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The Divine Comedy - Inferno - A Study Help for Undergraduate Students


Dante, attributed to Giovanni del Ponte - Firenze, Biblioteca Riccardiana


Dante's Life
Minor Works in Latin
Minor Works in Italian
The "Sweet New Sryle"

The Divine Comedy
-- Title and Plan
-- Date of Composition
-- The "Marvelous Vision"
-- Dante's "Sources"
-- Conception of Universe
-- The Political Dimention
-- Interpretation
-- The "contrapasso"
-- Dante's Guides

-- Structure & Content

Inferno: Cantos
Line Synopsis and Notes
01 02 03 04 05
06 07 08 09 10
11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30
31 32 33 34

Index and Glossary

Selected Biblio

Copyright © 2000
Created and Maintained
by Gino Casagrande
Updated 23.X.2004

La Divina Commedia 




Dante Alighieri was born to a Guelph family in Florence in 1265. The Guelph was the party of the small nobility and of the artisans, while the Ghibelline was the party of of the feudal nobility. The Guelphs and the Ghibellines were opposing political factions of German origin. The names were used to designate, respectively, the papal party and the imperial party during the long period of struggle for supremacy between popes and emperors.

In his youth Dante attended "the schools of the philosophers and those of the religious orders", as he tells us in his Convivio. The reference is certainly to the Dominican School of Santa Maria Novella where the works of Thomas Aquinas were studied, and to the Franciscan School of Santa Croce where the works of Bonaventure were read. He also tells us what were his preferred readings during this time, namely Boethius' On Consolation of Philosophy and Cicero's Laelius, or on Friendship.

At the age of twentyfour Dante participated as an assault cavalry man, for Guelph Florence, in the battle of Campaldino against the Ghibelline cities of Arezzo , Pisa and Siena lead by Buonconte da Montefeltro. About this time he also begins his political career. This is an extremely important period for the formation of Dante.

THE YEARS 1295-1302

The years between 1295 and 1302 are a period in which Dante is totally involved in the political life of Florence. In 1295 he becomes a member of the Council of the Captains of the People and serves in that capacity for one year. In 1296 he delivers a speech to the Council of the Onehundred, having been elected as a member of that Council. A couple of years later he is sent as Florence ambassador to San Gimignano, to perorate the cause of the Guelphs. In the meantime, with the Ghibellines permanently defeated, the Guelphs in Florence split into two groups, the Whites who were interested in conserving the independence of the city, and the Blacks who wanted to put Florence under the dominion of Pope Boniface the VIII. Dante is a White and strongly opposes the Pope's aims. In 1301 Boniface the VIII decides to send to Florence Charles of Valois, brother of the king of France, Philip IV (Philip the Fair), extensibly as a peacemaker between the two Florentine factions, but in reality with the clear purpose of helping the Blacks obtain power. Together with two other people, Dante is sent to Rome as ambassador in order to gain information from Boniface the VIII himself about his true intentions. In the meantime, in Florence,a quarrel breakes out between the Blacks and the Whites, and Charles of Valois helps the Blacks to gain control of Florence. Dante is accused and condemned in absentia. He becomes aware of the sentence against him in Siena on his way back from Rome. Of course he doesn't continue towards Florence. At the beginning of March a new sentence is issued against him: this time he is condemned to be burnt at the stake if he is ever caught, and all his possesions are confiscated. So begins the long exile which will keep the Poet away from his beloved city forever.


Dante doesn't describe anywhere in his works the terrible feeling he must have felt when he received the condamnation to death and banishment. In his Convivio, however, we read the following: "Since it was the pleasure of the citizens of the most beautiful and famous daughter of Rome, Florence, to cast me out of her sweet bosom [...], I have wandered like a beggard, in almost all regions where this language of ours is spoken, showing against my will the wounds of Fortune, which frequently are ascribed unjustly to the wounded one. Truly I have been a ship without sail, brought to various ports and shores by the dry wind of painful poverty". Not much is known about his life in exile. We know that he was in Verona as the guest of Bartolomeo della Scala and of his son first, and later of Cangrande della Scala to whom, as a sign of affection and gratitude, Dante will dedicate his Paradiso. He travels to Bologna and other places, and spends some time in Lucca, where as we read in the Comedy he meets Gentucca, a kind lady whom perhaps he loved and who protected him. Boccaccio and Giovanni Villani,the historian of Florence, tell us that Dante traveled also to Paris, but we are unsure for lack of documents. In May 1315 an amnesty was declared in Florence: by paying a certain sum of money and publicly admitting his guilt and asking for forgiveness, Dante could return home. But he refused to accept the humiliating and unjust conditions. In October of the same year his previously decreed condemnation to death is renewed. Dante spent the last years of his life in Ravenna as a guest of Guido Novello da Polenta, Lord of that city and and son of a brother of Francesca da Rimini--the lady lover immortalized by Dante in the fifth Canto of Inferno. In 1321 Dante is sent to Venice as ambassador on behalf of Guido Novello. Upon returning from Venice, in the night between the 13th and 14th of S eptember, Dante dies at the age of fifty six. He was buried there, in Verona, in the church of Saint Francis. The sepulchral monument erected to him in the Florentine church of Santa Croce (the equivalent of London's Westminister Abbey) is actually a cenotaph, or an empty tomb. The various attempts of the city of Florence to regain the mortal remains of her son have always failed--and for Dante perhaps justly so!



De vulgari eloquentia (On the Vulgar Language) is a work written in 1308 about the Italian language. Of course, "vulgar" here means "Italian". This treatise was to consist of four books, but only the first and part of the second were actually completed. In the work Dante envisions a common language for all of Italy based on the best qualities of each dialect spoken at Dante`s time. What Dante wants is an over-local and over-regional language, and hence an element capable of uniting the whole Peninsula in a common bond; a language propounded first and formost by the example of the poets. Therefore the Vulgari eloquentia is also a manual on rhetoric for the use of Italian, aimed at the learned persons who at present may be composing their works in Latin. The title De vulgari eloquentia comes from a passage in his Convivio (I, xix, 3) where Dante specifically mentions the treatise On the vulgar language that he will soon be writing. Therefore the points in common between this work in Latin and his Convivio, in Italian, are numerous and extremely important.


De monarchia (On World Government), is a treatise in three books, written probably during the time of Henry the VII's descent into Italy (1310-13) . Dante fervently hoped that the Holy Roman Emperor would put an end to the strife between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines and restore peace to Italy. In the first book of the World Government Dante takes into consideration the idea of a universal monarchy which, according to him, is necessary for the wellbeing of the people. In the second book, he states that it belongs by right to the Roman people. In the third that such a right comes from God and not from the Pope. Dante's universal monarchy is not conceived as a fusion of all states into one state only, but as supreme order of all states as a guarantee of a common norm of life under universal justice and freedom.


The Quaestio is a philosophical-scientific thesis sustained in Verona in 1320 during an occasional stay of Dante at the court of Cangrande della Scala. In this work the author demonstrates that in no place on earth can water be higher than the level of the earth itself.


The Eclogues are two poetical compositions addressed to Giovanni del Virgilio, a professor at the University of Bologna. In 1319 Giovanni del Virgilio wrote to Dante showing sincere admiration for his genious, but blaming him for writing in Italian, and suggesting to him that he write a treatise on contempory history in Latin, as this would be a sure way for him to acquire fame. Dante answers Giovanni's eclogues between 1319 and 1320. Answering in the pastoral allegorical form used by Giovanni, Dante's Eclogues propound his fervid hope to receive fame and the poetical laurel precisely from his poetry written in Italian. The Eclogues are therefore important because, once again, they show us --and the learned people of the time--Dante's clear-cut consciousness that the Italian language, mostly through his own experience and example, has come of age.


Of the Letters written by Dante only thirteen are extant and pertain to the period of his life that goes from about 1304 to 1319. Of particular interest is the one written to Henry VII of Luxemburg on the occasion of his coming to Italy. It is Dante`s cherished hope that Henry might unify and bring peace to Italy and to his beloved Florence. Also noteworthy is the one written to his "florentine friend" in which he refuses to accept the humiliating conditions set by Florence for his return from exile. Finally, very interesting is the letter to Cangrande della Scala, his Veronese friend and patron to whom the Paradiso is dedicated. In this letter Dante expounds on the four levels of interpretation which should be applicable to the Divine Comedy. (More on this later).



The Rime (Rhymes), a collection of some numerous poetical compositions, some belonging to the New Life period and spirit. Others belong to the realistic taste of a certain period of Dante's life and his poetic exchange with other poets of his time. They are poems written in a period that spans from his first youthful compositions to the years 1307-8 when he begins writing his masterpiece. These do include the poems already selected by Dante and incorporated in the Vita Nuova. Sometimes the Rhymes are also called <Canzoniere>, but this title is not quite right because, after Petrarch's experience, the title of "canzoniere" conveys the idea of unitariness in composition, which is not the case in Dante's Rhymes.


La Vita Nuova (the New Life), is a booklet of memories. The title is found in Latin, vita nova at the very beginning of the work. The expression <vita nova> in Italian, is also found in a line of Purgatorio (XXX, 115) on Beatrice's lips while she is accusing Dante of having gone astray during his youth. The New Life is the history of Dante's ideal love for Beatrice, and at the same time a document of his literary formation and the attainment of full maturity within the "school" of the "sweet new style" poets, as we shall see later. The booklet is written, or better, composed after Beatrice's death, between 1292 and 1293. It is a work of poetry and prose. The prose is intended to explain its 31 poems, written earlier and now organized in this ideal and real history. It contains 42 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue. Beatrice is first of all a real person: she was 25 when she died, in 1290. Dante had met her when both were nine. Now after some 18 years (nine + nine), Beatrice appears in the New Life as a figure between reality and art, and becomes his poetic inspiration. The New Life is a 'composite' work in which Dante exalts Beatrice as the giver of "beatitude" and hence salvation. So that she bestows salvific power on him and on all men she looks upon. When Dante realizes this, he promises at the end of the work that some day he will write of her something as nobody has ever written of any other woman. Obviously the allusion is to the Divine Comedy. As such the Vita Nuova is ideally linked more than any other of his works to the masterpiece. But before he is able to fulfill his promise, Dante must study and prepare himself for the awesome task awaiting him: "After this [...] there appeared to me a marvelous vision in which I saw things which made me decide to write no more of this blessed one [i.e. Beatrice], until I could do so more worthy. And to this end, I apply myself as much as I can [...]. I hope to write of her what has never been composed in rhyme of any other woman" (Vita Nuova,XLII).


The Convivio, or Banquet, is a kind of philosophical and scientific work written in a commentary style and composed between 1304 and 1308. The original plan called for fifteen books: one of introduction and fourteen more of literary and allegorical comments to as many philosophical canzoni on the subjects of love and virtue. Most of the canzoni to be commented in the Convivio had been written by Dante before 1304. He wrote only four books, and the work remains incomplete. Dante explains the meaning of three canzoni according to a fourfold system of interpretation: literal, allegorical, moral and anagogic--a system used also for the interpretation of the Divine Comedy, as we shall see later. The title of the work is metaphoric and suggests an ideal banquet. The Convivio, with other works written during this period, must be considered a part of the fulfillment of the promise that Dante had made at the end of the Vita Nuova. But there is more: at the beginning of the Convivio Dante fervently glorifies and ennobles the vulgar language as the "the new light, the new sun which will rise whereas the old [Latin language] will set; and it will give light to those who are in obscurity and darkness" (I, x, 5). Moreover, as it has been mentioned above, in the Convivio Dante announces that soon he will write a treatise on the vulgar language, in Latin, and therefore written for the learned who might want to use the light of the new sun. Dante is thoroughly convinced of the "great goodness" of the new language which is capable of expressing "very lofty and very new ideas, conveniently, sufficiently and fittingly" (Convivio, I, x), therefore he intends to perorate its cause on both fronts, Latin and Italian, and as strongly as he can.


The expression "sweet new style" is coined by Dante in a passage of Purgatory (XXIV, 57) and refers to a "school" of Italian poets whose "father" was the Bolognese Guido Guinizzelli. He died in 1276 when Dante was only eleven years of age. In the Comedy Dante calls Guinizzelli "the father of me and of the others--those, my betters--who ever used sweet and gracious rhymes of love" (Purgatorio, XXVI, 97-99). Among "the others" in the "school" there is the Florentine and Dante's good friend Guido Cavalcanti. Dante is much indebted to both Guidos for his literary growth. Cavalcanti is only ten years older than Dante, and dies in 1300. Generally the lyric poetry of Cavalcanti is and remains concerned with the psychology of love. The effects of love in Cavalcanti's poetry bear heavily upon the poet's soul; he remains entangled in the snares of love and cannot districate himself from the torment that this love produces in him. Because of the impossibility to obtain the real woman, the poet is land locked in his anguish and turmoil, without ever the hope of being redeemed from it.

During his first sweet new style experience, Dante follows the conception of love held by Cavalcanti. However, at a certain moment in his life and growth, Dante rediscovers, so to speak, the idea underlying the basic love conception expounded by Guinizzelli, and writes chapter XVIII of Vita Nuova.

Guinizzelli had defined very well the poetics of the "sweet new style". In his philosophical canzone on love (Al cor gentil rempaira sempre amore) the first Guido is able to fuse Love and the gentle heart into a new unity, natural and necessary to each other. Also, and more importantly, in Guinizzelli's poem the lady assumes the qualities of an angel from heaven. She passes through the streets, inspiring noble sentiments in men, bestowing on them "salute", that is deliverance from evil. Therefore the true sweet new style poet will renounce to any idea of correspondence of love on the part of the lady, and will only be interested in singing the praise for this woman, a real woman sent from heaven to show a "miracle" on earth.

Dante totally embraces Guinizzelli's concept that love and the noble heart are one thing only, making direct references to it in the Vita Nuova, in the Convivio, in De vulgari eloquentia, and finally also in the famous episode of Paolo and Francesca in the fifth canto of Inferno. In addition, and again more importantly, Dante takes certain attributes given to the woman by Guinizzelli in his canzone (such as, addressing God, the poet will say "she appeared as an Angel from Your Kingdom./ Don't blame me if I fell in love with her"), re-elaborates and refines them in such a way that he arrives at a new and unique awareness, by which--as he tells us--he feels "impelled to take up a new and nobler theme than before". So he writes Chapter XVIII of Vita Nuova where he states that while once the aim of his love was the expectation of the greeting from his beloved, now he feels a joy that cannot fail him, and that the joy simply comes to him in writing words of praise for his lady, without ever expecting any reward whatsoever from her. This is the "new theme". In fact, this is almost "too lofty of a theme", and Dante confesses that he is almost afraid to enter upon it. Chapter XVIII of the Vita Nuova becomes , then, the starting point which serves as a prelude to the last chapter of the work, with Dante's expressed promise that we have mentioned above. Of course, it is also the starting point in Dante's long voyage which will culminate, at the end of his Paradiso, in the vision of the glory of this lady, that is "the blessed Beatrice, who beholds the face of Him Who is blessed forever", as the Poet tells us at the very end of the New Life.




The Divine Comedy is a poem in the "vulgar language". It consists of one hundred cantos. There are about 15,000 lines of eleven syllables each, organized in tercets, or groups of three lines, each connected by rhyme with the next group. The rhyme pattern is therefor as follows: A B A, B C B, C D C, D E D, etc. The Divine Comedy is divided in three "cantiche": Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), Paradiso (Paradise). Each cantica contains thirty-three cantos, plus one canto of introduction to the whole at the beginning of Inferno, so that the first cantica has a total of 34 cantos. It is evident at once that the insistence on the number three is the large scheme of Dante's masterpiece. In addition, we also find multiples of "three" within each cantica: Hell has nine circles, Purgatory nine terraces, Paradise nine heavens. "Three" is a number with a typically symbolic meaning relating to the divine Trinity. (Here it is perhaps good to call back to mind some of the numbers, as for instance "nine", we have encountered in the Vita Nuova).

