his companion Dante is being guided through Hell to learn about outcomes of unrepented sins which are part of unrighteous human living. Hearing this many souls stop to stare at the Pilgrim. Mohamet entrusts Dante with a message for Fra Dolcino. Dante is to tell Fra Dolcino if he wants to survive he must stock up on food439. If he fails to follow this advice, he will be defeated by the Navarrese who is aided by the snow.

Another mutilated soul who hears Virgil’s words approaches them. His throat is slit, the nose is cut off and one of his ears is missing. As he approaches the poets he splits open his bleeding throat. He reveals himself to be Pier da Medicina from Medicina (“the gentle plain…Marcabo”). He wants Dante to take a message for two leading citizens of Fano: “Messer Guido and Angiolello.”

Medicina then divines their future. Malatestino will throw them overboard from a ship. He says they will be drowned near Cattolica. Malatestino who ruled Rimini is the land the one Medicina’s companions in Hell wished he had never seen. Dante says he will deliver the message if he can see the Shade.

Medicina comes forward and the Shade opens his mouth to show Dante that he is mute because his tongue is cut off. This mute soul is compared with Curio who urged Caesar to cross the Rubicon and attack Rome. Mosca another Shade with hands cut off addresses the Pilgrim also. He repeats his words “What’s done is over with” even if his actions led to strife in Florence. Dante has no sympathy for him and wishes that all his clan should perish. The Mosca feels hurt and leaves from there.

He is looking around when Dante sees a headless body, holding his own head in his hand, as if holding a lantern. While approaching the poets the headless man holds up the beheaded head to speak to them. The Shade says he is Bertran de Born who caused a young prince to rebel against his father. Dante compares his evil counsel with that which Ahitophel (a brother of folly) gave Absalom (third son of David) against David. The resulting rift he causes between father and son is being punished by having his head severed from his body as punishment and admitting: “In me you see the perfect contrapasso.”


Inferno Canto 28: The Ninth Bolgia: Schismatic. Mahomet and Ali. Pier da Medicina440, Curio, Mosca, and Bertrand de Born.

The ninth Bolgia is a scene of wounded souls with horrific mutilations. The wounded souls are compared with wounded soldiers in battle. Dante therefore recalls the Battle of Puglia in the southeastern area of the Italian peninsula. The Puglias (“grieved for there…. by the Romans”) refers to the long war between the Samnium (Latin) and the Romans (343-290 BC) “The long years… golden wings.” It is about the second Picnic war (218 – 201 BC) where Hannibal’s troops fought against Rome. After the Battle of Cannae (where Hannibal defeated the Romans in 216 BC) the Carthaginians collected three bushels of rings from the fingers of the dead Romans.

Dante also alludes to men killed by Robert Guiscard 441(1015-1085), a Norman adventurer who won over Aphelia and Calabria along the straits of Sicily and Malta. In 1059 he became Gonfaloniere442 of the church and for nearly 20 years fought the schismatic Greek and the Saracens443 for the church in the south of Italy. Later he fought for the Church, raised a siege444 against Pope Gregory VII (1084) and died while still engaged in warfare.

Dante recalls another battle (Legends of Charlemagne445) that occurred in Puglia in the southeastern section of the Italian peninsula where “with those others Alardo conquered, weaponless”. Charles of Anjou set out to attack Manfred – the King of Sicily in 1266. Manfred’s soldiers blocked passes to the south and then turned to the side of the enemy, leaving one passage at Ceprano open. Charles and his men gained access to the south; defeated the Sicilians at Benevento and killed Manfred (not at Ceprano).

At the Battle of Tagliacozzo446 Charles followed the advice of his general Erard de Valerie (“Alardo”) and won. Dante says that “old Alardo, conquered, weaponless” because his plan involved brainwork rather than physical effort. According to Alardo, they hid reserve soldiers. When their enemy, Conradin the Duke of Swabia (Manfred’s nephew) seemed to be winning they brought out their reserve soldiers and won. The mutilated masses in the ninth Bolgia therefore outnumbered the combined brutally mutilated dead and wounded of all the battles he has already mentioned.
The first sinner addressing the Pilgrim Dante is Mohamet the founder of Islam who was born at Mecca in around 570 AD and died in 632 AD. Mohamet points out to his cousin Ali who married Fatima, the prophet’s daughter. Ali became the Caliph in 656 after Mohamet’s death. Both Mahomet and Ali are punished in this Bolgia for sowing scandal and schism in an existent ancient religion of Abraham who were earliest residents of the Mesopotamian Civilization. Islamic Crusades followed by Christian Crusades were continuing in Dante’s times. He believes Mahomet and Ali caused the rift between the Roman Catholic Church and Mohamet’s Islam. During Dante’s time it was believed that Mahomet was a Christian Cardinal who wished to become pope.

As these souls walk around the Bolgia, at the end of each round their wounds heal. In the closing stages of the walk they must pass a devil that whips each Shade and inflicts a new wound – ripping him once more. The punishment for causing long-standing rifts in humanity on earth is to have their bodies constantly torn apart and giving them no relief from their pain. For all eternity they must suffer without any hope of relief.

Dante is entrusted with a message from Mahomet. The message is for Fra Dolcino the leader of a Dolcino Religious sect, who is declared not a monk. Dolcino’s Apostolic Family was declared heretical and banned by Pope Clement V in 1305. The sect believed in a simple religion like the one practiced during the time of the apostles. They believed in communal property and sharing of women. Clement V ordered their elimination. They therefore hid in the hills near Novara. They were under unending attack from papal forces, and surrendered only because of starvation. Dolcino with his companion Margaret of Trent was burnt at the stake in 1307.

After meeting with Mahomet the two poets are joined by another wounded Shade named Pier da Medicina who knows Dante. He was from the Town of Medicina in the Po River Valley near Bologna – “the gentle plain” between the towns of Vercelli and Marcabo. Pier da Medicina caused conflict between the Polenta and Malatesta families.

Medicina has a message for two leading citizens of Fano, a small-town on the Adriatic, south of Rimini. The two men are Guido del Cassero and Angiolello di Carignano Medicina. He wants to warn them against Malatestino (the “traitor, who sees with only one eye”) had plans to throw his passengers and crew off his ship and drown them. Once dead they will not need to pray to escape “Focara’s wind”. This fierce wind reputedly destroyed ships passing by the promontory of Focara near Cattolica. History records that Malatestino: Lord of Rimini from 1312 to 1317 had the two men thrown overboard to their death by drowning, to gain control of Fano. He reportedly deceitfully invited them to meet him on a ship off the coastal city of Cattolica, which lies between Rimini and Fano.

The Pilgrim promises to deliver Medicina’s message if he shows him who he was referring to when he has said, “…the land that someone with one here / wishes he’d never fed his eyes upon.” At this Medicina shows the Pilgrim a Shade whose tongue has been cut off. He is Caius Scribonius Curio – one of Pompeii’s tribunes who leaves Pompeii and joins Caesar.

The “land” he regrets seeing is the city of Rimini. It lay near the Rubicon River where the river drains off into the Adriatic Sea. Caesar was hesitating to cross the Rubicon but Curio persuaded him to do so and attacked Rome. This led to the Roman Civil War brought on by Curio. His punishment is a tongue cut off, and making him mute. To Dante it is fitting the mouth that caused so much grief should be rendered speechless.

A Shade whose hands are severed from his arms addresses the Pilgrim next. He says he is Mosca a member of the Lamberti Family of Florence. It was his advice “What’s done is over with” that caused Florence to be split into the feuding Guelph and Ghibelline parties. The background story to this event is that Buondelmonte de Buondelmonti broke his engagement with Lambertucci degli Amidei’s daughter. The Uberti Family wanted revenge. Mosca persuaded them to kill Buondelmonte.

It was Mosca who led the strife in Florence and causing a rift between its citizens. The Pilgrim’s reply to Mosca is, “And of death for all your clan” is meant to hurt the sinner. His family died in the resulting political feud. The Pilgrim’s words meet their mark and Mosca mad with grief goes away from there. “Hell” is a place for physical anguish and mental torment447. When a sinner realizes what his deeds have done to him and to others it causes mental anguish experienced in Hell as physical pain also.

Then he sees a headless body moving in the Bolgia. The severed head is held by its hair like one holds a lantern. This Shade approaches the two poets and identifies itself as Bertram de Born, a lesser French noble who was keenly interested in the politics of his time and in Dante’s poetry. He incited Prince Henry (“young king”) to revolt against his father, Henry II, the king of England.
Bertram compares the rift between father and son as similar to one Ahitophel incited between Absalom against David his father and king. Bertram’s sin is evil because it causes separation between blood relatives and the sacred tie between father and son. He is now in Hell with his head cut off from its life-source (the body). As he bitterly points out himself, “In me you see the perfect Contrapasso448!”

Inferno Canto 29: Geri del Bello. The Tenth Bolgia: Alchemists. Griffolino d’ Arezzo449 and Capocchio450.

1. The many people and the divers wounds//  These eyes of mine had so inebriated//  That they were wishful to stand still and weep;
2. But said Virgilius: “What dost thou still gaze at?//  Why is thy sight still riveted down there//  Among the mournful, mutilated Shades?
3. Thou hast not done so at the other Bolge//  Consider, if to count them thou believest//  That two-and-twenty miles the valley winds,
4. And now the moon is underneath our feet//  Henceforth the time allotted us is brief//  And more is to be seen than what thou seest.”
5. “If thou hadst,” I made answer thereupon//  “Attended to the cause for which I looked//  Perhaps a longer stay thou wouldst have pardoned.”
6. Meanwhile my Guide departed, and behind him//  I went, already making my reply//  And superadding: “In that cavern where
7. I held mine eyes with such attention fixed//  I think a spirit of my blood laments//  The sin which down below there costs so much.”
8. Then said the Master: “Be no longer broken//  Thy thought from this time forward upon him//  Attend elsewhere, and there let him remain;
9. For him I saw below the little bridge//  Pointing at thee, and threatening with his finger//  Fiercely, and heard him called Geri del Bello (alchemist and falsifier).
10. So wholly at that time wast thou impeded//  By him who formerly held Altaforte (blood-thirsty stirrer of strife)//  Thou didst not look that way; so he departed.”
11. “O my Conductor, his own violent death//  Which is not yet avenged for him,” I said//  “By any who is sharer in the shame,
12. Made him disdainful; whence he went away//  As I imagine, without speaking to me//  And thereby made me pity him the more.”
13. Thus did we speak as far as the first place//  Upon the crag, which the next valley shows//  Down to the bottom, if there were more light.
14. When we were now right over the last cloister//  Of Malebolge, so that its lay-brothers//  Could manifest themselves unto our sight,
15. Divers lamentings pierced me through and through//  Which with compassion had their arrows barbed//  Whereat mine ears I covered with my hands.
16. What pain would be, if from the hospitals//  Of Val di chiana (Chiana Valley in provinces of Arezzo and Siena), ‘twixt July and September//  And of Maremma and Sardinia451
17. All the diseases in one moat were gathered//  Such was it here, and such a stench came from it//  As from putrescent limbs is wont to issue.
18. We had descended on the furthest bank//  From the long crag, upon the left hand still//  And then more vivid was my power of sight
19. Down tow’rds the bottom, where the ministress//  Of the high Lord, Justice infallible//  Punishes forgers, which she here records.
20. I do not think a sadder sight to see//  Was in Aegina the whole people sick// When was the air so full of pestilence,
21. The animals, down to the little worm//  All fell, and afterwards the ancient people//  According as the poets have affirmed,
22. Were from the seed of ants restored again//  Than was it to beholds through that dark valley//  The spirits languishing in divers heaps.
23. This on the belly, that upon the back//  One of the other lay, and others crawling//  Shifted themselves along the dismal road.
24. We step by step went onward without speech//  Gazing upon and listening to the sick//  Who had not strength enough to lift their bodies.
25. I saw two sitting leaned against each other//  As leans in heating platter against platter//  From head to foot bespotted o’er with scabs;
26. And never saw I plied a currycomb//  By stable-boy for whom his master waits//  Or him who keeps awake unwillingly,
27. As every one was plying fast the bite//  Of nails upon himself, for the great rage//  Of itching which no other succour had.
28. And the nails downward with them dragged the scab//  In fashion as a knife the scales of bream//  Or any other fish that has them largest.
29. “O thou, that with thy fingers dost dismail thee,”//  Began my Leader unto one of them//  “And makest of them pincers now and then,
30. Tell me if any Latian is with those//  Who are herein; so may thy nails suffice thee//  To all eternity unto this work.”
31. “Latians are we, whom thou so wasted seest//  Both of us here,” one weeping made reply//  “But who art thou, that questionest about us?”
32. And said the Guide (Virgil): “One am I who descends//  Down with this living man from cliff to cliff//  And I intend to show Hell unto him.”
33. Then broken was their mutual support//  And trembling each one turned himself to me//  With others who had heard him by rebound.
34. Wholly to me did the good Master gather//  Saying: “Say unto them whate’er thou wishest.”//  And I began, since he would have it so
35. “So may your memory not steal away//  In the first world from out the minds of men//  But so may it survive ‘neath many suns,
36. Say to me who ye are, and of what people//  Let not your foul and loathsome punishment//  Make you afraid to show yourselves to me.”
37. “I of Arezzo was,” one made reply//  “And Albert of Siena452 had me burned//  But what I died for does not bring me here.
38. ‘Tis true I said to him, speaking in jest//  That I could rise by flight into the air//  And he who had conceit, but little wit,
39. Would have me show to him the art; and only//  Because no Daedalus (Athenian architect who built the labyrinth of Minos and made wings for himself and his son to escape Crete) I made him, made me//  Be burned by one who held him as his son.
40. But unto the last Bolgia of the ten//  For alchemy, which in the world I practised// Minos (legendary ruler of Crete), who cannot err, has me condemned.”
41. And to the Poet said I: “Now was ever//  So vain a people as the Sienese?//  Not for a certainty the French by far.”
42. Whereat the other leper, who had heard me//  Replied unto my speech: “Taking out Stricca453//  Who knew the art of moderate expenses,
43. And Niccolo454, who the luxurious use//  Of cloves discovered earliest of all//  Within that garden where such seed takes root;
44. And taking out the band455, among whom squandered//  Caccia d’Ascian his vineyards and vast woods//  And where his wit the Abbagliato proffered!
45. But, that thou know who thus doth second thee//  Against the Sienese, make sharp thine eye//  Tow’rds me, so that my face well answer thee,
46. And thou shalt see I am Capocchio’s456 Shade//  Who metals falsified by alchemy//  Thou must remember, if I well descry thee,
47. How I a skilful ape of nature was.”


Inferno Canto 29: Geri del Bello. The Tenth Bolgia: Alchemists. Griffolino d’ Arezzo457 and Capocchio458.

The pilgrim is absorbed in gazing at the scene of mutilated bodies below. This angers Virgil who reminds the Pilgrim their time is running out and they have much more to see. Dante says he is looking for a particular Shade, belonging to his family. Virgil tells Dante the Shade he is looking for is Geri de Bello459, standing below their bridge. Virgil says the Shade of a certain Geri del Bello was the first cousin of Dante’s father. He was making threatening gestures at Dante while he was speaking to someone else. Dante explains that Geri’s murder is still not avenged by the Alighieri family, which was why Geri’s Shade is so angry and scornful toward his descendant. Speaking of this, they came to the next and final pouch of Malebolge. Geri meanwhile notices Dante, and curses him because he was left unnoticed. Dante replies that since his family did not avenge the death of Geri, he did not speak to him.

The poets reach the bridge across the tenth Bolgia, which is the last of the Malebolge. Dante wanted to put his hands over his ears because of the lamentations of the sinners there who are afflicted with scabs like leprosy460. They, lie sick on the ground, furiously scratching their skin of with their nails. The pit is dark but the pilgrim can hear cries of pain from the bottom. Dante compares the misery and stench of decay from in the 10th Bolgia to the sickness found in the hospitals of Maremma, Valdichiana and Sardinia, during the months of July to September.

They again walk to their left, and climb down the bridge to reach the bottom of the Tenth Bolgia. The Pilgrim now sees the condition of punished souls. They are in a pit of Falsifiers, being punished by Divine Justice. Their misery is greater than that of all beings that perished in a plague on the Island of Aegina. According to the poets the human race began here, as ants.

Dante describes the condition of punished souls who are lying around in groups piled on top one another. Some are crawling around in the dirty valley on their hands and knees. The two poets slowly move among the sick and the suffering, all the while seeing and listening to their punished souls. Some are so sick they cannot move their bodies. They then notice two sitting Shades leaning against each other with their backs touching. Each is covered with scabs and is scratching ferociously to ease the itching. Nails are tearing off scabs from their bodies.

Virgil asks if there are any Italians in the Bolgia. One of the Shades reveals they are both Italians. When asked to introduce himself, Virgil says that he is guiding his living companion Dante through Hell. Hearing this many Shades turn to stare at the Pilgrim and asks Dante to question the two men about their identities. He tells them not to hesitate.

One of the sinners says he is from Arezzo and was burnt to death by Albert of Siena whom he told he would teach how to fly. Because it is a lie he fails to do as promised. In truth however his damning sin was alchemy461. Dante tells Virgil the Sienese people are vain. He lists the names Stricca, Niccolo, Caccia d’Asciano, and Abbagliato as examples. This sinner said he was the alchemist Capocchio. The angry Albert had him burnt by one whose child he was. “The sinner says he isn’t in the Bolgia for defrauding Albert. He is here because he was a practitioner of Alchemy. For this sin Minor sent him to the tenth Bolgia.


Inferno Canto 29: Geri del Bello. The Tenth Bolgia: Alchemists. Griffolino d’ Arezzo462 and Capocchio463.

Dante is preoccupied with an ancestor left un-avenged. He is not immune to the feuding spirit of the medieval times. Deadly quarrels between families were usually followed eye for an eye464. God commanding people to kill in Revenge and wage war where thousands Amalekites die (I Samuel 15:2-3) was rewarded. According to Eastern thought, plotting evil and revenge against others is a beastly attitude for sadistic pleasure and therefore a sin. Geri del Bello is Dante’s father’s cousin. He is a bad malicious troublemaker who was eventually killed by a Sacchetti. A pointless feud between the Alighieri and the Sacchetti lasted until 32 years. In 1215 Geri was murdered after he sowed conflict between the two families (Donatis465 and Cerchis) and between the Ghibellines and Guelphs. His death was finally avenged in 1310.

Leprosy in Dante’s time was a common terrifying disease because of its slow progression towards disfigurement and death. In the Bible, the victims were called unclean. Lepers were made to live in communities apart from healthy people. Lepers occupied a special cultural space in medieval times and were thought to be closer to God because they began their purgatories on earth. Then again the disease was thought to result from sexual immorality.

Alchemy was important in the Middle Ages and during Renaissance. Alchemists spent their time trying to turn base metals into gold through a bizarre knowledge. Alchemy however became a forerunner of modern chemistry but for monetary reasons, alchemists were associated with fraud. Capocchio says, he was good at copying fine metals, not at making them. The two alchemists Griffolino of Arezzo cheated Alberto of Siena by claiming that he could teach him to fly for a large sum of money. Capocchio was later burned at the stake as a heretic in 1293 by Alberto’s protector, the Bishop of Siena; the names listed by Capocchio are members of the Spendthrift Club.

Inferno Canto 30: Other Falsifiers or Forgers. Gianni Schicchi, Myrrha, Adam of Brescia, Potiphar’s Wife, and Sinon of Troy.

1. ‘Twas at the time when Juno466 was enraged// For Semele467, against the Theban blood// As she already more than once had shown,
2. So reft of reason Athamas468 became// That, seeing his own wife with children twain// Walking encumbered upon either hand,
3. He cried: “Spread out the nets, that I may take// The lioness and her whelps upon the passage;”// And then extended his unpitying claws,
4. Seizing the first, who had the name Learchus469// And whirled him round, and dashed him on a rock// And she, with the other burthen, drowned herself;–
5. And at the time when fortune downward hurled// The Trojan’s arrogance, that all things dared// So that the king was with his kingdom crushed,
6. Hecuba470 sad, disconsolate, and captive// When lifeless she beheld Polyxena// And of her Polydorus on the shore
7. Of ocean was the dolorous one aware// Out of her senses like a dog she barked// So much the anguish had her mind distorted;
8. But not of Thebes the furies nor the Trojan// Were ever seen in any one so cruel// In goading beasts, and much more human members,
9. As I beheld two shadows pale and naked// Who, biting, in the manner ran along// That a boar does, when from the sty turned loose.
10. One to Capocchio came, and by the nape// Seized with its teeth his neck, so that in dragging// It made his belly grate the solid bottom.
11. And the Aretine, who trembling had remained// Said to me: “That mad sprite is Gianni Schicchi471// And raving goes thus harrying other people.”
12. “O,” said I to him, “so may not the other// Set teeth on thee, let it not weary thee// To tell us who it is, ere it dart hence.”
13. And he to me: “That is the ancient ghost// Of the nefarious Myrrha472, who became// Beyond all rightful love her father’s lover.
14. She came to sin with him after this manner// By counterfeiting of another’s form// As he who goeth yonder undertook,
15. That he might gain the lady of the herd// To counterfeit in himself Buoso Donati473// Making a will and giving it due form.”
16. And after the two maniacs had passed// On whom I held mine eye, I turned it back// To look upon the other evil-born.
17. I saw one made in fashion of a lute// If he had only had the groin cut off// Just at the point at which a man is forked.
18. The heavy dropsy, that so disproportions// The limbs with humours, which it ill concocts// That the face corresponds not to the belly,
19. Compelled him so to holds his lips apart// As does the hectic, who because of thirst// One tow’rds the chin, the other upward turns.
20. “O ye, who without any torment are// And why I know not, in the world of woe,”// He said to us, “beholds, and be attentive
21. Unto the misery of Master Adam474// I had while living much of what I wished// And now, alas! a drop of water crave.
22. The rivulets, that from the verdant hills// Of Cassentin descend down into Arno// Making their channels to be cold and moist,
23. Ever before me stand, and not in vain// For far more doth their image dry me up// Than the disease which strips my face of flesh.
24. The rigid justice that chastises me// Draweth occasion from the place in which// I sinned, to put the more my sighs in flight.
25. There is Romena, where I counterfeited// The currency imprinted with the Baptist// For which I left my body burned above.
26. But if I here could see the tristful soul// Of Guido, or Alessandro, or their brother// For Branda’s fount I would not give the sight.
27. One is within already, if the raving// Shades that are going round about speak truth// But what avails it me, whose limbs are tied?
28. If I were only still so light, that in// A hundred years I could advance one inch// I had already started on the way,
29. Seeking him out among this squalid folk// Although the circuit be eleven miles// And be not less than half a mile across.
30. For them am I in such a family// They did induce me into coining florins// Which had three carats of impurity.”
31. And I to him: “Who are the two poor wretches// That smoke like unto a wet hand in winter// Lying there close upon thy right-hand confines?”
32. “I found them here,” replied he, “when I rained// Into this chasm, and since they have not turned// Nor do I think they will for evermore.
33. One the false woman is who accused Joseph// The other the false Sinon, Greek of Troy// From acute fever they send forth such reek.”
34. And one of them, who felt himself annoyed// At being, peradventure, named so darkly// Smote with the fist upon his hardened paunch.
35. It gave a sound, as if it were a drum// And Master Adam smote him in the face// With arm that did not seem to be less hard,
36. Saying to him: “Although be taken from me// All motion, for my limbs that heavy are,.// I have an arm unfettered for such need.”
37. Whereat he answer made: “When thou didst go// Unto the fire, thou had
st it not so ready:// But hadst it so and more when thou wast coining.”
38. The dropsical: “Thou sayest true in that// But thou wast not so true a witness there// Where thou wast questioned of the truth at Troy.”
39. “If I spake false, thou falsifiedst the coin,”// Said Sinon; “and for one fault I am here// And thou for more than any other demon.”
40. “Remember, perjurer, about the horse,”// He made reply who had the swollen belly,.// “And rueful be it thee the whole world knows it.”
41. “Rueful to thee the thirst be wherewith cracks// Thy tongue,” the Greek said, “and the putrid water// That hedges so thy paunch before thine eyes.”
42. Then the false-coiner: “So is gaping wide// Thy mouth for speaking evil, as ’tis wont// Because if I have thirst, and humour stuff me
43. Thou hast the burning and the head that aches// And to lick up the mirror of Narcissus// Thou wouldst not want words many to invite thee.”
44. In listening to them was I wholly fixed// When said the Master to me: “Now just look// For little wants it that I quarrel with thee.”
45. When him I heard in anger speak to me// I turned me round towards him with such shame// That still it eddies through my memory.
46. And as he is who dreams of his own harm// Who dreaming wishes it may be a dream// So that he craves what is, as if it were not;
47. Such I became, not having power to speak// For to excuse myself I wished, and still// Excused myself, and did not think I did it.
48. “Less shame doth wash away a greater fault”// The Master said, “than this of thine has been// Therefore thyself disburden of all sadness,
49. And make account that I am aye beside thee// If e’er it come to pass that fortune bring thee// Where there are people in a like dispute;
50. For a base wish it is to wish to hear it.”


Inferno Canto 30: Other Falsifiers or Forgers. Gianni Schicchi, Myrrha, Adam of Brescia, Potiphar’s Wife, and Sinon of Troy.

The madness that Dante saw next surpassed the many examples of antiquity: Dante writes of Juno’s anger against Semele a Theban and the resulting revenge Juno takes against the Thebans. Athamas was driven insane by Juno so he slaughtered his wife and children thinking they were lions. The madness of Athamas was a result of Jupiter’s infidelity and Juno’s jealousy: Jupiter loved Semele, daughter of Cadmus, the king of Thebes’s and she bore him Bacchus, the god of wine. Athamas’ wife was Ino, Semele’s sister.

Hecuba, the queen of Troy, went mad with grief after the city fell and she found the bodies of her children Polyxena and Polydorus. Hecuba’s daughter Polyxena was sacrificed on Achilles’ tomb and her son was murdered. She went mad, howling like a dog, and drowned herself. These sinners tricked other people into thinking they were someone else, and are punished by becoming confused about their own identities: they are therefore insane.

Two mad Shades come running up and Capocchio bit another in the neck. The terrified alchemist from Arezzo was afraid, and one Shade was the crazy Gianni Schicchi. The other mad Shade was Myrrha changed shape to trick her father into having sex with her. Gianni Schicchi had faked his death and pretended to be someone else for selfish reasons.

Gianni Schicchi impersonates Simone Donati’s uncle Buoso Donati, who has just died: on Simone’s request, Gianni, pretends to be Buoso, and dictates a new will for Simone. He also leaves himself Buoso’s best mare, the lady of the herd.

Dante looks around and sees other distorted looking Shades: one has dropsy which makes him look like a lute. He is Master Adam and is suffering the torment of thirst for his crime of forging. Adam wants to settle scores with Guido, Alessandro, and their brother, because they provoked him to make false coinage.

Two sinners lie prone on the ground and give off steam. They are being punished for lying. One was Sinon the Greek. Sinon tricked the Trojans into bringing the wooden horse filled with Greek soldiers into Troy. The woman is the wife of Potiphar, who falsely accused Joseph of making advances toward her.
Sinon strikes Adam and he retaliates. A quarrel begins – each blaming the other for whose sin was worse.

Myrrha, daughter of the king of Cyprus, fell incestuously in love with her father, and impersonated another woman to sleep with him. When she was discovered, she fled execution, and was changed into a myrrh tree by the gods.

These sinners, who tricked other people into thinking they were someone else, are punished by becoming confused about their own identities: they are therefore insane.

Virgil tells Dante to stop listening to their curses. As a result, Dante feels ashamed for his vulgar curiosity. Virgil forgives him, but said that it was base to listen to such things.


Inferno Canto 30: Other Falsifiers or Forgers. Gianni Schicchi, Myrrha, Adam of Brescia, Potiphar’s Wife, and Sinon of Troy.

The Shades of Gianni Schicchi and Myrrha lived false lives to destroy others or to commit fraud and cause travails in the lives of others. False accusers475 are criminals wrongly accusing others of causing damage. They become habituated unsurprisingly to being like cruel animals waiting every moment to attack everything within their reach. Even in Hell, Gianni Schicchi pounces on Capocchio and drags him off. It is left to “The Aretine” or Griffolino Arezzo to tell the Dante about the two mad Shades.

Dante compares the two Shades to the Athamas and Hecuba and comments they remain out of control even in Hell. The alchemist from Arezzo is afraid476. He points to Gianni Schicchi, and to the another Shade who is the mad Shade Myrrha. Gianni is pretending (to give a false appearance) to be Buoso and has him dictate a new will477 for Simone. He also ensures he is left with Buoso’s best mare, the lady of the herd.

Looking around at the sinners the Pilgrim Dante sees one whose body is twisted in the shape of a lute. It is bloated. His disease makes him keep his mouth open. He reveals himself as “Master Adamo” and tells the Pilgrim that he craves for water and is tormented by thirst for his crime of forging478 with intent to defraud. Adoma’s bloating dropsy is from failure of body fluids to follow the path of bodily water waste. He had everything (vital fluid) on earth through rampant fraud and now because of perseverance of waste water retention he only wants a drop of water to drink.

Haunted by visions streams on earth, they increase his thirst. He sees Casentino hills where the Arno River spread out in valleys. He wishes to see “Branda’s fountain”, which once flowed near Romena. His thirst for water does not exceed his thirst for revenge on men who led him on to crime. Blame game is normal reaction of guilt of sins committed. Therefore the men he wants damned are Guido, Alexander, Aghinolfo and Ildebrando. Although Guido is already in hell Adamo’s bloated condition prevents him from seeking out Guido. He accuses Guido, Alessandro, and their brother for making him a counterfeiter. He wants revenge. Although Guido is already in the 10th Bolgia he (Adamo) is too bloated to move.

Two sinners are seen lying prone on the ground giving off steam of breath condensation. The Pilgrim Dante asks Guido to the identity of two seething Shades lying near him. Adamo instead tells him that they are Potiphar’s wives (“false accuser of young Joseph”) and they sinned, in Troy. He says their ‘burning fever’ causes their breaths to be hot and the dry skin to smell bad. Hearing this one of the sinners hits Adamo in the stomach. He strikes back with his strong arm. He says although he is not able to move he can use his arm. The other sinner digs him back by saying his arm is useless because he was burnt at the stake. He tells the sinners his arm was useful when he was once counterfeiting coins.

The Pilgrim’s attention is caught by two Shades lying steaming with fever, and lying next to Adamo. He tells Dante one is Potiphar’s wife (“false accuser of young Joseph”) and the other is Sinon, the Greek. Potiphar’s wife unjustly accuses Joseph, the son of Jacob and Rachel, of trying to seduce her. In truth it was she who had tried to seduce him.

Sinon is a Greek soldier left in Troy to help them defeat the Trojans. The Trojans capture him and he lies about being on their side. He persuades the Trojans to bring the wooden horse within the city. That deceitful lying leads to a Roman defeat.

While pointing them out to Dante, Adamo says that their fever causes them to stink. This remark displeases Sinon who punches Adamo in the stomach. Adamo retaliates with a blow from his arm. From this incident erupts. A verbal wrangle begins with Adamo and Simon flinging insults and curses ate each other. Dante finds the gossipy exchange479 absorbing. Such immature behaviour angers Virgil and the Pilgrim Dante realizes he has indulged in shameful conduct. Virgil forgives him, cautioning him not to waste time on listening to brawls. Such mortal fault480 is found in most who indulge in another’s quarrels. Virgil personifies Reason481 and is with Dante to guide humankind away from such futile interests.


Inferno Canto 30: Other Falsifiers or Forgers. Gianni Schicchi, Myrrha, Adam of Brescia, Potiphar’s Wife, and Sinon of Troy.

In this Bolgia, Falsifiers include alchemists, impersonators, counterfeiters and liars. This last Malebolge contains the most extreme form of Fraud – a sin punished in the extremes. The Alchemists have leprosy, the Impersonators are demented, the counterfeiters are afflicted with dropsy and the liars burn with a fever that makes them stink. Here Fraud is a disease based on a corrupt sense of values in the mind and displaying as sickness in physical bodies. These sinners, who tricked other people into thinking they were someone else, are punished by becoming confused about their own identities: they are therefore insane.

