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*The Inferno Of Dante*

Updated on February 4, 2016

Dante Alighieri

Dante's Life

Dante was born in Florence in May 1265. His family was of an old lineage, of noble birth but no longer wealthy. His education was undoubtedly typical of all the youth of that time and station in life. Dante studied at the University of Bologna, one of the most famous universities in the medieval world. There, he came under the influence of one of the most famous scholars of the time, Ser Brunetto Latini, who never taught Dante but advised and encouraged him.

Dante's Inferno -The poem is written in the first person (from the poet’s perspective) and follows Dante's journey through the three Christian realms of the dead, hell, purgatory, and finally heaven. The Roman poet Virgil guides Dante through hell (Inferno) and purgatory (Purgatorio), while Beatrice guides him through heaven (Paradiso).

Dante & Vigil going through the River of Styx
Dante & Vigil going through the River of Styx

Dante's Inferno - Canto I

The First Later - LIMBO

The First Circle - LIMBO:

Dante wakes up to find himself at the edge of a great dark valley, in which he cannot see anything. Because this is his home in Hell -- Limbo. Here, the sinners sigh as well, but not nearly as loudly or painfully as the neutrals. The inhabitants of this circle of Hell are those who had no control over their salvation: they were either not baptized at birth or born before the coming of Christ. Every step forward brings them into darker and darker territory. Dante also found poets Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan, the Amazon queen Penthesilea, the mathematician Euclid, the philosophers Socrates and Aristotle and Julius Caesar stuck in Limbo.

The Second Layer - LUST

The second Circle - LUST:

Just right below Limbo, is the second layer of hell which is known as LUST. In this circle, Dante discovers Lucifer has made Beatrice into his bride. Lucifer tells her of Dante's betrayal to her by having sex with the slave girl. Beatrice used to be the fiancee of Dante but then he broke his promise to her. In this circle Dante explores the relationship between love and lust, between the ennobling power of attraction toward the beauty of a whole person and the destructive force of possessive sexual desire. Cleopatra, the last ruler of Egypt is in charge of the 2nd layer, who also had made a deal with Lucifer. Cleopatra and Antony were condemned to Hell's Circle of Lust for their actions in life. At some point, they met Lucifer and made a deal with him, becoming rulers of the circle in exchange for serving him faithfully. Due to this, Cleopatra assisted Lucifer in his plans when he captured the soul of Beatrice. When Dante arrived in the Circle of Lust in pursuit of Beatrice's soul, a giant Cleopatra raised the Carnal Tower from the ground, summoning the Lust Storm to protect it. Before moving into the third layer, Dante faints again...

The Third Layer - GLUTTONOUS

The Third Circle - Gluttonous:

Dante awakens in the third circle of Hell, the circle of the Gluttons. A slush falls from the sky and collects on the ground where naked shades howl and roll. Cerberus, who's the three-headed dog, stands over those sunk deep in the slush. He barks furiously and claws and bites all within reach. These spirits howl in the rain and attempt to evade the monster. Seeing the two travelers, Cerberus turns on them and is silenced only when Virgil throws handfuls of the reeking dirt and slime into his three mouths. In the Divine Comedy, Dante sees Ciacco amongst the Shades in the Mire.

The Fourth Layer - GREED

The Fourth Circle - GREED:

After escaping the Hall of Gluttons in the third layer, Dante enters the circle of Greed, which is mechanical in nature compared to the previous circles.They use great weights as a weapon, pushing it with their chests which symbolizes their selfish drive for fortune during lifetime. The two groups that are guarded by a character called Pluto are so occupied with their activity that the two poets don’t try to speak to them.

Greed - 4th Layer of Dante's Inferno
Greed - 4th Layer of Dante's Inferno

The Fifth Layer - ANGER

The Fifth Circle - ANGER:

Now Dante and Virgil are in the 5th layer in the swampy waters of the River Styx, the wrathful fight each other on the surface, and the losers lie gurgling beneath the water, withdrawn into a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe alone. Because you lived a cruel, vindictive and hateful life, you meet your fate in the Styx. The sinners who believed that their souls died with their bodies now have their living soul sealed in a fiery tomb. Characters that you may know like Medusa would appear to be in this circle.

The Sixth Layer - HERESY

The Sixth Circle - HERESY:

The poets continue their journey down a secret path in the sixth layer of inferno, the circle containing the Heretics. Dante tells Virgil that he wants to speak with some of the shades in this circle, and Virgil answers that Dante's wish will soon be granted, as well as a wish Dante was hiding from Virgil. Dante replies that he had not been hiding any wish. If you have read Dante's Inferno before you would know that the tombs are open, but if you have not read it yet then if haven’t noticed, the lids of the tombs are open. What Dante really wants, as Virgil well knows, is to see if any of his Florentine friends are here. Virgil answers that the tombs will be open until Judgment Day. He goes on to explain that everyone here is a follower of Epicurus (the Greek philosopher) who claimed that the soul dies with the body.