Dante called his masterpiece simply "Comedia" (Comedy),as opposed to "tragedy", twice in Hell and once in his famous letter to Cangrande--the content of this letter will be examined below. The adjective "divine" was first used by Boccaccio. It became part of the title much later, and precisely with an edition by Ludovico Dolce published in Venice by Giolito de' Ferrari in 1555. The epithet "divine" has been used ever since. In De vulgari eloquentia (II, iv) Dante says that tragedy uses a high style, and comedy uses a low style. Moreover,in accordance with medieval rhetorical theories, contrary to "tragedy", "comedy" has a sad beginning and a happy ending, portrays people of humble conditions, and uses frequently criticism and censure. In fact, in his letter to Cangrande Dante justifies the title of Comedia given to his masterpiece precisely on the basis of its plot line: a horrible beginning and a happy ending. Dante Says: "In fact, at the beginning the subject matter is horrible and frightening because it deals with Hell, at the end happy desirable and pleasant because it deals with Paradise. And the style is low and humble, because it is written in the vulgar language, which is the language used [by all] including women of humble conditions" (xiii, 31).


As mentioned above, during the years 1304-1307/8 Dante is totally taken in the writing of De vulgari eloquentia and of the Convivio which are both unfinished, and by very much. It is therefore credible that at this time Dante abandons writing the two treatises because of the new impelling desire he feels to begin writing the Comedy. It is generally agreed among scholars, infact, that Dante begins his masterpiece around 1307. We know that the cantiche were circulated separately and at different times, with the entire Paradiso after Dante's death--although a group of Cantos were known earlier, as Boccaccio informs us. There is a good probability that Inferno was completed around 1310, Purgatorio around 1315 and Paradiso not much before Dante's death. We do not have an autograph of the Comedy. The earliest comment we have is of Inferno, in Latin and written around 1324, while soon after we have the comment to the entire Comedy written by Iacopo della Lana. Other comments were written in the XIV century. For our purpose it will be sufficient to mention that Giovanni Boccaccio wrote the first "life" of Dante, and that he also handed down to us his public lectures to the first 17 cantos of Inferno read in the Florentine church of Santo Spirito in 1373-74. The first edition of the Commedia was printed in Foligno in 1472, and soon after another edition was also printed in Venice and another in Mantova.


Dante's Divine Comedy is a narrative poem about his voyage into the Afterlife. There is nothing new about this. Narrations of visions and voyages into the Beyond are common in the Middle Ages. The genre of vision and prophesy is part of the medieval conception of life and derives from biblical and classical texts. In fact, the two veins of the genre derivation are made clear by Dante at the very beginning of Inferno(II, 13-28). Here Dante recalls to mind the basic and significant texts of this tradition: on one side St. Paul's ascent to the third heaven described in the Bible (2 Cor. 12:2-4), on the other Aeneas' descent into the world of the dead described by Virgil in the Aeneid (Bk. VI). But both in the Bible and in the classics there are also other examples, including St. John the Divine's Revelation, Lucan's Pharsalia, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Cicero's Somnium Scipionis, to mention only a few. In addition, a very large body of "visionary" literature--too large to mention here--had developed in the Middle Ages, not only in Latin but in the vulgar languages as well, including Italian. Much of this material was known to Dante and, as one would expect, it constitutes part of his literary heritage. It would be gratuitous, however, to try to indicate this or that "visionary" work as a source for the Divine Comedy, as has been done sometimes in the past. Dante's masterpiece stands out as powerful and unique, and a comparison would be totally unjustified.


It could be said that Dante's Divine Comedy is based and develops along three lines; or, better, it follows a kind of a triple parameter: on one side it is delineated by the Bible; on another side it is sustained by the doctrine of the Schoolmen, by their theological and philosophical tenets based chiefly on the authority of the Church Fathers and of Aristotle; and, finally, on the last side it is supported by the classics authors. The Bible (Ancient and New Testaments) is the fundamental text of Dante's culture. And it couldn't be otherwise, as in the medieval Christian civilization perspective the Bible represents the only document directly inspired and communicated by God to man. Among the Church Fathers and the Schoolmen we must mention first and foremost St. Augustine (345-430) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225?-1274). Among the Latin classics a special place hold Horace (65-8BC), Ovid (43BC-17AD), Lucan (39-65) and particularly Virgil (70-19BC). It is interesting, indeed, that in Canto IV of Inferno Dante mentions all these names. These are the great poets assembled in the "splendid school" of the noble castle of Limbo. Dante is invited to join them and so he becomes "sixth among such intellects" (Inferno 4,102). In the group there is also "Homer, the supreme poet". Dante, like many others of his time, did not know Greek, nor did he know the works of Homer directly. And yet, he has no doubt in assigning supremacy to him. Of course, among the classics Dante is partial--so to speak--to Virgil, and for reasons that go beyond Virgil's poetic value; that is to say not only because Virgil is the "light and honor of all other poets" and not only because he is Dante's "master" and "author", but because Virgil is the poet of Rome and has written the Aeneid, the history of Aeneas, founder of the Eternal City, in accordance with God's wishes to create a Roman Empire for the diffusion of His Word.


As other medieval men, Dante follows the so-called Ptolemaic System. The Greek mathematician astronomer and geographer Ptolemy (127-151) had developed a cosmological system in which the earth was placed, motionless, at the center of the universe with all celestial bodies revolving around it. This system is called geocentric, or earth-centered, and will dominate astronomy until the 16th century. The Ptolemaic system, then, represented the globe-shaped earth as stationary in the center of the world, with moon, sun and stars revolving about it at a uniform rate. From the center outward the elements were earth, water, air, fire, and a fifth luminiferous essence called aether. In the aethereal region are nine concentric crystalline spheres, with each carrying a heavenly body, rotating around earth. These nine spheres contain, in ascending order, the following heavenly bodies: The Moon, Mercury, Venus, The Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, The Fixed Stars. The last sphere is called "Primum Mobile". The "Primum Mobile" is the largest sphere and, obviously, the farthest away from earth. It takes the movement from God and imparts it to all the spheres below. Beyond this there is the Empyrean, the seat of God, of the angelic orders, and of the blessed in Paradise.

Originally, at the time of creation, earthly surface appeared delimited by two hemispheres, with the southern part covered by land and the northern part covered only by water. Then Lucifer, or Satan, who had rebelled against God, was thrown from Heaven and fell on the southern hemisphere. When Lucifer was falling, the land there "for fear of him, made of the sea a veil and came to our hemisphere" (Inferno XXXIV, 123-124), that is, the land withdrew under the surface of the waters and emerged in our, the northern, hemisphere. Lucifer fell into the waters and went all the way down to the center of earth. At the same time, the land under water in Lucifer's path--"in order, perhaps, to avoid contact with him"--recoiled and re-emerged on the southern hemisphere, and formed the cone-shaped mountain of Purgatory, while the empty space left behind, from the surface to the center of earth, became the funnel-shaped pit of Hell.

Earth, then, is conceived by Dante, as a perfect sphere, motionless and suspended in the void. At the center of the northern hemisphere, or land surface, Dante locates Jerusalem, midway between the mouth of the Ganges and the source of the Ebro rivers, its two extreme points, respectively, east and west, 180 away from each other. The Mountain of Purgatory and Jerusalem are also 180 away from each other, and share the great meridian circle which cuts the equator at a right angle and passes through the poles. Taking Jerusalem as a point of reference, it then follows that its east horizon coincides perfectly with Purgatory's west horizon, and its west horizon is one and the same with Purgatory's east horizon. Therefore, when it is noon in Jerusalem, it will be midnight on the mountain of Purgatory, sunset at the mouth of the Ganges and sunrise at the source of the Ebro.


Florence, as other cities of Tuscany and the rest of northern Italy, had organized as a free commune, or city state, at the beginning of the 12th century. In Italy, during the period of formation and growth the city states fought against the feudal families in the countryside in order to consolidate and expand their influence and dominion. In addition, they had to fight also against the invading army of Frederick I, Barbarossa, and subsequently against, or in favor of the Ghibellines, and against, or in favor of the Guelfs. At Dante's birth Italy was already experiencing the bitter and bloody division between these two factions which, as it has been mentioned earlier, came to represent, respectively, the party of the Emperor and that of the Pope. That is, during this period Italian cities aligned themselves behind the banner representing the Emperor, or behind the banner representing the Pope: the two supreme moral authorities of western Christianity!

At the same time, during Dante's years, Florence was experiencing a tremendous demographic growth, due to an influx of people from the countryside. This was also true of other communes in Italy, but Florence's importance grew vis-a-vis her neighbouring cities in Tuscany and other cities in Italy and abroad. Around 1300 Florence is one of the three largest cities in Italy, with a population of more than 100.000 persons living within the city walls. In fact, in order to accommodate all the new comers, the city had to expand beyond its first circle of walls, into a second and a third. In Florence the construction of the third circle of walls had been approved by the city in 1284, before Dante reached his twentieth birthday, and the building of it continued throughout the Poet's lifetime. This is a period of transition, a period in which profound changes are taking place in the lifes of people. The old feudal system had been replaced, more or less rapidly, by the new more open and more dynamic bourgeois and pre-capitalistic system. Toward the end of the century, Italian cities were at the center of an inter continental commercial system that span "Overmountains"--that is into the central and northern European countries--and Overseas. In France alone, in the period 1260-1270, there were some twenty large Florentine companies doing business. At the beginning of the new century, the Florentine Banks of the Peruzzis and of the Bardis were dealing in money and instruments of credit all over Europe at an unprecedented rate. The Bardi Bank alone, in 1318, just a few years before Dante's death, had an account balance of almost one million gold florins--a pretty sum when we think that ten years later the city of Florence was proposing to buy the whole city of Lucca for the sum of 80.000 gloden florins! By now Florence had total economic independence, and in fact she had had it for some time, if already by 1255 we find an epigraph inscribed in stone on the Palace of the Podesta which reads that the City "possesses the sea, possesses the land, possesses the whole world"--a phrase that Dante will appropriate and use in Inferno in a bitter sarcasm against Florence!

The fast demographic growth of the city created a number of inevitable social conflicts among its population. Conflicts between the rich and the poor, between the nobility and the bourgeoisie, between the old inhabitants of the city and the newcomers. Dante is strongly opposed to all these changes, and he is definitely for old times when, according to him, there was justice and morality. In canto XV of Paradiso, through his great grandfather's mouth, he will describe the Florence that is still contained within its first circle of walls in a nostalgic reminiscence of the good old times, times when the citizens lived in happy families and in a just civic society--as against present times when women are abandoned by husbands who are going abroad in search of new business. The city is not what it used to be, because "newcomers to the city and fast gain have created excess and arrogance in Florence" (Inferno XVI, 73-75).

The above are just minute examples of what we find in the Comedy. Practically every Florentine--and non Florentine--Dante meets throughout his voyage becomes a splendid occasion for him to lash out against present social, moral and political decadence of Florence and Italy. Florence has become the city of Satan because it coins and exports the accursed Florin corrupting the whole world (Paradiso IX). But to Dante the decadence of Florence is connected to the general decadence of Italy, where chaos, injustice, hate, violence, wars and moral corruption are rampant. These are the problems that characterize the ethical and political situation of medieval Italy. According to Dante, at the basis of this situation there is the clash between the Pope and the Emperor. It is they who bear the responsibility because they have divided and politicized Italian cities for their own gain. More specifically and first of all is the fact that the last Emperors have not conformed with the function established by God--that of keeping in check the cities and the regions under their control. The weakness of the imperial power has made possible the corruption of the Church which has unduly appropriated to itself the temporal power belonging, by God's right, to the Emperor. So both the Pope and the Emperor have failed their missions--spiritual and temporal, respectively--entrusted separately to each by God for the happiness and wellbeing of the people (Purgatorio VI).


As it was mentioned above, Dante dedicated his Paradise to his Veronese patron Cangrande della Scala, as a sign of gratitude and of friendship. The presentation was accompanied by a letter which sets the basic guidelines for the interpretation of the Comedy. In the letter to Cangrande Dante states that his Commedia is polysemous, that is, it has not just a single sense, but several. He then exemplifies the concept of polysemy by offering an interpretation of a Psalm in accordance to a fourfold system of interpretation: literal, allegorical, moral and anagogical. In fact, as we will recall, he had proposed the same system of interpretation in his Convivio. Soon after, in his letter, Dante restricts his definition by stating that the last three adjectives (allegorical, moral and anagogical) could all be put under one name and "may all be called allegorical, since all of them differ from the literal meaning" (∂ 7),as the etymology of the word "allegory" [from the Greek alleon = 'other' or 'different'] indicates. Therefore in the Comedy we can basically think of two meanings: a literal meaning and an allegorical meaning. This applies to the work globally, as well as to each single part. Obviously, this does not imply that every single line and every single word should be interpreted both literally and allegorically. For every line and every word there will always be a literal meaning, but not always an allegorical interpretation.

Taken literally, then, the subject of the Comedy, Dante says, "is the state of souls after death". Taken allegorically, "the subject is man in his merits and demerits he has acquired through the excercize of his free will, and therefore earning just rewards or becoming liable of just punishments" (∂ 8). Obviously the man Dante is talking about is Everyman. It is Dante as the agent of the Comedy, that is to say Dante the Wayfarer, as the fundamental participant in the voyage. Dante has become conscious of his misery and sin and, through an act of his free will, has decided to free himself from sin. So he undertakes the voyage not as a passive spectator, but as an "actor" and participant who will recognize sin in Hell, who will atone sins together with the souls of Purgatory, and who will finally become purified in Paradise. In addition, in the letter to Cangrande Dante tells us that the Comedy deals with moral philosophy or ethics, that it "has been conceived not for the sake of speculation, but for action" (∂ 16). He also tells us that the end of the Comedy "is to remove those living in this life from the state of misery and to lead them to the state of happiness" (∂ 15). Therefore, Dante's voyage becomes a paradigmatic example valid for every man.


Dante envisions his voyage as taking place in 1300. This date is established by internal inferences. The Poet, in fact, does not give the precise date, nor does he mention the month or the day. Some commentators believe that the voyage began on Good Friday which, in the year 1300, fell on the 8th of April. Others believe that it was begun on March 25th, a day in which, according to medieval tradition, coincided with the creation of Adam and the death of Christ. Dante takes seven days to accomplish his voyage.

Since Dante began writing the Comedy around 1307-8, that is some seven/eight years after the voyage was to have taken place, he was able to make "prophesies" and predictions of "future" events in the Poem that actually had already happened. This gave Dante the opportunity to also use stratagems or tricks as he does in Hell with his archenemy Pope Boniface the VIII who died in 1303. (See Inferno XIX, 51 ff).


The concept of "contrapasso" or counter-penalty is a principle used by Dante by which punishment is imposed to the soul in Hell or Purgatory. The punishment is commensurate with the sins committed by the respective individual on earth. The idea of "contrapasso" is not an invention of Dante. It is the old moral-juridical principle of retribution embodied in the expression "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" which was first formulated in the Old Testament books of Exodus (21:23ff.) Leviticus (24:17-20) and Deuteronomy (19:21).

In the Comedy the actual word "contrapasso" is used by Bertrand de Born who is punished in Canto XXVIII of Hell among the Sowers of Scandal and Schism. Bertrand says: " Because I divided those so joined / I carry, alas, my brains severd / from its source which is within my trunk. / It is thus observed in me the law of counter-penalty" (139-142). As in life Bertrand de Born, with his evil counsel,had caused enmity and division between Henry III and his father Henry II of England (that is, causing a severance within the body of a family), so now in Hell Betrand's headless trunk moves around "carrying its severed head by the hairs as if it were a lantern" (Inferno XXVIII 119-122).


In the Comedy we have several persons who guide Dante throughout his voyage. These include, in ascending order, Virgil, Statius, Matelda, Beatrice, St. Bernard; with Virgil and Beatrice as the most important.