Inferno: Canto 31: The Giants, Nimrod, Ephialtes, and Antaeus. Descent to Cocytus

1. One and the selfsame tongue first wounded me// So that it tinged the one cheek and the other// And then held out to me the medicine;
2. Thus do I hear that once Achilles’ spear482// His and his father’s, used to be the cause// First of a sad and then a gracious boon.
3. We turned our backs upon the wretched valley// Upon the bank that girds it round about// Going across it without any speech.
4. There it was less than night, and less than day// So that my sight went little in advance// But I could hear the blare of a loud horn,
5. So loud it would have made each thunder faint// Which, counter to it following its way// Mine eyes directed wholly to one place.
6. After the dolorous discomfiture// When Charlemagne (King Charles the Great and first Holy Roman Emporor) the holy emprise lost// So terribly Orlando (sounds of the tormented) sounded not.
7. Short while my head turned thitherward I held// When many lofty towers I seemed to see// Whereat I: “Master, say, what town is this?”
8. And he to me: “Because thou peerest forth// Athwart the darkness at too great a distance// It happens that thou errest in thy fancy.
9. Well shalt thou see, if thou arrivest there// How much the sense deceives itself by distance// Therefore a little faster spur thee on.”
10. Then tenderly he took me by the hand// And said: “Before we farther have advanced// That the reality may seem to thee
11. Less strange, know that these are not towers, but giants// And they are in the well, around the bank// From navel downward, one and all of them.”
12. As, when the fog is vanishing away// Little by little doth the sight refigure// Whate’er the mist that crowds the air conceals,
13. So, piercing through the dense and darksome air// More and more near approaching tow’rd the verge// My error fled, and fear came over me;
14. Because as on its circular parapets// Montereggione (medieval castle in Tuscany) crowns itself with towers// E’en thus the margin which surrounds the well
15. With one half of their bodies turreted// The horrible giants, whom Jove (Jupiter) menaces// E’en now from out the heavens when he thunders.
16. And I of one already saw the face// Shoulders, and breast, and great part of the belly// And down along his sides both of the arms.
17. Certainly Nature, when she left the making// Of animals like these, did well indeed// By taking such executors from Mars;
18. And if of elephants and whales she doth not// Repent her, whosoever looketh subtly// More just and more discreet will holds her for it;
19. For where the argument of intellect// Is added unto evil will and power// No rampart can the people make against it.
20. His face appeared to me as long and large// As is at Rome the pine-cone of Saint Peter’s// And in proportion were the other bones;
21. So that the margin, which an apron was// Down from the middle, showed so much of him// Above it, that to reach up to his hair
22. Three Frieslanders483 in vain had vaunted them// For I beheld thirty great palms of him// Down from the place where man his mantle buckles.
23. “Raphael mai amech izabi almi,”// Began to clamour the ferocious mouth// To which were not befitting sweeter psalms.
24. And unto him my Guide: “Soul idiotic// Keep to thy horn, and vent thyself with that// When wrath or other passion touches thee.
25. Search round thy neck, and thou wilt find the belt// Which keeps it fastened, O bewildered soul// And see it, where it bars thy mighty breast.”
26. Then said to me: “He doth himself accuse// This one is Nimrod484, by whose evil thought// One language in the world is not still used.
27. Here let us leave him and not speak in vain// For even such to him is every language// As his to others, which to none is known.”
28. Therefore a longer journey did we make// Turned to the left, and a crossbow-shot oft// We found another far more fierce and large.
29. In binding him, who might the master be// I cannot say; but he had pinioned close// Behind the right arm, and in front the other,
30. With chains, that held him so begirt about// From the neck down, that on the part uncovered// It wound itself as far as the fifth gyre.
31. “This proud one wished to make experiment// Of his own power against the Supreme Jove,”// My Leader said, “whence he has such a guerdon.
32. Ephialtes is his name; he showed great prowess.// What time the giants terrified the gods// The arms he wielded never more he moves.”
33. And I to him: “If possible, I should wish// That of the measureless Briareus// These eyes of mine might have experience.”
34. Whence he replied: “Thou shalt beholds Antaeus485// Close by here, who can speak and is unbound// Who at the bottom of all crime shall place us.
35. Much farther yon is he whom thou wouldst see// And he is bound, and fashioned like to this one// Save that he seems in aspect more ferocious.”
36. There never was an earthquake of such might// That it could shake a tower so violently// As Ephialtes486 suddenly shook himself.
37. Then was I more afraid of death than ever// For nothing more was needful than the fear// If I had not beheld the manacles.
38. Then we proceeded farther in advance// And to Antaeus came, who, full five ells// Without the head, forth issued from the cavern.
39. “O thou, who in the valley fortunate// Which Scipio (african slave who became Roman general) the heir of glory made// When Hannibal (Carthaginian general and enemy of Roman Republic) turned back with all his hosts,
40. Once brought’st a thousand lions for thy prey// And who, hadst thou been at the mighty war// Among thy brothers, some it seems still think
41. The sons of Earth the victory would have gained:// Place us below, nor be disdainful of it// There where the cold doth lock Cocytus (wailing river-god) up.
42. Make us not go to Tityus (scorpion) nor Typhoeus (fire-breathing dragon with 100 heads) // This one can give of that which here is longed for// Therefore stoop down, and do not curl thy lip.
43. Still in the world can he restore thy fame// Because he lives, and still expects long life// If to itself Grace call him not untimely.”
44. So said the Master; and in haste the other// His hands extended and took up my Guide// Hands whose great pressure Hercules once felt.
45. Virgilius (Virgil – the Roman poet), when he felt himself embraced// Said unto me: “Draw nigh, that I may take thee;”// Then of himself and me one bundle made.
46. As seems the Carisenda (stream of life), to beholds// Beneath the leaning side, when goes a cloud// Above it so that opposite it hangs;
47. Such did Antaeus seem to me, who stood// Watching to see him stoop, and then it was// I could have wished to go some other way.
48. But lightly in the abyss, which swallows up// Judas (disciple who betrayed Jesus) with Lucifer (Seraphim who rebelled against God), he put us down// Nor thus bowed downward made he there delay,
49. But, as a mast does in a ship, uprose.


Inferno: Canto 31: The Giants, Nimrod, Ephialtes, and Antaeus. Descent to Cocytus

Virgil’s scolding the Pilgrim Dante and then comforting him is compared with the lance of Achilles’ father, which could heal the wound when inflicted. The two poets move up and across the bank that separates the last Malebolge from the pit of hell. Dante and Virgil continue towards the ninth circle when Dante is nearly deafened by a bugle blast. The vision seems like a city surrounded with towers in front of them. The light is diffused and the Pilgrim cannot see what lies ahead. The loud sounding horn is like what Charlemagne and his men hear before they were destroyed.

The Pilgrim gazes towards the sound and sees high towers in a city in the distance a city. Virgil tells Dante what he is seeing is not a city. What he is seeing standing in the central pit of Hell are giants. Dante can see them standing waist up. These giants are afraid of Jupiter and his thunder. Eventually Dante can see clearly the body of one giant. The monster states he is grateful that Nature made the giants race extinct because their combined mental great strength filled with evil purposes could have destroyed humanity. Mars487 with the help of the giants would easily erase humankind. After moving even closer, Dante realises what is true. He is thankful that Nature never made any more giants. He then admits the only large animal he knew were inoffensive elephants and whales.

A giant shouted “Raphel mai amecche sabi almi.” Virgil tells him to blow the bugle strapped across his chest instead. He was talking to Nimrod the giant. This giant found a blunder in that different peoples spoke different languages. His monster language was unlike any spoken on earth. Eventually the Pilgrim Dante understands this for himself and becomes scared. He compares the giants to towers on the perimeter of the fortress of Monteriggioni.

Another giant’s arms were tied fast, one behind and one in front, by a massive chain. He was Epilates, who had rebelled against Jove. Dante wanted to see Briareus, but instead they spoke to Antaneus, who was not chained. Virgil asked Antaneus to pick him and Dante up and put them down in the ninth circle at the bottom of the pit. In exchange Dante would give him fame by telling about him on earth. Antaneus hastily did so.

The Pilgrim compares the giants huge face to the big dome of St- Peter’s Square in Rome. The giant’s body is in keeping with the part of its face, and is also huge. The height from waist up is more than combined height of three tall Friesians (Horgegian horse breed). The giant says some meaningless words and Virgil mocks his stupidity by telling him it is better he blows his horn than try to talk. Virgil explains this giant is Nimrod whose Tower of Babel was the foundation and formation of many languages. Virgil does not waste time with the babbling giant. The two poets move on, by keeping to the left. They reach an even bigger giant with a chain coiled five times around his chest and arms and is therefore fixed. Virgil says this one is Ephialtes who rose in rebellion against Jove and the other gods.

Dante wants to see Briareus. Virgil says he is further on, tied up just like Ephialtes, and looks more fierce. Antaeus is not bound by chains and capable of speech. He will put them down in the pit of hell. While they are talking Ephialtes shakes himself violently causing a disturbance like a powerful earthquake. Dante fears for his life and says he would surely have died if the monster had been unchained.

They move on and reach Antaeus. Virgil asks the giant to put them down in Cocytus. Virgil says he does not want to ask the help of Tityus or Typhon. He tells Abteus the Pilgrim Dante is alive and will talk about Antaeus on earth, thus keeping his name alive. Antaeus takes a hold of Virgil and while Virgil grabs on Dante, they are put down in the pit of Hell. His bent body reminds the Dante of the Tower Grarisend, when a cloud across it gives it an appearance of being about to fall. This frightens Dante but the giant puts them safely on the bottom of the pit, where Lucifer and Judas lie. Antaeus straightens up after having put the poets down.


Inferno: Canto 31: The Giants, Nimrod, Ephialtes, and Antaeus. Descent to Cocytus

All the giants the Ninth Bolgia rebelled against God, or used their size and skill to challenge divine authority. Renaissance rulers and Dante’s Machiavellian God disapproved of powerful subjects and therefore Dante imprisons them in the coldest reaches of Hell.

The Biblical Nimrod ruled Babylon when the Tower of Babel that reached the sky was built. God was supposedly angered by such towering ambitions in His creation. He therefore punished humanity by making them speak in different languages. Such declarations presume that humankind spoke a single language universally for communal universalism and cooperation practiced at the time of Babylonian Tower’s existence. Such ‘divine intent of divide and rule’ approved by Dante seems like a confused understanding of God Love.

Briareus and Ephialtes rebelled against the Olympian gods, who dealt with them in much the same way as the Biblical god dealt with Nimrod. Antaneus was born after the rebellion; therefore he is unfettered, though still imprisoned. Dante is to a new this division of Hell – a pit of the Giants in Cocytus. They have travelled from the city of Dis to Coccytus. Symbolically a Complex of Fraud finds a unified in Lower Hell between Dis to Cocytus. Fallen Angels perched on the wall of Dis gate are analogous to the Giants standing at the boundary of the lowest part of Hell.

Giants of pagan mythology are analogous to the Fallen Angels in Judeo-Christian tradition488. Both rebelled against their respective gods. All sins punished in Lower Hell (for Heresy, Violence and Fraud) are the result of Envy and Pride (capital vices of seven deadly sins in Christian ethics). They are sins489 committed by both groups of rebels.

The pride of the Giants is seen in Nimrod’s gibberish coming through his ‘prideful lips’., Virgil’s flattering490 Antaeus about his hunting exploits is used to persuade him to transport the poets down to the pit’s floor. Envy and Pride is the basis of the giant rebellion against their gods. Nimrod who is envious of God’s dominion. In his pride he builds a tower to Heaven, and Titans (save Antaeus) rebel against Jove. The Fallen Angels, spurred by envy also rise up against God.

When the faculty of intellect makes an alliance with envy and pride491, extreme evil becomes a reality as with the Giants and others in the Ninth Circle. The difference between the Sins of Incontinence (first five of the Seven Capital Sins) are Sins of the Appetite and ‘not of evil will’. Sins of Heresy, Violence and Fraud are inspired by intellectual and logical ‘will to do evil’. Heresy is caused by intellectual pride and envy, Violence is an alliance of ‘evil will’ and ‘brute force’. Fraud is ‘evil will’ therefore shaped and created with ‘the faculty of intellect’.

But Complex Fraud492 practiced by the Giants, the Fallen Angels, Lucifer and figures in the Ninth Circle, is a combination of fraud and violence . They are in this circle for violent rebellion or treacherous murder: of “the faculty of intellect…joined with brute force and with evil will.”

Sinners in Lower Hell use ‘evil will’ for gaining evil ends. All capital sins have pride and jealousy to use as will to do evil. These Giants (Titans) rebelled against gods and are struck by lighting bolts of Jupiter. “The terrible giants, [still fear Jupiter’s anger and his bolts] forever threatened / by Jupiter in the heavens when he thunders”.

Dante gazes at the Giants and realizes the awful of their evil minds can destroy humankind, yet recalls powerful animals stronger than humankind like “whales and elephants” that harmlessly exist on Earth. They do not have rational powers of the mind and can be subjugated. Dante is in awe of large beasts and describes Nimrod’s huge body.

Nimrod’s face is “just as wide as St. Peter’s cone in Rome, and all his body’s bones were in proportion.” The cone is a bronze shaft seven feet in height that once lay in the courtyard of St. Peter’s. Now it resides in an inner courtyard of the Vatican. Dante claims the height of the giant from his navel to his neck was more than “three tall Erisians on each other’s shoulders.”

Erisians were residents of Eriesland in northern Netherlands that known for their height. Dante uses their heights to paint pictures of the huge tall giants. The first giant they meet is Nimrod. Early Christians including Orosius and Saint Augustine believed Nimrod to be a giant. Dante believes Nimrod constructed and climbed the Tower of Babel towards heaven to attack Jupiter and other giants.

Before the times of the Tower all of humankind spoke in one common language. Nimrod is heard as a “Blathering idiot”. The Tower of Babel is believed to be the reason that men today speak in different languages. He adds it is impossible for Nimrod to understand anyone or to make his words understood.

The next giant is Ephialtes, wrapped five times by a chain He is the son of Neptune and Iphimedia. He with his brother Otus put Mt. Pelison on top of Ossa to climb to the gods to fight them. They (Ephialtes and Otus) were slain by Apollo.

The pilgrim desires to see Briareus. He was the son of Uranus and Gaia (Earth). He joins the other giants in their rebellion against the Olympian gods. Briareus is further along in the pit and looks just like Ephialtes except he is more fierce. Therefore Dante must satisfy himself just by looking at Ephialtes. He fears for his life when Ephialtes shakes himself and is grateful the giant is tied. The pilgrim’s fear underlines humankind’s vulnerability to mortality in infernal places of sins and giants.

Finally they reach Antaeus, whose hands are free. Virgil takes Antaeus help to descend to the pit of Hell. Antaeus is the son of Neptune and Gaia. Although a titan he never takes part in the giants’ rebellion against the gods. On earth, Antaeus lived in Libya and was a hunter. He was famous for feats of hunting in the Valley of Bagrada, where Scipio later defeated Hannibal.

Virgil refers to these feats probably to flatter Antaeus into helping them. Virgil adds he does not want to approach Tityus or Typhon for help in descending to Cocytus. Both Tityus and Typhon were titans and killed by Jupiter. Tityus was killed because he tried to rape Diana and Typhon for rebelling against the gods. Both were cursed down to earth and buried under Aetna.

When Virgil tells Antaeus that the Pilgrim is a living man and will keep his (Antaeus’) memory fresh in the world, the giant stoops scowling and picks them and puts them down on the floor of Cocytus. As he is bending to put them down, it reminds the Pilgrim of a tower called Garisenda. It is the shorter one of the two leaning towers in Bologna, built around 1110.

When a cloud passes against it, it appears as if it is about to fall. The Pilgrim feels that Antaeus is going to fall too as he bends and becomes afraid. But the giant puts them down without any accident and at once straightens up. On their arrival Dante says, they are in “the pit that swallows Lucifer with Judas in the centre of Hell, where the Devil himself is trapped and punished.

Inferno Canto 32: The Ninth Circle: Traitors. The Frozen Lake of Cocytus. First Division, Caina: Traitors to their Kindred. Camiscion de’ Pazzi. Second Division, Antenora: Traitors to their Country. Dante questions Bocca degli Abati. Buoso da Duera.

1. If I had rhymes both rough and stridulous// As were appropriate to the dismal hole// Down upon which thrust all the other rocks,
2. I would press out the juice of my conception// More fully; but because I have them not// Not without fear I bring myself to speak;
3. For ’tis no enterprise to take in jest// To sketch the bottom of all the universe// Nor for a tongue that cries Mamma and Babbo.
4. But may those Ladies help this verse of mine// Who helped Amphion493 in enclosing Thebes// That from the fact the word be not diverse.
5. Rabble ill-begotten above all// Who’re in the place to speak of which is hard// ‘Twere better ye had here been sheep or goats!
6. When we were down within the darksome well// Beneath the giant’s feet, but lower far// And I was scanning still the lofty wall,
7. I heard it said to me: “Look how thou steppest!// Take heed thou do not trample with thy feet// The heads of the tired, miserable brothers!”
8. Whereat I turned me round, and saw before me// And underfoot a lake, that from the frost// The semblance had of glass, and not of water.
9. So thick a veil ne’er made upon its current// In winter-time Danube in Austria// Nor there beneath the frigid sky the Don,
10. As there was here; so that if Tambernich494// Had fallen upon it, or Pietrapana// E’en at the edge ‘twould not have given a creak.
11. And as to croak the frog doth place himself// With muzzle out of water,–when is dreaming// Of gleaning oftentimes the peasant-girl,–
12. Livid, as far down as where shame appears// Were the disconsolate Shades within the ice// Setting their teeth unto the note of storks.
13. Each one his countenance held downward bent// From mouth the cold, from eyes the doleful heart// Among them witness of itself procures.
14. When round about me somewhat I had looked// I downward turned me, and saw two so close// The hair upon their heads together mingled.
15. “Ye who so strain your breasts together, tell me,”// I said, “who are you;” and they bent their necks// And when to me their faces they had lifted,
16. Their eyes, which first were only moist within// Gushed o’er the eyelids, and the frost congealed// The tears between, and locked them up again.
17. Clamp never bound together wood with wood// So strongly; whereat they, like two he-goats// Butted together, so much wrath o’ercame them.
18. And one, who had by reason of the cold// Lost both his ears, still with his visage downward// Said: “Why dost thou so mirror thyself in us?
19. If thou desire to know who these two are// The valley whence Bisenzio [River] descends// Belonged to them and to their father Albert.
20. They from one body came, and all Caina// Thou shalt search through, and shalt not find a Shade// More worthy to be fixed in gelatine;
21. Not he in whom were broken breast and shadow// At one and the same blow by Arthur’s hand// Focaccia495 not; not he who me encumbers
22. So with his head I see no farther forward// And bore the name of Sassol Mascheroni// Well knowest thou who he was, if thou art Tuscan.
23. And that thou put me not to further speech// Know that I Camicion de’ Pazzi was// And wait Carlino to exonerate me.”
24. Then I beheld a thousand faces, made// Purple with cold; whence o’er me comes a shudder// And evermore will come, at frozen ponds.
25. And while we were advancing tow’rds the middle// Where everything of weight unites together// And I was shivering in the eternal Shade,
26. Whether ’twere will, or destiny, or chance// I know not; but in walking ‘mong the heads// I struck my foot hard in the face of one.
27. Weeping he growled: “Why dost thou trample me?// Unless thou comest to increase the vengeance// of Montaperti496 why dost thou molest me?”
28. And I: “My Master, now wait here for me// That I through him may issue from a doubt// Then thou mayst hurry me, as thou shalt wish.”
29. The Leader stopped; and to that one I said// Who was blaspheming vehemently still:// “Who art thou, that thus reprehendest others?”
30. “Now who art thou, that goest through Antenora497// Smiting,” replied he, “other people’s cheeks// So that, if thou wert living, ’twere too much?”
31. “Living I am, and dear to thee it may be,”// Was my response, “if thou demandest fame// That ‘mid the other notes thy name I place.”
32. And he to me: “For the reverse I long// Take thyself hence, and give me no more trouble// For ill thou knowest to flatter in this hollow.”
33. Then by the scalp behind I seized upon him// And said: “It must needs be thou name thyself// Or not a hair remain upon thee here.”
34. Whence he to me: “Though thou strip off my hair// I will not tell thee who I am, nor show thee// If on my head a thousand times thou fall.”
35. I had his hair in hand already twisted// And more than one shock of it had pulled out// He barking, with his eyes held firmly down,
36. When cried another: “What doth ail thee, Bocca?// Is’t not enough to clatter with thy jaws// But thou must bark? what devil touches thee?”
37. “Now,” said I, “I care not to have thee speak// Accursed traitor; for unto thy shame// I will report of thee veracious news.”
38. “Begone,” replied he, “and tell what thou wilt// But be not silent, if thou issue hence// Of him who had just now his tongue so prompt;
39. He weepeth here the silver of the French// ‘I saw,’ thus canst thou phrase it, ‘him of Duera// There where the sinners stand out in the cold.’
40. If thou shouldst questioned be who else was there// Thou hast beside thee him of Beccaria// Of whom the gorget Florence slit asunder;
41. Gianni del Soldanier, I think, may be// Yonder with Ganellon, and Tebaldello// Who oped Faenza when the people slep.”
42. Already we had gone away from him// When I beheld two frozen in one hole// So that one head a hood was to the other;
43. And even as bread through hunger is devoured// The uppermost on the other set his teeth// There where the brain is to the nape united.
44. Not in another fashion Tydeus gnawed// The temples of Menalippus in disdain// Than that one did the skull and the other things.
45. “O thou, who showest by such bestial sign// Thy hatred against him whom thou art eating// Tell me the wherefore,” said I, “with this compact,
46. That if thou rightfully of him complain// In knowing who ye are, and his transgression// I in the world above repay thee for it,
47. If that wherewith I speak be not dried up.”


Inferno Canto 32: The Ninth Circle: Traitors. The Frozen Lake of Cocytus. First Division, Caina: Traitors to their Kindred. Camiscion de’ Pazzi. Second Division, Antenora: Traitors to their Country. Dante questions Bocca degli Abati. Buoso da Duera.

Dante says describing the horrible Ninth Circle is difficult and asks the help of Muses (goddesses of inspiration, science and art) who helped Amphion the son of Zeus to build a wall around Thebes. The poets are moving deeper and deeper into the Ninth Circle. They arrive in the first division of Cocytus (Ninth Circle) called Caina where those who murder their relatives are punished. The surface of Caina resembles a frozen river which reminds Dante of the Rivers Danube and Don during wintertime. The ice of Caina is so thick that even if Mount Tambernich or Pietrapana fell on it, the thick surface would not crack.

Sinners are impaled in the ice with bodies beneath the icy surface and heads above. Dante says they look like frogs in water with only their snouts showing and teeth chattering from the cold. They are weeping. The Pilgrim’s attention is caught by two souls tightly packed into each other, with chests touching. Dante and Virgil wonder who they are.

Their question is answered by Camiscion de Pazzi499 who lies buried nearby. He tells the Pilgrim both of them are sons of Albert. Their sins are more serious than the men who were killed by Arthur, Focaccia and Sassol Mascheroni. Then Camiscion de Pazzi reveals his own name and adds that he is waiting for Carlin to join him in Hell. Dante gazes ahead and sees thousands of faces emerging from the ice.

He accidentally kicks a soul in the face and the Shade starts weeping and cursing Dante. He asks if Dante had come to avenge Montaperti (battle of Montaperti 1260 fought between Florence and Siena in Tuscany between Guelphs and Ghibellines), but leaves it to Virgil to find out the sinners identity. The two poets arrive at the second division of Cocytus called Antenora where are incarcerated those who betrayed their country, city or political party. The Dante meanwhile reveals he is a living man and promises to refresh the memory of his name on Earth.

The Shade refuses to reveal his identity and Dante grabs him by his hair to compel him to reveal his name. Although in pain the soul still resists. His cries disturb another Shade nearby who addresses as “Bocca”. The Pilgrim threatens to reveal those on Earth of Bocca’s shameful fate. The angry Bocca then mention others who are punished here. He names “the one from Duero” (Buoso de Duero), “one from boccheria” (Tesauro dei Boccheria), Gianni Soldanier, Ganelon the knight who betrayed Charlemagne’s army to the Muslims and Tibbold.

The Pilgrim and Virgil leave the angry Shade behind and move further on. They reach two Shades lying frozen together in a single hole, with one’s head fitting the others like a cap. The soul whose head is lower is biting the other soul’s neck in great anger. Dante compares this to the angry Tydeus biting the architect Menalippus who rebuilt Odeion at Athens after it was burnt down. This soul is far more angry and vicious in its biting then Tydeus.

The Pilgrim addresses the aggressor and asks him why he is gnawing at the other Shade. He adds he is justified in his revenge and tells the Pilgrim about the other’s crime which need revealing to people on Earth.


Inferno Canto 32: The Ninth Circle: Traitors. The Frozen Lake of Cocytus. First Division, Caina: Traitors to their Kindred. Camiscion de’ Pazzi. Second Division, Antenora: Traitors to their Country. Dante questions Bocca degli Abati. Buoso da Duera.

Dante divides circle 9, the circle of treachery defined as fraudulent acts between individuals who share special bonds of love and trust into four regions. Caina is named after biblical Cain (first child of Adam and Eve), who slew his brother Abel out of envy (Genesis 4:1-17)and was condemned to a vagrant existence. Cain later built a city Henoch which represented the evils of an earthly city. In the circle of the lustful, Francesca identifies her husband (Gianciotto) who murdered her and Paolo (Gianciotto brother). Dante’s attention is drawn to two brothers, the Ghibelline Napoleone and the Guelph Alessandro, who murdered one another because of a dispute over their inheritance).

The second region, Antenora, is named for the Trojan prince Antenor. Antenor in Iliad is for returning Helen to the Greeks for the good of Troy. Medieval histories view him as a “treacherous Judas” who plots with the Greeks to destroy the city. Dante places in this region those who betrayed their political party or their homeland.

In the third zone of circle 9 suffer those who betrayed friends or guests. PtolomĹa is named after one or both of: Ptolemy, the captain of Jericho, who honoured his father-in-law, the high priest Simon Maccabee; and two of Simon’s sons who after a great feast murdered them (1 Maccabees 16:11-17). Ptolemy XII, the brother of Cleopatra arranged the Roman general Pompey (who was seeking refuge after his defeat at the battle of Pharsalia 48 BC) be murdered. Because Dante loathed such crimes he devised a special punishment for those who betray guests. Their souls descend immediately to hell and their living bodies get possessed by demons.

Judecca named after the betrayer of Jesus (Judas Iscariot) is incarcerated into the innermost zone of the ninth and final circle of hell. Dante’s terminology hints at a Christian prejudice against Judaism and Jews in the Middle Ages. The Christian with Judas are incarcerated in hell with others who by betraying their masters committed crimes of historical and societal results. Covered by the ice–like “straw in glass”–the Shades are locked in various postures with no mobility or sound.

Giants physically connect circles 8 and 9 by standing on the floor of circle 9 on a ledge above the bottom of hell. The upper halves of their huge bodies tower over the inner edge of circle 8. They look like towers. Dante’s Giants are typical biblical and mythological examples of defiant rebels. Nimrod is a “stout hunter before the Lord” (Genesis 10:9) who ruled Babylon and other cities in the land of Sennaar. They planned to build a tower to heaven but God shows his displeasure by scattering the people and destroying their language and become unable to understand each other’s speech (Genesis 11:1-9). Dante blames this linguistic confusion on the now incomprehensible Nimrod who has the physical results of pride.

The dimension of Nimrod’s face is compared with a pinecone at St. Peter’s in Rome when it was ruled by the then current pope, Boniface VIII. The inner bank of circle 8 covers the lower half of the Giants’ bodies like an “apron” to describe the shame of Adam in the Garden of Eden: “And the eyes of them both were opened: and when they perceived themselves to be naked, they sewed together fig leaves, and made themselves aprons [perizomata]” (Genesis 3:7).

From circle 8 to circle 9, Dante and Virgil view two other Giants. Ephialtes fought against Jove and other Olympian gods. With his twin brother Otus (both sons of Neptune and Iphimedia, wife of the giant Aloeus), they tried to scale Mount Olympus and dethrone the gods by stacking Mount Pelion on top of Mount Ossa in Macedonia. They were killed with arrows shot by Apollo and Diana.

Virgil’s states another Giant Briareus, who looks more ferocious, is like other Giants who challenged the gods and like Ephialtes is immobilized by chains in hell. Antaeus, who can speak, is probably unfettered because he was born after his comrades waged war against the gods. He is therefore able to lift Dante and Virgil and deposit them on the floor of the ninth and final circle of hell. To secure this help, Virgil entices Antaeus with the prospect of continued fame on Dante’s return to the world. Antaeus is a fearsome offspring of Earth whose strength was replenished from contact with his mother who feasted on lions, and slaughtered farmers and travellers near his cavernous home in North Africa, until he met his match in Hercules. The hero and the Giant engaged in a wrestling contest, which Hercules finally won by lifting Antaeus off the ground and squeezing him to death.

Dante feels no remorse for kicking a Shade in the face once he learns the identity of the political traitor. The offended Shade stirs Dante’s interest by alluding to the Montaperti battle (1260) in which Florentine Guelphs were routed by Ghibelline forces that included, among exiles from Florence, Farinata degli Uberti. The Shade’s identity remains hidden, even as Dante tries to tear out chunks of his hair, until another traitor in the ice calls out the wretch’s name. It is Bocca (meaning mouth) who is identifying the informer and four other traitors to party or homeland. Bocca degli Abati belonged to a Ghibelline family that remained in Florence after other Ghibellines were banished in 1258 for their role in a foiled plot. Pretending to fight on the side of the Guelphs cavalry, Bocca betrayed his Guelph citizens at a decisive moment when German mercenary troops attacked in support of the Tuscan Ghibellines and cutting off the hand of the Guelph standard-bearer. Demoralized by Bocca’s treachery and the loss of their flag, the Guelphs panicked and were defeated.

Dante’s depiction of Ugolino eating the back of Ruggieri’s head like a dog using its strong teeth to gnaw a bone is shocking. Uglino’s story by one of the damned is Dante’s representation of humankind’s capacity for evil and cruelty by lighting up the scene of cannibalism in hell. Uglino’s story is a powerful political treachery for which he is condemned to eternal damnation. He instead wishes to defame his enemy and elicit compassion from his audience by recounting the brutal manner in which he and his innocent children were killed.

Count Ugolino della Gherardesca earned his place in Antenora in the realm of political traitors, for a series of betrayals against Pisa and her political leadership. Dante mentions the act of treason that eventually led to Uglino’s downfall to appease hostile and powerful Guelph forces in Tuscany. Ugolino ceded Pisan castles to Florence and Lucca in 1285. However, early commentators and chroniclers describe examples of shifting loyalties and betrayals in the long political life of Count Ugolino. Born into a prominent Ghibelline family in Pisa, Ugolino switched to the Guelph side following their ascendancy in Tuscan politics and tried to install a Guelph government in Pisa in 1274-5. Unsuccessful in this attempt, he was imprisoned and later exiled. In 1284, several years after his return, Ugolino led Pisan forces in a naval battle against rival Genoa. Despite his defeat, Ugolino was elected podestů (political head) of Pisa and his Guelph grandson, Nino Visconti, joined him in power as “captain of the people.”

It was in this period of political expediency that Ugolino ceded the Pisan castles to Lucca and Florence. The decision caused a rift between him and his grandson and between their Guelph followers. Taking advantage of resurgent Ghibelline fortunes in Tuscany, Ugolino connived with the Pisan Ghibellines, led by the Archbishop Ruggieri degli Ubaldini. Ugolino agreed to Ghibelline demands that his grandson Nino be driven from the city in 1288. The traitor was then himself betrayed. On Ugolino’s return to Pisa, Ruggieri incited the public against him. His two sons (Gaddo and Uguccione) and two grandsons (Anselmo and Brigata) were arrested and imprisoned. They were held in the tower for eight months until, with a change in the Ghibelline leadership of Pisa, it was decided to nail shut the door to the tower and to throw the key into the Arno. They starved to death, in a matter of days.

Then Dante cleverly tricks a Shade into revealing his identity by making a devious deal: he promises to relieve the traitor’s suffering by removing frozen tears from the traitor’s face, in exchange for this information. Dante thus learns that the soul of Fra Alberigo is in hell even though his body is still alive on earth in 1300; (he is thought to have died in 1307). Dante’s attention is drawn to the Shade of Branca Doria: (who actually lived another twenty-five years). , Alberigo explains souls of those who betray their guests descend immediately to PtolomĹa as their bodies are possessed by demons. Fra Alberigo, of the ruling Guelph family of Faenza (near Ravenna), was a Jovial Friar; a religious order established with the goal of making peace (in families and cities) but soon better known for decadence and corruption. A close relative, Manfred, plotted against Alberigo for political power. As a result of this dispute, Alberigo pretending that the altercation was forgotten invited Manfred and his sons to a sumptuous banquet. At the end of the meal, the host gave the signal (“Bring the fruit!”), and armed servants emerged from behind a curtain and slaughtered the guests, much to the delight of Alberigo.

Eternally eaten by Lucifer’s three mouths are Brutus, Judas, and Cassius. Brutus and Cassius are stuffed feet first in the jaws of Lucifer’s black and whitish-yellow faces in that order. They are punished in this lowest region for their assassination of Julius Caesar (44 BC), the founder of the Roman Empire. Dante views the Empire an essential part of God’s plan for human happiness. Both Brutus and Cassius fought on the side of Pompey in the civil war. However, following Pompey’s defeat at Pharsalia in 48 BC Caesar pardons them and invests them with high civic offices.

Still, Cassius continues resenting Caesar’s dictatorship and enlists Brutus in the conspiracy to kill Caesar and reestablish the republic. They succeeded in murdering Caesar but their political-military ambitions were soon thwarted by Octavian (later Augustus) and Antony at Philippi (42 BC). Cassius defeated by Antony wrongly imagines that Brutus is defeated by Octavian. He commits suicide by having himself killed by a servant. Brutus lost a later battle and took his own life as well. For Dante, Brutus and Cassius’ betrayal of Julius Caesar was a misdeed against their benefactor and the world’s supreme secular ruler. His example of Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of Jesus, leads to Jesus’ death, and Judas returns the silver and hangs himself (Matthew 26:14-16; 26:21-5; 26:47-9; 27:3-5). Suffering even more than Brutus and Cassius, Dante’s Judas is placed headfirst inside Lucifer’s central mouth, with his back skinned by the devil’s claws.
ś Although Dante and Virgil do not visit three more towering Giants they are named. Virgil says Briareus, is of equal massive size but even more terrifying than Ephialtes the monster with one hundred arms and hands and fire burning in his fifty mouths and chests, wielding fifty shields and swords to defend himself against Jove’s thunderbolts. Statius describes Briareus as huge but the giants Tityus and Typhon are inferior to Antaeus. Therefore Virgil appeals to Antaeus’ pride by “threatening” to go to them if Antaeus will not provide a lift down to circle 9. The giant Tityus in classical literature attempted rape of Latona (mother of Apollo and Diana) and earns a gruesome fate in the underworld: a vulture continuously feeds on Tityus’ immortal liver. Typhon is struck down by Jove’s lightning bolts and buried under Mount Etna in Sicily where it causes occasional volcanic eruptions.
ś Frozen lake in circle 9 is Cocytus to mean “to lament” in Greek. Cocytus is a deep pool of water that encircles a forest. Into it pours sand spewed from a torrid whirlpool. In the Vulgate (the Latin Bible), Cocytus is the valley (or torrent) of death that receives the wicked, who have prospered in the world (Job 21:33).
Envy as a capital sin is not assigned a specific circle in Dante’s hell. As a relatively privileged European man of the late Middle Ages, Dante shares many views that are today considered unenlightened. These include religious and ethnic intolerance, a reductive attitude toward women, and a heterosexist understanding of love and sexuality.

Inferno Canto 33: Count Ugolino and the Archbishop Ruggieri. The Death of Count Ugolino’s Sons; Third Division of the Ninth Circle, Ptolmaea: Traitors to their Friends. Friar Alberigo,Branco d’ Oria.