As Dante and Virgil are looking around and talking to Farinata and well before Farinata can reply, another soul rises up and begs Dante to tell him where his son is. Dante looks at him carefully and apparently recognizes him… because he answers. And, being a poet, he makes his answer all ambiguous. A quick aside for some brief, if complex, family history. This man is Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti, one of Dante’s political allies. His son, Guido, was a famous poet and Dante’s close friend. Like Dante, Guido was exiled when the Florence was taken over.

The Seventh Layer - VIOLENCE

The Seventh Circle - VIOLENCE:

So Virgil and Dante travel to the seventh layer of hell and this is the circle of Violence. At the bottom of this landslide, they catch sight of the hideous half man and half bull creature that is the Minotaur. It responds to the sight of them by biting itself. Virgil explains to Dante that sins of violence take three forms according to the victim: other people (one's neighbor), oneself, or even God. They are punished in a river of blood which is the 1st ring to the seventh layer of hell. The 2nd ring of the seventh layer is for those who do violence against themselves or their own property, suicides and squanderers, they inhabit the second ring which is a suicide forest. The third ring which is inside the first two rings, is a barren plain of sand ignited by flakes of fire that torment three separate groups of violent offenders against God: those who offend God directly, then those who violate nature, and lastly those who harm industry and the economy.

Dante's 7th Circle - The Suicide Forest

Dante's 7th Circle - The Forest
Dante's 7th Circle - The Forest

The Eighth Layer - FRAUD

The Eighth Circle - FRAUD:

The last two circles of the inferno punishes sinners that involve conscious fraud or treachery. These circles can be reached only by descending a vast cliff, which Dante and Virgil do on the back of Geryon, a winged monster traditionally represented as having three heads or three conjoined bodies, but then on the other hand , Dante actually describes Geryon as having three mixed natures: human, beast and reptile.

The rings of the 8th layer include :

  1. Seducing
  2. Flattery
  3. Simony (Buying or Selling of something spiritual)
  4. Sorcery
  5. Political Corruption
  6. Hypocrisy

The Ninth Layer - TREACHERY

The Ninth Circle - TREACHERY:

Virgil and Dante travel to the last circle of the Inferno. Dante divides circle 9, the circle of treachery defined in Inferno as fraudulent acts between individuals who share special bonds of love and trust into four regions. 1. Caina 2. Antenora 3. Ptolomea 4. Judecca.

  1. Caina - the first ring: It's named after the biblical character, Cain who's the first child of Adam and Eve, who killed his brother Abel out of envy after God showed appreciation for Abel's sacrificial offering but not Cain's.
  2. Antenora- the second ring: is named for the Trojan prince Antenor. Though portrayed sometimes as a positive person, the medieval versions histories, and romances view him as a "treacherous Judas" who plots with the Greeks to destroy the city.
  3. Ptolomea - the third ring: is named after one or both of the following: Ptolemy, the captain of Jericho. Ptolemy was writer, known as a mathematician, astronomer, geographer.
  4. Judecca - the fourth ring (last ring): This is named after the apostle who betrayed Jesus, Judas, this is the innermost zone of the ninth and final circle of hell. All of the sinners punished within are completely encapsulated in ice, distorted in all conceivable positions. Due to no one to talk to here, Dante and Virgil moved on to the center of the ninth Circle of Hell.

And lastly we see Satan as a giant terrifying beast with six wings and three faces (one red, one black, and one a pale yellow). Satan is waist deep in ice. Judas gets the worst punishment of them all. From waist down he is in Satan's mouth and his back is being clawed by Satan's big and sharp claws. But with the rest of the sinners Satan chews them as a daily meal.

The Inferno Of Dante

5 out of 5 stars from 3 ratings of The Inferno Of Dante

© 2016 Mahsa S


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    • mahsa setareh profile image

      Mahsa S 2 years ago

      I will think about it for sure and maybe write about those two also :D

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      crawford 2 years ago

      the other person is right, you should do an article on the other 2 parts, that would be wicked

    • mahsa setareh profile image

      Mahsa S 2 years ago

      We shall see...I really haven't read the other 2 parts as much as this one so it will have to be under review..

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      KC 2 years ago

      Good article. I've never read the whole thing, so I liked the breakdown of the circles within the levels. Are you going to do the other two parts?