VIRGIL. Virgil, in the Comedy, symbolizes human reason, the rational faculty as the first and basic guide for man's ethical life, the principle that makes man distinguish between right and wrong. Virgil, a pre-Christian author, was regarded in the Middle Ages as a sage. For Dante he is "the light" and the guide that gives hope (Purgatorio 4 and 6). Also in his fourth Eclogue Virgil had written symbolically of the coming of a wonder child and of the return to the golden age, a period of justice and universal peace. In the Middle Ages this was interpreted as prophetic of the coming of Christ. Of course, Virgil had also written the Aeneid celebrating the founding of the Roman Empire and Rome's contribution to universal civilization and justice. In fact when Virgil appears to Dante, at the beginning of the Comedy, he stresses these fundamental notions: he lived in Rome under the Empire, and was the poet of Aeneas, the righteous man destine by divine Providence to lay the basis of the Roman Empire. Dante greets Virgil as his master and his author; "master" because of the "noble style", or tragic style that Dante had used in his great allegorical and doctrinal canzoni; "author", in the precise sense of the word explained by Dante himself in the Convivio, namely "as a person worthy of being believed and obeyed" (Convivio IV, v, 5). So, guided by Virgil Dante will regain control of his own actions, in a sense of morality and justice, through a decision of his own will, in order to understand sin fully and completely--because for Dante, and for Everyman, this is the only way to re-acquire moral freedom.

BEATRICE. Beatrice, in the Comedy, symbolizes divine knowledge, or theology. After the rational level--with Virgil as a guide--whereby Dante has reached the highest achievement that man as man can reach, with Beatrice we climb to a higher, metaphysical level in which her voice will be necessary in the explanation of phenomena which are beyond the comprehension of human reason. Beatrice appears to Dante at the top of Purgatory, in Earthly Paradise. At her appearance, she dramatically reproaches Dante for having followed the wrong way after her death. After Beatrice's rebuke, Dante recognizes his past sins and is taken by a strong sentiment of repentance and shame. Here a full catharsis has taken place and Dante is totally cleansed, and therefore he is immersed in Lethe, the Purgatorial river of classical recollection whose waters cause forgetfulness of the past. After this Matelda leads Dante to drink of the waters of Eunoe, the river that restores the "memory of the good", the final step in the ritual of purification. Dante is now "pure and prepared to climb into the stars" with Beatrice as guide.


a simplified sketch of Inferno
(Numbers refer to Circles [2] and Rings [7.1-3 / 9.1-4]or Pouches [8.1-10])




7.1 VIOLENT: against their neighbors
7.2 VIOLENT: against themselves and their possessions
7.3 VIOLENT: against God

8.1 FRAUD: panderers and seducers
8.2 FRAUD: flatterers
8.3 FRAUD: simonists
8.4 FRAUD: deviners,astrologers,magicians
8.5 FRAUD: barrators
8.6 FRAUD: hypocrites
8.7 FRAUD: thieves
8.8 FRAUD: fraudolent counselors
8.9 FRAUD: sower of discord
8.10 FRAUD: falsifiers


9.1 TREACHERY: of kin / CAINA
9.2 TREACHERY: of homeland or party / ANTENORA
9.3 TREACHERY: of guests / PTOLOMEA
9.4 TREACHERY: of benefactors / JUDECCA

Center of earth // Lucifer's navel ----------


The topographic structure of Hell.
As it has been mentioned, Hell is in the form of a huge funnel-shaped cavity under ground, beneath Jerusalem, and going all the way to the center of Earth (See sketch on previous page). It was created by Lucifer when he was thrown out of Heaven. Hell consists of nine concentric "circles" or regions diminishing in circumference as they descend toward the center. These are preceded by a vestibule, called Ante-Inferno and separated from Inferno proper by the river Acheron. Inferno proper is divided in an upper and a lower zone. The lower zone is envisioned by Dante much like a fortified city and is divided from the upper part by a marsh-like moat--called Styx--and a high wall. It is called the City of Dis, Dis being another name for Satan, and contains four circles. The other five circles make up the upper part. Each of the nine circles is designed for a particular sin, with the lightest sins near the top. The moral structure of Hell.
To begin with, the moral structure of Hell is, first of all, characterized in accordance to two particular beliefs of Dante. One, the fact that he has a strong contemptuous attitude against those who "lived without blame and without praise", the cowardly, the neutrals, those lacking the courage to do neither good nor bad. Dante cannot stand them, and believes that they cannot even deserve to be in Hell proper. Therefore he puts them in a region apart. Two, the fact that he placed in Limbo (which in the official church view was reserved for only the unbaptized and for the just people of the Old Testament who believed in the coming of Christ) also those worthy Pagans who lived before the coming of Christ. This is a place particularly for pre-Christian poets and, of course, is Virgil's permanent abode. With the exclusion of these two large groups then, the whole moral structure of Hell follows basically a division into two main categories. In upper Hell are punished the so-called sins of incontinence, the lack of moderation or control in the natural appetite. So, in the four circles after Limbo are punished, in an increasing order of sinfulness, the lustful, the gluttons, the horderers-and-squanderers, and the wrathful. In lower Hell are punished sins of malice or the evil intent. And, again in an increasing order of sinfulness, we have the heretics, the violent (subdivided into three rings), the fraudulent (subdivided into ten "pouches"), and finally the traitors (subdivided into four zones). Inferno: Content Summary (See Sketch of Inferno).

[Canti I-III]. The poem begins with the story of how one day Dante got lost in a dark forest. While he is in the process of climbing up a hill he meets three beasts which impede his passage and thrust him back where he came from. At this point the Latin poet Virgil appears and encourages Dante to follow him. He will guide Dante through Hell and Purgatory, and then someone else will come to lead him through Paradise. The two poets begin the journey and soon arrive in front of Hell's door. They enter and find a group of souls, the Cowardly, who are obliged to run continually after a flag. [Canti IV-VIII]. Further on the two Poets cross the river Acheron and reach the first (1) Circle of Hell where Limbo is located. This is the zone reserved for those who died without having been baptized and for the ancient Poets. Their "punishment" is only spiritual: they long to see God and will never be satisfied. At the beginning of the second (2) Circle is Minos who judges all incoming souls and sends them to their appropriate Circle. Soon after, blown about by a continuous storm, are condemned the Lustful. Here Dante has his great encounter with the two lovers Paolo and Francesca. In the third (3) Circle, under an incessant cold rain, are the Gluttons tormented by the monster Cerberus. Here Dante hears from Ciacco the first prophesy concerning him and Florence. Another monster, Pluto, is the guardian of the next (4) Circle where, in two separate groups, are the Hoarderers and the Squanderers, pushing with their breasts big boulders in semicircles. Continuing their voyage the two Poets descend into the fifth (5) Circle which is located in a marsh called Styx. Here are condemned the Wrathful, some half-immersed in the muddy waters, some totally immersed in it. [Canti IX-XVII]. At the walls of the City of Dis, Dante and Virgil are impeded passage by the demons who are guarding it. A heavenly Messanger is required to help them enter. So they reach the sixth (6) Circle where are condemned the Arch-Heretics in uncovered flaming tombs. They cannot see the present, although can see the future. Dante meets here the Ghibelline Farinata degli Uberti and Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti, father of his dear friend Guido. The seventh (7) Circle is for the Violent and is subdivided into three rings: (7.1) The first ring punishes the Violent against neighbors who are in a river of boiling blood. (7.2) In the second ring are punished the Violent against themselves or suicides who are here transformed into trees; and also the Violent against their own possessions who are torn apart by hungry bitches. (7.3) The third ring hosts three types of violent: a) the Blasphemers, or violent against God; b) the Sodomites, or violent against Nature; c) the Usurers, or violent against Art. Here, among the sodomites, Dante has a memorable encounter with his "mentor" Brunetto Latini. [Canti XVII-XXX]. The two Poets descend into the eighth (8) Circle, reserved for the Fraudulent. This is the most complex of all the Circles of Hell. It is called Malebolge (Evil-pouches) and is subdivided into ten "pouches". These are divided from each other by big walls and connected by a series of bridges. In each pouch is condemned a specific type of fraudulent sinners. (8.1) The first pouch punishes the Panderers and Seducers who are scourged by horned demons. (8.2) The second is reserved for the Flatterers who are immersed in excrements. (8.3) The third is for Simonists who are condemned head down into holes in the rock. (8.4) In the fourth pouch are the Soothsayers who have their heads turned backward. (8.5) The fifth pouch is for the Barrators who are condemned into boiling pitch. (8.6) In the sixth are the Hypocrites who walk slowly covered with caps of lead. (8.7) The seventh pouch is dedicated to the Thieves who are bitten by serpents. (8.8) In the eighth pouch are condemned the Fraudolent Counselors who are totally enclosed in tongue-like flames. (8.9) Here in the ninth pouch are the Sowers of Discord who are condemned to be wounded again and again by demons. (8.10) The last pouch is reserved for Falsifiers who are subdivided in their turn into four groups [(8.10.1) Falsifiers of metals; (8.10.2) Falsifiers of persons; (8.10.3) Falsifiers of coins; (8.10.4) Falsifiers of words], each group subject to a different punishment. [Canti XXXI-XXXIII]. The ninth (9) Circle, which is the large well of the Giants, is reached by Dante and Virgil with the help of one of the Giants, Anteo. He takes the two Poets on his hands and deposit them into this frozen lake which is called Cocito. The lake is frozen by the movement of Lucifer's wings. Lucifer is located in the central point of the Circle which is also the center of earth. Here in Cocito's ice are punished the Traitors, and are separated into four zones. (9.1) The first zone is called Caina, and is for Traitors of relatives. (9.2) The second zone is called Antenora, and is for Traitors of Country. (9.3) The third zone is called Tolomea, and is for Traitors of guests. (9.4) The fourth and last zone, called Judecca, is reserved for Traitors against their benefactors. Here is Lucifer, King of Hell, with his three heads and three mounths chewing three traitors: Judas, Brutus, and Cassius. [Canto XXXIV]. At this point Dante and Virgil begin their exit from Hell. They descend down Lucifer's body, then turn around and ascend through a "hole built by nature" to the southern hemisphere, arriving at the shore of the Mountain of Purgatory, and seeing "once more the stars".

Cantos' Line Synopsis and Notes

Canto lines
<>N O T E S<>


Midway in "our life's journey" Dante realizes that he has strayed from the true path into a dark forest.
The first Canto is a canto of introduction to the whole Comedy. Midway of our life is 35 years. Therefore we are in 1300. The dark forest is symbolic of sin
The Mount of Joy. Dante tries to get out of the forest and arrives at the foot of a mountain illuminated by the sun.
The sun (=Sun) is symbolic of God.
Here three beasts impede Dante's ascent: (1) a Leopard, (2) a Lion, (3) a She-wolf. The beasts drive him back where he came from.
The beasts are symbolic of (1) Malice and fraud, (2) Violence and ambitions, (3) Incontinence.
Here a figure appears to Dante. It is the shade of Virgil. It is he who will lead Dante from error. But there cannot be a direct ascent. Dante must take another way.
Virgil is the symbol of human reason. He is Dante's first guide.
Virgil tells Dante that he must first descend into HELL. Then he must go through PURGATORY. And finally he can ascend to PARADISE. Virgil tells Dante that for Paradise there will be another guide.
The descent into Hell is symbolic of the recognition of sin. The ascent through Purgatory means renounciation of sin and atonement. The other guide will be Beatrice.


Evening is approaching. Dante invokes the Muses and "the high genius" to help him.
Invocation of the Muses is traditional in poetry.
Dante is following Virgil and finds himself tired and full of doubts: how can he be worthy of such a vision? He is not Aeneas, he is not St. Paul!
Dante is fully aware of his sins and feels unworthy of the voyage to salvation. For Aeneas' and St. Paul's voyages, see above.
Virgil conforts Dante and explains how Beatrice descended to him (Virgil) in LIMBO and told him of her concern for Dante. Beatrice has been sent with the prayers of (1) the Virgin Mary, (2) Saint Lucia, and (3) Rachel [Jacob's wife].
Beatrice symbolizes the Science of Revelation (or Theology). The other three women are symbolic of (1) divine grace, (2) divine light, (3) contemplative life. For Jacob's second wife Rachel, see Genesis 29:16ff.
Dante resumes courage, expresses gratitude to Beatrice and to Virgil and follows him, ready to begin the difficult journey.
Virgil is "guide and master" and Dante will follow him throughout Inferno and a good part of Purgatorio.


The gate of Hell is always open. The inscription above the gate warns whoever enters to leave all hopes. Dante is afraid, but Virgil tells him to leave all hesitation. The two Poets enter.
The inscription and the rest of the Canto characterize the basic atmosphere of Hell, and the initial reaction of Dante.
Dante soon hears the cries of anguish of the souls in torment.These are the souls of the Cowardly who in life neither practiced good or evil. Now they intermingle with the neutral angels.
The Cowardly must race eternally pursuing a banner that runs forever before them. In turn, they are pursued by wasps and hornets which sting and push them on. This is their contrapasso, a concept in the Comedy by which the punishment fits the crime
[59-60]. Dante recognizes one of them. It is the shade of Pope Celestine the V. Celestine became Pope in August 1294 and resigned in December of the same year.
The two Poets, without speaking to any of the souls there, move on to pass ACHERON. For the crossing they must use the services of Charon.
Acheron is the first of the four rivers of Hell. These will be expained by Virgil later in Canto 14. Charon is the boatman who must ferry the souls to the other side of the river and to punishment.
There is an earthquake, wind and a lightning; a brilliant red light overcomes Dante who falls "like a man seized by sleep"
Earthquakes, from Aristotle's time, were believed to be caused by land-locked winds or vapors escaping violently from underground.


A big thunder awakens Dante. He looks around and realizes that he is inside Hell, and precisely in its first circle which is called Limbo
The first Circle:
Virgil tells Dante that in LIMBO are the souls of children who died before they were baptized, and of virtous Pagans who lived before Christ.
The "punishment" of the souls in Limbo is that they have an insatiable desire to see God.
Virgil tells Dante that Christ entered into LIMBO "and liberated the shades of our first fathers": Abel, Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, and many others; "and He made them blessed".
Christ descent into Limbo is known as the Harrowing of Hell. The descent of Christ was witnessed by Virgil who "was a new arrival in this state". Virgil died in 19 B.C., and Christ died in 33 A.D., therefore Virgil had been there some 50 years.
In a second zone of LIMBO Dante sees a great dome of light. A voice is heard welcoming back Virgil (Again, this is his place). Soon appear HOMER, HORACE, OVID, LUCAN. They greeted Virgil and invited Dante into their ranks, so that he "was the sixth among such intellects" (l. 102).
Dante did not know Greek nor the works of Homer directly. But he knew well most of the works of the other poets mentioned. Dante is already conscious that he will be a great luminary in the field of poetry, in the same rank with the poets mentioned here.
With the poets Dante enters into the Citadel of Limbo where he sees many great spirits of Pagan antiquity, gathered on a green and all illuminated
The Citadel of Limbo. The light is the symbol of Human Reason, the highest state man can achieve without God.


Dante and Virgil enter into the second Circle. There they meet MINOS, the judge of Hell who assigns each soul its place of eternal punishment.
The beginning of Hell proper.
The two Poets find themselves on a dark ledge swept by a continuous whirlwind which spins within it the souls of the Lustful or carnal sinners
Contrapasso: as the Lustful in life were swept by the wind of passion, now they are condemned to be swept eternally by a great whirlwind.
Among the list of the carnal sinners are:
Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, Helen, Paris, Tristan, ..."and more than a thousand shades" (ll. 67-68).
Semiramis, Queen of Assyria (1356-1314 B.C.).Dido founder of Carthage and lover of Aeneas (Aeneid, books I and IV).Cleopatra Queen of Egypt, mistress first of Julius Caeser and then of Mark Antony.Helen, wife of the King of Sparta, Menelaus; she was abducted and became the mistress of Paris; and this led to the Trojan War.Tristan, hero of a medieval Romance and lover of Yseult, wife of Tristan's uncle.
Dante sees Paolo and Francesca swept together by the wind. In love's name he calls them and asks them to tell their own sad story. They pause from their eternal flight to come to him, and FRANCESCA tells Dante their story while Paolo weeps at her side. Dante is striken by pity for them, faints and "fell as a dead body falls" (l. 142).
The story of Paolo and Francesca takes exactly the second half of the Canto. In lines 100-106 Dante uses the vocabulary used in the tenets of the Sweet New Style. But the emphasis here is on the fair body and on his beauty. Therefore the "episode" of Paolo and Francesca can be understood as Dante's rejection of those tenets.