1. His mouth uplifted from his grim repast// That sinner, wiping it upon the hair// Of the same head that he behind had wasted.
2. Then he began: “Thou wilt that I renew// The desperate grief, which wrings my heart already// To think of only, ere I speak of it;
3. But if my words be seed that may bear fruit// Of infamy to the traitor whom I gnaw// Speaking and weeping shalt thou see together.
4. I know not who thou art, nor by what mode// Thou hast come down here; but a Florentine// Thou seemest to me truly, when I hear thee.
5. Thou hast to know I was Count Ugolino500// And this one was Ruggieri the Archbishop// Now I will tell thee why I am such a neighbour.
6. That, by effect of his malicious thoughts// Trusting in him I was made prisoner// And after put to death, I need not say;
7. But ne’ertheless what thou canst not have heard// That is to say, how cruel was my death// Hear shalt thou, and shalt know if he has wronged me.
8. A narrow perforation in the mew// Which bears because of me the title of Famine// And in which others still must be locked up,
9. Had shown me through its opening many moons// Already, when I dreamed the evil dream// Which of the future rent for me the veil.
10. This one appeared to me as lord and master// Hunting the wolf and whelps upon the mountain// For which the Pisans cannot Lucca see.
11. With sleuth-hounds gaunt, and eager, and well trained// Gualandi with Sismondi and Lanfianchi// He had sent out before him to the front.
12. After brief course seemed unto me forespent// The father and the sons, and with sharp tushes// It seemed to me I saw their flanks ripped open.
13. When I before the morrow was awake// Moaning amid their sleep I heard my sons// Who with me were, and asking after bread.
14. Cruel indeed art thou, if yet thou grieve not// Thinking of what my heart foreboded me// And weep’st thou not, what art thou wont to weep at?
15. They were awake now, and the hour drew nigh// At which our food used to be brought to us// And through his dream was each one apprehensive;
16. And I heard locking up the under door// Of the horrible tower; whereat without a word// I gazed into the faces of my sons.
17. I wept not, I within so turned to stone// They wept; and darling little Anselm501 mine// Said: ‘Thou dost gaze so, father, what doth ail thee?’
18. Still not a tear I shed, nor answer made// All of that day, nor yet the night thereafter// Until another sun rose on the world.
19. As now a little glimmer made its way// Into the dolorous prison, and I saw// Upon four faces my own very aspect,
20. Both of my hands in agony I bit// And, thinking that I did it from desire// Of eating, on a sudden they uprose,
21. And said they: ‘Father, much less pain ’twill give us// If thou do eat of us; thyself didst clothe us// With this poor flesh, and do thou strip it off.’
22. I calmed me then, not to make them more sad.// That day we all were silent, and the next.// Ah! obdurate earth, wherefore didst thou not open?
23. When we had come unto the fourth day, Gaddo// Threw himself down outstretched before my feet// Saying, ‘My father, why dost thou not help me?’
24. And there he died; and, as thou seest me// I saw the three fall, one by one, between// The fifth day and the sixth; whence I betook me,
25. Already blind, to groping over each// And three days called them after they were dead// Then hunger did what sorrow could not do.”
26. When he had said this, with his eyes distorted// The wretched skull resumed he with his teeth// Which, as a dog’s, upon the bone were strong.
27. Ah! Pisa502, thou opprobrium of the people// Of the fair land there where the ‘Si’ doth sound// Since slow to punish thee thy neighbours are,
28. Let the Capraia and Gorgona move// And make a hedge across the mouth of Arno// That every person in thee it may drown!
29. For if Count Ugolino503 had the fame// Of having in thy castles thee betrayed// Thou shouldst not on such cross have put his sons.
30. Guiltless of any crime, thou modern Thebes!// Their youth made Uguccione and Brigata504// And the other two my song doth name above!
31. We passed still farther onward, where the ice// Another people ruggedly enswathes// Not downward turned, but all of them reversed.
32. Weeping itself there does not let them weep// And grief that finds a barrier in the eyes// Turns itself inward to increase the anguish;
33. Because the earliest tears a cluster form// And, in the manner of a crystal visor// Fill all the cup beneath the eyebrow full.
34. And notwithstanding that, as in a callus// Because of cold all sensibility// Its station had abandoned in my face,
35. Still it appeared to me I felt some wind// Whence I: “My Master, who sets this in motion?// Is not below here every vapour quenched?”
36. Whence he to me: “Full soon shalt thou be where// Thine eye shall answer make to thee of this// Seeing the cause which raineth down the blast.”
37. And one of the wretches of the frozen crust// Cried out to us: “O souls so merciless// That the last post is given unto you,
38. Lift from mine eyes the rigid veils, that I// May vent the sorrow which impregns my heart// A little, e’er the weeping recongeal.”
39. Whence I to him: “If thou wouldst have me help thee// Say who thou wast; and if I free thee not// May I go to the bottom of the ice.”
40. Then he replied: “I am Friar Alberigo505// He am I of the fruit of the bad garden// Who here a date am getting for my fig.”
41. “O,” said I to him, “now art thou, too, dead?”// And he to me: “How may my body fare// Up in the world, no knowledge I possess.
42. Such an advantage has this Ptolomaea506// That oftentimes the soul descendeth here// Sooner than Atropos507 in motion sets it.
43. And, that thou mayest more willingly remove// From off my countenance these glassy tears// Know that as soon as any soul betrays
44. As I have done, his body by a demon// Is taken from him, who thereafter rules it// Until his time has wholly been revolved.
45. Itself down rushes into such a cistern// And still perchance above appears the body// Of yonder Shade, that winters here behind me.
46. This thou shouldst know, if thou hast just come down// It is Ser Branca d’ Oria508, and many years// Have passed away since he was thus locked up.”
47. “I think,” said I to him, “thou dost deceive me// For Branca d’ Oria is not dead as yet// And eats, and drinks, and sleeps, and puts on clothes.”
48. “In moat above,” said he, “of Malebranche// There where is boiling the tenacious pitch// As yet had Michel Zanche509 not arrived,
49. When this one left a devil in his stead// In his own body and one near of kin// Who made together with him the betrayal.
50. But hitherward stretch out thy hand forthwith// Open mine eyes;”–and open them I did not// And to be rude to him was courtesy.
51. Ah, Genoese! ye men at variance// With every virtue, full of every vice// Wherefore are ye not scattered from the world?
52. For with the vilest spirit of Romagna510// I found of you one such, who for his deeds// In soul already in Cocytus bathes,
53. And still above in body seems alive!


Inferno Canto 33: Count Ugolino and the Archbishop Ruggieri. The Death of Count Ugolino’s Sons; Third Division of the Ninth Circle, Ptolmaea: Traitors to their Friends. Friar Alberigo, Branco d’ Oria.

The soul stops chewing on his companion’s neck to answer the Pilgrim Dante. He is willing to reveal his sad story that will show the sin of his companion. He reveals that he is Count Ugolino and the soul he is chewing on is Ruggieri the Archbishop. Although they were friends Ruggieri had Ugolino and his sons and grandsons imprisoned in a tower. As time passed Ugolino had a dream about the future. He saw Ruggieri, killing the leading families of Pisa. Ruggieri did in fact have the Ugolino family imprisoned in a tower. After four days of starvation one son Gaddo died and in the following two days the remaining three children died also. Two days after their death Ugolino is forced to feed on his children’s dead bodies. It is this memory that causes Ugolino to angrily chew Ruggieri’s head.

Dante curses the city of Pisa and its people for causing death of innocents. He calls on the Islands of Capraia and Gorgona to block the River Arno, flood the city of Pisa and drown all its citizens. Although Ugolino was guilty, his four young children (Anselmuccio, Gaddo, Brigata and Uguccione) were innocent.

The two poets reach the next division of Cocytus: in Tolomea511, where betrayers of guests are punished. Here heads are emerging above the ice with faces positioned upwards. Their tears are frozen and ice is covering their eyes. Although the Circle is cold Dante feels a breeze. He asks Virgil where it comes from and Virgil says he will soon see the source of the wind with his own eyes.

One soul asks the two travellers to remove the ice covering his eyes. Dante agrees on condition he identifies himself. He adds that if he does not do as promised he may descend even deeper into Hell. The sinner says he is Friar Alberigo. The Pilgrim is surprised that Alberigo is dead and is told that his body is alive on Earth. The Friar says in this zone of Tolomea a soul is incarcerated before its allotted time of death by Atropos512 (goddess of fate and destiny).

He clarifies that further. Anyone committing the sin Alberigo indulged in has their bodies controlled by a demon who occupies it for the rest of its life span. Meanwhile however, such a sinner falls in this region of Tolomea. He then tells the Pilgrim the soul buried behind him is of Ser Branca D Oria513 who is there for several years.

Dante is not convinced for he has seen Branca D Oria alive. He is told the soul of Branca and one of his relatives fell here for their crime against Michel Zanche. They reached Tolomea before the soul of the murdered Zanche reaches there. Here in the fifth Bolgia is where Barrators514 are consigned. Finally Alberigo asks the Pilgrim to keep his side of the bargain and crack the ice covering his eyes. Dante refuses because it pleases him to deceive Alberigo, saying: “it was courtesy to show him rudeness.”

Dante then addresses all the sinners of Genoa and states it is better the world is rid of them. He adds about Alberigo (“Romagna’s rankest soul”): he has found another man from Genoa, whose soul lies in Cocytus while his woman is still alive on Earth. The Pilgrim is referring to Branca D Oria.


Inferno Canto 33: Count Ugolino and the Archbishop Ruggieri. The Death of Count Ugolino’s Sons; Third Division of the Ninth Circle, Ptolmaea: Traitors to their Friends. Friar Alberigo, Branco d’ Oria.
The story of the death of Ugolino and his children is a tragic moment in Dante’s Comedy. Ugolino della Gherardesca was a Pisans Ghibelline who negotiated with the powerful Guelphs of Lucca and Florence and ceded them three castles. Ugolino was forced out of the office of chief magistrate of Pisa in 1288, but returned to Pisa at the invite of the Archbishop Ruggieri, who betrayed and imprisoned him, with his sons Gaddo and Uguccione, and his grandsons Anselmo and Nino (nicknamed Brigata). In March 1289, they were imprisoned for nine months while the tower was locked up. A disturbing issue in this story is that of cannibalism. Dante sees Ugolino chewing Ruggieri’s head because of forced cannibalism through starvation before his death.
Fra Alberigo was a Jovial Friar who had his relatives Manfred and Manfred’s son killed during a banquet. He called up the assassins by ordering figs. In a similar manner, Branca D’Oria killed his father-in-law Michele Zanche during a banquet.
The man engaged in chewing his companion’s head is Ugolino the Count of Donoratico. He and his family were Ghibellines, but in 1275, with the help of his son-in-law, Giovanni Visconti, he tried to help the Guelphs to rise to power in Pisa and betrayed his own party. He is now in Antenora, a Hell for betraying them. Ugolino (Nino) Visconti took over the Guelph government and the city. Three years later (1288) and he plotted with Archbishop Ruggieri Degli to rid Pisa of the Visconti. However he had other ominous plans. With the Ghibellines, he seized control of the city and imprisoned Ugolino and his children in the “tower of hunger”. For betrayal of friends Ruggieri is now punished in Tolomea.
While in their tower prison, Ugolino dreams about his and his family’s future. He sees Ruggieri (“land and huntsman”) with the powerful Ghibelline families of Pisa (“Gualandi Sismondi and lanfranchi”) hunt down himself and his family (“the wolf and the wolf cubs”). His family is killed “up the mountain”.
Dante describes Uglino’s children and grandson in poignant words. Gaddo’s dying words are “why don’t you help me? Why, my father”. Despite dying themselves their love for Ugolino makes them offer themselves as food for him. This is the most heartrending part of the story. After they are dead, Ugolino goes blind from grief. He mourns the four dead bodies for two days, calling out their names, even though they are dead. Driven by hunger the desperate Ugolino is forced to eat the bodies of his dead offspring. Ruggieri drove him to this desperation
Ugolino settles scores by feeding on Ruggieri. He is unforgiving towards the man who forced him to cannibalizing his children who were innocent and suffered unjustly. Dante supports him by cursing the city of Pisa. He also asks the islands of Capraia and Gorgona to block the River Arno, flood the city of Pisa and drown all its citizens. He refers to Pisa as a “newborn Thebes” equating it with the Greek city of many evil deeds and scandals connected to its history
The two poets move onwards and enter Tolomea, the third division of Cocytus, where those who betray their guests are punished. Tolomea gains its name from Ptolemy, the captain of Jericho. He called his father-in-law Simon and two of his sons to dinner and then killed them. In another historical event Ptolemy XII, an Egyptian King welcomed Pompey to his kingdom and then killed him. Both betrayed their guests, a sin punished in Cocytus.

The sinners are icebound with a slight difference. Their faces are turned upwards so the tears they weep pool around their eyes and are frozen like crusts. They did not distinguish right from wrong on Earth. In Tolomea they are blinded with moral blindness515. A soul asks them to remove the ice from his eyes, so he can freely weep. Dante strikes a bargain with Friar Alberigo that he will clear the Friar’s eyes if he reveals his name. The Friar is taken in by these words and reveals who he is.

Friar Alberigo is Alberigo di Ugolino dei Manfred. He was one of the Jovial Friars from the town of Faenza. In 1285 he invited Manfred and his son Alberghetto to dinner. They were already engaged in a family feud. The dinner invitation was a mark of peace (‘olive branch’). As the dinner was progressing, Alberigo signaled for fruit to be brought and murdered the two guests.

Alberigo uses the term “fruit” to lament his fate by saying “here dates are served to me for the figs I gave” to mean he is suffering more (date costs) than his share of a fig. This story surprises Dante because Alberigo is still alive on Earth. Alberigo explains that in Tolomea his soul is already here, because his body is possessed by a demon while alive on Earth. On earth, a devil settles in the body until its natural death.

The Pilgrim Dante is on a Spiritual Journey first in Hell. In Tolomea he refuses to remove the ice from Alberigo’s eyes. Not only has he stopped pitying the sinners, but decides sinners here deserve their pain. He is on the side of Divine Justice516 and refuses to reduce pain in the suffering souls. While journeying through Hell with the logical Virgil Dante learns no sacrifice wipes out sins. Justice is carried out by God who decides the fate of one’s eternity based on a lifestyle followed. The lost will is judged according to their works (Revelation 20:13). To feel pity for a sinner who deserves his pain is going against God and Divine Justice. If the Law of Karma self-determines action and reaction, Dante stands accused of being judgemental.

In the end, Dante addresses the city of Genova, accusing it to be a den of vice. He adds the world will be a better place without such evil men. He points out one prominent citizen of Branca Doria the depraved treacherous murderer wears a veneer of respectability among the citizens of Genova. He adds Branca lies alongside Alberigo – “Romagna’s rankest soul”. The Friar’s hometown of Faenza was near Romagna.

Inferno Canto 34: Fourth Division of the Ninth Circle, the Judecca: Traitors to their Lords and Benefactors. Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius. The Chasm of Lethe. The Ascent.

1. “‘Vexilla Regis prodeunt Inferni’// Towards us; therefore look in front of thee,”// My Master said, “if thou discernest him.”
2. As, when there breathes a heavy fog, or when// Our hemisphere is darkening into night// Appears far off a mill the wind is turning,
3. Methought that such a building then I saw// And, for the wind, I drew myself behind.// My Guide, because there was no other shelter.
4. Now was I, and with fear in verse I put it// There where the Shades were wholly covered up// And glimmered through like unto straws in glass.
5. Some prone are lying, others stand erect// This with the head, and that one with the soles// Another, bow-like, face to feet inverts.
6. When in advance so far we had proceeded// That it my Master pleased to show to me// The creature who once had the beauteous semblance,
7. He from before me moved and made me stop// Saying: “Beholds Dis, and beholds the place// Where thou with fortitude must arm thyself.”
8. How frozen I became and powerless then// Ask it not, Reader, for I write it not// Because all language would be insufficient.
9. I did not die, and I alive remained not// Think for thyself now, hast thou aught of wit// What I became, being of both deprived.
10. The Emperor of the kingdom dolorous// From his mid-breast forth issued from the ice// And better with a giant I compare
11. Than do the giants with those arms of his// Consider now how great must be that whole// Which unto such a part conforms itself.
12. Were he as fair once, as he now is foul// And lifted up his brow against his Maker// Well may proceed from him all tribulation.
13. O, what a marvel it appeared to me// When I beheld three faces on his head!// The one in front, and that vermilion was;
14. Two were the others, that were joined with this// Above the middle part of either shoulder// And they were joined together at the crest;
15. And the right-hand one seemed ‘twixt white and yellow// The left was such to look upon as those// Who come from where the Nile falls valley-ward.
16. Underneath each came forth two mighty wings// Such as befitting were so great a bird// Sails of the sea I never saw so large.
17. No feathers had they, but as of a bat// Their fashion was; and he was waving them// So that three winds proceeded forth therefrom.
18. Thereby Cocytus wholly was congealed.// With six eyes did he weep, and down three chins// Trickled the tear-drops and the bloody drivel.
19. At every mouth he with his teeth was crunching// A sinner, in the manner of a brake// So that he three of them tormented thus.
20. To him in front the biting was as naught// Unto the clawing, for sometimes the spine// Utterly stripped of all the skin remained.
21. “That soul up there which has the greatest pain,”// The Master said, “is Judas Iscariot// With head inside, he plies his legs without.
22. Of the two others, who head downward are// The one who hangs from the black jowl is Brutus517// See how he writhes himself, and speaks no word.
23. And the other, who so stalwart seems, is Cassius518.// But night is reascending, and ’tis time// That we depart, for we have seen the whole.”
24. As seemed him good, I clasped him round the neck// And he the vantage seized of time and place// And when the wings were opened wide apart,
25. He laid fast holds upon the shaggy sides// From fell to fell descended downward then// Between the thick hair and the frozen crust.
26. When we were come to where the thigh revolves// Exactly on the thickness of the haunch// The Guide, with labour and with hard-drawn breath,
27. Turned round his head where he had had his legs// And grappled to the hair, as one who mounts// So that to Hell I thought we were returning.
28. “Keep fast thy holds, for by such stairs as these,”// The Master said, panting as one fatigued// “Must we perforce depart from so much evil.”
29. Then through the opening of a rock he issued,/ And down upon the margin seated me// Then tow’rds me he outstretched his wary step.
30. I lifted up mine eyes and thought to see// Lucifer519 in the same way I had left him// And I beheld him upward holds his legs.
31. And if I then became disquieted// Let stolid people think who do not see// What the point is beyond which I had passed.
32. “Rise up,” the Master said, “upon thy feet// The way is long, and difficult the road// And now the sun to middle-tierce returns.”
33. It was not any palace corridor// There where we were, but dungeon natural// With floor uneven and unease of light.
34. “Ere from the abyss I tear myself away// My Master,” said I when I had arisen// “To draw me from an error speak a little;
35. Where is the ice? and how is this one fixed// Thus upside down? and how in such short time// From eve to morn has the sun made his transit?”
36. And he to me: “Thou still imaginest// Thou art beyond the , where I grasped// The hair of the fell worm, who mines the world.
37. That side thou wast, so long as I descended// When round I turned me, thou didst pass the point// To which things heavy draw from every side,
38. And now beneath the hemisphere art come// Opposite that which overhangs the vast// Dry-land, and ‘neath whose cope was put to death
39. The Man who without sin was born and lived.// Thou hast thy feet upon the little sphere// Which makes the other face of the Judecca (central point of Hell, named after Judas Iscariot).
40. Here it is morn when it is evening there// And he who with his hair a stairway made us// Still fixed remaineth as he was before.
41. Upon this side he fell down out of heaven// And all the land, that whilom here emerged// For fear of him made of the sea a veil,
42. And came to our hemisphere; and peradventure// To flee from him, what on this side appears// Left the place vacant here, and back recoiled.”
43. A place there is below, from Beelzebub (Canaanite ‘Baal’ to mean ‘lord’ of fallen angel next to Satan) // As far receding as the tomb extends// Which not by sight is known, but by the sound
44. Of a small rivulet, that there descendeth// Through chasm within the stone, which it has gnawed// With course that winds about and slightly falls.
45. The Guide and I into that hidden road// Now entered, to return to the bright world// And without care of having any rest
46. We mounted up, he first and I the second// Till I beheld through a round aperture// Some of the beauteous things that Heaven doth bear;
47. Thence we came forth to rebeholds the stars.


Inferno Canto 34: Fourth Division of the Ninth Circle, the Judecca: Traitors to their Lords and Benefactors. Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius. The Chasm of Lethe. The Ascent.

Virgil warns Dante they are getting closer to Lucifer and in the distance, the pilgrim makes out huge flapping wings of Lucifer. A wind is created by the flapping and Dante takes shelter behind Virgil. The ice beneath them is filled with fully buried sinners. They move further along and Virgil steps aside. He points out “Dis” (Lucifer) out to Dante but tells the pilgrim to be brave. The sight of Lucifer terrifies the Pilgrim; Lucifer is buried in the ice with his chest stuck above the ice. He comments Lucifer is as gigantic that the huge giants they saw earlier and states that a once beautiful Lucifer is now ugly. Dante disapproves that Lucifer rebelled against God. It is therefore fitting that he is now the Lord of pain and suffering.

The pilgrim notes Lucifer’s head bears three faces – all attached to one another and their crowns fully joint. The central face is red, the right whitish yellow and the left is black in colour. Beneath each face are two wings large like those of bats. Lucifer constantly flaps these and they create wind blowing in the Cocytus. From Lucifer’s six eyes tears mixed with blood are dripping. They mix with the blood in his mouth and then run down his chin. In each of his three mouths is one sinner Lucifer is chewing with his sharp teeth. They seemingly are suffering constant pain.

Virgil points to the sinner in the central mouth. The head is inside Lucifer’s mouth and his legs are sticking out. He is being bitten, and his back is severely clawed, with the skin is torn off. This sinner who is enduring maximum pain is Judas Iscariot. Bodies of Brutus and Cassius are in the other two mouths, and their heads are sticking out. Brutus is in the mouth of the black face and Cassius in yellowish-white face. Dante describes Cassius as looking short and fat (“sturdy”).

Virgil announces it will soon be night and they have seen all of Hell. It is time for them to leave Hell. The Pilgrim climbs on Virgil’s back and Virgil climbs down the length of Lucifer’s body. They descend to the levels of Dis’ thighs. Virgil turns his head towards Lucifer’s legs and begins a climb upwards. This confuses Dante because he thinks they are returning to Hell. Virgil reassures Dante that is the only way out of Hell. They reach a rocky crevice and Virgil sets down the Pilgrim. From the crevice Dante can see Dis’ legs pointing upwards. He is confused but Virgil hurries him on. They must continue their journey. Time is short and they still have a long distance to cover.

Before continuing the Pilgrim wants his confusion cleared. He wonders how the ice disappeared and how Lucifer’s body is now stuck upside-down, not to mention they have suddenly moved from night to daytime. Virgil explains they are now on the other side of Earth. When Virgil shifted their position at Lucifer’s thigh they had pass the centre of the Earth and arrive below “the hemisphere which is opposite the side covered by land”, in the Southern Hemisphere. Virgil explains there is a time difference between the two places: when it is morning in one place, it is evening in the other.

He explains that when Lucifer’s body fell from Heaven, it struck headfirst and plunged inside the earth, “this side” is the Southern Hemisphere. Because of this fall, landmasses of the Southern Hemisphere moved to the Northern Hemisphere. The land at the centre of the earth which Lucifer’s body displaces, rushed out into the Southern Hemisphere. This created the cave above Lucifer’s legs. The land formed the mount of Purgatory which became the only land in the Southern Hemisphere.

Virgil explains there is a passage, through which a stream runs. Together they enter this passage, climb the crevice and reach the base of the Mount of Purgatory. The climb up the passage takes them where it opens into the world. This opening is “as far from Beelzebub [Lucifer] as the limit of his tomb.” The poets confirm the opening lies at the edge of the natural dungeon of Lucifer’s “tomb”. They reach the surface of Earth through the opening and gaze on a star laden sky.


Inferno Canto 34: Fourth Division of the Ninth Circle, the Judecca: Traitors to their Lords and Benefactors. Lucifer, Judas Iscariot, Brutus, and Cassius. The Chasm of Lethe. The Ascent.

The Canto opens with Virgil saying, “The banners of The King of Hell advance.” to show the pilgrim will soon behold the Devil. This hymn is usually “sung on Good Friday and expects the unveiling of the cross. It is represents man’s redemption through The Christ. Dante begins his journey on the evening of Good Friday, and is prepared by Virgil for the sight of Lucifer.

The first view of Lucifer is hazy. He sees a huge shape with flapping wings. The wind created by these wings causes Dante to seek shelter behind Virgil’s form. Now the two poets are in final division of Cocytus, namely Judecca, named after Judas who betrayed his leader Jesus. In Judecca are punished all souls who betrayed their lords. The punishment is the total entombment of sinners in ice and the Pilgrim sees them rigidly fixed in ice in various positions. They neither move nor communicate. They are plainly entombed for a second time.

Their total rigidity is a picture of death and their punishment worst in Hell because they betrayed their benefactors and leaders. They repaid them through disloyalty and treachery. Even in Hell they are forced to remain life-less in the bitter cold ice. That compounds their suffering. The two poets move ahead, with the Pilgrim Dante walking shielded by the form of Virgil.

When near Lucifer, Virgil steps aside so the Pilgrim can see the Devil for himself. Virgil simply says, “This is he, this is Dis.” The sight of Lucifer strikes Dante with numb fear. Lucifer was once God’s most beautiful angel. But in his pride, he rebelled against God. Lucifer wished to become God himself. For this rebellion he falls out of grace with God. Lucifer represents wickedness, unhappiness and misdeed. Dante comments the fallen angel is now ugly-looking and symbolising grief and evil.

Lucifer has three faces, representing an infernal distortion of the Holy Trinity. The colours (red, yellow, black) represent the three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa). In the central face of Lucifer is punished Judas Iscariot. He betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. Judas position is similar to that of Simonists who are traitors against God through acts of treachery. The sinner being chewed in the black face is Marcus Brutus. Brutus was not only a recipient of Caesar’s kindness but also loved by him as a dear friend. The sinner out of the mouth of the yellow face is Caius Cassius Longinus who belonged to the band of conspirators who assassinated Julius Caesar.

Lucifer is a fallen angel and is lying buried in the depths of the Earth and is also punished. His beauty is lost, he is evicted from heaven, and he lies powerless in the bowels of Earth. He suffers through his six eyes. This is because Lucifer is the symbol of the sad results that follow anyone who follows the evil path.

Having seen Lucifer they complete their tour of Hell. It is getting closer to nightfall and they have to make haste. Their objective is to get out of Hell. To do this Virgil climbs down Lucifer’s body till he reaches Lucifer’s thighs. This is a point which is the centre of the universe and of terrestrial gravity. Once Virgil passes this point, he must turn his head-position towards Lucifer’s feet. Having turned, Virgil places Dante on a rocky surface and climbs up. They walk along this rocky passage till they reach an opening leading outward.

Virgil tells the pilgrim it will soon be night. Virgil tells Dante they have passed the centre of the earth and they are now in the Southern Hemisphere. This explains the rapid shift from night to day because the Southern Hemisphere is twelve hours ahead of the Northern Hemisphere. Because Lucifer fell headfirst from Heaven to the Southern Hemisphere, his fall caused his body to be driven through the earth’s centre, trapping him there.

His fall caused the land in the Southern Hemisphere to sink beneath the sea and move to the Northern Hemisphere. But the land at the centre of the Earth, displaced by Lucifer’s body, rushed outwards into the Southern Hemisphere. This shifting of land left a stony passage above Lucifer’s legs. The displaced land formed the Mount of Purgatory, in the Southern Hemisphere. Through the base of this Mount opening a stream flows. It runs first along the stony passage. Through this opening the two poets make their way out of Hell. Back on the surface of earth this journey ends and recognizes a sight of the stars. It is a hopeful symbol of a successful journey through Hell. Stars suggest his journey will now advance towards God and Heaven.