Dante recovers and finds himself in the Third Circle. A storm of putrefaction falls constantly Stinking snow, dark and cold rain and hail mix in the mud. Here are the Gluttons and their bestial guardian Cerberus who is barking, doglike, and tearing the souls with his claws.
THIRD CIRCLE. Contrapasso here is complex: the Gluttons here are condemned in all five senses. Taste and smell by the mud in which they lie; sight by the darkness; hearing by the barking of Cerberus; touch by the rain and the mud in which they must wallow.
One of the shades asks Dante whether he recognizes him. Dante doesn't, and he reveals himself as Ciacco.
Ciacco was a Florentine of Dante's time, well known for his gluttony, as Boccaccio tells us. Boccaccio speaks of him also in Decameron IX, 8.
At the asking, Ciacco "prophesises" the Florentine historical events after 1300. He tells Dante that the citizens of the "divided city will come to blood and the party of the woods will chase away the other party". But then within three years the other party will prevail again, with the help of a powerful person, and will inflict heavy penalty on its enemies.
On May Day 1300 the Whites (the party of the woods, because originally from the country) defeated the Blacks. But in less than three years, in April 1302, the banished Blacks returned to power with the help of Pope Boniface VIII. Because of this Dante had to go into exile.
Dante asks Ciacco about some politically famous Florentines of the past. Ciacco tells Dante that he will meet them further down in Hell "among the blackest souls". They are Farinata,Teggiaio, Rusticucci and Mosca. At the end of their conversation, Ciacco begs Dante to recall him to men's memory when he returns to the "sweet world", after his voyage.
Farinata degli Uberti is among the Heretics in Canto 10, Tegghiaio Aldobrandini and Jacopo Rusticucci are among the Sodomites in Canto XVI, and Mosca dei Lamberti is punished among the Sowers of Scandal in Canto XXVIII. The memory of the "sweet world" is the idea of wanting to be remembered on earth. It is common to many sinners of Hell and constitutes one of the leit-motifs of the Inferno.
Dante asks Virgil whether after Judgment Day the damned souls will suffer more, less or the same. Virgil answers that they will suffer more.
The Aristotelian doctrine that full perfection lies in the union of body and spirit was accepted by Medieval thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, and hence also by Dante. After Judgment Day body and spirit will be reunited and hence perfection will be regained. Therefore the pains will also increase.


PLUTUS, gardian of the Fourth Circle, tries to impede Virgil's and Dante's passage by howling some incomprehensible words. But Virgil commands him to be quite as Dante's voyage has been willed by Above. So the ferocious beast quietes down and falls to the ground.
In Canto 3 (94-96) and in Canto 5 ( 22-23) Virgil had already warned, respectively, Charon and Minos not to attempt to impede Dante's "fated voyage, as it has been willed Above" Here we have two contrasting concepts: (1) the idea that Dante's voyage is wanted by God, for the ultimate salvation of all mankind, and (2) the attempted impediment of his voyage by the inhabitants of Hell. [More on this later].
The two Poets descend into the Fourth Circle where they see a great number of people in two opposite groups, each occupying opposite halves of the Circle: the Avaricious on one side, the Prodigals on the other. They are pushing with their chests big boulders, in semi circles. When they meet, they utter reciprocal insults, turn around and continue pushing the other way, and so on. Many of the avaricious sinners in their lives on earth were popes, cardinals and clerics.
FOURTH CIRCLE. The Avaricious and the Prodigals are at opposite ends of a scale measuring and concerned with worldly goods. Their contrapasso is the following: as in life they had been excessively preoccupied in their hearts in the futile handling of worldly possessions, so now they have to push weights with their chests in a likewise futile "round dance".
Dante wants to know from Virgil what is Fortune who "clutches the world's wealth"; and the master explains that Fortune is a celestial Intelligence ordained by God to govern wordly goods and to distribute them, without concern about human complaints and beyond the prevention of human wits, as human wisdom cannot oppose her force.
Dante's conception of Fortune as a divine Intelligence in charge of the world's wealth goes counter-current to the tradition which saw Lady Luck as a blindfolded, capricious female turning the Wheel at random. Here Dante seems to correct a passage in his Convivio (IV,xi,6) where he states that wordly goods are imperfect and unjustly distributed. It is interesting to note that later on, in the Italian Humanism, a new conception will slowly come into being whereby man with his virtý can control and overcome Fortune [see Machiavelli]..
It is now past midnight and begins the second day into the voyage. Dante and Virgil descend into the marsh-like river called Styx, where the Fifth Circle is located.
FIFTH CIRCLE. Contrapasso: as the Wrathful were overtaken by various degree of wrath in life and vented or not their rage, so now they are immersed to various degrees in the marsh..
In the muddy Styx are immersed the Wrathful, some half way, some totally immersed. Those partially immersed tear each other to pieces. The others sigh making the waters above them bubble, as if they were gurgling words in their throat. In the meantime, Dante and Virgil had circled quite a bit around the Styx when they arrive at the foot of a tower.
The episode of the Wrathful which begins here will continue into next Canto VIII--as Dante tells us at the beginning of that Canto. It is relevant to note that up to now the "episodes" have been restrained, so to speak, within each Canto. From now on, while the subject matter is becoming increasigly more complex, single Cantos will not be sufficient to contain the "episodes" any more. Of course, this also means that Dante has begun perfecting his poetical skill.


A swift vessel comes toward Dante and Virgil. It is navigated by the wrathful guardian of the Fifth Circle, Phlegyas. He is going to ferry the two Poets across the marsh.
Phlegyas is guardian of the Styx and also the symbol of rage.
During the crossing, a "muddy" wrathful and bizarre soul tries to stop the boat and talk to Dante. He is rejected and rebuked by the Wayfarer who expresses the desire to see this soul undergo greater torments. So as it happens a group of souls jump on him and identify him as FILIPPO ARGENTI.
We know nothing about Filippo Argenti, except what we are told by early commentators and by Boccaccio in his Decameron (IX,8) where Filippo is portrayed as an arrogant and irascible person. Critics have generally reproached Dante's fierce attitute of scorn against Filippo. But we have to remember that Filippo had stood up before Phlegyas' boat in an attempt to stop Dante's voyage. Again, this is an act of impediment of the "fated journey" and, as we have seen before, cannot be allowed. Here Dante doesn't need Virgil's help. He can address the impediment himself, but will have Virgil's full approval.
In the meantime Virgil and Dante are approaching the walls of the City of Dis. Phlegyas shows them the gate and shouts at them to get off his boat.
Dis is both the name of the lower realm of Hell, as well as another name for Satan, the king of Hell.
A great multitude of demons gather at the gate of Dis trying to impede Virgil's and Dante's entrance.
Virgil tries to calm them down but he cannot.


Seeing all those demons and that it is impossibile for his guide to do anything, Dante is taken by deep fear. Virgil tries to comfort him by telling him that once before he himself went all the way down to the bottom of Hell, and hence he knows the way.
This Canto is strictly connected with Canto 8. Here, however, in the emotional crescendo, Dante becomes for the first time unsure of his guide.
At this moment Dante sees the three Furies appear to strengthen defence of the City. They make frightening gestures and threaten to call on Medusa to turn Dante into a stone. So Virgil makes Dante turn his back to the wall and tells him to keep his eyes shut
The three Furies are the guardians of the City of Dis. Medusa is one of the three Gorgon sisters. She has serpents for hair.
Virgil cannot overcome this impediment. Therefore the coming of a celestial Messanger will be necessary. He arrives, forces the doors open with a little wand, reproaches the wall defenders for having tried to obstruct heavenly justice, and turns back as fast as he has come. So Dante and Virgil can finally enter into the City of Dis.
Here Virgil, as symbol of human reason, fails. This is the strongest impediment to the journey so far. Virgil reassurance to Dante that he knows the way,is of no use here. To open the way is necessary not simply human Reason, but the intervention of Grace.
Once inside the City, Dante sees everywhere uncovered tombs inside of which there are hot flames and growing laments. Virgil informs Dante that inside those sepulchers are condemned the arch-Heretics.
Inquisition tribunals to conduct inquests against suspected heretics were set up in 1233. Perhaps through analogy with Roman law on treason, burning at the stake was considered a fitting punishment for heretics. In reality burning of heretics was not a common practice in the Middle Ages.


The burning coffins of the Sixth Circle are uncovered. Dante asks Virgil if he could see the souls inside. Virgil answers that after Judgment Day, those coffins will all be shut with souls and bodies inside. He also tells Dante that here are punished Epicurus and his followers, that is to say all those who believe that the individual soul dies with the body.
The Heretics. In the Middle Ages the Greek philosopher Epicurus had become the symbol of all skeptical persons who denied the immortality of the soul.
One of the shades has recognized Dante to be a Florentine by the way he speaks and asks him to stop a while. He is Farinata degli Uberti, also Florentine. Farinata and Dante have a rather brief and cutting exchange, belonging as they do to differing political parties. In the exchange are encapsulated the political fortunes of Guelfs and Ghibellines during a couple of scores, before and after the middle of the Century.
Farinata was born to the noble family Degli Uberti, and became leader of the Ghibelline party in 1239. He helped to expel the Guelfs from Florence in 1248, but the Guelfs returned twice, in 1251 and 1266. Farinata is only concerned with politics.
While Dante is having his exchange with Farinata, another shade rises all of a sudden from the coffin and wants to know from Dante where is his son. He is Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, father of Dante's dear friend Guido. Dante's answer is misunderstood by Cavalcante who now believes that his son is dead, and falls back into his coffin.
Dante's friend, Guido Cavalcanti, was a famous poet of the "Sweet New Style". He was born around 1250 and died in August 1300. Thus, in the fictional time of Dante's voyage, Guido is still alive. In contrast to Farinata, Cavalcante is only concerned with family.
After the "interruption" of Cavalcanti, the partisan exchange between Dante and Farinata continues. Then Farinata makes a prophesy about the political future of Florence after 1300 when the Guelfs will be expelled again from Florence. This, of course, involves Dante's own exile
By interjecting family feeling (Cavalcante's story) into a political discourse (Farinata's concern), Dante seems to tell us that family is the small fundamental nucleus of a civilized state.
Dante is confused by the fact that Farinata can see the future and Cavalcanti has no idea of the present. Farinata explains to him that the souls here can see the future, but as it approaches and becomes present their knowledge is totally lost. Therefore, he says, at the end of times, when future will be no more, also their knowledge will be totally in vain. Dante now understands and asks Farinata to tell Cavalcante that his son is still alive. Then Farinata mentions to Dante that among his group there is also Frederick II.
The idea that knowledge in these souls will be, at the end of times, totally extinct, is part of the contrapasso.
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor from 1215 to 1250, was well known for his efforts to reunite the Empire. He was also one of the poets in his famous Sicilian School at his court.



The two Poets arrive at the edge of the Sixth Circle. The stench that comes from the Circle below is so strong that they decide to stop a while by a coffin in order to get somewhat accostumed to the smell. In the coffin there is the soul of Pope Anastasius II.
Pope Anastasius II (496-498) was considered by all historians up to the XVI century as a follower of an heretical doctrine, later disproved. Dante may have confused him with Emperor Anastasius I (491-518) whose heretical inclination stirred religious unrest throughout the Empire.
In order not to waste time, Virgil begins to explain to Dante how lower Hell is organized. He tells his pupil that there are three more Circles below: one for sinners of Violence and two for sinners of Fraud. Dante has some doubts and asks Virgil why the sinners they met in the upper part of Hell are not punished within the City of Dis. Virgil reminds him of what Aristotle said in his Ethics, namely that Incontinence is less offensive to God and therefore deserves a lesser punishment than Violence and Fraud.
The moral order of Hell and the distribution of sinners within it have been discussed in the Introduction to Inferno.(See above)

The Ethics here is a reference to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. In Dante's times Aristotle was known to Europe only in Latin translations.

Dante has one more doubt: why should usury be a kind of violence against God? Virgil again reminds him of what Aristotle said in his Physics: Nature is the daughetr of God and Art imitates Nature, therefore Art is the granddaughter of God . Usury is an unnatural use of Nature because the usurer earns his living not through work--as Genesis teaches--but without any effort, through gains made from interest on money loaned to the less fortunate. Usury therefore offends both Art and Nature and, of course, God.
The reference here is to Aristotle's Physics "not many pages from the beginning". In fact here Virgil is referring to Chapter 2 of Book II where Aristotle sets forth the principle explained. In Genesis 3:17 and 19 is written that man must earn his bread by the sweat of his own brow.


Dante and Virgil have arrived at a place where they can descend from the Sixth to the Seventh Circle. There is a Minotaur who tries to block the Poets passage. Virgil tricks him and the two can pass.
The Creatan Minotaur, born from the union of Pasiphae with a bull, is half a man and half a bull. The monster is symbolic of bestial violence.
30-45The path is full of loose rocks which move under Dante's weight. Virgil tells Dante that the fallen mass was caused by the earthquake at Christ's death The story of the earthquake that marked the moment of Christ's death is narrated in the Gospel by Matthew (27.51).
Virgil asks Dante to look below at the river of boiling blood that punishes sinners of violence against their neighbors. The place is guarded by Centaurs who keep the sinners at their assigned depth in the boiling blood.
SEVENTH CIRCLE. First Ring: Violent against Neighbors. Contrapasso: As the violent weltered in blood on earth, so now they are immersed in blood. Centaurs are mythological creatures, half man and half animal. Generally they were uncuth and savage, but some, such as Chiron, became friends and teachers of man.
Guided by the Centaur Nesso the two Poets continue their voyage. Nesso reveals the names of some of the sinners immersed in the blood to various levels. Then Nesso takes Dante and Virgil to a shallow part of the river where they can cross.
The various levels of immersion in the boiling blood indicate the various degree of guilt of the violent against neighbors.


Dante and Virgil enter a strange despoiled forest with nesting Harpies. Virgil has Dante notice that he is in the Second Ring until he has come to the "horrible sand".
The Harpies are mythological monsters with heads of women and bodies in the shape of rapacious birds. We are in the SEVENTH CIRCLE, Second Ring where are punished (a) Violent against their persons or Suicides, (b) Violent against their possessions or Squanderers. "The sand" of the following Third Ring of this same Seventh Circle.
They hear voices but see no one. Virgil tells Dante to break a branch and his idea of people hidden will prove mistaken. Dante plucks a twig only to hear "Why do you tear me?".Its voice is mixed with blood, while it tells Dante that once it had been a man. Being asked, the shade reveals his name: on earth he was Pier della Vigna, personal Secretary of Frederick II. Having been accused of betrayal, he took his life.
Pier della Vigna (1190-1249), notary and famous poet at the Sicilian Court, was for many years chief adviser, Chancellor and personal secretary to Emperor Frederick II. Accused of treason, he was inprisoned and blinded. There he committed suicide. According to Dante (and others) he had been accused falsely.
Pier della Vigna explains that the souls of suicides are sent by Minos to the wood of the Seventh Circle. There wherever they fall they take roots and become plants. The Harpies feed on these plants causing pains and laments. As other souls, on Judgement Day they too will go for their bodies which will be dragged here. But, unlike other souls, they will not reunite with the bodies because "it is not right for anyone to have what one has cast away". So their bodies will instead hang on their branches forever.
Pier's explanation clarifies the contrapasso of (a)the Suicides: Those who destroyed their body are denied a human form:the soul becomes encased in a tree,a step down in the scale of being; from the animal to the vegetable kingdom. After Doomsday the body will hang on the tree as a dry twig that is no more a part of that tree as, through sui-cide, it has been cut away.
While the two Poets are intent on listening to Pier della Vigna, they see two naked souls being chased by black hungry bitches. These are the souls of the Violent against thier possessions. One of them (Lano da Siena) flees; the other (Jacopo da Sant'Andrea) hides in a bush. But the bitches are soon on top of it tearing it apart.
(b) Violent against their possessions or Squanderers. Their contrapasso: as they scattered their possessions away, so now they are torn to pieces by hungry bitches. Lano da Siena (+ 1287) and Jacopo da Sant'Andrea (+ 1239) were two notorious squanderers of the time.
The bush now justly complaints against Jacopo da Sant'Andrea, the cause of its being torn apart, and asks Virgil to please gather its scattered leaves and to place them at its foot. Virgil asks for his name but the bush doesn't reveal it. With a circumlocution, he says that he was from a city that is always at war (Florence) and that he hanged himself in his own house.
The identity of this suicide is not revealed even though he had been specifically requested. But it is clear that he is from Florence and an innocent unwillingly involved in the guilty lives of others. Perhaps Dante here wants to make a political statement about Florence and the lives of some innocent people there.



For love of his native city, Dante restores the torn leaves to the soul of the Florentine suicide.
The shade suffers unjustly because of other people's fault. Perhaps he is one with whom Dante, in a sense, identifies.
The two Poets come to the Third Ring of the Seventh Circle which, on one side, is flanked by the forest of the Suicides. It is a great desert of burning sand on which descend an eternal rain of fire. The sand is covered by a great number of naked souls, in various positions: (a) some lying supine-- Violent against God, (b) some sitting all crouched up--Violent against Nature, (c) some running incessantly--Violent against Art.
Third Ring. As in the previous two Rings, here we witness a deformed nature and a topsy-turvy world, symbolizing the sinful conditions of the souls and at the same time the instrument of divine punishment. Here are the Violent against the whole divine kinship of God as Father, Nature as Daughter, Art as Granddaughter of God.
Dante wants to know about a soul who doesn't seem to heed the rain of fire. The soul, having heard Dante, immediately answers: "That which I was in life, so I am in death".He is CAPANEUS, and he is still full of disdain against God.
(a) Violent against God, or Blasphemers.
Capaneus, one of the seven kings of Greece in the confederation against the Boethian city of Thebes (modern Thivai). In Thebes' siege he mounted on the walls and boasted that not even Jove could stop him. So Jove struck him down with a thunderbolt.
Dante and Virgil continue walking along the burning sand remaining as close as possible to the edge of the forest of the Suicides which encircles the Third Ring. Soon they come to a blood-red river which flows boiling from the forest and crosses the burning plain.
The name of this river, as we will be told at the end of the Canto, is Phlegethon, meaning "boiling river".
Virgil explains the power of its waters and also begins talking, allegorically, about the Old Man of Crete. Inside a Cretan mountain there is a colossal statue. It is the Old Man of Crete. His back is to the East, but faces West looking toward Rome. His head is golden, his arms and chest are silver, the rest is copper, but his legs are iron, and one foot is baked clay. Each part of the Old Man, except his head, is cracked. From the openings tears drip down to form the rivers of Hell: Acheron, Styx, Phlegethon and proceeding all the way down to finally form the last river Cocytus, at the bottom of Hell.
The Old Man of Crete is symbolic of human history and decadence. The figure is taken from the Bible and adopted by Dante. The various metals signify the decadence of humanity from the Golden Age down to the present. The iron foot symbolizes the Empire, and the clay foot the Papacy. The cracks in the statue from silver down word attest to Dante inventiveness, together with the tears that flow from the body of humanity to form the one river (with various names) in Hell.



The two Poets are now walking along one of the two retainig stone walls of Phlegethon. They are protected from the falling fire by the vapor clouds of the boiling river which extinguish the slow falling flakes of fire. Soon they notice coming towards them a large group of souls.
(b) The Violent against Nature, or Sodomites. They run in endless circles on the hot sand.
One of those souls recognizes Dante and is marveled to see him. Dante looks at him, recognizes him as Ser BRUNETTO. The two begin a pleasant conversation as would a father and son: for Brunetto Dante is "my son", and for Dante Brunetto is the "kind paternal image". In the conversation Ser Brunetto predicts to Dante his future glory, as well as the difficulties that he will encounter because of the ingratitude of the Florentines. There follows a bitter invective against the "Fiesolan beasts" of Florence on the part of Brunetto for whom Dante is one of "the sacred seed of those few Romans who remained there", in Florence. Dante answers, saying that he is ready; and thanks Brunetto, his teacher, who in life taught him "how man makes himsef immortal".
Brunetto Latini (c1220-1294), famous Florentine writer, composed in French an ecyclopedic work called Tresor, and in Italian two didactic poems, Tesoretto and Favolello. He also translated into Italian the rethorical works of Cicero. Brunetto was a Guelf and an ambassador to King Alfonse X of Castile. After the Guelfs' defeat at Montaperti (1260), Brunetto went to France, but returned to Florence after the battle of Benevento (1266) and held several political positions. He became famous as a teacher in Florence and was Dante's counselor in his studies. His homosexuality is not confirmed by other ducuments.
Brunetto gives an account of the souls punished there: clerics and men of letters. Among them are Priscian and Francesco d'Accorso. He then takes leave from Dante rather quickly because another group of homosexuals is arriving with whom he cannot be. He recommends to Dante his major work, Tesoro, "in which [he] still lives", and runs away
There are two groups of Sodomites punished here.Brunetto's group is composed of clerics and men of letters. The second group composed of politicians will be encountered in next Canto. Francesco d'Accorso (1255-1293) a celebrated professor at the universities of Bologna and Oxford. Nothing is known about his homosexuality. Priscian is a famous grammarian of the 6th century whose work was a common reference in medieval schools. His being a homosexual has not benn satisfactorily confirmed so far.



While Dante and Virgil continue walking along the river, they see another group of Sodomites. These are men of politics. Three of them leave the group to come and talk with Dante. These are three illustrious Florentines whose policies and personalities Dante admired greatly. They are Guido Guerra, Tegghiaio Aldobrandi e Jacopo Rusticucci. Jacopo talks with Dante and introduces to him the other two and himself.
Two of these men (Tegghiaio and Jacopo--together with Farinata) had been mentioned in Dante's talk with Ciacco. They are famous men. "Men of such worth whose minds were set on well-doing" (Canto 6, 79-80).
The three want to know from Dante whether courtesy and valor still abide in Florence, as they did when they were alive. Dante is deeply touched by the question and breaks out with a cry against the present day excess and arrogance of Florence, caused by the "new comers to the city" and the unbridled desire for "quick gain".
The realization that Florence has degenerated so much in only 30-40 years [the three famous men had died, respectively, in 1272, 1266, c.1268] prompts Dante to shout a fierce invective against contemporary life "with lifted face", as if looking up towards Florence.
The two poets have now arrived at a point where Phlegethon plunges down through a steep ravine into the Eighth Circle below. Dante removes a cord from arounh his waist and Virgil drops it over the edge of the abyss. As if called, a figure comes swimming up through the dirty air. It is Geryon, the guardian of the Circle of the Fraudulent below.
The cord. Many explanations have been advanced. One claims that Dante was a Friar Minor, but had left without taking the vows, retaining however the habit of wearing the white cord of the Franciscans.



Geryon is a monster with a face of a just man, two hairy paws, the rest of the body is like that of a serpent, His back, chest and both flanks are painted with knots and circlets. His tail is forked and similar to a scorpion's pinchers.
Geryon is the symbol of Fraud. Fraud, or deceat, "is man's peculiar vice" and is practised by a man against another (1) who has no trust in him, or (2) who trusts in him, as Dante explained earlier in Canto XI. Fraud, then will be punished, respectively, in the last two circles of Hell.
While Virgil talks to Geryon about the fact that he, Geryon, has to transport Dante and Virgil down to the Eighth Circle, Dante is sent to see the Usurers with a warning to be quick.
The reason for which Geryon is called before visiting the Usurersis that Usury is a sin against God Nature and Art, but it is distanced from blasphemy and sodomy. These have a kind of passionate feeling about them. Usury, on the contrary, has an element of fraud in it.
Dante goes and finds the Usurers sitting in the burning sand, crouched up and crying. Dante doesn't recognize any of them. But each has a purse hanging from his neck, with a special color and an emblem. One of the souls identifies himself and the other companions of pain.
The emblems on the purses are the coat of arms of families well known for their usury. There are two from Florence and one from Padova--the notorious Scrovegni. (It is worth noting that, in atonement of his father's sins, a son erected the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua where Giotto painted his world famous frescoes).
Dante returns and finds Virgil ready to climb on Geryon's back. Virgil asks Geryon to move on down and he does so making large spirals. Once arrived, the passengers dismount, and Geryon disappears into the dark.
Although Geryon is a figure of classical mythology, Dante's Geryon reminds us of the Serpent of Genesis, much like the great dragon of Revelation, "that serpent of old, called Devil or Satan (Rev.,12, 9)



Dante and Virgil find themselves in the Eighth Circle, a place in Hell called Malebolge, made all of grey-looking stone.Right in the " middle of these "evil pouches" there is a great circular pit [which will constitute Circle Nine]. The Eighth Circle is divided into ten concentric pouches or ditches over which are connecting bridge-like ridges, all made of stone, going all the way to the central pit.
THE EIGHTH CIRCLE is made up by ten concentric ditches. Each ditch slopes downward from the one before it and is smaller. In each one is punished a specific type of Fraud. Therefore we have ten types of fraud condemned in the Eighth Circle.
Dante and Virgil begin their voyage over one of these bridges. They are now over the First Pouch or Ditch. From there Dante sees below two groups of sinners who travel in opposite directions. The sinners are watched over by demons who lash the spirits from behind.
First Ditch. Two groups: in the first group are (a) the Panderers, in the second group are (b) the Seducers. They are driven by scourges of horned demons.
Dante seems to recognize one of the sinners below. He is Venedico Caccianemico who is trying to hide from Dante.
(a) Panderes. The bologneseVenedico Caccianemico (c1228-c1302) acted as a panderer for his own sister, Ghisolabella, with one of the marquises of Este.
Continuing on Dante and Virgil arrive on top of the bridle-like ridge. From there Dante sees the other group of sinners. These are the Seducers. Virgil identifies several from classical times. Among these is Jason who seduced first Hypsipyle and "abandoned her, alone and pregnant", and later seduced Medea.
(b) Seducers. Jason, in Greek mythology, sailed with a group of heroes in the Argo (hence the "Argonauts") in quest of the golden fleece. Jason had been reared secretly by the Centaur Chiron. Hypsipyle bore Jason two children. She is in Limbo (see Purgatorio, 22.112). Medea, skilled in magic and sorcery, helped Jason to obtain the golden fleece. She bore him two children. Later Jason abandoned her for another woman.
The two poets arrive on the edge separating the first from the second Ditch. There is an unbearable stench that come from the second Ditch where the Flatterers are punished. They are immersed in a pool of human excrements. The two poets, in order to see better, walk to the highest point of the bridge. From there Dante can recognize Alessio Interminelli from Lucca who briefly tells him why he is there. Then Virgil points out to Dante another of those dirty shades. She is the harlot ThaÔs.
Second Ditch: Flatterers. These sinners are sunk in human excrements, the true equivalent of their flattery on earth, and obvious contrapasso, Nothing is known about Alessio Interminelli. Thais is a courtesan in the Eunuchus of Terence, a play commented,among others, by Cicero and by John of Salisbury.


As the two Poets cross the bridge over the third Ditch, Dante sees that the bottom of the Ditch is full of holes in the rock. Inside each hole there are souls jammed upside down with only their feet and calves projecting outside and with their soles on fire. Dante compares these holes to those which were once used as fonts for baptism (by immersion) in Saint John's Baptistry in Florence--one of which once was broken by him in order to save a baby who was drowning inside.
EIGHTH CIRCLE: Third Ditch. The Canto begins with an invective against the "Simonists", men of the church who commercialize on sacred things. Simon the Magician tried to buy spiritual power to confer the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:9-24). Dante's objective here is to chastise the Popes who have reversed their role. The contrapasso is obvious in its sarcastic topsy-turvy aspect: as by anointment on their heads the Popes have received the flame of the Holy Spirit, so now their feet are painfully ablaze; and, as they fraudulently pocketed money, so now they are "pocketed" in holes.
Dante notices that the soles of one sinner are burning more than those of his fellows, so he asks Virgil who he might be. Virgil offers to take Dante into the Ditch so that he may ask the soul direcly. Once there, Dante invites the soul to talk. The soul, hearing a voice, mistakenly believes that it is the soul of Boniface VIII who is due to occupy the hole--pushing the one there further into the rock.Dante tells him that he is mistaken, and the soul reveals his name. He is Pope Nicholas III, and predicts that soon Boniface VIII will come, and after him an even worse Pope, Clement V, will occupy the hole
Here Dante ingeniously contrives to get all three Popes into the Third Ditch of Hell by having Nicholas (1277-1280) predict the punishment of both Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and Clement V (1305-1314), in a crescendo of uglier deeds by these "adulterous" Popes.
Dante burst out with a vehement and sarcastic invective against Pope Nicholas III and all simoniac Popes, calling to their attention the trust committed on to them by Christ. They have betrayed that trust prostituting the Church for gold and silver, which now have become their idols. The primary cause of this evil is to be sought in the donation of Constantine which made "the first rich father".
The allegorical image of adultery together with that of the virtuous wife (the Church) prostituted by the the greedy husband (the Pope) is a recurring element of the Canto. Emperor Constantine (324-337) was supposed to have endowed the Church in the person of Pope Sylvester (314-335) with territorial claim over its dominion in the West. For Dante this was the beginning of the corruption of the Church. Dante attacks on logical grounds the "donation " in his Monarchia (III, 10) But the document of the donation was proven false only in the XV Century.
Virgil approves Dante's rebuke against the Popes, embraces him and carries him back to the top of the arch that crosses over the fourth Ditch.



Down, in the fourth Ditch, Dante sees people silent and weeping. They have their faces twisted toward their backs and are forced to walk backwards, since seeing forward is denied them. At this sight Dante is moved and begins to cry, but is strongly rebuked by Virgil.
Fourth Ditch, reserved for Diviners and Soothsayers, practitioners of "magic frauds". Contrapasso: those who have tried to look too far forward into the future, now have their heads turned backwards.
Virgil identifies some of the souls punished there: Amphiaraus, Tiresias, and Manto "who wandered through the world for many years".
Amphiaraus, one of the seven kings who fought against Thebes. Tiresias, a Theban soothsayer. Manto, daughter of Tiresias, who left Thebes and settled in Italy.
Virgil tells Dante the story of his native city. Manto, after her father's (Tiresias) death, wandered for many years and finally came to Italy and settled high up at the foot of the Alps. Later, the people who lived nearby gathered on the spot where Manto's body was buried , decided to buid a city and called it Mantua in her honor, but "without any magic of her arts". Finally Virgil tells Dante to desregard any other story he may have heard, because this is the only truth about the origin of Mantua
Virgil here "corrects" the story of the origin of Mantua as told in the Aeneid. Virgil wants to clear his name from medieval legends that considered him as a magician. But there is more: the newly founded city is given the name of Mantua--"without casting any lots"(l.93)--simply to honor Manto as a person, not as a magician.
Now Dante wants to know from Virgil if he sees in the Ditch other souls worthy of being mentioned. And Virgil identifies a few more soothsayers and magicians, among whom is Michael Scot and Guido Bonatti. In the meantime Virgil observes that the moon is setting at the western edge of the northern hemisphere, and it is time to move on.
Michael Scot (early 13th C.), famous philosopher and astronomer, a long time at the court of Frederich II, translated many works of Aristotle and Avicenna. The Ghibelline Guido Bonatti (late 13th C.), astronomer and astrologer, also at the court of Frederick II for a time. Wrote a voluminous Treatise on Astronomy,which became well known throughout Europe.