1 Lombardy Germanic tribe who ruled Italy from 568 to 774 AD;
2 Mantuans – a city in Northern Italy;
3 Sub Julio: During the reign of Julius Caeser;
4 Augustus: Founder of Roman Empire and its 1st Emporor from 27 BC to 14AD.
5 Delectable Mountains are rest havens for pilgrims travelling towards heavenly cities;
6 Virgil (Virgil): The deceased Roman poet Publius Virgilius Maro, known as Virgil, who escorts Dante through Hell and Purgatory. He symbolizes human reason. Virgil (70-19 BC), a poet Dante admired, wrote the great Latin epic The Aeneid. This work chronicled the exploits of the legendary Trojan hero Aeneas, who escaped Troy after the Trojan War and settled in Italy. There, Virgil’s descendants founded Rome.
7 Twist feltro and feltro: Felt entwined to structure a fabric.
8 Camilla in Roman Mythology is a legendary warrior maiden dedicated to goddess Diana of hunt, the moon and wild animals of the woodlands;
9 Nesus & Euryalus were friends eager for glory and adventure; Turnus meanwhile collected his bands in preparation for war;
10 St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Benedict, St. Peter, St. John: Important figures in the development of Roman Catholicism and early Christianity.
11 Parasurama, also known as the “axe-wielding Rama,” was born into a Brahmin or priestly family but had the killer instinct of the warrior class. Lord Shiva, pleased by his devotion and penance awarded him an axe, his super weapon. The objective of Parasurama’s existence was to deliver the world from the oppression of those who strayed from the path of dharma (righteousness). He waged war for 21 years and destroyed the unrighteous and accomplished the purpose of his existence. Legend has it Parasurama, at his father’s command, chopped off his mother’s head, a heinous task his brothers refused to do. Pleased with his obedience, when his father asked him to choose a boon, Parasurama wished his mother back to life. There are lessons of Truth in the legend: Lesson 1: Parasurama’s pure faith in his father was due to his obedience and complete subservience to the higher will of his wise father. On the spiritual path, the Father is both Teacher (Guru) and God, to whom humankind must t learn to surrender one’s personal will. Parasurama was tained in implicit obedience and perfect faith in the divinity his father. Lesson 2: Destruction is a necessity. Unless seekers destroy the weeds, beautiful crops cannot grow. Unless one annihilates the beast in us, one cannot grow into the sublime divine human nature. Lesson 3: Completely annihilate the inherent bestial nature to become true human beings. Then only are destroyed all evil propensities standing in the way between ‘man’ and the divine.
12 Politics and Religion of Fear experienced by Dante was always around for centuries: In recent times Conservative Evangelicalism has transformed American politics, disseminating fearful messages through conventional channels and alternate communication systems. A “Religion of Fear” is inculcated in the masses about an unknown crippling force. It is what holds humanity back today from moving to its next period of evolution. Fear dramatises fake political conflicts in cunning but frightening ways. Ancient beliefs linked to darkness, fear, and demonologies have become popular in evangelical cultural creations: in novels, comic books, ‘rock and rap’ rhetoric and censorship. They seek to shape a new evangelical cultural identity. “Religion of Fear” developed in the 1960’s is seen as a message moving from relative marginality to one of prominence. Such ideas of a fearful religion and violent politics have become ‘normalized.’ There are links today between cultural and evangelical politics. Such links reflect or distinguish tastes of widespread activism made popular by the New Christian Right Movement who suffer signs and symptom of political exhaustion facing American democracy.
13 Dharma applies to all human beings. It involves ethical and moral laws that govern our relationships with others. The Baha’i teaching is much the same as the teachings of Hinduism. Beneficence: For the sake of the welfare of all, carry on thy task in life: Bhagavad Gita;…the honour and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good… the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men… by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight: `Abdu’l-Bahá.
Purity: Freedom from fear, purity of heart… These are the qualities of the man who is born for heaven: Bhagavad Gita. A pure heart is as a mirror; cleanse it with the burnish of love and severance from all save God, which the true sun may shine within it and the eternal morning dawn. Baha’u’llah
Detachment from the material world: Enjoy what He hath allotted to thee and set not your heart on another’s wealth or possessions: Isa Upanishad. Rejoice not in the things ye possess; tonight they are yours, tomorrow others will possess them. Baha’u’llah.
Faith: He who has faith and subdues his sensual desires achieves wisdom… Bhagavad Gita.
By faith is meant, first, conscious knowledge, and second, the practice of good deeds. `Abdu’l-Bahá.
Truth: Truth alone obtains victory, not falsehood; the path to the Divine is laid with truth and the wise travel that path until they reach the supreme treasure which is to be gained by truth. Mundaka Upanishad. When man speaks noble words with truth, then he speaks the highest truth. Rig Veda. The earth is propped up by truth. Rig Veda.
Beautify your tongues, O people, with truthfulness, and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty. Beware, O people that ye deal not treacherously with anyone. Baha’u’llah. Truthfulness is the foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity. `Abdu’l-Bahá.
Non-injury and non-violence: A superior being does not render evil for evil; this is a maxim one should observe…One should never harm the wicked or the good or even criminals meriting death. A noble soul will ever exercise compassion even towards those who enjoy injuring others or those of cruel deeds: Ramayana. Neither a man who lives unrighteously, nor he who acquires wealth by telling falsehoods, nor he who delights in injuring others, ever attains happiness in this world. Laws of Manu. He hath, moreover, ordained that His Cause be taught through the power of men’s utterance, and not through resort to violence. Baha’u’llah. In every instance let the friends be considerate and infinitely kind. Let them never be defeated by the malice of the people, by their aggression and their hate, no matter how intense. If others hurl their darts against you, offer them milk and honey in return; if they poison your lives, sweeten their souls; if they injure you, teach them how to be comforted; if they inflict a wound upon you, be a balm to their sores; if they sting you, hold to their lips a refreshing cup `Abdu’l-Bahá
Not stealing: Asteya, abstention from theft consists not only in refraining from the outward act of theft but also in inward uprightness or freedom from unlawful greed: Vyasa-Bhashya; when [the yogi] is grounded in abstention from stealing, all kinds of jewels appear for him and he becomes aware of all kinds of treasures around him) Patanjali. They that … lay hands on the property of others, and enter a house without leave of its owner, We, verily, are clear of them, unless they repent and return unto God…Baha’u’llah. The chief foundation of the prohibition of theft, treachery, falsehood… is reason. Every intelligent man comprehends that murder, theft, treachery, falsehood . . . are evil and reprehensible . . . `Abdu’l-Bahá.
Self-control: He must persist in keeping his mind and his organs of sense under restraint. Restraint of mind implies restraint of the senses. One who has acquired complete compound over himself, gains this world and the next …Vishnu-Sutra. Consider the soul as riding in a chariot. The body is the chariot; the intellect is the chariot-driver; and the mind is the reins. The senses, they say, are as the horses; and the objects of sensation are what they range over… He who has no understanding, whose mind is not constantly held firm, whose senses are uncontrolled, is like a bad charioteer with unruly horses. He however who has understanding, whose mind is constantly held firm, whose senses are under control, he is like a good charioteer with trained horses …Katha Upanishad. He is not to be numbered with the people of Baha who followeth his mundane desires, or fixeth his heart on things of the earth. He is my true follower who, if he comes to a valley of pure gold, will pass straight through it aloof as a cloud, and will neither turn back, nor pause. Such a man is, assuredly, of me. From his garment the Concourse on high can inhale the fragrance of sanctity… And if he met the fairest and most comely of women, he would not feel his heart seduced by the least shadow of desire for her beauty. Such a one, indeed, is the creation of spotless chastity…Baha’u’llah. Pass beyond the narrow retreats of your evil and corrupt desires, and advance into the vast immensity of the realm of God, and abide ye in the meads of sanctity and of detachment, that the fragrance of your deeds may lead the whole of mankind to the ocean of God’s unfading glory…Baha’u’llah.
Respect for parents: A man has three venerable superiors, his father, his mother, and his spiritual teacher. By honouring his mother, he gains the present world, by honouring his father, the world of gods, and by paying strict obedience to his spiritual teacher, the world of Brahman…Vishnu-Sutra. Let the son be devoted to his father, be of the same mind with his mother… Atharva Veda. Say, O My people! Show honour to your parents and pay homage to them. This will cause blessings to descend upon you from the clouds of the bounty of your Lord, the Exalted, the Great…Baha’u’llah
Joy comes from God. For who could breathe, who could live, if the joy of God filled not the universe… Taittiriya Upanishad; All the sorrow and the grief that exist come from the world of matter – the spiritual world bestows only the joy…`Abdu’l-Baha.
Love: Only by Love can men see me, and know me, and come to me…Bhagavad Gita. Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee…Baha’u’llah.
Inner peace, tranquillity and contentment: A man who surrenders all desires that come to the heart and finds the joy of God – he alone has indeed found peace…Bhagavad Gita. Let man seek to find the path of God: he who has found this path becomes free from the bonds of evil. He who knows this is self-collected; his is a calm endurance, and calm concentration…Brihad-Aranyaka Upanishad. He who has found Brahman and knows Brahman does not rejoice when pleasure comes, nor become disquietened when evil befalls him. He stands at peace, unperplexed… Bhagavad Gita
Happiness and misery await all creatures therefore neither be elated by joy nor depressed by sorrow… Mahabharata. The greatest bestowal in the world of existence is a tranquil heart, and it is impossible for man to obtain a tranquil heart save through the good pleasure of the Lord. That is, a man may so adorn the temple of his being with lofty attributes and philanthropic deeds as to be pleasing at the Thresholds of the Almighty. This is the only Path… Let all your thoughts, your ideals, your aims, and purposes revolve day and night around one common object – that is to live in accord with the good pleasure of the Lord… The tranquillity of the heart is only gained by living in accord with the Divine Teachings and Exhortations. When a person attains to this station he is contented and peaceful…`Abdu’l-Bahá. Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more…Baha’u’llah.
Righteousness: For I am Brahman… The law of righteousness is my law…Bhagavad Gita. Clothe thyself with the essence of righteousness…Baha’u’llah.
Silent contemplation: The wise see [God] shining forth in all things and contemplate this in silence… Mundaka Upanishad. Every man may thereby win his way to the summit of realities, until none shall contemplate anything whatsoever but that he shall see God therein. ..Baha’u’llah
Work in the Spirit of Worship: Therefore dedicate thyself to thy work, with no thought as to its reward. For by working with no thought of reward, one attains to the Supreme…Bhagavad Gita. By dedicating his work to God, the source of all Being, a man attains perfection…Bhagavad Gita. It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God, the True One. ..Baha’u’llah.
Right speech: That word of his at which another would shudder, that word which is against he one should not utter…Manu Smriti. The tongue I have designed for the mention of Me, defile it not with detraction…Baha’u’llah.
Summary of virtues: Fearless, pure of heart, cultivating spiritual knowledge; charitable, self-controlled, performing sacrifice; studying the scriptures, austere and upright; non-violent, truthful, free from anger; renouncing all, tranquil, averse to fault-finding, compassionate towards all beings, free from covetousness, gentle, modest, steadfast; never fickle; ardent, patient, enduring, pure, and free from malice and pride – such are the virtues of one who is born for heaven… Bhagavad Gita
Absence of anger, of elation, of indignation, of avarice, of delusion, and of enmity; speaking truth, moderation in eating, refraining from exposing others’ weak points, freedom from jealousy, sharing one’s good things with others, sacrifice, straightforwardness, softness, quietude, self-control, friendliness with all beings, absence of cruelty, contentment – these form approved conduct for men in all stations of life; observing them duly, one becomes universally benevolent… Bhagavad Gita.
14 Spiritual Guides watch, teach, heal, and help on a physical journey into spiritual awareness. They exist above in higher frequency, while the experiencer is in the physical below. Communication is generally telepathic and visual imagery, observed during meditation, dream time, or just by learning to focus, look and listen to messages received. This method of connection is channeling. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Spirit guides can go by many names. Spirit guides to create viable synchronicities. Synchronicities are experiences created by the soul to bring seeker into greater awareness.
15 Torment in Hell: Ecclesiastes #:20-21: All go unto one place. All are of the dust and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth the Spirit of man, that goeth upward and the Spirit of the beast goeth downward to earth.
16 Forgetful Humankind: Though death is certain, we tend to forget from time to time our meeting with our Lord. This forgetfulness, although part of human nature can make us stray from our true mission in life
Know that to fear death from which there is no escape is foolish. Having no fear of what is going to happen after death, though it is within our power to change it in our favour, is reckless. Do not throw yourself into destruction with your own hands. All effort to remain in righteousness will be rewarded, while every effort made to seek the pleasures of this world will come to naught. Nothing will go with us to our graves except good deeds.
17 God (Purushotama) will lead that particular person to his or her deity’s own destination depending on the capability of a seeker. It is not the final resting place or the ultimate destination of powerful Supreme Being. The final redemption can only be reached by following the Truth, the true Supreme Being, or by achieving the ultimate knowledge. Hinduism tells never to follow blindfolded. It advises the use one’s own intelligence and judgment objectively and see the behaviour, level, and achievement of the Guru (guidance counselor), his Guru or master, and his students or followers. By providing all the necessary guidance and guidelines to understand, know, and follow the Truth, at the end the Guru leaves the responsibility of taking final decision on the individual. Darshana or Grace shows the science of how to know the Truth. No matter whom one follows, no matter which path one follows, and no matter which decision one takes, it always advises never to lose one’s spiritual joy. One gets eternal happiness by having union or close association with a sant (real guide).
18 Sinful Nature: One who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8). Paul refers to the “sinful nature,” warning that if we follow the sinful nature of the flesh its impulses we will die spiritually, and reap destruction. Abrahamic Religions claimm “Sin lives in us as the original or ancestral sin, identified as humanity’s state of sin resulting from the fall of man, stemming from Adam’s rebellion in Eden.”
‘There is a law of sin at work in the members of my body,’ Paul states. Where did this evil force come from?’ When Paul speaks of redemption or deliverance from sin through salvation, he does not refer to the commandments of the Law of Moses. He refers to the behaviours that spring from our sinful nature.
Acts of the sinful nature are: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; Idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21). About sinful nature it is said: For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13).
19 Vasanas & sanskaras: Vasanas are latent impressions existing as tendencies in the mind and identifiable as thoughts of urges, feelings and desires. Sanskaras are impressions already operating in a being. They produce vasanas based on memories and past action. Both need cleaning up through self-inquiry and self-surrender. Egoism and Raga-dvesha (likes-and-dislikes) cause virtuous and vicious actions. All these exist in the subconscious personality (chitta).
20 Sylvius – the mythological King Romulus Sylvius;
21 Beatrice: Beatrice Portinari (1265-1290), believed to be the daughter of banker Folco Portinari, guides Dante into the celestial realm. Beatrice, who represents faith and grace, was Dante’s first love, and he never forgot her even after he married Gemma Donati and Beatrice married Simon de Bardi.
22 Saint Lucia (283-304 AD) was a wealthy Christian Martyr who shows mortals their perfect destination through philanthropy and a dedicated spiritual path. Lucy took her own eyes out in order to discourage a persistent suitor who admired her. When her body was prepared for burial in the family mausoleum it was discovered that her eyes had been miraculously restored
23 Guide and Spiritual Teacher is a Priest, Guru or a Lama who is a representative holy person of God and prophet who restores corporeal dharma (righteousness) in man and society. They guide humans as teachers and philosophers. An Acharya is one who teaches by example and refers to an exemplary spiritual leader. Swami or “controller” is one who can control his/her senses). It is an honorific title applied to a religious teacher or holy person, particularly a sannyasin (a renunciate) who, having given up worldly affairs and attachments, has entered the fourth stage of life, often as a mendicant. A Yogi (male) or Yogini (female) is someone who practices yoga, a traditional Eastern spiritual discipline which includes meditation and spiritual exercises as a means of aiding spiritual practices towards the attainment of peace.
24 Aeneas was a Trojan prince, the hero of Virgil’s “Aeneid”. Aeneas, guides Sibyl, visits Hades (Hell) and virtuously spends heavnly afterlife (Paradise). Here he learns he will be the ancestor of the Roman people, who possess the empire of the world.
25 Apostle Paul also talks of having journied through Hell and Paradise. This vision of Paul’s journey helped to strengthen Christian faith in afterlife, sin, salvation etc.
26 Parable illustrates: that mercy is best judged not from the mere externals, but from a deeper examination of what it does to the interior of man;
27 Charon: Boatman who ferries soul across a river to the entrance of hell.
28 Backsliding away from God’s Laws: “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts,”( Jer. 2:19.) Hindus read this as the Law of Cause and Effect or Karma.
29 Moral Choice: is a Morality of manner, character and proper behaviour that differentiate intentions, decisions and actions of Ethics of all faiths and Religions. Effects of Moral Choices persist for hundreds of years – which if flawed, lead to perilous political and non-political situations in individual and global lives.
30 Judgemental: “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:1-4). “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbour?” (James 4:12).
31 Minor and Major Sins: Sin is any act a person chooses to take in defiance of God’s law and order. Islam classifies sins according to the severity of their consequences. There are about 70 major sins some of which puts one out of fold of Islam. As for minor sins, there is no list because there are countless minor sins. Anything forbidden is a sin and many are committed out of unintentional ignorance. Prophet Mohammad said if one stays away from major sins, Allah will forgive our minor sins and accept you in jannah (paradise). Shaytan (devil) knows he cannot make you do major sins and so he will focus on the minor sins. .. We should repent often (70x a day) and we should give charity as it wipes bad sins away and keep bad things from coming our away and we should do good deeds as they wipe bad ones away.
32 Religion was an integral part of medieval society. The Catholic Church had a strong influence on both politics and daily life in Christendom, and the interaction among Christians, Jews and Muslims would shape European history through the Middle Ages. With the official acceptance of Christianity in Rome in the fourth century, and with the spread of Christianity through Barbarian tribes in the early Middle Ages, pagan religions died out, but their influences were still felt in medieval culture.
33 Abraham is patriarch of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as was David the king//Israel like his father; His children with Rachel parented Jacob and the Twelve Tribes of Israel;
34 Homer: Great epic poet of ancient Greece who authored The Iliad and The Odyssey
Horace, Ovid, and Lucan: Poets of ancient Rome.
35 Electra is a Greek tragedy (409 BC)is set in the city of Argos a few years after the Trojan war, based around the character of Electra, and the vengeance that she and her brother Oreste take on their mother Clytemnestra and step father Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon;
36 Penthesilea the Amazonian queen in Greek mythology who accidentally killed her ally;
37 Latinus the peaceful King of Italy wanted his daughter Lavinnia betrothed to Turnus but was married to Aeneas instead;
38 Brutus and Cassius: Ringleaders of the assassination plot against Julius Caesar.
39 Lucretia died of suicide; Julia who was Caesar’s daughter; Marcia was Cato of Utica’s wife; and Cornelia was Scipio Africanus’ wife. All were virtuous women;
40 Saladin: Devout Sufi Muslim leader who fought valiantly against the Shias and the Crusaders.
41 Democritus (460-370 BC) Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who valued cheerfulness;
42 Diogenes: Anaxagoras, and Thales were students of Diogenes who had theories grounded in intelligence:
43 Zeno (Byzantine Emperor 425-491 BC), Empedocles: (active in democratic side of politic: 495-435 BC), and Heraclitus (Greek philosopher)
44 Dioscorides (40 AD) a Greek born in Turkey of high artistic merit;
45 Orpheus: legendary poet and musician with ability to charm all living;
46 Tully and Livy, and moral Seneca; Euclid the geometrician and Ptolemy;
47 The Christ: The Christ is Kutastha Chaitanya or Christ Consciousness or the Witness State of Cosmic Intelligence present everywhere in Creation.
48 Naraka: Naraka in Vedas is where souls are sent for the atonement of sins. Some Upanishads speak of ‘darkness’ instead of hell. Arya Samaj does not accept the existence of Naraka and consider it metaphorical. In Puranas there are elabourate descriptions of many hells. Yama, Lord of Justice, puts living beings after death for appropriate punishment. Even souls eligible for liberation, and the forever transmigrating can experience Naraka for expiation. After the period of punishment is complete, they are reborn on earth in human or animal bodies. Therefore neither naraka nor Swarga (heaven) are permanent abodes.
Yama Loka is the abode of Lord Yama (Dharmaraja) or God of justice. Yama Loka is a temporary purgatory for sinners (papi). Yama’s divine assistant Lord Chitragupta maintains a record of individual deeds of every living being in the world, and based on the complete audit of his deeds, dispatches the soul of the deceased either to Svarga (Heaven) or to the various Narakas according to the nature of their sins. Scriptures describe that even people who have done a majority of good deeds could come to Yama Loka for redemption from the small sins they have committed. Once the punishments are served for those sins they could be sent for rebirth or to heaven.
In Buddhism, Naraka refers to the worlds of greatest suffering. Though the term is often translated as “hell”, unlike the Abrahamics hells Naraka is not eternal. It is similar to purgatory, but unlike both Abrahamic hell and purgatory, there is no divine force involved in determining a being’s entry and exit to and from the realm and no soul is involved. Rather, the being is brought here by natural law: the law of karma, and they remain until the negative karma that brought them there has been used up.
In Jainism, Naraka is the name given to realm of existence. A soul is born into a Naraka as a direct result of his or her previous karma. After residing there for a finite length of time until his karma has achieved its full result, he may be reborn in one of the higher worlds as the result of an earlier karma that had not yet ripened. Jain texts mention that these hells are situated in the seven grounds at the lower part of the universe.
49 Residence of Supreme Deity with Seven Walls: Vishnu’s Body becomes parts of the Universe with Residence located at the centre of seven circular walls. It has seven gates of entry. The first five gates (earth, water, fire, air and ether) serving as for synthesising. The sixth and seventh gates are for merging with Awareness and Consciousness.
50 Sushumna: River of Energy which enters the human system through the Root (muladhara) and ends in the Crown (sahasrahara) Chakras. Sushumna Awakening is symbolised as Kundalini rising when Prana flows
51 “I am the Way” by Mark Schultz refers to The Christ as the ‘secret way’: You’ve got a secret no one knows// Locked away where no one goes//Deep inside your heart//It’s tearin’ you apart//You hide the pain in all you do//Still the shackles binding you are heavier than stone//But you are not alone.
52 Minos: was King of Crete and son of Zeus and Europa
53 Semiramis (824 BC): a real historical Assyrian Queen worshipped as goddess Isis and Ishtar;
54 Ninus: King of Assyria and husband of Semiramis;
55 Sichaeus: Wealthy Phoenician and husband of Dido whose brother anxious to secure his treasures murdered him;
56 Queen Cleopatra of Egypt: Seductive and cunning Queen of Egypt in the Macedonian dynasty. She was the seventh Cleopatra, having the full title of Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator (Goddess Who Loves Her Father). She is famous for her love affairs with the Roman leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony.
57 Helen: Dante alludes or refers to her in the Trojan War in The Divine Comedy. Brief account of the cause and outcome of the war: In the ancient Mediterranean world of the second millennium BC, feminine beauty reaches its zenith in Helen, wife of Menelaus, the king of the Grecian state of Sparta. Her wondrous face and body are without flaw. She is perfect. Even the goddess of love, Aphrodite, admire her. One day, Aphrodite competes with other goddesses in a beauty contest in which the winner is to receive a golden apple. The judge is a young Trojan named Paris. Aphrodite tells him that if he selects her she will award him the most ravishing woman in the world. After Paris chooses Aphrodite, she tells him about Helen, who lives in Greece with her husband, Menelaus, the king of Sparta. Forthwith, Paris goes to Greece, woos Helen, and absconds with her to Troy, a walled city in Asia Minor (in present-day Turkey).
The elopement of Helen and Paris is an affront to all the Greeks. How dare an upstart Trojan invade their land! How dare he steal the wife of one of their kings! Which Greek family would be next to fall victim to a Trojan machination? Infuriated, King Menelaus and his brother, Agamemnon, king of the state of Mycenae, assemble a mighty army of brother Greeks who include the finest warriors in the land. Together, they cross the sea in one thousand ships to make war against Troy and win back their pride-and Helen.
After years of fighting, the greatest of the Greek warriors, Achilles, slays the greatest of the Trojan warriors, Hector. However, the Trojan warriors fight on. One of the Greek leaders-Odysseus, the king of Ithaca-then devises a plan to end the conflict. He suggests that the Greeks construct a great wooden horse as a weapon of war. A Greek named Epeus supervises its construction. Afterward, a Greek with a persuasive tongue deceives the Trojans into believing that their foes have wearied of the war and that the giant horse, which stands at the gates of Troy, is a parting gift. Seeing no Greeks on the battlefield, the Trojans move the horse into the city. At night, Greek soldiers hiding inside the belly of the horse drop down and open the gates of the city for Greek armies hiding outside. The Greeks pour into the city and overwhelm the Trojans, wreaking slaughter and destruction and taking women as captives.
58 Francesca da Rimini (1255-1285) daughter of Lord of Ravenna known to have said: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have life that is waiting for us.” She was a historical contemporary of Dante who promoted ‘self-love’. Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta were Illicit lovers killed by Francesca’s husband.
59 Launcelot: Knight of Round Table and most trusted of King Arthur’s Knights;
60 Galeotto (1299-1385) is Lord of Ramini: Dante’s creation of Beatrice – the object of a love greater than oneself is the opposite of his creation of Francesca, the icon of self-love.
61 Minos the Judge of Hell in Western mythology; Chitragupta in Hindu mythology is assigned with the task of keeping records of actions of all humans on earth and to determine where and which level of heaven or hell they go after they die.
62 Lament: in Ancient Near Eastern religions, including Mesopotamia, ‘laments’ were mourning rites for the dead. The domestic funeral lament, dating back to antiquity, is still practised in some rural areas as an outlet of emotion and as part of rites of transition. Most domestic laments are alternating cries of grief and framing of a message.
63 Bible clearly teaches Eternal Punishment (Condemnation – Damnation). “These, then, will be sent off to eternal punishment, but the righteous will go to eternal life” (Mat 25:46).
64 Whirlwind on the Path foretelling seeker must confront change. “Beholds, a whirlwind of the LORD is gone forth in fury, even a grievous whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he has executed, and till he has performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly” (Jeremiah 23:19-20).
65 Spinning motion of a whirlwind is an important attribute of this natural phenomenon. To the Greeks, Fate is the spinner. In fairytales, spinning is associated with fate and death, with themes of the underworld and rebirth, in domains of goddess ‘hurricane’. Spinning brings on a trance state, as whirling dervishes and young children experience and know. Spinning, like any repetitive activity, creates a flow state, taps the unconscious, and induces awakening as well as fantasies.
66 Cerberus: multi-headed hound who guarded Hades – the gloomy world;
67 Ciacco: (“pig”): Nickname, for a Florentine contemporary of Dante, perhaps well known as a glutton, and probably the same who appears in Boccaccio’s Decameron. Central figure of canto VI, he voices the first of many prophecies concerning Florence.
68 Farinata and Tegghiaio: Guido Guerra and Teghio Aldobrandi converse with Dante blaming his proud wife for his sodomy;
Farinata degli Uberti (1264): Leader of the Florentine Ghibellines who defeated Guelphs (Dante’s faction), at the Battle of Montaperti in 1260, causing Guelphs to be exiled from Florence. Farinata was posthumously condemned as a heretic during the Franciscan inquisition of 1283. To make peace between Black and White Guelphs, Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti, let his son Guido Cavalcanti, the future poet, marry Farinata’s daughter.
69 Jacopo da Santo Andrea: Notorious spendthrift from Padua. He may have been executed by Ezzelino da Romano in 1239. One of two spendthrifts (the other called “Lano” is probably Arcolano of Siena) whose punishment consists of being hunted by female hounds.
70 Arrigo: or Argives: People of Argos, or more generally all Greeks;
71 Mosca de’ Lamberti: Ghibelline who in 1215 rekindled feuding with the Guelphs by urging the killing of the Guelph Buondelmonti dei Buondelmonte for breaking a marriage engagement. They were found among the Sowers of Scandal and Schism in the eighth circle, Ninth Pouch. He was a “seed of evil for the Tuscans”.
72 Potentate: Potent Supreme power of Christian Church;
73 The Nature of Infinity is that everything and everyone has its Own Vortex. When a traveller towards Eternity passes that Vortex, he/she perceives it roll backward behind his path. The automatic infolding reveals itself like a sun:
74 Storms: The earliest myth of 4000 years ago is the Epic of Gilgamesh – the story of a tumultuous clash of warm and cold forces: of Nature and human nature with typical devastation and suffering. Wind is the messenger of gods, and indicates the presence of divinity. The animate force it portrays is often angry, often heroic, and given to both bestowing life and snatching it away. The event evokes a search for why we suffer and help each other through the storms of life.
75 Cerbura the three-headed dog of Krishna legend is also connected to the story of King Dharmaraja.
76 Dogs: The terrifying forms of Shiva rides on a dog named Shvan who is represented with four dogs and represent the Vedas, the ancient Hindu Scriptures. Dog is the messenger of Yama the angel of Death and guards the doors of Heaven. He is also associated with Lord Dattatreya the incarnation of Trimurti (Brahma-Shiva-Vishnu). Dogs are seen as protectors in religious traditions.
Ancient Egyptians worshiped the god Anubis, the judge and lord of the afterlife. The ancient Greeks revered dogs as messengers of gods or even demigods. Dogs appear in Buddhism to illustrate our need to be ever compassionate. In Tibet and Japan, Lhasa Apsos, Tibetan Spaniels and Shih-Tzu became ‘Foo Dogs’. Over time, these dogs were considered royalty and were treated better than the vast majority of humans on the planet. The penalty for stealing a Foo Dog was death. These dogs stayed in the Palace in China and the Forbidden City until the British Invaded in the 1800s.
Christians believe shepherds had three dogs with them. In Catholicism, many saints are represented with their dogs.
77 Spiral effects caused by actions signify equilibrium while in a state of disequilibrium. The stability of a being is contained in the womb of change and growth. It retains its ultimate shape of the One and Permanence in Truth despite its asymmetry created by Sin.
78 Sin by which mankind is bound: St. Augustine thought he had found: The sin by which mankind is bound:”It was not,” so said he//”The fruit on the tree//But the lust of the pair on the ground.”
79 Suffering: Two kinds: Redemptive and Wasted suffering has roots in psychopathy as neurosis and mental illness. The ultimate cure for ‘victim souls’ is to take refuge and ‘Offer up the sense sin’: It enables acceptance of any kind of suffering.
80 Cultural Materialism: Sustained availability of wealth and materialism triggers overconsumption and becomes the fundamental reality of physical excesses. God should be counted in all actions (feared), obeyed, and his rules should be strictly followed. Force of materialism is conservative and traditional in its nature. Its energies are governed by the planet Saturn. Obedience, tradition, structure, and respect are symbols of many black cubes “innocently” placed in key positions around the world. (They honour and worship Saturn-the god of control and materialism.
The hexagon is a three dimensional cube. The ancient Seers gave this Symbol to Saturn. The colour black is ruled by Saturn. The Kaba, the sacred stone venerated by Muslims is a black cube: Before it was claimed by Muslims, this stone was a place for worship of the Goddess Cybele, the wife of Kronos (Saturn). Muslims circle the stone 7 times: seven rings of Saturn symbolising rules, laws and traditions.
81 Pape Satan, Pape Satan aleppe: “Satan Oh, oh God Satan”; Abbkd Abk Rashid, in his first Arabic translation writes: “Bab al-shaytn. Bb al-shaytn. Bab al-shaytn. Ahlibu ( “The door to Satan; The door to Satan; Continue in downhill”).
82 Plutus: In Greek mythology, he was the personification of wealth. Dante conflated him with Pluto, the Roman god of the Underworld. He is found in the fourth circle of Dante’s hell, in which the greedy and prodigal are punished
83 Charybdis: In Greek mythology, a sea monster who swallows huge amounts of water three times a day and then spouts it back out again, forming an enormous whirlpool. Used in a simile to describe the punishment of the greedy and prodigal in the fourth circle.
84 Cardinals are counsellors to popes and attached to Papal Church and will chooses the next pope;
85 Fortunes: materialism;
86 Strong Evil but Subservient: Satan in Judaism is not a physical being, ruling the underworld or hell. Rather, in the Torah, the word Satan indicates “accuser,” “hinderer,” or “tempter.” Satan is more an obstacle in one’s way, such as temptation and evil doings, keeping them from completing the responsibilities of tikkun olam (fixing the world). Satan is our evil inclination to veer off the path of righteousness and faithfulness in God.
Throughout the Torah (5 Books of Moses), Satan challenges God to test the true loyalty of his followers, including Adam and Eve, as well as Abraham. However, Satan remains inferior to God and is incapable of taking action on mortals without God’s permission. In the Talmud (post-Biblical rabbinic law) and Midrash (stories, parables, metaphors meant to elucidate teachings from the Torah), Satan appears as the force in the world, responsible for all sins. Some Midrashim (plural of Midrash) claim that the sounding of the Shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) is utilized to keep Satan away as Jews begin to atone for their sins. Even the morning after Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), many Jews attend services to guarantee Satan does not make one last effort to instigate Jews to commit sins.”
87 Phlegyas: is the one of Dante’s giant; He is the Greek King of Lapiths, father of Coronis and one of Apollo’s lovers. While pregnant Coronis fell in love with Ischys. A crow informed Apollo of the affair. He sent his sister Artemis to kill Coronis. Apollo rescued the baby and gave it to the centaur Chiron to raise. Phlegyas was irate and torched the Apollonian temple at Delphi, causing Apollo to kill him. In the ‘Aeneid’ of Virgil, Phlegyas is tormented in the Underworld, warning others not to despise the Gods.
In the Divine Comedy poem Inferno, Phlegyas ferries Virgil and Dante across the river Styx, which is portrayed as a marsh where the wrathful and sullen lie. Phlegyas was the mythical ancestor of the Phlegyans.
88 Philippo Argenti: Famous politician and citizen of Florence; one of the damned Dante must punish or absolve as the leader of the Blacks.
89 Dis: Another name for Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld, used by Dante as both the name of Satan and his realm are visible at first glimpse of the “crimson” city. Here Dante is refused entry in the city dolente (of sorrowing). At its Entrance spoils taken from by Jesus are pointed out by Virgil.
90 Phlegyas: King of Lapiths in Greek mythology – a water-based monster found in the sewers and vulnerable to lightning attacks. His father is Mars, the god of war who was admonished for showing contempt for gods. He conveyed the two poets through the Stygian marsh.
91 Filippo Argenti: a 13th century famous politician and citizen of Florence and a member of the Cavicciuoli aristocratic family aligned to the Black Guelphs. He is hot-headed and quarrels with the White Guelph, Dante.
92 Self-doubt is fear of making mistakes: Most humans live in denial about the debilitating effects of anxiety and fear that plague most with insecurities and failure to achieve set goals and dreams.
93 Active Sinners: are jealous, constantly angry, seeking vengeance, and avengers of transgressions against them while on earth. Furies are three sisters (Alecto, Tisiphone and Megaera) also called Erinyes (‘angry ones’) who seek justice through vengeance.
94 Active Curses: Daughter of Phorkys and Keto: children of Gaia (Earth) and Okeanos (Ocean). One of the three sisters (Gorgons): the other two were Sthenno and Euryale. Medusa was the only mortal and once beautiful but lived in the north where the sun did not visit. She wanted to see the sun, and asked Goddess Athena for permission to visit the south, but she refused. Angry Medusa accused Athena of being jealous of her beauty. Athena now angered punished her by turning her hair into snakes. She made her so ugly that whoever looked at her eyes would turn into stone.
95 Lifelong grudges: Emotional imbalance that nurtures negative emotions through many lives. They always suffer twice from the same hurt. With forgiveness souls could move forward with liberating ways to begin a new season with less emotional baggage from the past.
96 Lifelong Slow Learners of Life’s Lessons: Unschooled in exploring the world and life’s purpose with failure to question, understand or enjoy basic human existence. Are at risk being exposed to a skewed vision of the world and its humanity based on flawed ‘religious’ beliefs.
97 Styx: Boundary between Earth and the Underworld;
98 Erictho: In a story by Lucan was a sorceress sent to the underworld by Pompeii to divine the outcome of the upcoming between his father, Pompey the Great, and Julius Caesar. She sent Virgil to the innermost circle of hell not long after his death.
99 Judas: Judas Iscariot: Disciple who betrayed Jesus. Along with Brutus and Cassius, he was one of the three betrayer/suicides who, for those sins, were eternally chewed by one of the three mouths of Satan.
100 Three Furies in an infernal place in the Underworld where souls of the condemned are exiled;
101 Erinyes: Avengers of the same crimes; (also known as the Furies). In Greek mythology, they were Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, three female personifications of vengeance. They appear and threaten Dante with the head of the Medusa.
102 Medusa: also known as the Gorgon with a human face and living venomous snakes in place of hair. In Greek mythology, she is a female monster whose gaze could turn people to stone. She was not always ugly.
103 Theseus: Legendary king of Athens who visited the underworld and, in the version used by Dante, was rescued by Heracles. His name invoked by the Erinyes. He is the “Duke of Athens” who killed the Minatour. He helped to defeat drunken Centaurs at Hippodamia’s wedding feast.
104 Gorgon: Terrifying female creatures; They are members of the Royal Family of Inhumans who are loud-roaring vicious creatures with sharp fangs and hair of living venomous snakes;
105 Arles: City in the south of France and supposed location of the tombs of Charlemagne’s soldiers who fell in the battle of Roncesvalles. It is a simile for the tombs in the sixth circle.
106 Rhone: major river in Europe;
107 Pola: Italian seaport (now part of Croatia) famed for its Roman necropolis. Simile for the tombs in the sixth circle.
108 Quarnaro: Kvarner Bay is a part of Croatia’s internal waters
109 Heresiarchs: Founders of Protestantism – also called schismatic or heretical movements;
110 Doctrine of Imputation: Vindicates action of a sinner through justification rather than be condemned by Adam and Eve’s sin and Jesus’ imposed righteousness.
111 Heretics: Professed believers who maintain religious opinions and doctrines contrary to those accepted by the church.
112 Pain and Suffering: In Eastern belief system (Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism), every person is accountable for his or her actions: the fundamental basis of the Law of Karma. At any given point life is a net result of our past actions, both good and evil. We are capable of good as well as evil, since God gave us intelligence and independence. Therefore, we are responsible for the consequences of our actions. The Eastern belief system also includes the belief that our immortal soul, goes through endless life cycles. It carries with it an imprint of our past actions. Therefore, suffering can be the result of actions in past lives. When a person suffers in this life they are paying their debt back to the universe to bring balance back to the circle of life. The Eastern faiths embrace the existence of suffering in the world and in doing so teaches the paths for one to be free of suffering and obtain moksha (freedom or liberation) which is the ultimate human goal.
113 Heretics: Professed believers who maintain religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or reject doctrines prescribed by the church. However whenever heretics gained the upper hand in society, they became a silent evil.
114 Trinity: Christian Doctrine defines God as three Divine Persons: Father-Son(Jesus)-Holy Spirit). Quran claims this is a Distortion of the Holy Book because the Doctrine was imposed on people after it was approved by the Church. Hindu Trinity (Trimurti) represents the threefold (Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva) Nature and Function of the Divine (Ishwara).
115 Advent anticipates coming of The Christ: A period of spiritual preparation when Christians make themselves ready for the Coming. Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before December 25 which is the Sunday between November 27 and December 3 inclusive. It refers to the Second Coming of The Christ from two different perspectives. The season offers the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, and to be alert for his Second Coming. Because of the dual themes of threat and promise, Advent is a time of preparation marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers are of humble devotion and commitment, submission, for deliverance, and prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isaiah 9).The spirit of Advent is expressed well in the parable of the bridesmaids who are anxiously awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13). There is profound joy at the Bridegroom’s expected coming. And yet a warning of the need for preparation echoes through the parable.
116 Might of Nature: Stems from a basic agreement between humankind and the Divine Mother (Holy Spirit) through a Universal Cord of yearning to know Her and make the Cosmic Connection. Parenting happens through Intuitive encoding which unite a human’s divine nature with the Divine. It calls for embarking on a spiritual journey to the Kingdom of God.
117 Violent Sins: are perpetrated violence by murders and bandits against other people or their property; violence against themselves or their own property through suicides and self-destructive squanderers; violent offenders against God who offend God directly (blasphemers) those who violate Nature, God’s offspring (sodomites); and those who harm industry and the economy, offspring of nature and therefore grandchild of God. Dante’s emotional reactions to the Shades in the seventh circle range from neutral observation of the murderers and compassion for a suicide to respect for several Florentine sodomites and revulsion at the sight and behavior of the lewd usurers.
118 Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics written in 350 BC is named after his son Nicomachus who edited the text. He defined the words happiness and virtue. Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good. But a certain difference is found among ends. Where there are ends apart from the actions, it is the nature of its products to be better than the activities. A pursuit in action is born as aim in thought
119 Sources of Wealth: Abundance comes from natural valuable resources of Earth or self-created by realising or bring to reality, a true personal potentials.
120 Jehoshaphat: Fourth king of the Kingdom of Judah;
121 Heretics: Professed believers who maintain religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or to reject doctrines prescribed by the church. However whenever heretics gained the upper hand in society, they became a silent evil. American religiosity (and of the European Union) is today reduced to despicable rhetoric and violence of politically-oriented religious extremists. Scandals and abuses and abuses of ethics and ecclesiastical structures abound in churches and politics.
122 Epicurus was an Ancient Greek philosopher who was the founder of Epicureanism, one of the most popular schools of Hellenistic Philosophy. It had many followers among Florentine Ghibellines. His teaching:’ the greatest pleasure is merely the absence of pain’ was viewed as heresy in Dante’s day because this greatest good could be attained without reference to a god or an afterlife. Epicurean heretics suffered their punishment in Dante’s Hell.
123 Farinata degli Uberti (1212-1264) Italian aristocrat and military leader considered a heretic;
124 Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor: Was renowned for his Epicurean lifestyle, and alleged to have punished traitors by cloaking them in leaden capes and placing them into boiling cauldrons. He was incarcerated among the Epicurean heretics. His capes are compared to those of the hypocrites. His government of Italy viewed him favourably;
125 Past, Present and Future: Experiences of Past create lessons for the present (ongoing) which determines the future.
126 Circle of Broken Rocks: Symbol of the Sun disc and sacred hoop;
127 Pope Anastasius II: Pope who Dante perhaps mistakenly identified with the emperor Anastasius I and thus condemned to hell as a heretic. Anastasius I was a supporter of Monophysitism, a heresy which denied the dual divine/human nature of Jesus. Dante and Virgil take shelter behind Anastasius’ tomb and discuss matters of theology.
128 Photinus: Greek Christian Bishop – a 4th century heretic best known for denying the incarnation of The Christ
129 Circle of the violent is divided into 3 parts: Violence against others, against Self an and against Nature and Arts;
130 Luke 15:11-14, 30: And he said, ‘A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of a goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 30: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots; thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.’
131 Aristolean Physics: Aristotle held the universe was divided into two parts, the terrestrial region and the celestial region. On Earth, all bodies were made out of combinations of four substances, earth, fire, air, and water, whereas in the region of the universe beyond the Moon the heavenly bodies such as the Sun, the stars, and the planets were made of a fifth substance, called quintessence. The fundamental assumption in Aristotelian physics was that natural state of sublunary matter is rest. Violence was anything that created an unnatural violent motion not directed toward the centre of Earth.
132 Abuse of Natural Resources: Through unsustainable depletion of earth’s natural resources mismanagement of environment promises interpersonal and international conflicts arising from the sin of fraudulent exploitation.
133 Ancients: It was last spoken 5000 years ago by Krishna to Arjuna, and to the erson who maintains the sun planet, Vivasvat, some 120 million years ago. It was first spoken in this universe in the current cosmic cycle, 155 trillion years ago. “I gave this science of self-realization knowledge to Vivasvat, and he gave it to Manu, and Manu gave the knowledge to his son, Ikshvaku.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 4.1)//Vivasvat is a demigod who maintains the sun planet and he appeared 120 million years ago. “Although I am unborn, imperishable, eternal, and the Lord of all living beings, using my internal energy, I still appear in my original spiritual form [human like form].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita 4.6);
134 The Brain: Ancients always knew the Universe is transcribed within the Brian. Physicists now discover that the anatomical structure of a brain is the same as that of the entire universe. Anthropology (study of humankind, past and present that draws and builds upon knowledge from social and biological science) does not have anything to add to the origin of Consciousness. Asking an Astrology Expert (divination based on the premise that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world) is to comment on Astrophysics (branch of physics concerned with the physical and chemical properties, origin, and evolution of stars and planets).
135 Trent city situated on the NW of Venice on River Adige;
136 Infamy of Crete: Minatour who is half man and half bull and guards Circle of Violence; on catching sight of pilgrims he bit himself like one whom fury devastates within.
137 Minotaur: Greek mythological creature (half man- half bull). It was held captive by King Minos of Crete, inside the Labyrinth, an elabourate maze designed by Daedalus. It was slain by Theseus. Minos is a semi-legendary king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. He sits at the entrance to the second circle in the Inferno, which is the beginning of Hell proper. Here, he judges sins of each dead soul and assigns it to its rightful punishment by indicating the circle to which it must descend. He does this by circling his tail around his body the appropriate number of times. He can also speak, to clarify the soul’s location within the circle indicated by the wrapping of his tail. Virgil is not bound by Minos’ decision because he resides in Limbo.
138 Centaurs: In Greek mythology, a race part Man and part horse, with a horse’s body and a human head and torso. He supervises the punishment of the violent. Their leader Chiron appoints one of their number, Nessus, to guide the poets. The only one not with the violent is Cacus, who supervises the thieves. He is cited as examples of gluttony in Purgatory by a voice hidden in a tree of temptation, because of their drunken behaviour at the marriage feast of Hippodamia.
139 Chiron: Leader of the centaurs, legendary tutor of Achilles.
140 Deianira: Wife of Heracles, she was abducted by the centaur Nessus, but Heracles shot him with a poisoned arrow. She was tricked by the dying Nessus into believing that a love potion could be made from his blood, which she later gives to Heracles and poisoning him.
141 Alexander the Great: King of Macedon (356-323 BCE) and the most successful military commander of ancient history. He was probably the tyrant pointed out by Nessus for his cruel adventures against the people in India – mentioned to provide a simile for punishment for violence against their gods.
142 Dionysius the Areopagite was an Athenian judge who was converted to Christianity and became a bishop of Athens. Dante confused him with Pseudo-Dionysius, the anonymous fifth-century author of Celestial Hierarchy, identified in the Heaven of the Sun by Thomas Aquinas. Dionysius the Elder was a Tyrant of Syracuse (405 BC-367 BC) and pointed out by Nessus.
143 Azzo VIII: Lord of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio from 1293 until his death in 1308. He was rumoured to have murdered his father Obizzo II d’Este. He was the “figliastro” who killed Obizzo.
144 Atilla: King of Huns who ruled with his brother- a great barbarian ruler; He had just married his 7th wife and got drunk and died of hemorrhage on the night of his wedding; known in Western tradition as the “Scourge of God”. Pointed out by Nessus and confused by Dante with Totila who destroyed Florence in 542.
145 Pyrrhus: Either Achilles’s son Neoptolemus, killer of Priam and many other Trojans, or Pyrrhus of Epirus, could be intended, although the latter was praised by Dante in his Monarchy. Pointed out by Nessus and cited as an early enemy of Rome.
146 Sextus Pompeius: Son of Pompey the Great and opponent of Julius Caesar portrayed by Lucan as a cruel pirate (Pharsalia VI) and pointed out by Nessus.
147 Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo: Highwaymen who lived in Dante’s day. Pazzo was excommunicated by Pope Clement IV, in 1268 and pointed out by Nessus.
148 Anger and Rage: Evil emotional outburst related to one’s own psychological interpretation of a deadly desire of being offended or wronged. The negative emotion seeks retribution because of a mixture of emotions: krodha (anger), mada (pride), darpa (arrogance), kruratva (cruelty) and shatru hatya (slaying of enemies). Forgiveness rectifies the situation.
149 Fear leads to prejudice and prejudgement leads to hate; Hate leads to violence.
150 “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it–always.” Mahatma Gandhi Indian political and spiritual leader (1869 – 1948) .
151 Mathew 7:12: So in everything do to others what you would have them do to you; for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
152 Cecina and Corneto: Maremma was a part of southern Tuscany which in Dante’s time it was a desolate marshland, plagued by malaria. Identified as between Cecina and Corneto it had a reputation of being infested with snakes and causing Sickness from July until September.
153 Harpies; Monsters from Greek mythology with human female faces on the bodies of birds; they are tormentors of the suicides in the seventh circle. Their description is derived from Virgil (Aeneid ) which tells how they drove the Trojans from the Strophades.
154 Trojan War: After years of fighting, the greatest of the Greek warriors, Achilles, slays the greatest of the Trojan warriors, Hector. However, the Trojan warriors fight on. One of the Greek leaders-Odysseus, the king of Ithaca-then devises a plan to end the conflict. He suggests that the Greeks construct a great wooden horse as a weapon of war. A Greek named Epeus supervises its construction. Afterward, a Greek with a persuasive tongue deceives the Trojans into believing that their foes have wearied of the war and the giant horse, which stands at the gates of Troy, is a parting gift. Seeing no Greeks on the battlefield, the Trojans move the horse into the city. At night, Greek soldiers hiding inside the belly of the horse drop down and open the gates of the city for Greek armies hiding outside. The Greeks pour into the city and overwhelm the Trojans, wreaking slaughter and destruction and taking women as captives.
155 Strophades: Islands where Aeneas and Trojans landed when winds died down;
156 Frederick II and III were both born devoted Roman Catholics and ruled over part of Germany. They were both involved in the Lutheran Reformation, both dared to oppose the might of Rome and to stand firm against papal threats and promises. The first was called Frederick the Wise, and the second, Frederick the Pious. One never left the Roman Catholic Church; the other became an ardent Calvinist.
157 Caesar (100-44 BC): celebrated Roman dictator and military commander whom Virgil remembers him (erroneously) as ruler of Rome at his birth. Souls in the terrace of sloth cite his campaigns in France and Spain as an inspiring example of energy. His sexual relations with Bithynian King Nicomedes is mentioned on the terrace of the lustful. His unlawful entry into Rome is cited as the beginning of the Roman Empire which ultimately brought an imperial peace to the world.
158 Lano: read Siena;
159 Toppo: reversed branch of a tree or shrub;
160 Andrea de’ Mozzi: Chaplain of the popes Alexander IV and Gregory IX, he was made bishop of Florence in 1287 and remained there till 1295, when he was moved to Vicenza, only to die shortly after. One of a group of sodomites identified by Brunetto Latini to Dante; Brunetto (i.e. Dante) blasts him with particular harshness, calling him “tigna”.
161 John the Baptist: The desert prophet, who baptised Jesus. He became the patron saint of Florence, displacing the Roman Mars, and his image was stamped on the city’s gold coin, the florin. A voice in Purgatory on the terrace of the gluttonous cites John as an example in Temperance.
162 Arno:River
163 Thorns as a symbol of Christian Faith – Jesus suffering before and during crucifixion;
164 Forest Health: Trees and plants are alive and unnecessary cutting and pruning is to be avoided. Forests provide food, medicine, energy, shelter, wood and non-wood products to sustain life on earth. Dependency on forests is seen in many ancient cultures like Nepal and India where there are cultural and spiritual dimensions of forest plant uses. 80 plant species are used in socio-cultural festivals and are essential to start all religious festivals. Some are used for special purposes when requirement varies from daily, seasonal, annual, and periodic to occasional.
165 Transmigration of soul passing from human to another body, be it plant, animal or human; Reincarnation is philosophical concept that soul begins a new life in a new body after biological death;
166 Desire for Immortality: Biological desire for eternal life in the presence of inherent physical limitations;
167 Envy is Covetousness: Internalised emotion which becomes destructive and generates a death desire. “Evil Eye” in early Christian thought begins with superstitions and is discussed in Greek philosophical debates as a human condition of ‘Envy’ – a major theme of both the Old and New Testaments for over 1500 years.
168 Jealousy knows no loyalty: Sin of Jealousy is envy and is covetousness from a fear of losing love. Demonstrating faithfulness sustains loyalty despite fading passions;
169 Suicide: Early Christianity regarded suicide a virtuous act. Eusebius, in his account of martyrs at Antioch (Ecclesiastical History) tells of a mother who taught her two beautiful unmarried daughters to regard rape as the most dreadful thing that could happen to them. Eventually the mother and daughters were captured by a band of lustful soldiers. They threw themselves into a nearby river and drowned. In the fourth century Bishop Augustine granted that women should not have assumed that rape deprived them of their purity – a state of mind. Augustine noted at no point does the Bible make it lawful to take one’s life. The command “Thou shalt not kill” implies, one’s own life as well as the lives of others should be preserved. Augustine’s viewpoint on suicide has heavily influenced both Roman Catholics and Protestants. Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic theologians, gave three succinct arguments why suicide is a sin against self, neighbour and God. Aquinas reasoned: “To bring death upon oneself in order to escape the other afflictions of this life is to adopt a greater evil in order to avoid a lesser. . . . Suicide is the most fatal of sins because it cannot be repented of” (Summa Theologica 2-2, q. 64,5). The poet Dante, following Aquinas’s theology, placed those who take their own lives on the seventh level of hell, below the greedy and the murderous (Inferno 13). For centuries those who committed the unconfessed and therefore unforgivable sin of suicide were not buried in cemeteries that Catholic priests had consecrated. The 17th-century Westminster Shorter Catechism, which remains authoritative for Calvinists, follows Augustine in relating one of the Ten Commandments to suicide. The Catechism asserts: “The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.”
170 Tortured Soul: Churchians emphasise this as a mental property of perpetual groaning by an immaterial agency. They are tortured in Hell.
171 Fate: is the power that predetermines events and is unavoidable because it is based on the universal principle of agency of the Law of Cause and Effect (Karma) – often called Destiny
172 Wastefulness: Eastern religions consider wasteful and excessiveness an offence against Mother Earth’s energy (of affluence).
173 Cato the Younger (95-46 BC): Politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a Stoic. His crossing of the Libyan Desert in 47 BC provides a simile for the hot sands of the seventh circle; he is the “patriarch” who resides at the base of Mount Purgatory and functions as gate-keeper for Purgatory.
174 Mongibello: Sicilian name for Mount Etna, though to be Vulcan’s furnace -a “The sooty forge”.
175 Vulcan: In Roman mythology, blacksmith of the gods and, with the help of the Cyclops, maker of thunderbolts for Jove. From whom Jove “took in wrath the keen-edged thunderbolt”.
176 Phlegra: In Greek mythology, the site of Zeus’s defeat of the Giants at the end of the Gigantomachy.
177 Capaneus: In Greek mythology, in the story of the Seven against Thebes he defied Zeus who then killed him with a thunderbolt in punishment. Found amongst the violent against God. His pride is compared with that of Vanni Fucci.
178 Bulicame springs (sulphurous) with therapeutic properties of its water. Spring near Viterbo is renowned for its reddish colour. Part of its water was once reserved for the use of prostitutes.
179 Damietta: city on delta of Nile. An Egyptian titular see for the Latin and the Catholic Malachite Greeks. Its prosperity coincided with the decline of its religious metropolis Pelusium under bishops. Under Caliph Omar Arabs took it by treachery and successfully defended it against the Greeks who tried to recover it, particularly in 739, 821, 921 and 968. Arabs repulsed several attacks and finally was captured by Jean de Brienne, 1219, after a siege of 15 months; of its 70,000 inhabitants only 3000 survived. St. Francis of Assisi visited the camp of the crusaders and went to that of Sultan Malik Kemal to preach the Christian Faith. In 1221 the Franks were defeated and obliged to abandon the town. In 1249, it was again captured by St. Louis, who transformed into a church the magnificent mosque El-Fatah and established there a Latin bishop, Gilles. In 1250 he surrendered Damietta as ransom. In 1251 the Sultan, hearing that the pious king was preparing a new crusade, ordered the town and its citadel to be destroyed, except the mosque El-Fatah. Later fishermen built their shelters among the ruins and the modern town gradually arose. Franciscans have resided there since the time of St. Francis. Wealthy inhabitants of Cairo retire to Damietta during the heated season. Damietta is since the fifth century for the Monophysite Coptics. One of the non-Catholic Greek metropolitans subject to the Patriarch of Alexandria bears the title of Damietta.
180 Styx: One of the rivers encircling Hades in the Aeneid; Formed from the tears of the statue of the Old Man of Crete.
181 Phlegethon: “River of fire”, in Greek mythology, one of the rivers of Hades. Also called Boiling River of blood; formed from the tears of the statue of the Old Man of Crete; And identified as the “red stream boiling”. Its deafening roar is compared to the waterfall near the monastery of San Benedetto dell’Alpe. Phlegyas: In was the ferryman for the souls that cross the
182 Cocytus: “The river of lamentation”; it was the river on whose banks the dead who could not pay Charon wandered. It flowed into the river Acheron, across which lay Hades. In the Inferno it is a frozen lake forming the ninth circle and the bottom of Hell. Formed from the tears of the statue of the Old Man of Crete, it is shut in by cold and frozen by flapping of the wings of Dis.
183 List of a Self-disciplined Good-life: Temperance: ‘Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation’ Conquering primal urges for food and drink gives confidence to start making improvements in other areas of your life. Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself and avoid trifling Conversation. A man must learn when and when not to open his mouth.Order: Let all your things have their places to develop order. Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought to and perform without fail what you resolve with a firm determination to accomplish what you set out to do. Frugality: Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself without wastefulness and following one principle: spend less than you earn. Industry: Be always employed in something useful. Cut off all unnecessary actions. Sincerity: Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly. Justice: Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty. Moderation: Avoid extremes; Avoid resenting injuries even if you think they deserve it. Society will tell you that “more” is the answer to gaining satisfaction in life. In reality the secret to a fulfilling life is moderation. Cleanliness: Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation. It develops attention to detail, discipline, and order. Tranquility: Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable. Chastity: Rarely use venery (sexual activity) but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation. Tthe ubiquity of sex has cheapened a once sacred act and turned it into just another consumer good to be selfishly consumed. Humility: Imitate Rama, Jesus and Socrates the typical image of one who is not weak, submissive, or self-abasing. It is having the quiet confidence to allow your actions to speak for themselves.
184 Western Theology has many desert symbolism of suffering not from their own actions but from their conspiracy to act by ‘hollow’ persons.
185 And your children shall wander in the wilderness FORTY YEARS, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even FORTY YEARS, and ye shall know my breach of promise. And the LORD’S anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness FORTY YEARS, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the LORD, was consumed (Numbers: 14:33-34; Nu.32:13).
186 Spiritual Movement (Sadhana) is consciously systematized with a purpose to reach ‘this place’ through constant practice (abhyas) to release a life bound to limitations – a lifelong process involving every hour and every minute on an onward march. Obstacles are innumerable in this great voyage, but, so long as God comes as the guide, there is surety to reach the other shore. Curiosity for a spiritual life is not a real thirsting for liberation. Some even attain certain powers or Siddhis (psychic powers) through some Yogic practices but they lose patience and give up the practices, and abandon the spiritual path. Curiosity-mongering is more abominable than mischief-mongering. Transmute curiosity-mongering into real thirsting for salvation by constant association with the wise, study of good religious books, prayer, Japa and meditation.
187 Good intentions for spiritual path must be backed up by good actions. It entails attaining Atma-Jnana (Self-knowledge). Unless seeker is vigilant and diligent during intense Sadhana, and guarding against lust, anger, egoism and selfishness, good intentions alone do not achieve much. Moral purity and spiritual aspiration are the first steps. Without a strong conviction in moral values, there can be no spiritual life, or even a good life. Stern self-discipline is absolutely essential. Self-discipline does not mean suppression of the brute within. It means humanization of the animal and spiritualization of the human. Breaking the virgin soil before you sow the seed to sprout is about destruction which precedes construction. This is the immutable law of nature. The spiritual path is rugged, thorny, and precipitous. The thorns both internal (Lust, greed, wrath, delusion, vanity) and external (company with evil-minded persons is the worst of all) need weeding with patience and perseverance. During Sadhana, do not mix much; do not talk much; do not walk much; do not eat much; do not sleep much. Mixing will cause disturbances in the mind. Talking much will cause distraction of the mind. Walking much causes exhaustion and weakness. Eating much induces laziness and sleepiness.
188 Scorning the Hindu as the Church of the Churchless: Skepticism about self-perfection before entering spiritual life of humanity described in ancient Vedanta is being reinterpreted (since 18th century) as being misrepresentations which caused its devaluation.
189 The old man is not actually in Hell. He is buried beneath a mountain, but resides on earth. His head (intellect or soul) is golden, protected and guided by God. The chest and arms are silver, symbolizing the disparity between intent and actions, paganism and churchianity, and difficult journey to the Father amidst sin and temptation. Torso and hips are of bronze which goes moldy green if left unattended. This may show man’s carnal tendencies and debasement through original sin. Iron leg depicts man’s violent nature, and leg of clay indicating man’s weakened humanity. This cracked statue is weeping bloody tears from wounds of original and perpetuated sin.
190 Flemings: As they walk along the river’s (Phlegethon) margin they are protected from the flames by water vapor released by the river that forms an umbrella of safety around them. He compares the safety afforded by the river’s banks to the safety which the Lykes of the Flemings and the great walls built by Paduans gave them against onrushing sea water and rushing mountain streams respectively.
191 Cadsand: Netherlands; A decisive naval Battle of Sluys was fought on 24 June 1340 as the opening conflicts of the Hundred Years’ War. English troops sacked Cadsand during a diversionary attack on the French. Local Flemish troops turned out to fight them, but lost. However, the county of Flanders became a valuable ally of Edward III in his struggle for the French crown. It resulted in the destruction of most of France’s fleet, making a French invasion of England impossible.
192 Paduan: cultural in NW Italy
193 Brenta River flows from Trentino to Adriatic Sea
194 Chiarentana: a Medieval fortress and farm building
City of Wissant located between Boulogne and the city of Brgues in eastern Flanders were both trade centres during the 13th century. Dante believed them to be dens of Sodomy, filled with sailors and traders. The Paduans built walls to protect town from rushing waters from mountainous Chiarentana during summer (melted snow. Paduans were drawn to Sodomy. A group of Sodomites pass the Pilgrims and one Brunetto Latini (1220-94) recognizes Dante. Dante addresses him with respect “Ser Brunetto” who was a Guelph statesman and as writer influenced Dante’s life and work. Brunetto was a notary. After the Guelph defeat in 1260 Latini was in exile in France for six years. In 1266, when Ghibellines were defeated he returned to Florence and took part in its affairs until his death. Dante was a great admirer of Latini.
195 Brunetto Latini: Famous Florentine Guelph politician and writer, friend and teacher of Dante till his death in 1294; Encountered by Dante among the sodomites in the seventh circle. The meeting between Dante and Brunetto is one of the most important in the Inferno, as Brunetto is given the key role of prophesying the future exile of Dante. Dante extols his encyclopaedia, Li Livres dou Tresor, of which Dante has Brunetto say: “Sieti raccomandato il mio Tesoro, nel qual io vivo ancora.”
196 Fesole: Town on a scenic height above Florence;
197 Fortune: Latini prophesizes the pilgrims future and mentions Dante’s historical enemies who are ungrateful and malignant. Latini tells Dante both political groups will turn against him, jealous of his success, and try to destroy him. Dante expresses his regret at Latini’s death and gives voice to the great affection he holds of the man. He thanks him for having taught him how man may become immortal through his work. He says he will remember Latini’s prophecy, the prophecies of Ciacco (Canto VI) and Farinata (Canto V) and consult with Beatrice about them. Virgil praises the pilgrim for remembering all he has heard so far. He adds that as long as his conscience is clear he is ready for whatever fate has in store for him. Latini mentions others from his group: Priscian, Francesco d’ Accorso, and Andrea Le Mozzi- all the men were well respect and educated men, guilty of the “one same sin” of Sodomy. “Priscian” is Priscianus Caesariensis, a Latin grammarian, born at Caesarea in Cappadoccio in 6 A.D. Francisco d’ Accorso was a famous lawyer of Florence (1225 -94) who taught law at the University of Bolonga and Oxford. Andrea de Mozzi was Bishop of Florence from 1287 to 1295. Then Pope Boniface VII (the “servant of servants”) transferred him to Vicenza, on the Bacchigliane River.
Another group of souls is approaching and Latini has to move on. He asks Dante to remember his “most important composition, called “Livers du Tresor, written during his exile in France. Then Latini turns his back to Dante and runs towards his group. He compares the naked Latini’s sprint to the annual footrace held in Verona during the thirteenth century. And the first prize for the foot race was a green cloth. This race in Verona is a link between this Canto and the next where athletic imagery predominates.
198 Pisceans were masters who were not to lecture on feast days except on philosophical books;
199 Francis or Francesco d’Accorso: Eminent jurist of Bologna who taught law at the universities of Bologna and Oxford. Son of the great Florentine jurist Accorsio da Bagnolo; One of a group of sodomites identified by Brunetto Latini to Dante.
200 Arno was transferred to Bacchiglione: Andrea de’Mozzi, Bishop of Florence (Arno) was transferred by Pope Boniface VIII to Bacchiglione (Vicenza)
201 Tesoro is a handbook of summation of ethics and universal knowledge which Dante respects;
202 Green Mantle is space below Heaven vested in colours of the living flame;
203 War Makers: Masters of discord who fill their lives with multilayered death-games of morality and against the Spirit based on ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases instead of living solely on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence. There then would not be any fear of political or churchian dictatorship to begrudge the inadequacies of the Middle Ages.
204 2 Timothy 3:1-7: 1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
205 Al-Riba (interest): Islamic Banking system disallows receipt of interest for financing programs; Christian loans offer debt consolidation, credit counselling and debt settlement; Eastern religions condemns interest on loans for institutions for human refuge and setting up industrial estates where funds are raised through fund-raising schemes by volunteers who do not finance themselves;
206 Industry: Productive enterprises for production of goods and services within an economy through commerce, trade and pursuit through habitual effort.
207 Sin in Hinduism and Buddhism is consequential (Law of Karma); Islam teaches sin is the act of violating God’s will- anything that violates the ideal relationship between an individual and God
208 People of Sodom were infamous for their pride, greed and inhospitality. Biblical writers, Jesus remarks on the inhospitality of the inhabitants of Sodom. Verses in the Bible never mention homosexuality or gays and lesbians in connection with judging Sodom. Deuteronomy (23:17) shrine prostitute; Job (36:14) and Hosea (4:14) margin, qadesh, shrine prostitute; Also the Companion Bible (1 Ki 14:24) defines sodomites [shrine prostitutes] who commit the sin of Sodom dedicated to idolatry which involved male-male sexual practice. The Asherah pole was a phallic symbol, set upright in the ground, which represented the male organ of creation. The pole was associated with the fertility goddess and with sexual orgies practiced by pagan worshippers of the fertility goddess in ancient Canaan. Ashtoreth was the Canaanite fertility goddess. Sodomites were men and women who engaged in sexual acts with pagan worshipers of the Canaanite fertility goddess. In the Bible sodomites are not homosexuals – they are pagan worshipers of the fertility goddess who rejected the true God of Israel.
209 Guido Guerra (1220-1272): Member of greatest Tuscan families, one of the leaders of the Guelph faction in Florence; he fought the disastrous battle of Montaperti in 1260. Exiled following the triumph of the Ghibellines, but returned to Florence in 1267 when the Guelphs retook control of the city. One of a group of three Florentine sodomites who approach Dante, and are much esteemed by Dante who said: “In his life he did much with the senses and the sword”).
210 Tegghiaio Aldobrandi: Florentine son of the famous Aldobrandi degli Adimari, he was Podesta of Arezzo in 1256 and fought at battle of Montaperti in 1260, where his warnings against attacking the Senese forces went unheeded, and the Florentines were annihilated. He was a famous political Florentines, “who were so worthy . whose minds bent toward the good”, asked about by Dante of Ciacco. He is one of a group of three Florentine sodomites who approach Dante, and are esteemed by him: “whose voice the world above should have valued”, probably an allusion to his councils at Montaperti.
211 Jacopo Rusticucci: Florentine Guelph of Cavalcanti Guild, active in politics and diplomacy; One of a group of famous political Florentines, “who were so worthy . whose minds bent toward the good”, asked about by Dante of Ciacco. One of a group of three Florentine sodomites who approaches Dante, and are much esteemed by him; He blames his wife for his sin: He questions Dante about Borsiere’s reports of the moral decay of Florence, which have caused great anguish for him and his companions. He represents (with the other two sodomites) past civic virtue, providing an opportunity for Dante to rail against “newcomers and quick gains”, as the cause of Florentine decadence.
212 Guglielmo Borsiere, a purse maker accused of sodomy, who made a joke that became the subject of the Decameron (100 tales of love by ten young people). A sodomite mentioned in the seventh circle, round 3 by Jacopo Rusticucci as having spoken to him and his companions of the moral decline of Florence, generating great anguish and inducing Rusticucci to ask Dante for corroboration.
213 Monte Viso: highest pyramid shaped mountain of the Cottian Alps
214 San Benedetto: Italian bottled mineral water favorite of Venetian noble families;
215 Most life stories are of mundane existence of birth-growth-aging-death. A few leave behind names with footprints of their achievements while in a human form – legends who inspire humanity long after their physical expression.
216 Noble Virtues of Wife written by Telugu Poet Baddena who lived during the 13th century. Keeping in mind the Hindu culture, a good housewife should 1.Be like a servant in doing the chores of the House; 2.Give intelligent advice like a minister to her husband; 3.Serve food to the husband as lovingly as a mother feeds her son; 4.Like a courtesan in the Bedroom; 5.Beautiful like Maha Lakshmi and 6.Have the forbearance of Mother Earth. It implies absence of even one quality makes a woman a failure as a good wife.
Hindu Dharma also has references about husband and wife relationship as ‘saha dharma chari nam’ to mean sharing of dharma equally. It is also said that the results or fruits of the chores would be shared equally. As per Manu, ‘where women are honored, the Gods are pleased; where they are not honored, all work becomes fruitless’.
217 Melchizedec is introduced in (Genesis 14:14) following Abraham’s victory against the five kings that symbolize desire, greed, anger, domination and pride. He is introduced as the king of Salem (city of “peace’) and priest of God’s “righteousness”. The name Melchizedek defines him as the “king of righteousness” ruling over the city of “peace,” and the priest of God with neither forefathers nor progeny. According to Hebrews chapter 7, he is without beginning or end.
The Christ is the real Melchizedek in the Third Eye. This King-Priest, does not function only for and individual’s mundane walk in life but also for the carrying His nations through continuation and enlargement through building and rebuilding His work. Both the kingship and priesthood was recurrently strengthened by examples and functions of the many prophets that came and went through Time and Space.
In 1800 BC Abraham blessed an Assyrian Judean priest belonging to the ancient Melchizedek Order of royal priesthood. Their ancient teachings followed the principles of justice and righteousness of the Golden Age (Satya Yuga). The Bible’s text only hints at the timing of its events through Time. The science of geology and the discovery of fossils sidestep problems of ‘when’ by using genealogies. The Book of Mormon describes the relationship of the various scribes who helped compose the text from writings “handed down by the kings, from generation to generation, until the days of King Benjamin (125 BC); and they were handed down from King Benjamin (156 BC) before the birth of another righteous prophet, Jesus.
The theme of genealogy also extends beyond the book to point to the religious authority of Amulek (82 BC) “I am Amulek; I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi: and it was the same Aminadi which interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God. And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph, which was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren.” Whatever the genealogy, it is obvious royal-priests belonging to the Order of Melchizedek were Righteous, Peaceful and served Creation through Service for the Cosmic Whole.
Meanwhile, history records the financial system of Rome was eating it from within. This economic turmoil set the stage for the rise of a new breed of unrighteous war-mongering priest-kings. They would come out of ranks of a long-forgotten ancient priesthood struggling to keep values alive. At the height of the Roman monetary crisis, a group of practical priests called Nicolaitans created a small band of highly committed proselytes who extolled the virtues of the Order of Melchizedek by promoting Melchizedekian righteous values for marketing. Nicolaitans were ‘professional priests’ with a mandate to speak on God’s behalf – for a fee. From these shadows of the Roman monetary crisis certain Illuminated Ones (crusaders, knights, educated, elite and the nobility) looked on with interest.
Nicolaitans drew their ‘moral authority’ from Melchizedek values and modified them according to the needs of that time. They presented themselves as having rights to speak on behalf of the supreme Creator. In the meantime, life in the Roman Empire was becoming dire. Northern Islamic barbarians were ransacking the empire’s frontiers at will. Constantine the Great became the last time Imperial Rome would enjoy the rule of a true warrior-king but it also marked the beginnings of the Nicolaitans rise from obscurity to re-establishing a Priest-king as ruler of the known Churchian world.
Constantine’s legacy established the young religion of Christianity as Rome’s official state religion. The Nicolaitans immediately began transforming it into a formal organisation. Unfortunately, Constantine’s Rome faced of a series of invasions by the Muslims. The old Roman Empire split into East and West, under a new one-god state religion, known as the Church and Rome rejoiced at introducing to the world its latest version of Churchianity and the priest-king: The Pope.
By taking the best organisational features of the old Imperial system and adapting them to an increasingly ritual-based religion, the priest-king Pope and his newly-modelled Holy Roman Empire was now ready to open shop. The Church was now fully open for business. The Nicolaitans had been steadily refining a new set of rituals designed to initiate the broader public to submit to their recently elevated supreme priest-king. They effectively opened up to the masses a chance to really partake in the ceremonial aspects of getting closer to God, but for a fee.
Ancient residents of Sodom practiced blood-sacrifice in temples of Saturn and Jupiter. The Nicolaitans adopted their rituals. The mass execution of Canaanite Judeans a few centuries before was emphasised as the main ritualistic requirement for prospects looking to benefit from Church membership. Ordinary people were invited to step forwards and take the new sacraments of Sodomite faith. The appointed ‘Enlightened Ones’ became a Secret Society of Sodomy who recognised each other by ‘Knowing Winks’ of understanding. The Illuminated Ones recognised the potential of this variation on the old blood rituals of Jupiter and Saturn for attracting both warrior-kings and wealth for themselves. The collapse of their economy in the third century, allowed Illuminated Ones to quickly set about positioning themselves to provide finance for their new priest-king Pope. Money would lubricate the wheels of influence and warrior-kings would once again dance to their slavery dependent economy.
The Church now enjoyed the authority and money to sanction whichever warrior-king it deemed most beneficial to its own aims and purposes. Great coronation ceremonies were performed with the Pope anointing his ‘chosen’ ones using variations of the now familiar Saturnian and Jovian rituals – and the elite people could not get enough.
Charlemagne, Otto the Great and Barbarossa were just some of the luminaries sanctified as genuine Bluebloods by the all-powerful priest-king Pope. Once the formal, sanitized blood-rituals were performed for the benefit of the ignorant public, Illuminated Ones would lead the newly crowned Bluebloods away to initiate them into the ritual (sodomy) behind the scenes.
As the Middle Ages ground on, mass blood sacrifices in the form of useless wars continued to be a feature under the Holy Roman Empire just as it had been under the old Imperial order. These were christened Wars of the Cross: the Crusades. Any perceived enemy of the Church, and the Nicolaitans, who had land to be seized, was deemed worthy of the attentions of a Crusade. True to form Babylonian Sodomites continued its symbiotic relationship between money and power. The role of the merchant banker class subverting the authority of an institution had now become as powerful as the Church.
With its power base now fully consolidated in the great trading city states of Florence and Genoa, Illuminated Ones continued to promote arms trafficking, the ancient drug trade of Sodom and Gomorrah and the trade in slaves needed for enslaved labour for involuntary servitude. Monies from these dubious activities was reinvested into the practise of money lending at rates of usurious interest thus allowing the merchant bankers to establish great houses of commerce through the laundering of drug and arms trafficking profits. It was a highly convenient commercial model that was to last in one form or another up till the present day. Dante experienced this environment and so did the Enlightened Ones presented as Sodomites in the Circle.
218 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must watch and pray always, lest ye be tempted by the devil, and ye be led away captive by him”(Mosiah 3:19).
219 The Church in the Middle Ages enjoyed authority and money to sanction whichever warrior-king it deemed most beneficial to its own aims and purposes. Great coronation ceremonies were performed with the Pope anointing his ‘chosen’ ones using variations of the now familiar Saturnian and Jovian rituals originating in Babylon and practiced in Sodom. The elite could not get enough and Charlemagne, Otto the Great and Barbarossa were just some of the luminaries sanctified as genuine Bluebloods Sodomites by the all-powerful priest-king Pope. Once the formal sanitized rituals were established, they were performed for the benefit of an ignorant public. Illuminated Ones would lead the newly crowned Bluebloods away to initiate them into the real intrigues (fashioned from Sodom) behind the scenes. Sordid events during the Crusades illustrate the symbiotic relationship between money and power and the role of the merchant banker class in subverting the authority of even an institution that had become as powerful as the Church. Many elites were therefore called into ritualistic Babylonian Clubs of sodomites
220 Geryon: son of Chrysaor and Callirhoe, was a winged giant. He was viewed as an example of treacherous deception, and an emblem of fraud. Guardian of the eighth circle, summoned by Virgil, and encountered in close association with the usurers. “The beast who bears the pointed tail, who crosses mountains, shatters weapons, walls! . the one whose stench fills all the worlds!”). He Carries Virgil and Dante on his back and sets down Virgil and Dante in the eighth circle. Before Dante passes through the fire of Purgatory, Virgil reminds him that he was safe even while riding Geryon.
221 Tartars and Turks: Turkic speaking people Mongolians invaders and and Turks living is Russia – are Sunni Muslims;
222 Arachne: Greco-Roman mythology was a mortal weaver who boasted her skill was greater than Athena, the goddess of strategy and wisdom;
223 Guzzling Germans: greedy
224 Phaeton: Shining Son of Sun-god Helios; When he went east to meet his father to allow him to drive the sun-chariot across the heavens for one day; the horses, feeling a weaker hand, ran wildly out and came close to the earth, threatening to burn it. Zeus noticed the danger and with a thunderbolt he destroyed Phaeton. He fell down into the legendary river Eridanus where he was found by the river nymphs who mourned him and buried him. The tears of these nymphs turned into amber. For the Ethiopians however it was already too late: they were scorched by the heat and their skins had turned black.
225 Usurers ran the Holy Roman Empire’s economy in the Middle Ages. It was dependant on the financially lubricating effects of arms and drug trafficking. The Pope tolerated ancient Babylonian egregious activities. The enduring legacy of the anti-banker doctrines of Jesus was still an important part of the Papal claim to divine legitimacy. Many card-carrying Christians found it increasingly difficult to reconcile with the Church’s pronouncements and its actions. The Church sold pilgrim children into slavery through merchant bankers. The Church already heavily indebted resorted to Babylonian styled growing web of fraud, usury and debt-based financial slavery.
226 Dante met ‘Illuminated Shades”. Education was the centuries-old prerogative of the Church and the blueblood classes. The rest of Europe’s population enjoyed only rudimentary intellectual skills in the art of thinking. Some had developed self-awareness independent of the Church; most were executed for their troubles (Joan of Arc). The masses took the hint. Undeterred, the moneyed class of Illuminated Ones, (through Mystery Secret Societies like Knights Templar and Masons) stimulated educational pursuits amongst the more promising elements of humanity. There was special emphasis on the sciences, legal and financial professions. The emergence of educated luminaries proved to be the march towards a world dominated by a world religion and sustained by a debt-slavery financial system.
227 Nobility belongs to a social class possessing distinguished high birth with and more acknowledged privileges than for others group memberships with low, middle and the high social standing; Class system practiced in Europe and caste system practiced in India lets loose great inequality and resentment between different groups of society;
228 Covetousness is Desire for possessions or qualities of another lead to moral issues of envy, stealing, slander, blasphemy, discontentment, resentment, lying, being drunk or disorderly, adultery, violence toward another, murder, animal worship, illicit fornication, pornography, cheating,maligning and giving false testimony.
229 Lion Knight’s Shield: blue lion on yellow base from Yvain fame of 11th century, and written about simultaneously with Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart which includes several references to the narrative of that poem.
230 All experience existence is marked by impermanence: everything sooner or later comes apart, including our precious lives. Meditation helps let go, first of thoughts, emotions and opinions. Progressive letting go of each moment allows movement into the next and into ‘nowness” while awake in the eternal present. It opens the knot of eternity for surrender of fear and letting go of this body.
231 Psalm 42.7: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.”
232 Hearing and seeing pain of the world in fiery pits of human existence
233 Why ‘suffering everywhere’? Reality that is God based expects goodness but also predicts evil will happen. Reality that is based on godless mechanisms should have no reason to expect goodness.
234 Vitaliano is in the inner ring of a burning hot desert raining fire in the Seventh Circle of Hell, where the violent are eternally punished. These usurers are sitting on the sand, swatting away fire like animals swat bugs. Vitaliano is the only usurious sinner to be named but others are only identified with purses emblazoned with their family coat of arms. Dante’s time-period allowed emblems to identify the suffering sinners who sinned against Land and Church because Nature is the ‘Grandchild of God.’
235 Rock as symbol “The Rock, his work is perfect for all His ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
236 Usurers from Nobility (Illuminated Ones) secretly practiced the benefits of social and political thought manipulation as and method of operation in organising discord and war as a means of furthering blood-soaked agendas. The drive for control of trade and commerce through political, social and churchian manipulation of the banking system was rampant in the Middle Ages.
237 Like many foolish mortals, Arachne had dared to question the supremacy of the gods. She had, in her arrogance over her art, been blind to the consequences of challenging the gods. Angry Athens transformed Arachne into a disgusting insect – a spider (“arachnid” in Greek).
238 Envy is a complex and puzzling emotion. It is, notoriously, one of the seven deadly sins. It is commonly charged with being universally) unreasonable, irrational, imprudent, vicious, or wrong to feel. “Envy is pain at the good fortune of others.” (Aristotle); Envy is a propensity to view the well-being of others with distress, even though it does not detract from one’s own. [It is] a reluctance to see our own well-being overshadowed by another’s because the standard we use to see how well off we are is not the intrinsic worth of our own well-being but how it compares with that of others. [Envy] aims, at least in terms of one’s wishes, at destroying others’ good fortune. (Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals); Envy is that passion which views with malignant dislike the superiority of those who are really entitled to all the superiority they possess. (Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments).
239 Malebolge (“evil-pouches”): The eighth circle of Dante’s hell contains ten trenches wherein the ten types of “ordinary” fraud are punished. It is described as a funnel consisting of concentric and progressively lower ditches. Its “final cloister” is filled with “lay brothers”.
240 Saint Peter: One of the apostles of Jesus, and first pope. In contrast to the Simoniacs, he paid no gold, to become head of the church, nor did he ask for any from Saint Matthias to make him an apostle. Souls in Purgatory call on Peter to pray for them. Dante’s “Examination of Faith” by St. Peter; his presence first described by Beatrice: “And she: ‘O eternal light of the great man/ To whom Our Lord entrusted the same keys/ Of wondrous gladness that he brought below’.” St. Peter’s Pine Cone: A colossal bronze pine cone cast in the 1st or 2nd century AD in Rome. Originally located in the Campus Martius, but is now located in a courtyard in the Vatican Museum. Dante compares it to the dimensions of Nimrod’s head.
241 Venedico and Ghisolabella Caccianemico: Venedico (c. 1228-c. 1302) was head of the Guelph faction in Bologna, he was exiled three times for his relationship with the Marques of Ferrara, Obizzo II d’Este. Found among the panders, he confesses that he prostituted his sister Ghisolabella to Obizzo.
242 Ghisola da Fontana whose father Alberto was head of Bolognese Guelphs and sister of Venedico
243 Jason: Brother of the High Priest of Israel Onias III, he succeeded his brother in 175 BC. According to 2 Maccabees he obtained his office by bribing the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanius. Pope Clement V is compared to him. Jason: Greek mythological hero who led the Argonauts to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece. He was found among the Seducers, for his seduction and abandonment of Hypsipyle and Medea. The Argonauts’ voyage compared to a voyage into the mysteries of the heavens.
244 Colchians: (Russian) a collective name for ancient Georgian tribes that occupied Black Sea region;
245 Ram: Golden Fleece of the gold-haired ram was held in Colchis, near the River Phasis. It was sacrificed and its golden fleece given to the fearsome king of Colchis.
246 Hypsipyle: Queen of Lemnos; during her reign Aphrodite cursed the women of the island;
247 Alessio Interminei of Lucca: Dante has hard time recognising because he is so filthy; he was there because of flatteries; here he also encounters in the Bolgia os simony: Pope Nicholas III and Simon Magus;
248 Treachery is a conscious violation of allegiance, faith and confidence – a treason because of a wilful betrayal of trust through acts of corruption, dirty dealings, and connivance by the best guardian who breaks down another’s defences through wilful betrayal of fidelity, confidence and trust;
249 Descending the vast cliff is a symbol of communication between the spiritual and the psychic pool of shared humanity symbolizing divine inspirational link between the conscious and the unconscious. The labyrinth of the VII and VIII circles is a symbol of the individual’s tortuous journey towards self-knowledge.
250 Venedico Caccianemico dell’ Orso (1228-13020) – A Guelph who sold his own sister and is presented as a naked sinner being beaten by horned fiends;
251 Seducers are corrupt individuals who lead others away (luring) from duty and accepted principles of proper conduct by persuading them into sexual activities;
252 Panderers: Pimp or procurers of prostitutes for clients for illicit sex;
253 Ciampolo (John Paul) is a grafter in the fifth ditch of the eighth circle. Ciampolo is hooked by the devils that patrol that ditch, and is pulled out of the boiling pitch where the grafters are immersed. The pitch represents ‘sticky fingers’ and corrupt deals. Threatened by the devils, Ciampolo tells Dante the identity of some of the other grafters being punished there. Ciampolo eventually tricks the devils, and makes his escape back to the boiling pitch. Ciampolo was born in Navarre, his father was a wastrel, and he served King Theobold II of Navarre.
254 Grafters are confidence tricksters and hypocrites able to defraud through sneaking and mischief;
255 Hypocrites pretend to have virtues, moral and religious beliefs and project themselves through successful acting as being trustworthy;
256 Changing forms are symbolic of different meanings in words, sounds, gestures and visual images; term is used to convey different ideas and beliefs
257 Biting snakes signify dangerous situations lying in wait ready to strike at the unwary who is unconscious during a period of transition along the journey;
258 Transformations into different hypocritical manifestations need decisions about different objectives;
259 Absolution: Act of receiving forgiveness for one’s sins or wrongdoings and setting the person free from guilt or penalty;
260 Fra. Dolcino (1250-1307) an Italian radical Christian inspired by theories of Gioachhino da Fiore and viewed history of humanity as 4 epochs. Disciple and follower of G. Segarelli, the founder of the sect of the Apostolic Brethren. According to Dolcino, a kingdom of social justice would be established on earth as a result of the violent overthrow of all authorities and the extermination of the pope, cardinals, priests, and monks. In early 1304, Dolcino led an uprising of local peasants directed against feudal obligations and the authorities of the city to which the peasants in the area around the city of Vercelli were subordinate. He proposed to seize the valley of the Sesia River and establish a peasant commune there (apparently to be based on the periodic equalized redistribution of the land). Pope Clement V proclaimed a crusade against Dolcino in 1305. The insurgents were driven back into the mountains at the border of Savoy, Novara, and Vercelli. In March 1307 the troops of the feudal lords smashed the insurgents. Dolcino was captured and executed. Dolcino’s uprising was one of the first in a series of major uprisings against feudalism in the states of Western Europe in the 14th century.
261 The Dulcinian movement began with a religious sect of the Late Middle Ages, originating within the Apostolic Brethren. Inspired by Franciscan ideals and influenced by Joachimites, the movement’s leader, Fra Dolcino of Novara (1250-1307) began in 1300 when Gerardo Segarelli, founder of the Apostolic Brethren, was burned at the stake during a brutal repression. His followers went into hiding and Fra Dolcino became their leader. He published letters explaining his ideas about the epochs of history. At the beginning of 1304, three Dulcinians were burned by the Inquisition. At the end of 1304, only 1400 survived on the top of Mount Parete Calva. Their belief: To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted;
262 Jason is the son of King Cretheus of Iolcus. He grew up in Chiron’s presence along with Hercules, Theseus and others. Jason asked Argus the boat builder to create a craft worthy of carrying a boat for an adventure. He reunited with Hercules and Theseus among countless others. In their travel for the Golden Fleece, they encountered several beasts and killed giants among several dangers. Jason romanced Medea in Colchis to gain her support in obtaining the fleece and helping him and his men. Jason and Medea returned to Greece where her Aunt Circe, absolved her of her sins for playing a part in her father’s death. They travelled to Iolcus where he claimed Medea as his queen, but the natives of Iolcus refused to accept her. Jason left Iolcus and traveled to Corinth and still feeling adventurous at times he often lived in Thebes as a guest of King Creon. Jason married Creon’s daughter, Glauce. Creon exiled Medea in order and she retaliated by killing Creon, Glauce and her children before escaping to Athens. Despondent on how his life had turned, Jason returned to Iolcus and discovered the ruins of the Argo rotting on the beach where it was last left. As he sat in its crumbling shadow and reviewed his life with grief and disgrace, the ship collapsed and struck him a fatal blow. Hercules later cremated him on the Argonaut.
263 Deception is bluffing through subterfuge any act to propagate untrue beliefs of half-truths
264 Simon Magus: The magician of Samaria. In the Acts of the Apostles (8:9-24) he is rejected by the apostle Peter for trying to buy the ability to confer the Holy Spirit. From his name is derived the word Simony. His followers “fornicate for gold and silver”.
265 John the Evangelist: The name used to refer to the author of the Gospel of John. He is also traditionally identified with John the Apostle and the author of the Book of Revelation. Dante interprets a passage of John’s Revelation (17:1-3) as a prophecy on the future corruption of the Roman Curia. John’s vision (Rev. 4:6-11) of four beasts in the heavenly court draws from a vision of similar beasts by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1-21). The beasts appear as allegories of the four Gospels in the Pageant of the Church Triumphant.
266 Pope Boniface VIII (1235-1303): Elected in 1294 upon the abdication of Celestine V, whom he promptly imprisoned. He supported the Black Guelphs against Dante’s party the White Guelphs. He was in conflict with the powerful Colonna family, who contested the legitimacy of Celestine’s abdication, and thus Boniface’s papacy. Wishing to capture the impregnable Colonna strongholds of Palestrina, he sought advice from Guido da Montefeltro, offering in advance papal absolution for any sin his advice might entail. He advised Boniface to promise the Colonnas amnesty, and then break it. As a result the Colonnas surrendered the fortress and it was razed to the ground. Pope Boniface was referred to as “One who tacks his sails” by ironically using one of the official papal titles “servo de’ servi” (Servant of His servants”). Accused of avarice, deceit and violating the “lovely Lady” (the church).
Pope Nicholas III prophesies his eternal damnation among the Simoniacs with: the “highest priest – may he be damned!” and The “prince of the new Pharisees”. His feud with the Colonna family and the advice of Guido da Montefeltro was compared with treatment at the hands of Philip IV of France as a new crucifixion of Jesus.
267 Maccabees are early Jewish writings;
268 Charlemagne (742 – 814), also known as Charles the Great or Charles I, was the King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, the first Holy Roman Emperor, and the first emperor in western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire three centuries earlier. Called the “Father of Europe” Charlemagne’s empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire. His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne’s empire. Charlemagne died in 814 after having ruled as Emperor for just over thirteen years. He was laid to rest in his imperial capital of Aachen in today’s Germany. His son Louis the Pious succeeded him as Emperor.
269 St Peter: also known as Simon Peter, the early leader and one of the twelve apostles of Jesus; and prince of the apostles.
270 Saint Matthias: After Judas’ betrayal and suicide, he took his place as one of the twelve apostles (Acts of the Apostles I: 23-26). Late legends state he was either crucified in Colchis or stoned by the Jews. How he became an apostle is contrasted with the Simoniacs.
271 Carolingians were crowned kings of France and Italy. The greatest Carolingian monarch was Charlemagne, who was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III at Rome in 800. His empire, ostensibly a continuation of the Roman Empire, is referred to as the Carolingian Empire. The traditional Frankish and Merovingian practice of dividing inheritances among heirs was not given up by the Carolingian emperors, though the concept of the indivisibility of the Empire was also accepted. The Carolingians had the practice of making their sons (sub-) kings in the various regions of the Empire, which they would inherit on the death of their father. Ascension to power was given from the ruling popes of the day.
272 Constantine the Great (272-337): The famous Roman Emperor who passed the Edict of Milan in 313 and converted to Christianity. According to medieval legend, Constantine was inflicted with leprosy because of his persecution of Christians, and in a dream was told to seek out Pope Silvester on Mount Soracte, who baptised and cured him. According to the forged document, the Donation of Constantine, Constantine gave to the Pope the power to rule over Rome and the Western Roman Empire, which Dante sees as the source of the corruption of the Papacy. He is blamed for “the dower that you bestowed upon the first rich father!”
Guido da Montefeltro compares Silvester being sought by Constantine to cure his leprosy, with himself being sought by Boniface to “ease the fever of his arrogance”. In converting to Christianity, Constantine reversed the flight of the Roman eagle.
273 Divine Justice is carried out by God, according to Abrahamic religions. It determines the fate of one’s eternity based of the life of the person. Eastern thought believe a human’s karmic acts result in merit and demerits;
274 Middle Ages was a time of corrupted popes and churches in a long sequence of events Pope Stephen II. The first Stephen died within three days of being elected in 752 and before being consecrated. His namesake was 752 attempted to subject Rome to his rule but was repulsed by the papacy’s allies, the Franks under King Pepin, who handed over Ravenna and other territories to form the first papal state from veneration of St Peter alone. He was instrumental in creating the papal state. The Donation of Constantine, ostensibly handed down from the first Christian emperor which granted the pope supreme authority, appeared about this time and, although a clever forgery, it became widely accepted at least for the remainder of the century.