The two Poets arrive on the bridge over the fifth Ditch. There, condemned in boiling pitch, are the Barrators. They are guarded by demons armed with prongs, and tear them to pieces whenever they rise above the surface.
Fifth Ditch: Barrators or Grafters. Barratry is the buying or selling of political offices (as Simony is of ecclesiastical offices).The sticky pitch is symbolic of the sticky fingers of the grafters.
A demon carrying on his shoulders an "Elder" from Lucca arrives on the bridge and throws him down into the pitch. As the sinner rises to the surface, the guardian demons rush at him and prick him with their prongs.
The Elders were magistrates who held executive power. The Elder here is anonimous, and perhaps symbolizes the whole city of Lucca.
Virgil tells Dante to hide while he goes to talk with the demons. When the demons see Virgil they run towards him in a menacing manner, but he tells them that he wants to talk to one, and not to all of them. So Malacoda (Evil-Tail) is chosen. Virgil explains to him that he is there because "it is willed in Heaven" for him "to show this difficult way to another".So Malacoda drops his prong on the ground and tells the others not to hurt Virgil.
Here once again we have an attempted impediment overcome by the formula that the voyage is willed from above. It should be remembered that among Dante's unjust accusations by the Blacks there was also Barratry.Virgil's advise for Dante to hide (and much of the narration about Drafters here) my very well reflect this episode in Dante's life. Thus the political dimension of this and the following canto must not be undervalued.
Virgil then asks Dante to come out of hiding. As soon as the demons see Dante they gather around him and threaten him. Malacoda calms them down.
The meaning here may well be that Dante is ready to "come out" and openly denounce the many grafters of his city.
Malacoda tells the two Poets that they cannot pass there because the sixth bridge has been in ruin since it collapsed 1266 years before. Therefore, Malacoda says, if the two want to continue their voyage, they will have to use another path which serves as bridge, and offers an escort of demons to accompany the two there.
Here Malacoda deceives Virgil because he tells him at the same time truth (that the bridge has been ruined 1266 years before, when Christ died, on Good Friday of the year 34) and lies (that there is another path that can be used).
Dante is fearful, but Virgil calms his fears. So they start out following the band of ten demons. The starting signal is given by an obscene "trumpet" signal given by Barbariccia's ass.
The group of ten deamons is lead by Barbariccia.



Dante spends some twelve lines to comment on the filthy starting signal given by Barbariccia, the demons' leader. Now, resigned, Dante proceeds with the "savage company" of the demons, walking by the edge of the ditch. Looking down at the boiling pitch, Dante observes the dolphin-like behavior of the souls boiling in it, as they occasionally try to seek some relief by surfacing out from the pitch.
One of the sinners is caught with his head out of the pitch. Graffiacane (Scrtachdog), one of the demons, hooks him and hauls him up. By now Dante knows the names of all the demons and watches them carefully. Having been requested by Virgil, the sinner who has just been hauled up identifies himself as being from Navarre, a son of a squanderer, and at the service of King Thibaud of Navarre, where he began the practice of barratry.
The devils' peculiar names -- Malacoda (Evil-tail), Cagnazzo (Ugly-dog),Ciriatto (Swine-face), Rubicante (Rabic-face), Barbariccia (Porcupice beard), Draghignazzo (Vile dragon),etc.-- are fashioned by Dante on names used in Tuscany during his times. And, of course, this underlines Dante's political intent. Nothing is known about Ciampolo. Thibaut is almost certainly Thibaut II, King of Navarre (1253-70).
Ciampolo, having been asked by Virgil whether there are any Italians in the pitch, identifies Fra Gomita and Michele Zanche. Ciampolo also promises to bring many other sinners from the pitch in exchange for freedom from the hooks of the demons. The demons agree, but it was simply a trick on the part of Ciampolo who, once freed, jumps into the pitch.
Fra Gomita was Chancellor of Nino Visconsti and was hanged for having accepted bribes. Not much is known of Michele Zanche, who was killed by treason by his son-in-law Branca Doria (see Canto 33. 136 ff.).
The "escape" of Ciampolo causes a big quarrel among the demons, and two of them end up in the boiling pitch. While they are being rescued by their fellow demons, Dante and Virgil move on by themselves.



While the two Poets walk alone, Dante is taken by the fear that the demons might give pursuit. In fact Virgil, realizing that the ten demons are coming, takes Dante in his arms and slides down into the next ditch. The demons arrive on the edge of the ditch, but Dante and Virgil are already in the Sixth Ditch, and the demons are not allowed to move outside their territory which, of course, is the Fifth Ditch. Once in the Sixth Ditch, Dante and Virgil notice people walking round and round very slowly, weighted down by big robes shaped like a monk's habit, gilded outside but inside heavy with lead.
Sixth Ditch: The Hypocrites.
According the medieval etymologists, "hypocrite" comes from yper ("outside") and crisis ("gold"), or "gilded over", because on the surface the person is good, but inside is bad. Hence the contrapasso. Dante's blows here are particularly directed against the monastic orders.
Dante asks Virgil if there are any known people. A person who heard Dante's question is surprised to see a living individual in Hell, and asks Dante to identify himself, which he does. In turn the sinner explains that he and his companion are two Jovial Fiars from Bologna, Catalano and Loderingo.
The Jovial Friers, a religious order founded in Bologna in 1261, soon well known for its lavish and luxurious way of life. Both Catalano and Loderingo had been magistrates in Florence in 1266 to try to establish peace between Guelfs and Ghibellines.
Dante starts speaking harsh words against them, when suddenly realizes that there is a spirit crucified on the ground over whom other hypocrites must walk. He is identified as Caiaphas, the high priest of the Hebrews who counseled the Pharisees that it would be advisable to crucify Christ for the good of the people. Annas, Caiaphas'father-in-law, and others who supported his view, are also condemned there. Virgil is amazed at th
Dante takes Caiaphas' episode from the Gospel of John (11.50). The Pharisees were considered hypocrites. Caiaphas, however, was not a Pharisee but a Sadducee. For Dante he is more hypocrite than the Pharisees.
Having been asked the way out by Virgil, Catalano explains to him that they will soon be on the ruins of the other bridge across the ditch. Virgil is in anger remembering that Malacoda had told him that the bridge was intact. Malacoda had deceived him. So Dante and Virgil must climb the cliff.



At first Dante, seeing that Virgil is quite troubled at Malacoda's deceit, becomes worried. Then, as soon as they arrive at the ruin, realizing that Virgil turns towards him in a sweet manner, his hopes rise again. Dante likens this experience of his to that of a young shepherd in a winter morning. As he gets up and sees that the countryside is white, thinking that snow fell, becomes quite depressed because he has no other feed for his flock. But finally when the sun comes up and the frost outside disappears, he is happy that he can lead his flock out to graze.
The Canto begins with the very long simily of the shepherd. This is one of the many examples of Dante's masterful poetical efforts to express a psychological reality by the use of a concrete and realistic everyday's event.
Virgil examines carefully the ruin, and the two pilgrims begin their difficult ascent. With Virgil helping up Dante from spur to spur, they finally arrive to the top. Dante is exhausted and sits down, but Virgil spurs him on.
The difficult ascent is symbolic of moral perfection and progress through the knowledge of sin. But there can be no rest as there is "a longer ladder still to be climbed".
Dante and Virgil now move on along the narrow bridge over the Seventh Ditch. Dante hears a voice from the Ditch but, even though they are at a point on the bridge right above the ditch, he cannot understand nor see anything. So they continue walking till the end of the bridge, and decide to go a bit down the bank. From that vantage point they can see a great number of horrible snakes attacking the souls of the Thieves there.
Seventh Ditch: The Thieves. Continuous transformation is the painful condition of the Thieves. As in life they took the substance of others, now their bodies are taken from them. They have acted in sneaky and furtive ways, and now their forms are constantly changed from human into snakes.
One of the damned souls is pierced at the nape by a serpent and immediately turns into ashes, and then instantly resumes the human shape, to be bitten again and so on. Having been asked by Virgil, he reveals his name. He is Vanni Fucci "beast" from Pistoia. In life Dante actually knew him "as a man of blood and anger" and the Poet wonders why he is not with the violent sinners above. So Dante would like to know what sin Vanni committed for having been condemned all the way down there. Vanni explains that he was sent down so far into Hell because he robbed the fair ornaments of Pistoia cathedral's sacristy. Vanni is much ashamed that Dante has discovered him here and, retaliating with an openly spiteful spirit against Dante, predicts the defeat of the Whites.
Vanni Fucci from Pistoia, a militant Black whom Dante met perhaps in 1292. The Sacristy of Pistoia's Cathedral was famous for its treasures, some of which were stolen in 1293. An innocent man was accused. Later the guilty parties were discovered, but Vanni was able to escape. Vanni's prediction refers, once again, to the political events in the wars between the Blacks and the Whites, with the final expulsion of the Whites from Florence--and of course, Dante's life long exile.



As soon as Vanni has finished his angry prophesy, he directs an obscene gesture and words against God. But soon a serpent coils about his neck and another around his arms to block any further words or movement
After Vanni's sinful words and gesture against God, Dante pronounces a strong invective against Pistoia. The city should perish rather than producing such horrible men as Vanni Fucci. Meanwhile the Centaur Cacus with a number of serpents and a dragon on his hounch begins chasing Vanni Fucci.
Cacus was the son of Vulcan and lived in a cave. He stole Hercules' cattle dragging them backwards into the cave. Hercules went into the cave and killed Cacus. Cacus is the symbol of thievery through fraud.
Cacus has hardly gone by when three souls arrive (they are Agnello, Buoso e Puccio). Soon another soul arrives. He is Cianfa who, at the moment, is in the form of a six-footed serpent. Suddenly Cianfa springs out against one of the three, clutches him and bites his face. The bitten one is Agnello. A terrible and bizarre metamorphosis takes place as the two merge together into a monstrous something which is neither serpent nor human, "which is neither two nor one", having mixed in such a way that "neither seemed what had been before". And so the new monstrous form moves away slowly. At this point a blazing little serpent arrives and swiftly pierces the navel of one of the two remaining (it happened to be Buoso). So another transformation slowly begins to take place, whereby the little serpent (Francesco) and the bitten one (Buoso) gradually exchange bodies. (And here Dante dares to challenge Lucan and Ovid, the two major Latin artists of the metamorphic genre). At the end of the transformation, the new serpent (Buoso) hurries off along the valley hissing, while the new man (Franscesco) speaks and spits at it.
The episode involves five noble thieves from Florence. Not much is known of them. Their names are: Agnello Brunelleschi Cianfa Donati, Buoso Donati, Puccio Sciancato and Francesco dei Cavalcanti. The fantastic metamorphoses descrbed here must not be understood as simply Dante's bravura vis-a-vis his Latin poets. Dante wants to do something different. The metamorphoses described by Dante are not static; they change continually because they are a part of the contrapasso and hence the eternal punishment of the thieves. Dante innovates tradition with amoral purpose.



The sight of the five Florentine thieves prompts Dante to utter a strong and sarcastic invective against his city. Florence can be proud of her greatness since her name is known all over the universe...and also in Hell! The Poet then prophesies for Florence a just punishment.
The opening lines are a sarcastic rendering of an inscription placed on the facade of the Mayor's palace in 1255 stating that by land and by sea she possesses Florence whole world.
The two Poets climb back up to the ridge by the same way they had gone down (XXIV, 72-81) and arrive on the bridge over the Eight Ditch. From there Dante can see many flames moving below. Now painfully he reflects on the talent given by God to man, and on the importance to keep it under control. Virgil explains to him that each flame contains a sinner
Lines 19-24 express Dante's reflection on man's abuse of his God given talentand on the necessity to curb it so "that it not run where virtue does not guide" (l. 22). These lines may be considered as Dante's judgement on Ulysses' decision.
Dante notices a strange flame with two points. Virgil tells him that inside that flame are punished Ulysses and Diomedes. Dante is taken by a strong desire to hear their story. Virgil assents, but tells him that he himself will ask the questions, and not Dante. The two Greeks are in one flame because they committed fraudulent acts together. But the flame has two points of different sizes, the tallest being the one enveloping Ulysses.
Ulysses is the central figure of the Trojan war and Diomedes his close associate.Together they stole the sacred statue of Athena which protected Troy, they perpetrated "the ambush of the [wooden] horse".So Troy fell, which led to the journey of Aeneas and the founding of Rome, destined to be the heart of the Roman Empire and the center of Christianity.
Virgil invites the flame to stop and asks Ulysses to retell the story of his death. So Ulysses tells how after having explored all the known world, he and his crew were old and tired when they arrived at the Straits of Gibralter, where Hercules had planted his pillars so that man should not proceed beyond them. But Ulysses wanted to go further. Therefore he urged his small crew to go beyond the pillars and explore the "unpeopled world". Ulysses reminds them that they were not "made to live like brutes, but to follow virtue and knowledge". With a "brief oration" Ulysses was able to convince the crew. Therefore, having turned the stern towards east, they begun "the mad flight" towards the west. Finally, after five months of voyage, a mountain appeared far way. But soon a whirlwind came from the mountain. It hit the boat and made it turn around three times. At the fourth turn, it raised the stern and the bow went down into the waters, "as it pleased Another". And the sea closed over it!
This is Ulysses' fervent, unchecked and burning desire for human knowledge. Not even sacred duties (love for his old father, his wife, his son) can restrain him. Ulysses' fraudulent sin is not simply going beyond the pillars of Hercules, but having incited his crew to do so with the use of his tongue, i.e. through a "small speech", a false and hence fraudulent syllogism: there is no "worth of men" in the "unpeopled world"! But Ulysses "small speech" convinces the mutinied crew to change minds. So they turn the east-bound bow towards the west and "the mad flight" begins. The mountain they see is the mountain of Purgatory, which cannot be experienced in life (unless it is so willed by God). The tornado that comes from the mountain is symbolic of God's rejection and condemnation: the rejection is given by the direction of the bow, the condemnation by the sinking of the boat.



The flame containing Ulysses and Diomedes moves away, while another flame appears. It attracts the Poets' attention because of a confused sound that comes from it. The sounds reminds Dante of Perillus' fate who perished inside his own invention. That confused sound from the flame becomes more distinct and the spirit inside says that he was from Romagna, and wants to know from Dante whether in his homeland there is war or peace.
Perillus, an Athenian artisan, had built for the Sicilian tyrant Phalaris a bronze torture machine in the form of a bull. After the condemned were placed inside the bronze bull,a fire was lit under it. The cries of pain of the person inside could be heard outside as lowing of a bull. Its inventor, Perillus, was the first to experience the horrible machine. Romagna is a region in north-central Italy on the Adriatic sea. It contains the cities of Ravenna and Rimini, and the independent republic of San Marino. Now it is a part of the Emilia-Romagna Region.
Dante tells the spirit that Romagna is a restless region afflicted by continuous wars: the city of Ravenna is ruled by Da Polenta's family; the city of ForlŪ is dominated by the Ordalaffis; the cities of Faenza and Imola change political parties frequently.
The Da Polenta's family controlled Ravenna from 1270 until 1441. Dante spent the last years of his life as guest of Guido Novello Da Polenta.
Dante wants to know whom he is speaking with. The spirit doesn't reveal his name, but says that first he was a man of arms, and then, having repented, he became a man of religion and embraced the Franciscan order. But unfortunately the Pope induced him to sin again. Then he tells Dante how he became a damned spirit: Pope Boniface VIII, while fighting against the Colonna's family, asked Guido to suggest a stratagem by which he could trick the Colonnas. Guido knew how, but he was afraid to sin if he revealed it to the Pope. So the Pope reassured Guido and told him that he would absolve him of his sin in advance. Guido obeyed the Pope and told him to make the Colonnas a promise and to not maintain it.
The sinner is Guido da Montefeltro (1220-1298), famous Ghibelline man of arms, fought and won several battles against the Guelfs. In 1296 he became a Franciscan monk. Dante speaks of him with admiration also in his Convivio (IV, xxviii, 8). Boniface VIII excommunicated the Colonna family in 1297 and summoned them to surrender. But they didn't and entrenched themselves in their stronghold at Palestrina, some 24 miles from Rome. The Colonnas had refused to recognize Boniface's election as Pope.
When Guido died, Saint Francis went to get his soul, but a devil demonstrated with strict logic that Guido's soul belonged to him and in Hell. In fact you cannot be absolved from a sin first and then commit it later; "the law of contradiction won't allow it".
The struggle between Heaven and Hell for the possession of a soul is part of medieval lore. In Dante we find it again in Purgatorio, canto 5, where the story of Guido's son Buonconte is told.