Pope St Paul I was elected in757. He was Stephen’s younger brother. With the continuance of an alliance with the Frankish king Pepin, the pope found himself in contest with the new Lombard king, Desiderius. Paul deputed Roman cardinal priests and a few others to oversee papal elections. On his death, Duke Toto of Nepi, recognizing the value of the lands and revenues needed for the newly-enhanced papacy. The papacy “was sucked into a sordid whirlpool of internecine violence and betrayal, punctuated by blinding, torture and judicial murder”.

Pope Honorius IV elected in 1285 died 1287 when aged 76. He improved the lot of the Dominican and Franciscan orders. He inherited the Sicilian problem and excommunicated Sicily’s new King James over disputed ownership of that fateful land. Honorius pacified the squabbling papal states and worked at improving foreign relations with the eastern empire.

Pope Nicholas IV was elected in 1288 and died 1292, aged 65. The was the first Franciscan pope. His partiality to the Colonna family brought him the scorn of Romans, although he became a patron of many artists. He allied with Genoa to fight the Saracens, but died on the eve of announcing a crusade to recover parts of the Holy Land recently captured by the Sultan of Egypt. At his death, the cardinals were deadlocked for two years mainly over family rivalries

Pope St. Celestine V elected in 1294 and died in 1296. Naive and unworldly, the octogenarian became “the tool” of Naples’ King Charles for whom he appointed a dozen cardinals, seven of them French. His election “fed apocalyptic hopes of a holy and unworldly pope who would cleanse the Church…”. In a role that was well over his head he confessed to the manipulative Cardinal Benedetto Caetani he wanted to resign and return to his native village. He was tricked into resigning by Caetani who became his successor as Boniface VIII. Wary of Celestine’s supporters Boniface kept him imprisoned for the rest of his life.

Celestine was known to tell Caetani, his successor, “You have entered like a fox; you will reign like a lion; but you will die like a dog”.ś He died aged 90, in 1296 supposedly of an infection caused by an abscess. Rumors have persisted that he was murdered. CAT scan done in 1988 of his mummified body revealed a half-inch hole in his left temple consistent with a nail being hammered into his head. Seventeen years after his death, Celestine was canonized by Pope Clement V. Pope Boniface VIII was Benedetto Caetani. He was elected pope in 1294 until 1303 when he died at the age of 68. During his coronation at which his horse was led by the kings of Naples and Hungary, he decreed: “We declare it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff”. he took every opportunity to flaunt his power. “It is to us that the world is entrusted, not to you” he reprimanded Parisian power brokers. France’s King Philip responded: “You must know, you arrant blockhead that we are subject to nobody in temporal things”. In response to the pope’s bull promising to excommunicate all clergy who paid the king’s new tax, Philip threatened to deprive him of revenues from the French church and the bull was withdrawn.

A brilliant lawyer, Boniface sponsored many artists including Giotto, founded Rome’s University, mediated between the warring French and English and in 1300 celebrated the first Holy Year which pardoned sinners who made visits to various Roman churches in the course of the Jubilee. He was accused of heresy and rape, but escaped punishment by avoiding his trial. Boniface devoted one quarter of all papal revenues to acquiring land for his relatives, at the same time continuing a family vendetta against the rival Colonnas. He was captured by his enemies led by King Philip’s adviser, Guillaume de Nogeret. He was rescued but died violently soon after. A patron of learning and founder of a university he was “feared and hated, and could not keep a friend”,
Pope Benedict XI born Niccolo Boccasino was elected pope in 1303 but died in 1304, aged 64. A Dominican monk had become cardinal bishop of Ostia but spent his short pontificate in Perugia because of hostility in Rome. Benedict absolved two Colonna family cardinals whom his predecessor had excommunicated, and created three Dominican cardinals. He made peace with France after longtime disagreements, but harassed followers of the late Celestine. He died while in exile in Perugia after a mere nine months, of dysentery, “not, as was widely alleged, of poisoning” He was later canonized. Pope Clement V was born in France as Bertrand de Got and elected pope in 1305 but died in 1314 at the age of 50. He moved the papacy to Avignon under the influence of France’s king Philip IV. He was party to the murder of the rich and powerful Knights Templar. It was the start of a 70-year hiatus at Avignon. This separation of the Holy See from its traditional home, “seriously endangered the universal nature of the popes” creating the suspicion “that the highest spiritual power had become a tool of France” .

Under this royal pressure Clement annulled many of Pope Boniface VIII’s decrees, absolved his captor Nogeret and his collabourators, the Colonna family cardinals, and created nine new French cardinals including four of his nephews. “Our two Clements have destroyed more of the Church than seven of your Gregories could restore”. That was the assessment of a French prelate quoted by the 14th century historian Petrarch. Clement’s order that inquisitors refrain from using torture without the consent of the local bishop proved to be ineffectual. Pope John XXII was born Jacques Duese in France. The son of a cobbler he was elected in 1316 and died in 1334 aged 90. Though elderly he did much to streamline church administration, redrawing diocesan boundaries and increasing foreign missions. His action against Celestine V’s Spirituals resulted in four of them being burned at the stake by the Inquisition. John began building a papal palace at Avignon, creating 23 cardinals during his pontificate and, despite pleas from Dante and others, the “pernicious dependence on France” continued while cattle grazed beside Rome’s abandoned St Peter’s . Germany’s King Louis IV, excommunicated by the pope, entered Rome, was crowned emperor by the ruling Colonna family and arbitrarily installed a Franciscan Spiritual Pietro Rainalducci (“a harmless person of little importance”) as short-lived (anti) pope Nicholas V. During John’s rule, “papal financiers adopted most questionable means of covering deficits” causing especial resentment among the order of Friars Minor who practiced poverty. John left 18 million gold florins and seven million in plate and jewelry. Pope Benedict XII was also from France as Jacques Fournier. He was elected pope in 1335 and died in 1342, aged 57. As cardinal priest he had conducted trials as an Inquisitor especially condemning homosexuals. He opposed nepotism saying, “A pope has no relations”. He was a reformer who decreed that bishops should reside in their dioceses while he himself was kept in France by Philip IV. He was an anti-corruption advocate who completed the lavish Avignon palace that “manifests the decline of the ecclesiastical and predominance of the worldly, warlike and princely element which marked the Avignon period”. He loved the good overmuch and hated the bad. He drank heavily and was a Nero-like viper to the clergy”.

Pope Clement VI was also born in France, as Pierre Roger de Beaufort. He was elected pope in 1342 but died in 1352, aged 61. While strengthening the Avignon court, he spent money with “reckless abandon” but was a charitable man who stayed in Avignon to nurse the sick during the devastation of the Black Plague. Clement excommunicated the emperor Louis IV, backing his successor the German king Charles. During Clement’s reign “Avignon was the seat of pomp and pleasure and…The bedchamber of the pope was adorned or polluted by the visits of his female favorites”. Gold from all over Europe was pouring into the church whose cardinals, demanded to be worshipped and into whose presence must no man come empty-handed”. St Catherine of Sienna protested that at the papal court “my nostrils were assailed by the odors of hell”.

There were growing protests by people who resented unjust papal taxes, which the pope dismissed with the remark: “My predecessors did not know how to live”. England’s King Edward commented: “The Apostles were commissioned to lead the sheep into pasture, not shear them”.