The Poets are now on the bridge over the Ninth Ditch where are punished the Sowers of Discord. Dante comments that if one could put together in one place the mutilated victims of various wars, the resulting spectacle would in no way equal the horrible sight that he is now observing.
Ninth Ditch: the Sowers of Discord. Contrapasso: just as they divided what God meant to be united, so now their bodies are cut and torn apart by demons. There are three classes of sinners; each sinner suffers according to his degree.
Dante notices a sinner split open from chin to crotch. The sinner introduces himself to Dante as Mohammed, and also points out his son-in-law who walks ahead of him with his face split. Mohammed explains to Dante that all sinners there were on earth sowers of scandal and schism, and that is why they are now split. He also tells Dante that, once mutilated, the sinners are compelled to drag their bodies around. When the wounds are healed and the bodies restored, demons split them up again. When Mohammed hears that Dante is alive, he gives him an ironic message for Fra Dolcino to stock up food if he wants to survive, otherwise soon Fra Dolcino will be joining him there, in Hell.
First Class: Sowers of religious discord. Mohammed (570-632) founder of Islamism, considered a schismatic during Dante's times. He was believed to be a Christian who wanted to become Pope. Ali (597-660), cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed, succeeded him in 656 but was assassinated in 660. Fra Dolcino, leader of an heretical sect called the Apostolic Brothers, preached the common holding of property and the sharing of women. Condemned by the Pope in 1305, he and his followers entrenched themselves in the hills of Novara, withstood the Pope's soldiers for one year and finally gave up in 1307, after many of them had died of starvation. Fra Dolcino was burnt at the stakes in Novara the same year.
Another sinner talks to Dante. He is Pier da Medicina and predicts the betrayal of Malatestino Malatesta against two noblemen from Fano. Then he points out to Dante the Tribune Curio. Another sinner introduces himself to Dante as Mosca dei Lamberti
Second Class: Sowers of political discord. These men were the cause of schism either of states or of community. Curio joined Caesar's party after serving under Pompey. Mosca dei Lamberti was considered the cause of the division of Florence and the beginning of the rivalry between Guelfs and Ghibellines.
After Mosca departs Dante sees something terrible and unbelievable: a sinner is holding his own head with one hand by the hair and is swinging it as if it were a lantern to lite his dark way. Then he raises it at arm's length in order that he might speak to Dante and reveals his name. He is Bertran de Born who divided father and son. He compares his evil counsel to that of Achitophel who provoked the rebellion between Absaloms and David. Finally he ends with the line: "Thus the contrapasso is observed in me".
Class Three: Sowers of family discord. Bertran de Born, nobleman and poet, is in Hell because he caused Prince Henry to rebel against his father Henry II of England. Thus dividing head and body. In De vulgari eloquentia (II,ii,9) Dante praises Bertrand's poems.
Achitophel, famous counselor of King David, favored Absaloms rebellion and counseled the latter to kill David, his father. The famous last line of the Canto synthesizes the law of retribution. (See contrapasso)



Dante is deeply moved by the spectacle he has just seen in the Ninth Ditch, and keeps on looking down into it. Virgil reproaches him and asks him why is he lingering. Dante explains that he kept on looking at the mutilated souls because he was expecting to see there one of his kinsmen. So Virgil tells him that while Dante was talking with Bertrand de Born, he noticed someone down there making threatening signs with his finger and that he heard the name Geri del Bello called. Dante then clarifies to Virgil Geri's gesture. Geri had been assassinated and nobody had yet vindicated him.
Geri was one of Dante's second cousins. He was still alive in 1280.It was believed that he had been murdered by a member of the Sacchetti's family. In Dante's times relatives of a murdered person had the legal right of vindication. But the customary vendetta for Geri's death was carried out only in 1310.
The two Poets arrive on the bridge over the Tenth and final Ditch of Malebolge. The laments of these sinners are so atrocious that Dante is obliged to place his hands over his ears in order not to hear them. If one could gather in one place all the sick of Valdichiana's, Maremma's and Sardinia's hospitals, one would have something similar to what Dante finds in that Ditch. Here are punished in various manners falsifiers of various kind.
Tenth Ditch: The
Falsifiers, or those who perverted the physical world by means of deception. As in life they corrupted nature by their falsifications, so in death they are corrupted by some form of desease. There are four classes and all suffer from some disease. Falsifiers of things, from leprosy. Falsifiers of persons, from madness. Falsifiers of money, from dropsy. Falsifiers of words, from stinking fever. Valdichiana and Maremma (in Tuscany) and parts of Sardinia were famous for malaria.
Dante sees two sinners sitting propped against each other and full of scabs from head to foot. They are intent furiously to scratch each other with their nails in order to relieve their fierce itching. Dante speaks with both. One of the two is Griffolino d'Arezzo who died at the stake for having jestingly promised to make Alberto of Siena another Daedalus.
First Class: Falsifiers of things. Griffolino obtained money from Alberto by pretending that he could teach him how to fly. Alberto denounced him to the Bishop of Siena as a magician, and so he was burned. Daedalus, Athenian, famous for the art of inventions among which that of flying.
Dante takes this occasion to make jokes over the foolishness and vanity of the Sienese. Another soul joins Dante with ironic remarks against the Sienese. He is Capocchio "whose alchemy could counterfeit fine metals"
Capocchio was apparently known by Dante. He was burned alive in Siena in 1293 for having practiced alchemy.



In order to give an idea of the fury of some of the sinners punished here, Dante recalls two classical myths relating to madness. The first, Athamas having become crazy, his wife Ino appeared to him as a lioness and his two children as her cubs; so he killed one of them. Taken by despair, Ino drowned herself and the other child. The second relates to Hecuba. After her daughter Polyxena had been sacrificed and her son Polydorus had been killed, Hecuba became mad and started barking like a dog
The two stories are told by Ovid in Metamorphoses, respectively IV, 512-562 and XIII, 399-575.
More furious than Athamas and Hecuba, the Falsifiers of Persons or impersonators run in the Ditch and bite other sinners as rabid dogs. Dante sees two of them running furiously. One gets Capocchio by the nape and drags him around. He is Gianni Schicchi. Gianni in order to falsify a will pretended to be Buoso Donati. The other is "the shade of the deprived Myrrha" who, lusting after her father, disguised herself in order to make love with him.
Second Class: Falsifiers of persons. When Buoso Donati died, his nephew Simone persuaded a famous Florentine impersonator, Gianni Schicchi of the Cavalcantis, to impersonate the dead man in order to dictate a will in Simon's favor. Myrrha is placed here because of the fraud she used to fulfill her desire. The story is told by Ovid (Metamorphoses, X, 298-502).
Dante observes closely the Ditch and his attention is attracted by a sinner with an inflated body, suffering from dropsy. He identifies himself as Master Adam and craves "one little drop of water". He says that the cool streams descending from the green hills of Casentino into the Arno river are always in front of his eyes--and the memory is part of his torment.He continues on by saying that there, in the Casentino, he began the counterfeiting of the Florin, induced by the Counts Guidi of Romena.
Third Class: Falsifiers of money. Master Adam de Anglia, of England, under order of Counts Guidi of Romena, counterfeited Florentine currency, the famous Florin,by making them of twenty-one rather than twenty-four carat gold. Historically the outcome was a currency crisis in Northern Italy. Master Adam was burned at the stake in Florence in 1281.
Dante asks Master Adam who are those two sinners near him suffering from raging fever. He is told that they are liars. One is Potiphar's wife who wrongly accused Joseph. The other is Sinon, the false Greek from Troy.
Class four: Falsifiers of word. Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph, son of Job. Then she accused him of trying to seduce her (Genesis 39, 6-23). The Greek Sinon allowed the Trojans to take him prisoner and then convinced them to take the wooden horse into Troy.



Because of the words used at the end of Canto 30 (first rebuking, and then comforting), Dante compares Virgil's tongue to Achilles' lance which first produced a wound and then healed it.
The image of the magic Achilles' lance was a common place in medieval love poetry tradition.
The two Poets cross the bank and are getting away from the last Ditch when Dante hears a bugle blast. It was louder than Roland's horn which warned Charlemagne of total Christian defeat. Looking ahead Dante believes he sees some tall towers. Virgil explains to him that they are not towers but giants standing around the central pit of Hell. When Dante can clearly see them his fear is increased as they are so big and look like the great towers of Montereggioni's fortress.
n the Chanson de Roland, e medieval French epic, Roland was assigned to the rear guard on the return through the Pyrenees. When the Saracens attacked, he refused to blow his horn for help, doing so only when he was dying and too late. Montereggioni was a large castle near Siena built in 1213 and crowned by 14 towers. Some, half destroyed, are still visible.
Dante begins to see the features of some of the giants. The first is extremely big and pronounces incomprehensible words, as if in rage. Then Virgil tells Dante that the giant is Nimrod. Because of Nimrod's wicked idea to build Babel's tower the world has experienced the confusion of languages.
Nimrod, the first king of Babylon, is supposed to have built Babel's tower. As a punishment God confused their tongues (narrated in Genesis XI,1-9). In early Christian tradition Nimrod was believed to be a giant.
The Poets continue on and see another giant even more terrible than Nimrod. This giant "made the great attempt when giants alarmed the gods". His name is Ephialtes. Virgil tells Dante that another giant, Antaeus, will take them to the bottom of Hell, in the ninth circle.
Ephialtes, son of Neptune, at nine and together with his brother, attempted to put mount Pelion on top of mount Ossa in order to ascend to the gods and make war with them. But Apollo killed both brothers.
Finally the two Poets arrive near Antaeus and Virgil asks him to help them reach the bottom of Hell. In silence Antaeus stretches out his hand, grasps Virgil and Dante and places them gently into the pit, which is called Cocytus.
Antaeus, a Titan, was believed invincible until Hercules lifted him over his head and strangled him in mid-air. Cocytus is the frozen last circle of Hell.



Dante, having arrived in the Ninth Circle, would like to describe it in a suitable manner. But he confesses that the task is very difficult, because to represent it adequately he would need "rough and hoarse rhymes". Therefore he invokes the Muses to help him, and then he utters a sharp apostrophe against its sinners.
Cocytus is a frozen lake where the sin of Treachery is punished. It is divided into four zones. A type of traitor is punished in each zone.
The two Poets continue walking on the ice of the last circle. In the first zone, called Caina, the sinners are immersed into the ice with the exception of their heads. When they raise their heads Dante can see tears freezing and dropping into icicles over their eyes.
The First Zone is called Caina. It is named after Cain who, according to Genesis, slew his brother Abel. Here treachery to a relative is punished.
Dante sees two sinners so close to each other that the hair of one is confused with that of the other. Pain and anger push them to butt each other like goats. Another spirit tells Dante that the two are brothers and are Alessandro and Napoleone,sons of count Alberto degli Alberti. The spirits identifies also other sinners and finally identifies himself. He is Camicione dei Pazzi.
Alessandro and Napoleone degli Alberti were one Guelf and the other Ghibelline. They killed each other over an inheritance. Camicione d' Pazzi murdered a relative of his.
Dante and Virgil proceed into the second part of the Ninth Circle, called Antenora, in which the traitors are plunged more deeply into the ice, but with their face up, and cannot move their heads. While Dante is walking, his foot kicks one of the faces. The spirit screams at Dante and mentions Montaperti. Dante wants to know his name. When the spirits refused to answer, Dante grabs him by the hair and threatens him. At this point another spirit nearby reveals that he is Bocca. Now Bocca reveals the name of the one who revealed his, as well as the name of other spirits punished there.
The Second Zone,called Antenora,is named after Antenor, a Trojan who betrayed his city to the Greeks. It is then reserved for traitors of country or political party. Bocca degli Abati is the traitor of Montaperti. During the battle of 1260 Bocca cut the hand of the Florentine standard bearer. The standard fell, and without it the cavalry was soon routed.
After this the two Poets see a horrible spectacle: two heads are frozen together in the ice, one on top of the other. The upper head gnaws the lower at the nape. Dante asks the gnawer who he is and why he does what he does.
The answer will be given in Canto 33.



At Dante's question, the sinner raises "his mouth from his fierce meal" and answering Dante tells him that for him to remember is renewing a despairing pain. But if what he will say can bring infamy to the betrayer he is gnawing, he will weep but tell his story in his tears. He is Count Ugolino and the other is Archbishop Ruggieri. Trusting the agreement made with Ruggieri outside of Pisa, Ugolino returned to the city. But with a trick he was taken and put in prison with his sons and nephews. In prison Ugolino has a dream by which the future is revealed to him. He sees Ruggieri in the form of a hound hunting a wolf and his whelps (i. e. himself and his sons). Ruggieri the hound catches them and tears them apart with its sharp fangs. After the dream Ugolino wakes up and hears his sons crying and asking for bread. But food is not brought to the prisoners, the prison's door has been locked and the key thrown away. Ugolino suffers immensely to see his sons hungry and bites both of his hands out of grief. The children believe that he had done that out of hunger and offer themselves to him as food. In a week's time all of his children die of starvation. Ugolino, now blind, started groping over each and called them for two days; "then fasting had more force than grief"! At the end of the story, Ugolino grips Ruggieri's skull and start gnawing it
his episode begins with line 124 of Canto 32. Count Ugolino of a noble Ghibelline family changed party and became a Guelf in order to promote the Gulfs of Pisa and became Pisa's mayor. In 1288 Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, Archbishop of Pisa and others became the leaders of a popular revolt against Ugolino's party. Ugolino was out of town. He was promised a safe conduct if he returned to Pisa. So he did. But he was caught and put with two sons and two nephews of his in the Gualandi's tower. They were kept imprisoned for nine months. Then in 1289 the Archbishop ordered the tower locked up and the keys thrown away.
Dante bursts out with a violent invective against Pisa for having starved to death four innocent boys. In his wrath Dante wishes that the two islands of Capraia and Gorgona move and block the mouth of the Arno river so that it could flood Pisa and drown every living soul.
Capraia and Gorgona are two islands on the Tyrrenian Sea, near the mouth of the Arno. In 1300 they were Pisan possession.
The two poets continue their voyage and enter into the Third Zone of Cocytus which is called Ptolomea. Dante here feels blasts of wind and Virgil tells him that soon he will know the cause that produces it.
Third Zone:ia called Ptolomea . It is the zone where treachery to friends and guests is punished. The source of wind is Satan himself.
Dante and Virgil walk among the punished souls. One of them asks Dante to remove the ice from his eyes. Dante promises to help him, and may he "go to the bottom of Hell" if he doesn't, provided the sinner reveals his name! Following Dante's promise, the sinner reveals his name as Fra Alberigo. Dante is much surprised as he knows that Fra Alberigo is still alive. Then Alberigo explains that Ptolomea has a special privilege: frequently the soul falls there as soon as it has committed treachery, before the person dies. And on earth a devil takes the place of the soul and inhabits the body until its natural death. Then he indicates to Dante another example: Branca d'Oria who killed his father-in-law. He has been in Ptolomea already for many years, and yet his body is still alive. Finally Alberigo reminds Dante of his promise to open his eyes, but Dante refuses.
Fra Alberigo of the Manfredi family from Faenza was a Jovial Friar. In 1285 he invited his brother and his son to a banquet and killed them both. Branca d'Oria of a noble Genoese family, in 1290 invited his father-in-law, Michele Zanche, to a banquet and had him and his companions assassinated. Branca d'Oria died after 1325. Dante's unkept promise is sometimes taken as cruelty. But in fact keeping promise would have meant going against God's justice. In addition, Dante's promise was made in jest, as he knows that he is going to the bottom of Hell!
Branca d'Oria is a Genoese, and now Dante utters another invective against the Genoese, a people full of corruption and lacking any constraint of custom. They should be driven from earth!