275 Pope Nicholas III (1210-1277): a Roman nobleman named Giovanni Orsini who became pope from 1277 to 1280. Nicholas III’s papacy was largely involved with political machinations – arranged marriages, arranged negotiations between different European rulers, and arranged political offices. He decreed that no outside prince could be permitted to become a senator in Rome without papal approval and, had himself named senator for life. He also engaged in a major renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Palace, which he made his official residence. Like many pope of the time, Nicholas III engaged in repeated nepotism.
276 Clement V (1264 -1314) was pope from 1305 to1314 and was born in France as Bertrand de Got. As archbishop of Bordeaux and a former diplomat, he was consecrated at Lyons and in 1309 and he moved the papacy to Avignon under the influence of France’s king Philip IV. This “seriously endangered the universal nature of the popes” creating the suspicion “that the highest spiritual power had become a tool of France” .Under this royal pressure Clement annulled many of Pope Boniface VIII’s decrees. With his collabourators, the Colonna family cardinals created nine new French cardinals which included four of his nephews. “He began as archbishop of Bordeaux in France and is memorable in for his suppression of the Templars. He made his brother, the archbishop of Lyons as cardinal bishop of Albano who was chaplain to Boniface VIII. It conducted himself throughout his pontificate as the tool of the French monarchy, a radical change in papal policy. In pursuance of the king’s wishes Clement pronounced the Templars guilty of heresy, and abolished the order as it had outlived its usefulness as Papal bankers and protectors of pilgrims in the East. Its French estates were granted to the Hospitalliers, and Philip IV expropriated the Templar’s bank outright. Clement’s pontificate was also a disastrous time for Italy. The Papal States were entrusted to three cardinals, but Rome, the battleground of Colonna and Orsini factions, was ungovernable. In 1312 the Emperor Henry VII entered Italy, established the Visconti as tyrants in Milan, and had himself crowned by Clement’s legates in Rome before returning to Germany, leaving a great part of Italy in a condition of complete anarchy. Clement preached a crusade against the Venetians. During Clement’s reign a bloody repression of Fra Dolcino and his promulgation of the Clementine Constitutions in 1313 left him with a legacy as an inauspicious character for nepotism, avarice, weakness and cunning He was the first Pope who assumed the Papal Tiara.
277 Mathias or Mathew was the apostle chosen by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas;he belonged to the Tribe of Judah and guided from his early days by Simeon the God-receiver;
278 Charles d”Anjou was King Charles I of Sicily and Naples who received papal grant. He was the creator of a great but short-lived Mediterranean empire. He accompanied Louis on his Egyptian Crusade (1248-50), conquered Naples and Sicily, expanded his power into the Balkans and became heir to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Charles’s transfer of the capital from Palermo to Naples and introduction of French officials caused discontent in Sicily, where rebellion broke out in 1282 (see Sicilian Vespers). Aided by Peter III of Aragon, the Sicilians expelled the Angevins, defeating Charles’s fleet in the Bay of Naples in June 1284. Charles was preparing a counteroffensive when he died.
279 Simony began under Emperor Theodosius (379-395), Christianity became the Roman Empire’s state religion. Theodosius suppressed all pagan religions, and forcibly filling the Church with false converts. The spiritual quality of the Church plummeted. Positions of authority within the Church became commodity to be bought and sold by pseudo-Christian politicians and aristocrats (“simony”). This caused the true Christian Church to diverge into two entities. With Theodosius’ death in 395 AD, the Empire divided, with Rome retaining power in the west and Constantinople retaining power in the east. In their quest for world power, Rome’s struggled against Constantinople’s patriarchs. Both wanted dominion over Christendom and led to the eventual schism between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches. Rome’s patriarchs came to be known as the Popes.
280 Infant Baptism is related to a mistaken idea that babies are born with inherited sin and it serves as ablution; Hindu, Jains and Buddhists partake in a ritual declaring their faith at or before puberty when a child is given an initiation mantra
281 Pope Boniface Biography: In 1264, Benedetto Caetani now a part of the Roman Curia served as secretary to Cardinal Simon of Brie on a mission to France and accompanied Cardinal Ottobono Fieschi with a Papal Militia force to England (1265-1268) to suppress a rebellion by a group of barons against Henry III. In 1296, Gaetani bought the papacy from the cardinals for 7,000 gold florins and became Pope Boniface VIII . He had several mistresses and was married with several children. In enriching his own family, the Caetani especially Pietro, a son of doubtful character, Boniface VIII entered into a bitter quarrel with the Colonna, a powerful family responsible for constantly driving the popes from Rome.
When Stephen Cardinal Colonna, the brother of James Cardinal Colonna, seized a cargo of gold and silver destined for the Caetani family, Boniface VIII excommunicated the entire Colonna family and declared a crusade against it. The family replied by accusing Boniface VIII of acquiring the papacy by fraud and appealed for a judgement of a General Council. In retaliation, Boniface’s army destroyed the property of the Colonna and scattered the family members all over Europe.
King Philip IV of France, summoned his Parliament in Paris and laid before it an impeachment of the pope for heresy, simony and rapacity. Boniface was specifically accused of “…wizardry, dealing with the Devil, disbelief in Jesus Christ, declaring that sins of the flesh were not sins, and causing the murder of Pope Celestine and others. He had a certain ‘idol’ in which a ‘diabolical spirit’ was enclosed whom he was in the habit of consulting a strange voice answered him” (1294 – 1303) That Pope Boniface VIII committed repeated incest upon all his children, male and female and did father several illegitimate children by them. Boniface VIII decreed that all pay to part of their income to the church law that only what the Pope allows to be given to the poor and the people of the world is permitted and that no for acts of charity. He was accused of cannibalism, sex and murder : and did open St Peters Church to regular acts of sexual orgies, ritualistic murder of children and cannibalism in the celebration of High Mass of Satanism of Christianity. He extorted over 30,000 gold florins, or around $3 million from faithful Christians. Of publishing false statements : (1302) That Pope Boniface VIII did issue a false statement in the Papal Bull Unum Sanctum where he falsely stated: “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff.” Before five archbishops, 22 bishops, many monks and friars, Boniface VIII jeered habitually at religion and morals, and made this remarkable statement: “There was no Jesus Christ and the Eucharist is just flour and water. Mary was no more a virgin than my own mother, and there is no more harm in adultery than in rubbing your hands together.” He was succeeded by Pope Clement V (1305-1314).
282 Pope Clement V followed Boniface and was pope from 1305 to 1314. He is best known for the murders of Knights Templar with agreement from King Philip and seizing of their assets as part of his bargain to purchase the papacy. Through him the Catholic Church authorized the torture and murder of the Knights Templar, distributing the proceeds of crime (1312), authorizing the transfer of stolen property of the Knights Templars to knights representing the royal and ancient bloodlines of the former Jewish High Priests and Sadducees, the Knights Hospitalliers. (Knights of Malta), and authorising the ritual human sacrifice of 54 Knights Templar. Pope Clement V did later declare he had “no sufficient reason to condemn them” but nonetheless in 1314 Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of Knights Templar, was burned alive in Paris
283 Theban Eyes: Deliberate and self-inflicted blinding of King Oedipus’ eyes.
284 Amphiaraus: Mythical king of Argos and seer, who although he had foreseen his death, was persuaded to join the Seven against Thebes expedition. He was killed while fleeing from pursuers, when Zeus threw a thunderbolt, and the earth opened up and swallowed him. The story of his death is told in Inferno.
285 Minos: king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa, a Phoenician princess personification of Europe;
286 Tiersias: Blind prophet of Thebes, most famous soothsayer and for clairvoyance of ancient Greece and transforming into a woman for 7 years.
287 Aruns:: last king of Rome;
288 Padua city ruled under Carrara family (1318-1405) under domination of Venice.
289 Bacchus: Roman god of wine and intoxicated revelry during Orgies of Dionysus;;
290 Benaco: or Lake Garda – largest lake in Italy;
291 Area known for lakes, rivers, mild climate and hot water springs & rock art in Tuscany;
292 Peschiera del Garda: Here the Lake Garda is larger;
293 Brescia: commune at the foot of the Alps;
294 Bergamasques: a rustic dance of this area;
295 Mantua: An important and ancient city in Lombardy. Birthplace of Virgil; Beatrice addresses Virgil as “courteous Mantuan spirit”. Virgil tells Dante of the origin of the name of Mantua and about its foundation.
296 Alberto da Casalodi: Guelph Count Brescia; He was Signore of Mantua during the Guelph/Ghibelline feuds; He was ousted in 1273 by his advisor Pinamonte dei Bonacolsi. He was considered foolish in trusting Pinamonte.
297 Eryphilus, Michael Scott, Guido Bonatti, and Asdente: are pitied by Dante; Virgil reproached him
298 Asdente is nickname for Masro Benvenuto for being ‘toothless’ – famous shoemaker and for his prophesies against Frederick II;
299 Cain: The son of Adam and brother of Abel. He murdered his brother out of envy. A popular tradition identified the Moon’s dark spots as the marks on Cain’s face mentioned in Genesis 4:15. The outermost ring of Cocytus, where the treacherous to kin are punished, is named Caőna. He is an example of envy. His voice is heard on the terrace of the envious saying, “Everyone who finds me will slay me.” (Gen 4:14)
300 Moonlight in a dark forest: Moon rules senses and emotions that are fickle and changeable – a constant human experience and one of the first steps needed to understand and control in the evolution of a seeker of spirituality. The Moon serves as an illumination in the darkness of passing time and represents emotional and spiritual growth and journeys, and also the emergence of understanding.
301 Oracle: in Ancient Greece means a god who predicts the future, like Apollo. It also means the priest hears the message, the message itself, and place where the priest hears the message. Most often it means the priest or the message. The Greeks believed that you could communicate with the gods at certain places, at certain times, through certain people, and that gods would give you advice and maybe tell you what was going to happen in the future.
302 Frederick II A man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability – called the wonder of the world, by many historians the first modern ruler. Frederick was established in Sicily and southern Italy and governed with an efficient bureaucracy. He viewed himself as a direct successor to the Roman Emperors of Antiquity. He was Emperor of the Romans from his papal coronation in 1220 until his death. As such, he was King of Germany, of Italy, and of Burgundy. At the age of three, he was crowned King of Sicily as a co-ruler with his mother, Constance of Hauteville, the daughter of Roger II of Sicily. His other royal title was King of Jerusalem by virtue of marriage and his connection with the Sixth Crusade. He was frequently at war with the Papacy and excommunicated four times and often vilified in pro-papal chronicles of the time and since. Pope Gregory IX went so far as to call him the Antichrist. Speaking six Frederick was an avid patron of science and the arts. He played a major role in promoting literature through the Sicilian School of poetry. His Sicilian royal court in Palermo, from around 1220 to his death, saw the first use of a literary form of an Italo-Romance language, Sicilian. The school and its poetry were saluted by Dante and his peers and predate by at least a century the use of the Tuscan idiom as the elite literary language of Italy. After his death, his line quickly died out and the House of Hohenstaufen came to an end.
303 Malebranche (“evil-claws”): In the Inferno, it is the name of a group of demons in the fifth pouch of the Malebolge. They are led by Malacoda (“evil-tail”), who assigns ten of his demons to escort Dante: Alichino, Calcabrina, Cagnazzo (“big dog”), Barbariccia (leads the ten), Libicocco, Draghignazzo, Ciriatto, Graffiacane (“dog-scratcher”) Farfarello and Rubicante. Another Malebranche is Scarmiglione is also encountered. He is A demon is described plunging a barrator into a boiling lake of pitch and returning to Lucca “for more”. Their using prongs to keep the sinner submerged are compared to cooking meat in a pot. Scarmiglione is assigned; Barbarariccia has a remarkable trumpet. The demons escort Dante, guarding the shore as they go. A sinner is dragged ashore, attacked by the demons and is questioned but escapes, and two demons fight and fall into the boiling pitch. Dante and Virgil escape their pursuit. Malacoda’s lie is discovered.
304 Saint Zita (1215-1272): Canonized in 1696, she is the Patron saint of all maids and domestics. In her city, Lucca, she was already, in life, an object of popular devotion and reputed a saint. In Dante’s time, her fame had already made her a sort of patron saint of her city. The Elders of Saint Zita were ten citizens of Lucca who, along with the chief magistrate, were the rulers of the city. An “elder of Saint Zita” (perhaps Bottario) is plunged into a lake of boiling pitch with the barrators.
305 Bonturo Dati was a leader of the Liberals in Lucca; He expelled political enemies and gained control of the government;
306 Santo Volto: ‘Veil of Veronica” is Holy Face of Lucca (wooden crucifix) in the free-standing Carrara marble chapel;
307 Caprona is a fictitious island in the lierary universe;
308 Scarmiglione: one of twelve Malebranche in 8th Circle where corrupt politicians are immersed in burning pitch;
309 Alichino is one of the devils and a member of Malebranche, whose mission is to guard Bolgio Five;
310 Calcabrina: a witch;
311 Cagnazzo: Elemental archfiend, the drowned king;
312 Barbariccia: archfiend Empress of the Winds;
313 Libicocco: Red-faced terror trouble-maker and group of Malebranche;
314 Draghignazzo: monster that appears as the Dawn of Sorrow;
315 Ciriatto: Wild Hog – a Malebranche;
316 Graffiacane: A Malebolge listed as a Scratch dog that is rabid;
317 Farfarello: masochistic God-hating and knife-collecting animal;
318 Rubicante: Leader of Elemental Fiends and strongest of the devils;
319 Genuine Faith in God by its very nature accompanies the birth of Faith even in a sinner. When God means to change a person’s heart, when He raises that dead sinner to new life, He imparts faith. That possibility of a new life and genuine faith in God even by a Devil results in a new direction in life.
320 Understanding God’s word and having faith allows immersing faithfully in God’s promise of enlightenment.
321 Cagnazzo is one of the four Elemental Archfiends from Final Fantasy IV. Under orders of Golbez, he killed the King of Baron and impersonated him, using the Red Wings to retrieve the crystals.
322 Farting (expulsion of intestinal gas through anus) suggests one is being passively aggressive and need to express yourself;
323 Scarmiglione: one of twelve demons in the 8th circle of Hell. He is Lord of Earth and one of four elemental Lords who is an obstacle to redemption;
324 Jesus prophesied two days before his crucifixion that Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed (Matthew 24:1-3). He was the new Temple and that He (being that new Temple) would be raised from the dead after three days (John 2:19-21). There was an Earthquake on the day after crucifixion with a magnitude of 5.5 followed by darkness from noon to 3pm after the crucifixion on April 3, 33 AD
325 Vaunt Couriers are thought executing Fires, Thunderbolts that singe and cleave trees;
326 Arentine is Giovanni Villani born before1277 and a well-to-do Florentine merchant. In 1300 he became a member of the bankers’ guild and a shareholdser in the Perruzi Company, one of the leading Florentine trading and money-lending firms. After travelling he returned to Florence, married, and settled down to a Iife of involvement in city politics. Villani’s fortunes took a dramatic turn. In 1348 he died, presumably of the Black Death, along with up to half of his fellow citizens. Villani is remembered as an historian illustrating the complexities of Florentine politics and society. The rise of the Guelph-Ghibelline split Florence in the 13th century. The origin takes place in the 12th century Germany, where two powerful families, the Welf and the Hohenstaufen, struggled for power because had interests in Italy as well as Germany. The Hohenstaufen occupied the imperial throne and found themselves in conflict with the papacy, which resented the growth of imperial power in Italy. Thus the popes tended to lean toward the WeIf faction.
Aretino, Vita di Dante, says, Dante in his youth was present at the “great and memorable battle, which befell at Campaldino, fighting valiantly on horseback in the front rank.” It was there he saw the vaunt-couriers of the Aretines, who began the battle with such a vigorous charge, that they routed the Florentine cavalry, and drove them back upon the infantry.
327 Graffiacane the ‘scratch dog’ and Farfarello the goblin; Ciriatto the Wild Hog; Draghignazzo the Big Nasty Dragon; Cagnazzo the Nasty Dog; and Barbariccia the Curly Beard;
328 Kingdom of Navarre: whose origins date back to the 9th century, under the name of Kingdom of Pamplona, has historically been governed by the Fueros, laws based on age-old local customs and enriched by the possible influences of Roman and Visigoth law, and forged during the Middle Ages.
329 Friar Gomita: Chancellor of Nino Visconti and Governor of the giudicato of Gallura, in Sardinia. He accepted a bribe to let escape a group of Visconti’s enemies who were in his custody. For this he was hanged: “their tongues are never too tired to speak of their Sardinia”.
330 Don Michael Zanche was King Enzo of Sardinia and son of Frederick II.. Dante gives him the title of Don, still used in Sardinia for Signore. After the death of Enzo in prison at Bologna, in 1271, Don Michael won by fraud and flattery his widow Adelasia, and became himself Lord of Logodoro, the northwestern jurisdiction, adjoining that of Gallura. The gossip between the Friar and the Seneschal, which is here described by Ciampolo, recalls the Vision of the Sardinian poet Araolla, a dialogue between himself and Gavino Sambigucci,
331 Devils: Thirteen demons known as the Malebranche, “Evil Claws”, guard the fifth bolgia of the Malebolge. Their leader is Malacoda (“evil tail”), while the others are Scarmiglione (“ruffle-haired”), Barbariccia (“curly beard”), Alichino (derived from Alichino, the harlequin), Calcabrina (“one who walks on brine”), Cagnazzo (“bad dog”), Libicocco (a possible mix of libeccio and sirocco), Draghignazzo (maybe from drago, “dragon”, and sghignazzo, “guffaw”), Ciriatto (possibly “little pork”), Graffiacane (“scratch dog”), Farfarello (possibly “goblin”) and Rubicante (possibly “red” or “rabid”). One of the thirteen was thus not named. They try and trick Virgil and Dante by telling them of a path which does not really exist. In this trench, the souls of Deceivers who gave false or corrupted advice to others for personal benefit are punished.
332 Calcabrina (Boss) and a witch out to gather souls;
333 Barbariccia: one of the Malebranche demons who guards Bolgia Five;
334 Political and churchian grafting is varying types of corruption and includes bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, taking advantage of position in church or government by taking money or property in dishonestly fraudulent ways;
335 Bonturo Dati was a 13th century leader of the liberals in Lucca who expelled political enemies and gained control instead.
336 Ciampolo is John Paul (Giampolo) was from Navarra. He is a grafter in the fifth ditch of the eighth circle. Ciampolo is hooked by the devils (the Malebranche, “Evil Claws”) that patrol that ditch, and is pulled out of the boiling pitch where the grafters are immersed, which represents their sticky fingers and corrupt deals. Threatened by the devils, Ciampolo tells Dante the identity of some of the other grafters punished there. Ciampolo eventually tricks the devils, and makes his escape back to the boiling pitch. Dante does not identify Ciampolo by name. Nothing else is really known about him other than the information provided by Dante: that he was born in Navarre, that his father was a wastrel, and that he served King Theobold II of Navarre. He is prey to the devils. He would have been torn to pieces but distracts their attention and jumps into the pitch;
337 Offenders: Incarcerating offenders expresses an implied misdemeanor by offenders. Criminal history is unclear about offenders but incarceration implies conviction. Inalienability fundamental rights as a human being is often claimed by offenders who are incarcerated.
338 Friars Minor of Franciscan Order who observe strict rule of St. Francis;
339 Frederick II whose poetry was saluted by Dante;
340 Frati Gaudenti: Some members of the Fraternity of Gaudenti ;
341 Loderingo degli Andalo (1210-1293) an Italian noble from Bolognese Ghibelline family who held many important civic positions and founded the Knights of Saint Mary or Jovial Friars in 1261. He was governor of Modena in 1251, and, with Catalano dei Malavolti, shared the position of governor of Bologna in 1265, of Florence in 1266, and of Bologna again in 1267. The Order and the monastery which was approved by Pope Alexander IV in 1261, was the first religious order of knighthood. Its mission was to promote peace between warring municipal factions, but its members soon succumbed to self-interest and it was suppressed by Pope Sixtus V in 1558. In 1267 he joined the Jovial Friars’ monastery that he had founded where he stayed until his death. Dante Alighieri incarcerated him with hypocrites in the Eighth Circle of Hell. Loderingo is extolled for his fortitude in dying by his friend the poet Guittone d’Arezzo.
342 Friar Catalan tells the high priest it was better for Jesus to die than a whole nation to perish;
343 Hypocrisy is a pretence of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, that one does not really possess; a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude; or an act or instance of hypocrisy. God challenged Cain (the first son born of Adam and Eve) on his hypocrisy when he submitted an inferior offering to Him.
A list of some of the hypocrisy that Jesus spoke against include: Giving to the poor to be recognized by others; Praying in public to be recognized as “God’s man”; Letting everybody know you are fasting to get recognition by others; Complaining about other’s behavior when yours is even worse; Pretending to honor God through lip service only; testing other people to try to make yourself look superior; Deceiving people from knowing God; Repressing the poor and widows; Teaching proselytes to be hypocrites; Tithing to the church, but neglecting justice and mercy; Doing everything for show, while really being self-indulgent and unrighteous; Treating stock animals better than fellow human beings; Being able to analyze the weather, but unable to distinguish between right and wrong; Christians are often accused of being hypocrites. One should judge Christianity not on the basis of what the fakers do, but on the basis of what Jesus taught and how He lived.
344 Cluniac Order is a Benedictine monks offshoot created by Bernard Cluny a lyrical writer, who wrote from one theme to another by the intense force of ascetic meditation. His poetic wrath pictured heaven and hell as the roasting cold, the freezing fire, the devouring worm, the fiery floods, and again the glorious idyll of the Golden Age. His description of splendours of the Heavenly Kingdom is described through Dante’s genius. The enormity of sin, the charm of virtue, the torture of an evil conscience, the sweetness of a God-fearing life alternate with heaven and hell as the themes of his majestic hymn. He returns again and again to the wickedness of woman, the evils of wine, money, learning, perjury and soothsaying. He cannot find words strong enough to convey his prophetic rage at the moral apostasy of his generation. Youthful and simoniacal bishops, oppressive agents of ecclesiastical corporations, the officers of the Curia, papal legates, and the pope himself are treated with no less severity than in Dante or in the sculptures of medieval cathedrals. The early half of the twelfth century saw the appearance of several new factors of secularism unknown to an earlier and more simply religious time: the increase of commerce and industry resultant from the Crusades, the growing independence of medieval cities, the secularization of Benedictine life, the development of pageantry and luxury in a rude feudal world, the reaction from the terrible conflict of State and Church in the latter half of the eleventh century. The song of the Cluniac is a great cry of pain wrung from a deeply religious and even mystical soul at the first dawning consciousness of a new order of human ideals and aspirations.
345 Canaanite Genocide: is explained b as a righteous judgment of divine intention to protect and benefit the world. When Joshua and the Israelites entered Palestine in the 14th century, Canaanite civilization was so decadent that it was small loss to the world that in parts of Palestine it was virtually exterminated. The failure of the Israelites to execute “God’s command fully” was one of the great blunders which they committed, as well as a sin, and it resulted in lasting injury to the nation (Judges 1:28, 2:1-3). In the ensuing judgment the infinite holiness of Yahweh, was to be vindicated saliently against the dark background of a thoroughly immoral and degraded paganism. There could be no compromise without catastrophe.
346 Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) was a French abbot and builder of Cistercian OrderThere Bernard would preach an immediate faith, in which the intercessor was the Virgin Mary.” In the year 1128, Bernard assisted at the Council of Troyes, at which he traced the outlines of the Rule of the Knights Templar, who soon became the ideal of Christian nobility. The pope commissioned Bernard to preach the Second Crusade. The last years of Bernard’s life were saddened by the failure of the crusaders, the entire responsibility for which was thrown upon him. Bernard died at age 63, after 40 years spent in the cloister. He was the first Cistercian placed on the calendar of saints;
347 Pope Clement IV: Before becoming priest in 1256 (when his wife died), Gui Folques was a respected jurist under King Louis IX. After his ordination, he quickly climbed the Church hierarchy and was appointed bishop in 1257, archbishop two years later and cardinal another two years after that. As pope, Clement IV had the opportunity to end the Great Schism between Eastern and Western Christianity. Emperor Michael Palaeologus declared willingness to bring about a reunification and to accept papal supremacy, but Clement demanded grovelling submission. He reinforced papal authority by issuing the papal bull which declared that all benefices were papal appointments which comes with the power to collect money in order to support the goals of that office. After Clement died, the cardinals required nearly three years to elect a successor. The people were so outraged over the repeated and inexcusable delays that they finally had to lock the cardinals in the papal palace, remove the roof and threaten to withholds food until they finally produced a new pontiff.
348 Caiaphas is the Roman appointed Jewish high priest under Pontius Pilate who organised the trial and plotted to kill Jesus in 37AD. In Hell he alone is now suffering instead of the nation of The Christ.
349 Deceit: concealment and distortion of truth for purposes of misleading are sins committed outside the body through greed and committing oneself to lying; “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16).
350 Logic and Reason use mental movement of critical thinking and its application as logic to construct a sound argument for an action :locomotion
351 Chelydri, Jaculi , phareans, cenchriads, amphisbaenas various reptilian creatures that torture the sinners in seventh pit
352 Cenchri: insects that brought the plague
353 Amphisbaena: lizard-like serpents;
354 Heliotrope: According to folklore heliotrope is a stone that cures a snake bites and makes its possessor invisible. This state, without any hope for escape, shows the desperate flight of the sinners.
355 Vanni Fucci: a minor thief who takes the Shade of the most arrogant to God;
356 Pistoia: commune at the foot of the mountain 30km from Florence;
357 Mars: god of war who with this art always will make it [Florence] sad) he is identified as the patron of Florence before John the Baptist. He is also depicted in a pavement carving in Purgatory casting Briareus from Olympus.
358 Val di Magra: valley of Magra between mountains and the sea which includes the River magra;
359 Campo Picen: Grasslands for pitsens who are forest creatures that can bring luck or problems when leading humans;
360 Bianco: Seaside town of Mont Blanc;
361 Laziness is one of the obstacles to spiritual awakening, but there are different kinds of laziness: of comfort orientation trying to stay comfortable and cozy; laziness from deep discouragement, of giving up and of hopelessness; also there is the laziness of hardening into resignation and bitterness and just closing down.
362 Laziness from loss of heart shows up as vulnerability, wounded-ness, and not knowing what to do. Having tried to be ourselves and we did not measure up. We chased after pleasure and found no lasting happiness. We took time off or spent years dedicated to certain political, spiritual or philosophical views, saved the trees or drank or took drugs, and found no satisfaction. We tried and failed. We came to a painful, hopeless place. We feel we could gladly sleep for a thousand years because life feels meaningless. Loss of heart is so painful that we become paralyzed.
363 Rather than feeling discouraged by laziness, get to know laziness profoundly and at this moment of laziness become a personal teacher.
364 The Irish Serpent Faith: Ancient Ireland was certainly given to serpent-worship. The Druidical serpent of Ireland emblazoned in the Tara brooch of Irish crosses indicates serpents were alive in Ireland and found in the minds of the cloistered monks, who preserved it in the Books of Kells. It was popularly believed the serpent tribe once abounded there. At Cashel among fragments of the ancient church, was found a stone sculpture of a female whose legs were snakes. This object of worship was not unlike the image of the Gauls in Paris. Spaniards worshipped a wooden statue with legs enwreathed by serpents. The Araxes (trans-Caucasian culture of 3400 until 2000 BC) of Christian Gnostics of early centuries had serpents for legs. A book published in the reign of Charles I states: “Ireland, since its first inhabitation, was pestered with a triple plague, to wit, with great abundance of venomous beastes, copious store of Diuells visiblely appearing, and infinit multitudes of magitians.” Saint Patrick, taking the staffe or wand of Jesus with his sacred hand, and eleuating it after a threatning manner, as also by the favourable assistance of Angels, he gathered together in one place all the venemous beastes that were in Ireland, after he draue them up before him to a most high mountaine hung ouer the sea, called then Cruachanailge, and now Cruach Padraig, that is St. Patricks mountaine, and from thence he cast them downe in that steepe precipice to be swallowed up by the sea.”
365 Frankincense was a worthy gift because of its rarity; the deciduous bush is now mostly found in Somalia. Only young trees yield well. Also rare is myrrh. Their value is also found in its strong perfume, and in its medicinal purposes, which are anesthetic in nature. Myrrh was offered at Jesus’ crucifixion. Both items were key ingredients in sacred oils used for anointing, to inaugurate kings (whom they believed were chosen by God) or to consecrate (designate as holy) priests. The main significance of these gifts then, is that the wise men were proclaiming baby Jesus to be The Messiah. Frankincense and Myrrh are also mentioned in Exodus 30:34, and is not allowed in sin offerings (Nave’s 164). Myrrh was offered to Jesus on the cross in Mark 15:23, probably because it worked as an anesthetic to kill pain. It was also used for embalming (Nave’s 331).
366 Spikenard Ointment: “Then took a pound of ointment of spikenard, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment” (John 12:3).
367 Cloak and Mantle: God has placed a mantle, a call, upon every believer (1 Pet. 4:10-11) – a mantle is God-given spiritual gift(s). It is cloaks that bind us to dependence and circumstances and define us to our old selves, our old life, attitudes and behaviours. We have to throw cloaks to be redefined and remoulded in the Potter’s hands. Repeated burning the cloaks to ashes uncover what we are and begin a change. A mantle is a spiritual gift to use for God’s work. If we find we have a gift, we should use it accordingly.
368 Today as it was centuries past, pastoral community livelihood depended on livestock, seasons, and water sources; their solidarity was based on bartering material culture which was impossible under 13th century feudal rule of church and politics;
369 Righteous Path of Life is to earn honestly through regulated living of social obligations within a broad spectrum of religious practices able to accommodate both spiritual and material needs.
370 When stealing properties or rights of others: how high is your class? When people having highest social position in society are thieves why expect adulations?
371 Worms symbolic of life between death and renewal;
372 Anger (krodha) is packed with more evil power than desire (kama); eating meat infused with energy of anger and fear is regarded as having tamasic effect.
373 Ugly side of Shame is the intuitive result of moral violation;
374 Valdemar I (1131-82) who became king of Denmark (1157-82): He conquered the Wends (1169), increased the territory of Denmark, and established the hereditary rule of his line. All the laws of Valdemar are based on one principle: There is no one true way. As such, Valdemar has become a safe haven for anyone who is persecuted for his beliefs or actions. The laws of Valdemar are announced, dispensed, and upheld by the Heralds.
375 Vanni Fucci: Nicknamed Bestia, for his brutality, he was the Illegitimate son of Fuccio de’ Lazzari. He took part in the vicious struggles that divided his city Pistoia, siding with the Black Guelphs, repeatedly sacked the houses of his political enemies. In 1293, he stole the reliquary of San Jacopo from the sacristy of the Cathedral of Pistoia, for which crime the innocent Rampino Foresi was arrested and nearly executed, before the guilt of Fucci and his accomplices was discovered.
Among the thieves, like the mythical phoenix, he is burned to ashes and restored. Refers to himself as a “mule” meaning “bastard” (“mul ch’i’ fui”). Prophesies the triumph in Florence of the Black Guelphs over the Whites. Swears against God while performing an obscene gesture (a “fig”, the insertion of a thumb between the first and second fingers of a closed fist).
376 There were five noble thieves of Florence. The thieves undergo transformations. The first three are Agnello Brunelleschi, Buoso degli Abati, and Puccion Sciancato. They had been walking along with Cianfa de’ Donati. Suddenly, they miss Cianfa de’ Donati and ask about him with some concern. Cianfa reappears in the form of a six-legged lizard. Cianfa’s body has been taken from him and he is driven by a consuming desire to be rid of his reptilian form. Immediately, Cianfa fixes himself upon Agnello and merges his lizard body with Agnello’s human form. This may represent a symbolic interpretation-As Cianfa is dividing the pains of Hell with a fellow thief, as on earth he may have divided the loot. After Cianfa and Agnello retreat, a reptile bites Buoso degli Abati and exchanges forms. The reptile is Francesco dei Cavalcanti. The symbolism: The thieves are stealing from one another the shape in which they appear
377 Pistoia: commune in Tuscany 30 km from Florence at the foot of the Apennine mountains.
378 Centaur: Part horse and human creature;may have horns and wings;
379 Maremma:Extensive area of Italy known for its sheepdogs;
380 Cacus: A mythological monster son of Hephaestus, he was killed by Heracles for stealing part of the cattle the hero had taken from Geryon. Dante erroneously believes him to be a Centaur. According to Virgil he lived on the Aventine. As guardian of the thieves he punishes Vanni Fucci.
381 Hercules: Son of Zues and the mortal Alcmene; is half-god; his jealous stepmother tried to murder him as infant;
382 Cianfa: Cianfa Donati of the Donati family, he is known to have acted as advisor to the Capitano del popolo in 1281. In 1289 he is reported as already dead. Among the thieves, he appears as a six-footed serpent, attacks and melds with Agnello Brunelleschi.
Forese Donati (?-1296): A Florentine poet, friend of Dante, and relative of Dante’s wife, Gemma Alighieri. Among the gluttons, he predicts disaster for Florence and for his brother, Corso Donati. Notes that the prayers of his surviving wife Nella have greatly reduced his stay in Purgatory. Piccarda Donati: Sister of Forese Donanti, already dead at the time setting of the Comedy. In Purgatory, Dante asks Forese Donati where his dead sister is and learns that she “in triumph.”
383 Lucan: (39-65): Latin poet, whose Pharsalia, an epic poem on the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, is an important source for Dante. Like Seneca he was forced to commit suicide by Nero for his participation in the Pisonian conspiracy. One of a group of classical poets encountered in Limbo. The serpents in the Malebolge comes from his Pharsalia . His description in Pharsalia of the deaths and “transformations” of Sabellus and Nasidiusis is compared with the transformations of the thieves and sinners in the Malebolge.
385 Ovid: Roman poet, whose Metamorphoses, is Dante’s principle, mythological source. One of a group of classical poets encountered in Limbo; His descriptions of the transformations Cadmus and Arethusa in the Metamorphoses are compared to the transformations of the thieves.
386 Puccio Sciancato: Of the noble Ghibelline Florentine Galigai family, he was exiled in 1268 after the Guelphs’ triumph, but accepted the peace brokered in 1280 by Cardinal Latino to reconcile the factions. He was nicknamed Sciancato (“lame”). He is found among the thieves.
387 Gaville referring to Francesco dei Cavalcanti, who was killed by the people of Gaville; many townspeople were then killed by his kinsmen avenging his death.
388 Vanni Fucci: Nicknamed Bestia, for his brutality, he was the Illegitimate son of Fuccio de’ Lazzari. He took part in the vicious struggles that divided his city Pistoia, siding with the Black Guelphs, repeatedly sacked the houses of his political enemies. In 1293, he stole the reliquary of San Jacopo from the sacristy of the Cathedral of Pistoia, for which crime the innocent Rampino Foresi was arrested and nearly executed, before the guilt of Fucci and his accomplices was discovered.
Among the thieves, like the mythical phoenix, he is burned to ashes and restored. Refers to himself as a “mule” meaning “bastard” (“mul ch’i’ fui”). Prophesies the triumph in Florence of the Black Guelphs over the Whites. Swears against God while performing an obscene gesture (a “fig”, the insertion of a thumb between the first and second fingers of a closed fist).
389 There were five noble thieves of Florence. The thieves undergo transformations. The first three are Agnello Brunelleschi, Buoso degli Abati, and Puccion Sciancato. They had been walking along with Cianfa de’ Donati. Suddenly, they miss Cianfa de’ Donati and ask about him with some concern. Cianfa reappears in the form of a six-legged lizard. Cianfa’s body has been taken from him and he is driven by a consuming desire to be rid of his reptilian form. Immediately, Cianfa fixes himself upon Agnello and merges his lizard body with Agnello’s human form. This may represent a symbolic interpretation-As Cianfa is dividing the pains of Hell with a fellow thief, as on earth he may have divided the loot. After Cianfa and Agnello retreat, a reptile bites Buoso degli Abati and exchanges forms. The reptile is Francesco dei Cavalcanti. The symbolism: The thieves are stealing from one another the shape in which they appear
390 Hoards of serpents and dragon who greedily guard accumulated hidden treasures
391 Disrespect and irreverence produced the fruit of limiting His willingness and power to provide for them in any situation. In the lack of faith and fear of God and failure to make practical use of His sovereignty over His creation and His willingness to help His people, he mentally drew lines, concluding that God could not provide. He chose to arrive at his own solutions that result in sin and death. By not living by faith but by sight. Hebrews 4:1-2 confirms this was at the basis behind humanity’s failure in the wilderness.
392 Vanni Fucci: Nicknamed Bestia, for his brutality, he was the Illegitimate son of Fuccio de’ Lazzari. He took part in the vicious struggles that divided his city Pistoia, siding with the Black Guelphs, repeatedly sacked the houses of his political enemies. In 1293, he stole the reliquary of San Jacopo from the sacristy of the Cathedral of Pistoia, for which crime the innocent Rampino Foresi was arrested and nearly executed, before the guilt of Fucci and his accomplices was discovered.
Among the thieves, like the mythical phoenix, he is burned to ashes and restored. Refers to himself as a “mule” meaning “bastard” (“mul ch’i’ fui”). Prophesies the triumph in Florence of the Black Guelphs over the Whites. Swears against God while performing an obscene gesture (a “fig”, the insertion of a thumb between the first and second fingers of a closed fist).
393 There were five noble thieves of Florence. The thieves undergo transformations. The first three are Agnello Brunelleschi, Buoso degli Abati, and Puccion Sciancato. They had been walking along with Cianfa de’ Donati. Suddenly, they miss Cianfa de’ Donati and ask about him with some concern. Cianfa reappears in the form of a six-legged lizard. Cianfa’s body has been taken from him and he is driven by a consuming desire to be rid of his reptilian form. Immediately, Cianfa fixes himself upon Agnello and merges his lizard body with Agnello’s human form. This may represent a symbolic interpretation-As Cianfa is dividing the pains of Hell with a fellow thief, as on earth he may have divided the loot. After Cianfa and Agnello retreat, a reptile bites Buoso degli Abati and exchanges forms. The reptile is Francesco dei Cavalcanti. The symbolism: The thieves are stealing from one another the shape in which they appear
394 Sacrilege: According to Ethics, Sacrilege is a violation of sacred things which receives its sacred character from God and must not be violated by man who therefore sins. A man is sacrilegious when stealing “sacred things” which tantamount to irreverence and is an injury to God. In ancient times rulers were divine ministers of His kingdom. Irreverence for the sovereign is therefore sacrilege.
Christians are sanctified by faith and sacraments of Christ (1 Cor. 6:11): “But you are washed, but you are sanctified.” Therefore it is written (1 Pet. 2:9): “You are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people.” Therefore any injury inflicted on the Christian people, by unbelievers is irreverence for a sacred thing, and is sacrilege.
According to Ethics anyone guilty of sacrilege who through ignorance sins against the sanctity of the law and defiles it by negligence,” because sin is “a word, deed or desire contrary to the law of God,” according to Saint Augustine. Therefore sacrilege is a general sin comprised of murder of a priest, lust and violation of a virgin, or various sins of irreverence.
In the award of punishments it must be just, and that “by what things a man sinneth by the same . . . he may be tormented” (Wis. 11:17). A fitting punishment of one guilty of sacrilege is excommunication. Punishments are inflicted that men being deterred and desist from sin. When one punishment is not sufficient to deter a man from sin, a double punishment must be inflicted. Punishment is to coerce those who despise spiritual things. According to Eastern faiths, the Law of Karma is self determining for all sins and human errors. God plays the role of dispenser to suffer retribution.
395 Capaneus: The son of Hipponous and one of the ‘Seven against Thebes’. He was struck down by lightning bolt from Zeus when he was climbing the walls of Thebes, as punishment for his recklessness. His wife was Evadne, then threw herself on his funeral pyre.
396 Retribution is justice meted out to one who sinned against systems of law. Punishment is proportionate to the loss and pain on the aggressor who inflicts on his victim. The Bible included the “lex talionis,” the law of “measure for measure.”
397 Fallibility: human imperfections that makes humankind undependable;
398 Prato: city below Monte Retaia;
399 Elijah and Elisha: Elijah was an Old Testament Biblical Prophet who ascends into heaven in a chariot of fire, and Elisha was his disciple and chosen successor who witnessed Elijah’s ascent. Elisha curses some youths for ridiculing him, who are then eaten by bears. Elijah’s fiery ascent, as witnessed by “he who was avenged by bears” (Elisha), is described.
400 Eteocles and Polynices: Mythical sons of Oedipus and Jocasta, they succeeded their father as kings of Thebes. Eteocles’ refusal to share the throne led to the war of the Seven against Thebes, in which the two brothers killed each other. Their enmity in life was such that Statius says even the flames of their shared funeral pyre were divided. The separateness of the flames of Ulysses and Diomedes are compared to their funeral flames.
401 Ulysses: Hero of Odyssey; king of Ithaca and one of the Greek warrior at the siege of Troy;
402 Palladium: A statue of Pallas Athena. Since it was believed that Troy could not be captured while it contained this statue, Odysseus (Ulysses) and Diomedes stole it during the Trojan War. Its theft is one of the things for which Ulysses and Diomedes are punished.
403 Circe: Mythical daughter of Helios, god of the Sun, and sister of Aeetis, king of Colchis. She was an enchantress who lived near the Gulf of Gaeta, who turned the crew of Odysseus into pigs on their journey home from the Trojan war. But Odysseus, with the help of Hermes, forced her to release his men from her spell. She fell in love with Odysseus and he stayed with her for another year and in some accounts, she had a son Telegonus with Odysseus, who was to accidentally kill him. It is said, by Ulysses (Odysseus), that she “beguiled” him. The people of Tuscany fall into vice, as if under her spell. Cirra: Town in ancient Greece near Parnassus.
404 Gaeta: commune on a promontory 120km from Rome;
405 Penelope: Faithful wife of Odysseus (Ulysses) king of Ithaca, refusing the many suitors who invaded her home, she waited twenty years for him to return home from the Trojan War. Not even Ulysses’ love for his wife (and son and father) was enough to overrule his desire “to gain experience of the world and of the vices and the worth of men”.
406 Anger is grief’s irate companion and an obstacle to enlightenment; Anger. Rage. Fury. Wrath. happens to all. Anger is one of the three poisons – the other two are greed and ignorance – that are the primary causes of the cycle of samsara and rebirth. Buddhism teaches mindfulness. Eastern religions teaches anger is created by mind and not only self-defensive but Self-Indulgent
Anger is unpleasant and seductive – it has a hook. When egos are involved we protect our anger, justify it and even f
eed it.
407 Ambushed by grief and anger: by remaining constrained within the sin, it dislodges one from turning to God;
408 Noble Seed of New Nation ingrained with good thinkers with noble intent encouraging self-sufficiency and freedom for its people;,
409 Pietas: Roman ideal of piety, dutiful respect towards responsibility and honour;
410 Ordinary Romans had a households shrine at which prayers and libations were offered to gods at festivals;
411 Will of God: “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God present yourselves a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable, which is your spiritual act of worship. And do not be conformed any longer to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
412 Guilty is to feel a moral responsibility deserving praise, blame, reward, or punishment for an act or omission, in accordance with one’s moral obligations. Deciding what if anything is morally obligatory is a principle concern of ethics.
413 Guido da Montefeltro (1223-1298): Renowned leader of the Ghibellines of Romagna. As ruler of ForlŹ, in 1282, he defeated a French force, which was besieging the city. In 1296 he retired from military life and entered the Franciscan order. Pope Boniface VIII, in 1297, asked his advice on how to capture Palestrina, the impregnable strongholds of the Colonna family, offering in advance papal absolution for any sin his advice might entail. He advised Boniface to promise the Colonnas amnesty, and then break it. As a result the Colonnas surrendered the fortress and it was razed to the ground. Dante also mentions him in the Convivio, where he curiously extols his piety and sanctity. Among the fraudulent counsellors he “made a bloody heap out of the French”.
414 Sicilian Bull: hollow and made out of bronze for the 6th century tyrant of Sicily. When victims were roasted in it, their screams were supposed to sound like the bellowing of a bull. As Dante points out, the bull’s maker was the first one to be killed in it. According to this comparison, if the victim burning in the bull sounds like an enraged bull, the voice within the flame must sound like a tormented fire – whatever that may be.
415 Verrucchio: Castle of Maltesta;
416 Malatesta da Verrucchio: Founder of the powerful Malatesta family, he and his son Malatestino, were Guelph rulers of Rimini from 1295, who killed the chief members of the rival Ghibelline family, the Parcitati, including their leader Montagna de’ Parcitati. Malatesta had two other sons Giovanni, who married Guido da Polenta’s daughter Francesca, and Paolo who became her lover . The old mastiff is of Verrucchio”. Malatestino: Son of Malatesta da Verrucchio, after his father’s death in 1312, he became Signore of Rimini. He had two nobles of Fano, Guido del Cassero and Angiolello di Carignano, drowned, after he had summoned them to a parley at Cattolica. The new mastiff of Verrucchio Is the “foul tyrant” and “traitor who sees only with one eye”, his betrayal of Guido and Angiolello.
417 Guido da Polenta: The powerful aristocratic ruler of Ravenna and Cervia, the former town taken by him in 1275 and the latter shortly after. He was father of Francesca da Rimini, and grandfather of Guido Novello da Ravenna, who was to give Dante hospitality in his last years. The coat of arms of his family contained an eagle:”The eagle of Polenta”.
418 Cordelier: Political club of Franciscan friars who wear knotted cord as girdle
419 High Priest: Pope Boniface III;
420 Prince of New Pharisees: Pope Boniface III;
421 Pope Sylvester II who wrote on theology and spirituality as a pilgrim of his vocation;
422 Soracte: Isolated mountain in central Italy; Benedict of Soracte was a monk at this monastery;
423 Guido da Montefeltro (1220-1298), a famous Ghibelline leader, and the Pope involved is Boniface VIII, not a favorite of Dante’s. Boniface wanted to defeat the Colonna family, and asked Guido’s advice, assuring him of absolution. Following his counsel, he offered the Colonna family amnesty if they surrendered, and when they did he massacred them. Boniface’s unholy use of his supposed powers of absolution and excommunication are an example of why he would, according to Dante, end up head-downward with his feet being burned for simony.
424 Cherubim: Winged creatures that support the throne of God;
425 Guido da Montefeltro (1223-1298): Renowned leader of the Ghibellines of Romagna. As ruler of ForlŹ, in 1282, he defeated a French force, which was besieging the city. In 1296 he retired from military life and entered the Franciscan order. Pope Boniface VIII, in 1297, asked his advice on how to capture Palestrina, the impregnable strongholds of the Colonna family, offering in advance papal absolution for any sin his advice might entail. He advised Boniface to promise the Colonnas amnesty, and then break it. As a result the Colonnas surrendered the fortress and it was razed to the ground. Dante also mentions him in the Convivio, where he curiously extols his piety and sanctity. Among the fraudulent counsellors he “made a bloody heap out of the French”.
426 Guido da Montefeltro (1223-1298): Renowned leader of the Ghibellines of Romagna. As ruler of ForlŹ, in 1282, he defeated a French force, which was besieging the city. In 1296 he retired from military life and entered the Franciscan order. Pope Boniface VIII, in 1297, asked his advice on how to capture Palestrina, the impregnable strongholds of the Colonna family, offering in advance papal absolution for any sin his advice might entail. He advised Boniface to promise the Colonnas amnesty, and then break it. As a result the Colonnas surrendered the fortress and it was razed to the ground. Dante also mentions him in the Convivio, where he curiously extols his piety and sanctity. Among the fraudulent counsellors he “made a bloody heap out of the French”.
427 Pier da Medicina: Apparently a political intriguer in Romagna, of whom little is known. Early commentators say he sowed discord between the Malatesta and Polenta families. Foretells the betrayal and doom of Guido and Angiolello, and points out Curio.
428 Livy: Titus Patavinus (59 BC-17 AD) is a Roman historian who lived in the Imperial Court and encouraged Claudius to write history; the future emperor became a productive author;
429 Robert Guiscard (1015-1085) the founder of Sicily;
430 Muhammad and Ali (his Cousin and son-in-law) the first follower of Sunnism and Shia’ism originating from Judaism and Christianity; Disputes over Ali’s succession as leader of Islam led to the split of Islam into the sects of Sunni and Shi’a. He “walks and weeps” in front of Muhammed.
431 Fra Dolcino (1250-1307):Radical Christian preacher burnt at the stake in a gruesome daylong public torture;
432 Guido del Cassero (a former man of arms) and Angiolello di Carignano (who became fraudulent) were thrown overboard when they were on their way to meet with the one-eyed tyrant and traitor Malatestino; Pier da Medicina warns them they will be ‘thrown from their ships’.
433 Neptune: god of the Sea;
434 Bertrand de Born: Aristocratic troubadour who led a turbulent life composing and performing Old Occitan lyric poetry during the Middle Ages (1100-1350) before becoming a monk. “Geri del Bello” is a cousin of Dante’s father. Geri became embroiled in a quarrel with the Sacchetti of Florence and was murdered. At the time of the writing he had not been avenged by his kinsmen in accord with the clan code of a life for a life. The “headless one who in his life was master of Altaforte” is Bertrand de Born (28-29). Bertrand de Born, from 1140 to 1215, was a great knight and master of the troubadours of Provence. Bertrand was Lord of Hautefort.
435 Achitophel: Taitorous Councellor of King David who deserted, whose advice was not followed and he hung himself. Absolom and Achitophel is a poetic political satire
436 King David: Biblical king of the Jews. His counselor Ahitophel incited David’s son Absalom against him. Raised by Jesus from Limbo into Paradise; His son’s rebellion and the urgings of Ahitophel is compared by Bertran de Born to his own urgings of Prince Henry against his father Henry II of England. He appears depicted in a wall carving as the “humble psalmist,” leading the procession of the Ark to Jerusalem.
437 Pier da Medicina: Apparently a political intriguer in Romagna, of whom little is known. Early commentators say he sowed discord between the Malatesta and Polenta families. Foretells the betrayal and doom of Guido and Angiolello, and points out Curio.
438 Scandal and schism are considered not only ‘murderers of the body’ but of the whole history of religion. Their Knowledge is NOT based on any particular monk or sage but are a cumulative expression of intuitive experience of the Word: OM;
439 Stocking up on ‘food” and finances for disasters has a ‘scripted reality’; frugal living and sharing makes sensible existence with faith in Higher Power who has every grain of rice already allotted to each living creature;
440 Pier da Medicina: Apparently a political intriguer in Romagna, of whom little is known. Early commentators say he sowed discord between the Malatesta and Polenta families. Foretells the betrayal and doom of Guido and Angiolello, and points out Curio.
441 Robert Giscard a noble Norman adventurer who founded Apulia and Calabria as Two Sicilies who fought on behalf of Roman Christendom;
442 Gonfaloniere: prestigious communal post in medieval Renaissance Italy, but especially in Florence and other Papal states; title of high civic magistrates who headed the militia of the municipal quarters;
443 Decline and Fall of Roman Empire was a conflict of Saracens, Romans and Greeks from 840-1017 AD – the sword did not rescue the unbelieving Saracens; Meanwhile schismatic churches protested against additions made to creeds and relations of the Greek Church to the Roman was one of growing estrangement from the 5th to the 11th century. The final rupture can be traced to the pretensions of the Roman bishops and to Western innovation in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, accompanied by an alteration of creed. Many famous nobles fought for the ’cause’ of the Roman Church.
444 Gregory VII’s struggle against Henry V: Gregory was working to build the kingdom of Christendom. He faced tremendous difficulties to oblige the men of his time to accept his ideation of the Kingdom of God which he wanted to implant. The Sack of Rome of May 1084 was a Norman sack, the result of the pope’s call for aid from the duke of Apulia, Robert Guiscard. Pope Gregory VII was besieged in the Castel Sant’ Angelo by the Emperor Henry IV in June 1083. He held out and called for aid from the Guiscard, who was then fighting the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus in the Balkans. He returned, however, to Italy and marched north with 36,000 men. He entered Rome and forced Henry V to retire, but a riot of the citizens led to a three days sack, after which Guiscard escorted the pope to the Lateran. The Normans had mainly pillaged the old city, which was then one of the richest cities in Italy. After days of unending violence, the Romans rose up causing the Normans to set fire to the city. Many of the buildings of Rome were gutted on the Capitol and Palatine hills along with the area between the Colosseum and the Lateran. In the end the ravaged Roman populace succumbed to the Normans. Giscard fought with Emperor Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire who rejected papal control. Giscard fought for Pope Gregory VII.
445 Among the Legends of Charlemagne is: Milone was a knight of great family, and distantly related to Charlemagne, who having secretly married Bertha, the Emperor’s sister, was banished from France, and excommunicated by the Pope. After a long and miserable wandering on foot as mendicants, Milone and his wife arrived in Italy, where they took refuge in a cave, and in that cave Orlando was born. There his mother living with support from the compassion of the neighbouring peasants. Milone, in quest of honor and fortune, went into foreign lands. Orlando grew up among the children of the peasantry. Among his companions in age, though in station far more elevated, was Oliver, son of the governor of the town. Between the two boys a feud arose, that led to a fight, but this did not prevent a friendship springing up between the two which lasted through life. When Charlemagne was on his way to Rome to receive the imperial crown, he dined in public in Italy. Orlando and his mother that day had nothing to eat, and Orlando, coming suddenly upon the royal party, and seeing abundance of provisions, seized from the attendants as much as he could carry off. The Emperor, being told of this incident, was reminded of a dream, and ordered the boy to be followed. This was done by three of the knights. On entering the grotto had not they heard from the mother who she was. She received pardon from the Emperor. Orlando was received into favor by the Emperor. He returned with him to France and distinguished himself to become the most powerful support of the throne and of Christianity.
446 Battle fought in 1268 between Ghibelline supporters of German Conradin of Swabia and Guelph army of Charles I of Anjou of Naples
447 Physical and mental torture causes suffering inherent in its consequences. The same amount of harm makes the actions indistinguishable;
448 Contrapasso: punishment that fits the crime;
449 Griffolino of Arezzo: He duped Alberto da Siena saying, that for money, he would teach him to fly. As a result Griffolino was burned at the stake for heresy by the Bishop of Siena, who favored Alberto, who was perhaps the Bishop’s illegitimate son. Among the “falsifiers” of metal (alchemists), sitting with Capocchio, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. He introduces himself as “the Aretine”, and also identifies Schicchi and Myrrha.
450 Capocchio: Burned at the stake for alchemy in 1293. Among the “falsifiers” of metal (alchemists), sitting with Griffolino of Arezzo, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. Agrees with Dante about the vanity of the Sienese, giving as examples four of the members of the Sienese Spendthrift Club, and then identifies himself. He is dragged, with his belly scraped along the ground, by the tusks of Schicchi. Griffolino d’Arezzo” is an alchemist who extracted large sums of money from Alberto da Siena (85). Griffolino extracted money by promising Alberto that he would teach him to fly like Daedalus. When Alberto discovered he had been tricked, he had his “uncle,” the Bishop of Siena, burn Griffolino as a sorcerer. Griffolino is not punished for sorcery, but for falsification of silver and gold through alchemy. Griffolino d’Arezzo to Virgil responds, “We both are Italian whose unending loss you see before you. Who are you who comes to question?”
451 Maremma and Sardinia along Sea coast are malarial plague areas and once a breeding site for malaria;
452 St Albert the Great (1206-1280) – the Father of Natural Sciences of Dominican Order: considered ‘great’ by his contemporaries because of the scope and depth of his learning. He was recognized in his own lifetime as an authority on physics, geography, astronomy, mineralogy, chemistry, and biology. His expertise in theology was also recognized. In the late 1250’s, he was appointed the pope’s personal theologian and canonist. In 1274, despite his failing health and shock over the death of his former student, Thomas Aquinas, Albert took part in the Council of Lyons, applying his influence to the reconciliation of Orthodox Catholics with the See of Peter.
453 Stricca of Spendthrift Club: A group of rich young Sienese nobles, devoted to squandering their fortunes on foolish extravagances and entertainments. Arcolano of Siena was a member. Four of its members described by Capocchio: “Stricca”, “NiccolĽ”, “Caccia d’Asciano” and “Abbagliato”.
454 Niccolo Machiavelli: Italian historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist and writer of Florence during Renaissance; he wrote a handbook (The Prince) for unscrupulous politicians that inspired the term ‘Machiavellian’: the practice of deceit, scheming and cunning for expediency through use of unscrupulous methods;
455 Spendthrift Band: of Stricca, Niccolo, Caccia and Abbagliato who squandered the vineyards and vast woodlands and where Abbagliato preferred to be;
456 Capocchio (1293): a condemned alchemist well known in his days for mimicking Nature. Dante knew Capocchio (member of Spendthrift Club) personally.
457 Griffolino of Arezzo: He duped Alberto da Siena saying, that for money, he would teach him to fly. As a result Griffolino was burned at the stake for heresy by the Bishop of Siena, who favored Alberto, who was perhaps the Bishop’s illegitimate son. Among the “falsifiers” of metal (alchemists), sitting with Capocchio, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. He introduces himself as “the Aretine”, and also identifies Schicchi and Myrrha.
458 Capocchio: Burned at the stake for alchemy in 1293. Among the “falsifiers” of metal (alchemists), sitting with Griffolino of Arezzo, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. Agrees with Dante about the vanity of the Sienese, giving as examples four of the members of the Sienese Spendthrift Club, and then identifies himself. He is dragged, with his belly scraped along the ground, by the tusks of Schicchi. Griffolino d’Arezzo” is an alchemist who extracted large sums of money from Alberto da Siena (85). Griffolino extracted money by promising Alberto that he would teach him to fly like Daedalus. When Alberto discovered he had been tricked, he had his “uncle,” the Bishop of Siena, burn Griffolino as a sorcerer. Griffolino is not punished for sorcery, but for falsification of silver and gold through alchemy. Griffolino d’Arezzo to Virgil responds, “We both are Italian whose unending loss you see before you. Who are you who comes to question?”
459 Geri del Bello: was a preoccupation with Dante regarding his unavenged ancestor. Even in Hell Dante was not immune to the feuding spirit of the times. One murder could be the beginning of a deadly quarrel between families as revenge followed revenge. Geri del Bello, Dante’s father’s cousin, was a troublemaker who was killed by a Sacchetti. He was finally avenged in 1310, and the pointless feud begun between the Alighieri and the Sacchetti lasted until 32 years later.
460 Leprosy in Dante’s time was the disease more common and much more terrifying because of its slow and disfiguring deaths suffered by lepers. The victims of the disease mentioned in the Bible, were called unclean and were made to live in communities apart from healthy people. Bells to warn people of their presence were used when they collected alms. Dante uses leprosy as a divine punishment for sin of medieval attitudes. The bubonic plague had not yet made its appearance until 1348. Dante might have approved of the plague decimating Florence: a scourge from God to punish their misdeeds.
461 Alchemy: was important in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, though scientists as recent as Isaac Newton were deeply concerned with alchemical questions. Alchemists spent their time trying to turn base metals into gold. They were associated with strange knowledge and mystery; their activities were not far removed from sorcery. Alchemy became a forerunner of modern chemistry, since it involved experiments with metals. Because turning base metals into gold was impossible, alchemists were also associated with fraud: as Capocchio says, he was good at imitating fine metals, not at making them. These two alchemists are Griffolino of Arezzo, who cheated Albero of Siena by claiming that he could teach him to fly for a large sum of money. He was burned as a heretic by Albero’s protector (and perhaps his father), the Bishop of Siena. Capocchio was burned at the stake for alchemy in 1293
462 Griffolino of Arezzo: He duped Alberto da Siena saying, that for money, he would teach him to fly. As a result Griffolino was burned at the stake for heresy by the Bishop of Siena, who favored Alberto, who was perhaps the Bishop’s illegitimate son. Among the “falsifiers” of metal (alchemists), sitting with Capocchio, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. He introduces himself as “the Aretine”, and also identifies Schicchi and Myrrha.
463 Capocchio: Burned at the stake for alchemy in 1293. Among the “falsifiers” of metal (alchemists), sitting with Griffolino of Arezzo, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. Agrees with Dante about the vanity of the Sienese, giving as examples four of the members of the Sienese Spendthrift Club, and then identifies himself. He is dragged, with his belly scraped along the ground, by the tusks of Schicchi. Griffolino d’Arezzo” is an alchemist who extracted large sums of money from Alberto da Siena (85). Griffolino extracted money by promising Alberto that he would teach him to fly like Daedalus. When Alberto discovered he had been tricked, he had his “uncle,” the Bishop of Siena, burn Griffolino as a sorcerer. Griffolino is not punished for sorcery, but for falsification of silver and gold through alchemy. Griffolino d’Arezzo to Virgil responds, “We both are Italian whose unending loss you see before you. Who are you who comes to question?”
464 ‘Eye for an Eye and Tooth for a Tooth’ is a ‘getting even’ principle of a biblical precept of justice and has become the basis for system of judicial punishment worldwide;
465 Donatis: Dante’s marriage at age 12 years was to a Gemma Donati. He had two sons (Pietro and Jacopo) and daughters with her; Corso Donati was a distant relative of his wife whom he meets in heaven;
466 Juno or Hera (Juno in Roman mythology): Greek goddess, she is the wife of Zeus (Jupiter). A jealous goddess, she often sought revenge against Zeus’ many lovers. One of those was Semele, who was the daughter of Cadmus, King of Thebes and the mother of Dionysus by Zeus. One of Hera’s many acts of revenge against Semele was to cause Athamas, husband of Semele’s sister Ino, to be driven mad. Mistaking Ino, holdsing their two infant sons Learchus and Melicertes, for a lioness and her cubs, he killed Learchus, and Ino still holdsing Melicertes jumped off a cliff into the sea. Another lover of Zeus and victim of Hera was Aegina, daughter of the river-god As opus (see Aegina above).
Her revenge against “Aegina’s people” is about Aeneas: Hero of Virgil’s epic poem Aeneid, his descent into hell is a primary source for Dante’s own journey. Anchises is the Father of Aeneas by Aphrodite. In the Aeneid he is shown as dying in Sicily. Son of Anchises, fled the fall of Troy. “Father of Sylvius”, journeys to Hades, and is the founder of Rome.
When Dante doubts he has the qualities for his great voyage, he tells Virgil “I am no Aeneas, no Paul”. He is seen in Limbo and referred to as:”Rome’s noble seed” and Founder of Gaeta. Her (Juno’s) revenge against Semele is against the “Theban family”. Inf. XXX, 1-12. The reference to the “Aeginian people dying” is regarding Juno (59). Juno was incensed that the nymph Aegina let Jove possess her. So Juno set a plague upon the island that bore her name. On that island, every animal and human died until only Aecus, the son born to Aegina of Jove was left. The son born to Aegina of Jove prayed to his father for aid, and Jove repopulated the island. Jove repopulated the island by transforming the ants at his son’s feet into men. The Aeginian have since been called Myrmidons. Myrmidons is Greek meaning ants.
467 Semele: In Greek mythology is daughter of Cadmus who is to give birth to Jove’s child;
468 Athamas: King of prehistoric Minyans; his first wife is Nephele, a cloud goddess – left her to marry Ino, Cadmus’ daughter.
469 Learchus: Juno, the wife of Jupiter had an affair with the daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes. Out of the affair was born Bacchus. Enraged by her husband’s infidelity with Semele; Juno vows to destroy Semele and her family. Juno has Semele struck by lighting and causes Semele’s brother- in-law king Athamas to go mad. Athamas was the husband of Juno, Semele’s sister. In his insanity he killed his son Learchus. The grief-stricken Ino drowns herself with the other son Melicertes.
470 Hecuba is wife of Priam, King of Troy. After Greeks defeat the Trojans they capture Hecuba and bring her as a slave Hecuba. She finds the dead body of her daughter Polyxena on Achilles’ grave and sees the unburied corpse of her son Polydorus on the coast. Her grief at these discoveries causes her to go insane.
471 Gianni Schicchi came from the Florentine Cavalcante family. He was a good actor and impersonator of people. He was hired by Simone Donati to impersonate his (Simone’s) dead father, Buoso Donati and alter the dead man’s will in Simone’s favor. Gianni does this, and wills himself several things, including a prize mare (“the ‘queen of studs’ “). Hence Gianni now finds himself punished in the bolgia of Falsifiers.
472 Myrrha: mother of Adonis who was transformed into a myrr tree after copulating with her father; horrified by her emotions, she attempted to hand herself;
473 Buoso Donati: wealthy aristocrat
474 Master Adamo was a counterfeiter of falsified gold florins bearing the image of John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence He did so by the encouragement of the Conti Guidi, the lords of Romena. In 1281 he was arrested and burnt to death of his crime. He added alloy to corrupt gold coins and now, as punishment, his body is corrupted by disease.
475 False Accusers of things and crimes against one who does not do them can be arrested and prosecuted by law;
476 False accusers are overwhelmingly afraid of being exposed not only of the sin committed but also other violence against humankind
477 Wills are best dictated for voice recognition – changes can be communicated by creating a ‘living will’.
478 Counterfeit are fake replicas of the real thing
479 Gossip: The struggle against harmful chatter continually sows tensions: Therefore: Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny! “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people” (Leviticus 19:16). Gossiping involves the sin of detraction in which a person discloses another’s faults and failings to someone who did not know them. Therefore, one commits the sin of detraction: meaning, making known the faults of another without good reason for doing so.
480 Mortal Imperfections like ‘gossip’ can be ended with ‘right speech’ and ‘harmlessness’ in thought, word and deed.
481 Thought is the originator of all mortal sins. To reduce suffering know about gossip – it is useless chatter about causing suffering to oneself because of a lack of self-understanding;
482 Lance of Achilles’ father: it created healing as soon as the wound is inflicted
483 Frieslanders are a lowly class of people stunted in growth, dirty in habits, and dressed in linsey-woolen clothing;
484 Nimrod ruled in Babylon when the Tower of Babel was built it was supposed to be tall enough to reach the sky. God was angered by the lofty ambitions of his creations, and punished mankind by making them speak in different languages. (Formerly all men spoke the same language, thus permitting the kind of cooperation that resulted in the Tower). Nimrod’s punishment is to speak a language that nobody else understands, and to understand no other languages: he is truly isolated.
485 Antaeus: Half giant son of Poseidon and Gaia;
486 Ephialtes: Athenian politician who in 460BC became leader of a democratic movement and oversaw reforms to diminish the powers of radicals;
487 Mars: Roman god of war;
488 Judeo-Christian Demons: In the Book of Jubilees, Mastema is Satan who asks God that some spirits be allowed to remain with him to do his will. God granted his request. “When Mastema, the leader of the spirits, came, he said: ‘Lord creator, leave some of them before me; let them listen to me and do everything that I tell them, because if none of them is left for me I shall not be able to exercise the authority of my will among mankind. They are meant for destroying and misleading before my punishment because the evil of mankind is great.’ Then he said that a tenth of them should be left before him, while he would make nine parts descend to the place of judgment.” Jubilees 10:8-9. Jubilees imply that Mastema is subservient to God and his task is simply to tempt men to sin and if they do, he accuses them before the Throne of God. He does not initiate the process of sin, but Mastema and his spirits then lead them on to greater wrongdoing. This is related to the Biblical function of Satan, where men can achieve righteousness if they are tempted and resist.
489 “Hypocrisy, pride, self-conceit, wrath, arrogance and ignorance belong, O Partha, to him who is born to the heritage of the demons” (Gita XVI: 4). While pride harms only the proud, arrogance due to overbearing pride brings contempt for others through rudeness and desire offending friends, relatives, colleagues and everyone else who comes in contact with him. Pride rears its head even in the most unsuspected corners. Ego is nothing but pride in its inflated form masquerading in an arrogant who excessively proud of his wealth, status, learning and showing in spirit of conduct. Arrogance is an absorbing sense of one’s own greatness and superiority over others. Vanity is another by-product of pride which craves admiration and applause. It often results in open and rude expression of contempt and hostility. The play of the ego pervades our whole life. As long as the body is alive and the mind functions in and through the body, what is known as the ego or the personality will arise and exist. It is a temporary phenomenon; it is ignorance that invests it with permanency. It is a concept; it is ignorance that elevates it to status of reality. Only enlightenment can bring you this wisdom.
490 Conduct and Character of a growing child is decided by elders knowledgeable in the Ethics and Science of Spiritual Conduct: The untutored egoist indulges in hatred, love, flattery, pride and unscrupulousness. The mark of Dharma is good conduct for purposes of enhancing life through prosperity and resultant fame. Good conduct is the highest Dharma. It is the root of all Tapas or austerities. Righteousness, truth and good works, power and prosperity-all originate from conduct. Morality or ethics is the science of conduct. It the study of what is right or good in conduct towards one another, and towards other creatures. Without ethics, there is no progress in the spiritual path, the foundation of Yoga, the corner-stone of Vedanta and the strong pillar on which Bhakti Yoga rests. Ethics is the gateway to God-realisation. Morality is the gateway to religion. He who leads a moral or virtuous life attains freedom, perfection or Moksha. Krishna says: “Let the scriptures be thy authority in determining what ought to be done or what ought not to be done. Knowing what hath been declared by the ordinances of the scriptures, thou oughtest to work in this world” (Gita Chapter XVI: 24).
491 Strongholds of pride and shame can keep the Intellect wandering aimlessly through a desert of unrest leading to confusion, anxiety, depression and despair. Serving God’s Word is often not kind: it boasts, is prideful, is rude in body, mind and logic.
492 Complex Fraud: is conspiracy to violate the law
493 Amphion: could be one of several characters -son of Zeus and the nymph Antiope, the queen of Thebes. His twin brother is Zethus. When they reached maturity, the two brothers exacted a terrible revenge upon king Lycus of Thebes and his wife Dirce, for she had been treating their mother Antiope as a slave. They punished Dirce by tying her to the horns of a wild bull. He later married Niobe, and they had six sons and six daughters, called the Niobids. The god Hermes taught Amphion music and gave him a beautiful golden lyre. Both brothers were supposed to have built the walls of Thebes, while Amphion played his lyre. The magic of his music caused the stones to move into place on their own accord.
494 Tambernich is a mountain in Sclavonia and Pietrapana is near Lucca – they are two miserable brothers Alessandro and Napoleone;
495 Focaccia and Sassol Mascheroni before identifying as Camiscion de Pazzi
496 Battle of Montaperti in 1260 between Guelphs and Ghibellines
497 Antenora: Traitors to country; PtolomĹa after Ptolemy – governor of Jericho murdered his guests;
499 Camiscion de Pazzi: white Guelph who was murdered by kinsman and placed in Caina with traitors;
500 Count Ugolino (1220-1289) Italaian noblrman. Politician and naval commander who earned a place in Antenora for a series of betrayals against Pisa who with his friend Archbishop Ruggieri conspired to overthrow their government;
501 Anselm (1033-1109) also called Aosta was a Benedictine monk – a philosopher and theologian celebrated for the ontological argument for the existence of God and theory of atonement. He became Archbishop of Canterbury under William II of England, but exiled from England from 1097 to 1100, and again from 1105 to 1107 under Henry I of England as a result of the investiture controversy, the most significant conflict between Church and state in Medieval Europe.
502 Pisa: City on River Arno;
503 Count Ugolino (1220-1289) The world has waited for centuries for modern forensic science to pardon or convict Count Ugolino della Ghererdesca, who was accused of one of the more heinous crimes in Italian history. The alleged crime took place in the Pisa of 1289, but we all know that Italians and art and literary historians take a longer view.
The known facts are as follows. The Count was a leader of Pisa’s Guelph (pro-Papal) faction in the seemingly interminable internecine battles that consumed all the northern Italian cities in those days. Ugolino had earlier conspired with the local Archbishop, Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, to come to power in the predominantly Ghibelline (pro-Holy Roman Emperor) city. But, as might have been expected in times of constantly shifting alliances, and with a change of Popes, Ruggieri had switched sides leaving Ugolino undefended. The Guelphs were routed, and Ugolino, along with two sons and two grandsons (nephews, in some versions of the story), were imprisoned in Gualandi Tower, one of the medieval towers overlooking Piazza dei Cavalieri, which is still the central Piazza of Pisa. On orders from the Archbishop, they were all starved to death, and, since then, the tower has been called Torre della Fame, the Tower of Hunger.
Exactly what happened in the tower has never really been known, but it wasn’t long before rumors surfaced that, to save his own life, Count Ugolino had devoured the younger men as they died one by one. Dante, in Canto 33 of his Inferno ( meets the Count in the lowest level of hell and discusses the case. According to Dante, Ugolino explains his presence in this deepest pit: he admitted that he had eaten his kin, having allowed his own desire to survive to overcome any gustatory scruples. Dante finds Ugolino gnawing on a skull, and Ugolino says that it is the skull of Ruggieri, the erstwhile friend who had betrayed and imprisoned him. Based on his own literary admission, Count Ugolino has come down through history as the Cannibal Count.
504 Ugolino della Gherardesca: Leader of one of two competing Guelph factions in Pisa. In 1288 he conspired with the Archbishop Ruggieri degli Ubaldini to oust the leader of the other faction, his grandson Nino de’ Visconti. Ugolino was, in turn, betrayed by Ruggieri and imprisoned with several of his sons and grandsons. They all died of starvation in prison. He is Found with Ruggieri amongst those damned for treason. According to Dante, the prisoners were slowly starved to death and before dying. The Ugolino children begged Ugolino to eat their bodies. In the end, Ugolino states that hunger proved stronger than grief. This deliberately ambiguous line may be interpreted in two ways: Ugolino may mean that he devoured his offspring’s corpses after being driven mad with hunger, or perhaps he means that starvation killed him after he had failed to die of grief.
505 Friar Alberigo “That’s what one gets for disrespecting one’s elder brother. ” Fra Alberigo is one of the damned which Dante must punish or absolve. He is encountered in the circle of Treachery. He was traitor not only to his country, but to his family as well, Alberigo committed the darkest of treacherous acts, murdering his own son for the sake of revenge. He is the host of Treachery.
506 PtolomĹa from Ptolemy (85-165) Greek geographer, astronomer, and astrologer. His geocentric theory of the universe was the standard astronomical model of Dante’s day.
507 Atropos: One of three Greek goddesses of Fare and Destiny;
508 Ser Branca d’ Oria buried for murdering his father-in-law and cutting him up into pieces; Lucifer takes his soul to Hell.
509 Michel Zanche was murdered by Ser Branca d’Oria when invited to dinner; he was chief of Longodoro
510 Romagna: Formerly a Papal State of NE Italy and Ravenna as capital.
511 Tolomea is zone where soul is placed before its time of death;
513 Atropos is sister of Fate: one of three female deities who supervised of fate but not determine it
513 Ser Branca Dora: traitorous murderer of his father-in-law Michel Zanche;
514 Barrator: litigators for purposes of groundless harassment;
515 Moral blindness: inability to discern right from wrong or choosing to ignore doing what is right;
516 Divine Justice is ‘moral rightness’ carried out by God to determine the fate of one’s eternity based on lifestyle;
517 Brutus, Marcus Junius (43 BC): One of the assassins of Julius Caesar, with whom he had close ties. His betrayal of Caesar was famous (“Et tu Brute”) and along with Cassius and Judas, was one of the three betrayer/suicides who, for those sins, were eternally chewed by one of the three mouths of Satan.
518 Gaius Cassius (85-42BC) leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar;
519 Lucifer, Satan, Dis, Beelzebub are the many names of Devils Dante invokes. Lucifer following his rebellion against God, became the source of evil and sorrow in the world, beginning with his corruption of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Dante’s Lucifer is a amalgamation of wickedness and divine powers. He is ugly and beautiful, and a wretched ruler of hell, whose tremendous size stands in contrast with his limited powers: his flapping wings generate the wind that keeps the lake frozen. His three mouths chew on Shade-bodies of three arch-traitors. The horrific wounds mixed with tears gush from Lucifer’s three sets of eyes in out of three faces, each a different colour (red, whitish-yellow, black). The image is lampooning the doctrine of the Trinity: three complete persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in one divine nature: Divine Power, Highest Wisdom, and Primal Love creates the Gate of Hell and, therefore the realm of eternal damnation. The top half of his body towers above the ice, and Lucifer resembles the Giants and other half-hidden figures. Dante and Virgil passed through the centre of the earth, and Lucifer now appears upside-down, with his legs sticking up in the air.