The two Poets reach the last zone of the Ninth Circle, Judecca. Here the sinners lie wholly submerged in ice. Dante notices that the sinners are in various positions; some lying, some standing upright, or on their heads, some doubled-up. At the very center of Cocytus--which is also the center of earth--is Lucifer rising from the waist above the surface of the lake. Lucifer, or Dis, has three faces each of different color, and large wings like those of a bat. By flapping his huge wings he freezes Cocytus. In each of his three mouths he chews a sinner: he chews Judas who betrayed Christ, as well as Brutus and Cassius who betrayed Caesar.
The Fourth zone ia called Judecca. Here are punished the traitors of benefactors. It is named after Judas who betrayed Christ. Lucifer is the antithesis of God and the total expression of darkness and evil. His three faces are a travesty of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost, or Power Wisdom and Love. Judas on one side and Brutus and Cassius on the other represent the enemies of Church and Empire, the betrayers of spiritual and temporal principle designed by God to rule the human race. Dante's image of Lucifer is fashioned after a mosaic on the ceiling of Florence Baptistry.
The voyage through Hell is practically completed because by now "all has been seen". Virgil and Dante climb down Lucifer's body and then, suddenly, at Satan's navel, turn upside down and begin climbing up. When Dante sees Lucifer's legs turned upwards he is confused, but Virgil explains that they have passed the center of earth and are now in the southern hemisphere. Virgil reminds Dante that it is here that Lucifer fell down when he was hurled out of heaven. The Poets continue moving up following, countercurrent, a subterranean stream in order to reach the base of the mountain of Purgatory. From there the Poets come out of darkness "to see once again the stars".
When Lucifer fell all the land where the devil hit retreated under water and moved to the northern hemisphere,our hemisphere. However, the ground at the core of earth rushed upward, formed the cone-shaped mountain of Purgatory, and the space left became the cavity of Hell. It is believed that the subterranean stream is the water from the Purgatorial river Lethe which carries the memory of sin.


Acheron (Canto 3). The first river of Dante's Inferno and one of the rivers of Hades in Greek mythology. In Dante's Inferno souls are transported across this river by Charon. There are four rivers in Inferno. Dante takes their names from Virgil's Aeneid.

Achilles (Cantos 5 and 26). "The great" Greek hero in the Trojan war. A legend widely known in the Middle Ages tells that Achilles was struck from behind and killed by Paris when the former went to see Priam's daughter, Polyxena, with whom he had fallen in love. In Canto 5 Dante follows this legend, while in Canto 26 the reference is to older Greek mythology where Achilles, hiding at the court of King Lycomedes, is discovered by Odysseus and persuaded to go to Troy. Therefore he abandons the king's daughter, Deidamia, who had borne him a son.

Aeneas (Cantos 1, 2, 4 etc). In classical legend, a Trojan hero, son of Anchises and Venus, who after the fall of Troy escaped and went to Italy where his descendants founded Rome. The adventures and deeds of Aeneas are told by Virgil in the Aeneid. Dante mentions Aeneas several times in Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. In Canto 2 of Inferno Dante refers directly to Book 6 of the Aeneid where Virgil describes Aeneas' travel to the Underworld to seek guidance from his dead father and to hear prophesies from him about the outcome of Rome and its future empire.

Agnello (Canto 26). A Florentine placed by Dante among the Thieves of Malebolge, in the Second Ditch of Circle 8, together with four other Florentine companions.

Alchemy (Canto 29). Ancient art which sought the transformation of base metals into perfect metals, such as gold and silver. For a long time under Muslim influence, toward the XII Century it spread to some parts of Europe through Latin translation of Arab writings. Dante places the practitioners of Alchemy among the Falsifiers. Their punishment is to be afflicted by scabs causing them to scratch continuously.

Alessio Interminelli (Canto 18). Of a prominent Guelf family from Lucca, little is known about Alessio, except that he was still alive in 1295. Dante places him among the Flatterers, in Malebolge.

Amphiaraus (Cantos 14 and 20). One of the seven kings who joined to fight against Thebes. Foreseeing his death in war, he went into hiding but was betrayed by his wife Eriphyle. And while he was attempting to flee from his pursuers, Jupiter sent a thunderbolt, earth opened and swallowed him up.

Anastasius II (Canto 11). Pope from 496 to 498, is placed by Dante in a tomb among the Heretics of Circle 6. Dante may have confused Anastasious II with his contemporary Anastasious I, Roman emperor of the East from 491 to 518. The Emperor's heretical inclination (he was a Monophysite--a Monophysite is a person who maintains that Christ has only one nature, partly divine and partly human ) stirred religious unrest throughout the Empire. The confusion between the two was a tradition well established before Dante's time.

Antaeus (Canto 31). One of the four mighty giants placed by Dante on the edge of Circle 9 as guards. He can talk intelligently and is not chained like the other giants there. Antaeus, having been requested, picks up Virgil and Dante and places them on the frozen last circle of Hell, Cocytus.

Ante-Inferno (Introduction, p. 26. A region in Upper Hell, specifically "before", i.e. outside, Inferno proper and before the river Acheron. Here Dante places the souls "who lived without praise and without blame", and mixes them together with the neutral Angels. As a punishment, they are stung by horse flies and wasps and must continually run after banners.

Antenora (Canto 32). The Second Zone of Circle 9 is called by Dante Antenora. It is named after Antenor, a Trojan who, according to some authors, betrayed his city to the Greeks. This was a common belief in the Middle Ages, although no hint of betrayal can be found in the Aeneid. Dante reserves this Zone of Inferno for traitors of country or political party. Here we find Bocca degli Abati, the traitor at the battle of Montaperti in 1260.

Apollo. One of the most important Olympian Gods, often connected with the Muses, as he was, among other things, the patron of music and poetry. He was frequently celebrated as a god of light and identified with Helios or the Sun. In Roman religion Apollo was also worshipped as a God of prophesy and healing. Dante invokes the "good Apollo" in Paradiso(Canto 1) as a god of song and poetry to give him power and divine inspiration for the task he is about to undertake, namely the writing of the last "cantica".

Aquinas, Thomas, Saint
Italian philosopher and theologian, Doctor of the Church and known also as The Angelic Doctor. Thomas was born in Rocca Secca (near Naples) c.1225 into the noble Aquino family. He was educated at the Abbey of Monte Cassino and later studied in Naples. Around the age of 20 he entered the Dominican Order, and soon after he went to Paris and Cologne to study under Albert the Great. In 1252 he returned to Paris where he became professor of theology and gained great reputation. In 1259 Thomas returned to Italy and for about ten years he taught in various Italian cities. After three more years in aris, he returned to Naples in 1272 to set up a Studium or a house of studies there. he died in 1274.
St. Thomas is the greatest figure among the Schoolmen. He was a prolific writer and commented several works of Aristotle. The most important work of his, Summa Theologiae is an exposition of theology on philosophical principles based on Aristotle and Aristotelian tradition.
In Dante, Saint Thomas appears in the 10th Canto of Paradiso. Here he introduces to Dante himself and the other 9 luminaries who reside, quite appropriately, in the Heaven of the Sun, and who represent the tradition of Christian thought.

Arch-Heretics (Canto 10 and beginning of 11). The Heresiarchs are introduced by Dante at the end of Canto 9. The term refers to founders or leaders of heretical sects. The heretic is a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his church. A heretic in Catholic religion is a baptized person who willfully and persistently refutes one or more articles of faith. In the history of the Christian religion there have been a great number of heretical sects. Dante places the heretics in open flaming tombs. Farinata, Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, Emperor Frederick II and Pope Anastasius II are among the heretics of Circle 6.

Arezzo (Introduction, p. 1). An Etruscan city some 50 miles south east of Florence. It became a free commune in the 11th Century. In the Middle Ages it was an important center of learning and the arts. During Dante's time Arezzo was a powerful Ghibelline city, but it was defeated by Florence at the battle of Campaldino in 1289.
Argo (Canto 18). In mythology, the name of the ship built by Argus with the help of Athena. Jason sailed with the group of heros in the Argo ship (hence the "Argonauts") in search of the Golden Fleece. Jason, who had been reared by Chiron the Centaur, was finally helped by Medusa to obtain the Golden Fleece.

Aristotle (Canto 4). Greek philosopher, born in Stagira (hence also referred to as the Stagirate) in 384 bc. Studied under Plato, and wrote on Logic, Physics, Metaphysics, Poetic, Rhetoric, Biology, Psychology, etc.. His conclusions differ substantially from those of Plato. Aristotle was reintroduced to the West by Arab and Jewish scholars. His works became the basis of Scholasticism, were widely taught in European universities and exercised a strong influence particularly during Dante's times. Dante mentions him and several of his works many times in the Divine Comedy and particularly in the Convivio. In the Inferno Dante calls Aristotle "the master of men who know" and places him in Limbo "seated in philosophic family" together with Socrates and Plato.

Athamas (Canto 30). In Greek mythology, king of Boetia. After his marriage to Nephele, he fell in love with Ino, daugher of Cadmus, who bore him two children. According to one legend, Athamas went mad, killed one of his children and forced Ino and the other child who were trying to escape to leap to their death into the sea. Dante takes the story from Ovid's Metamorphosis and uses it as an example of the fury which overcomes some of the sinners punished in Circle 8.

Avaricious and Prodigals (Canto 7). The avaricious is a person possesed by a miserly desire to gain and hoard riches, while the prodigal is a person who is possessed by a squandering desire to spend wastefully and extravagantly his or her money and wealth. Dante places them together in Inferno. For punishment they must roll heavy boulders, the Avaricious in one half of the circle (Circle 4), the Prodigals in the other half. When they meet, they exchange insults, turn around and continue pushing their boulders until they meet again at the other half of the circle, and so on.

AverroŽs (Canto 4). Spanish-Arabian philosopher who lived from 1126 to 1198. He was a lawyer and a physician in Cordoba. His great work was his Commentary on Aristotle which remained influential in Europe up to the Renaissance, although his doctrine on personal immortality and the eternity of matter were condemned by the Catholic Church. Dante describes AverroŽs as the one "who wrote the great commentary" and places him in Limbo among the great philosophers, together with Hippocrates, Galen and Avicenna.

Avicenna (Canto 4). Persian philosopher and physician, born 980, died 1037. He wrote many treatises and commentaries on Aristotle and Galen. His medical masterpiece Canon of Medicine was influential in Europe from 1100 to 1500. Dante places him in Limbo among the great philosophers and together with Hippocrates, Galen and AverroŽs.

Babel's Tower (Canto 31). Babel was a Babylonian city where an attempt was made by Noah's descendants to build a tower to reach heaven. This act of presumption was punished by God by confusing their previously one spoken language into many tongues, so they would no longer understand each other. Dante referes to this in his De vulgari eloquentia (I,vii, 4-7). Following medieval tradition, Dante believed that the building of the Tower was instigated by Nimrod. The giant is fittingly punished for this sin in this Canto. (See also Nimrod).

Barbariccia (Cantos 21 and 22). Is the leader of a group of ten devils selected by the chief devil Malacoda (Evil-tail) to escort Dante and Virgil through the Fifth Ditch of Circle 8 where the Barrators or Grafters are punished. In addition to Barbariccia (Porcupine-beard), other devils in the group are Cagnazzo (Ugly-dog), Ciriatto (Swine-face), Rubicante (Rubic-face), Draghignazzo (Vile-dog), etc. (see also Malacoda).

Bardi Bank (Introduction, p. 19). The Bardis were an extremely wealthy family of Florence. In 1318, just a few years before Dante's death, their bank had an account balance of almost one million gold Florins, and it was one of the most important Florentine lenders of money to all Europe.

Barrators (Canto 21 and 22). A barrator is a person who buys or sells political employment or offices. Barratry is the political counterpart of Simony, whereby ecclesiastical preferments or offices are bought or sold. Dante places the barrators in the Fifth Ditch of Circle 8, immersed in boiling pitch.

Bartolomeo della Scala (Introduction, p. 3). Lord of Verona, older brother of Cangrande, who ruled from 1301 to 1304. Dante was a guest of the Scala family during part of his exile.

Beatrice (Introduction, pp. 7-8, 10-11, 24-25, Canto 2). Beatrice is the central and fundamental figure of the Vita Nuova and of the Divine Comedy. She is identified with a Florentine woman named Beatrice Portinari (1266-1290) who married Simone de' Bardi, of the Bankers' family, in 1287. Dante first saw Beatrice when he was nine years old, and she remained his ideal and inspiration until his death. Dante describes his ideal love for her in the Vita Nuova, where she is exalted as the giver of "beatitude" and hence of salvation. She is also the moving inspiration for the Divine Comedy. In his masterpiece Beatrice's function is to lead Dante from Earthly Paradise (at the end of Purgatorio) to the Celestial Paradise; as such she is allegorically understood as theology or divine knowledge (while Virgil represents philosophy or human knowledge). Dante mentions Beatrice by name some sixty times in the Divine Comedy, but only twice in Inferno (Canto 2, 70 & 103). In Inferno she refers to Dante as "my friend, not a friend of fortune" (Canto 2, 61).

Bertran de Born (Canto 28). A nobleman and one of the earliest and most famous troubadours, born in the region of Pťrigord, SW France, about 1140, died in 1215. Dante mentions Bertran as an example of munificence in the Convivio, and in De vulgari eloquentia he praises his poetry dealing with politics and war. However, Dante places him in Inferno among the Sowers of family discord because Bertran caused Prince Henry of England (died in 1163) to rebel against his father King Henry II (1154-1189). In Dante's view, he caused the division between father and son, understood as head and body; therefore in Hell Bertran de Born is holding his own head separated from his body, saying, "Thus the `contrapasso' is observed in me". (See `Contrapasso').

Blacks (Introduction, p. 2). The Florentine Guelfs, having defeated for good the Ghibellines, eventually split into two opposite factions: the Whites and the Blacks. The Blacks were in favor of the Papacy and wanted to put Florence under the domination of Pope Boniface VIII. The rivalries between the two parties are "prophesied" to Dante by Ciacco in Canto 6. On May Day 1300 the Whites will defeat the Blacks, but within tree years the Whites, in turn, will be overthrown by the Blacks with the help of Boniface VIII. The Whites will be expelled from Florence. Dante is White and will be included in the decree of banishment. He will never return to his beloved city.

Blasphemers (Canto 14). The Blasphemers are placed by Dante in the Third Ring of Circle 7, in the category of the violent against God. They are lying supine on burning sand, under a rain of fire. Here we find Capaneus, one of the seven kings of Greece who joined against the city of Thebes.

Bocca degli Abati (Canto 32). Bocca degli Abati was a Ghibelline who remained in Florence after the expulsion of his party from the city in 1258. He became a Guelf. But at the battle of Montaperti, in 1260, Bocca cut off the hand of the Florentines' standard bearer. The standard fell and this caused confusion and a tremendous defeat for the Guelfs. Dante places him in the Second Zone of Circle 9, called Antenora, reserved for traitors of country and political party. (Se also Montaperti).

Boccaccio (Introduction, pp. 13-14). Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), poet and storyteller, is the author of the Decameron and many other works in Italian and in Latin. He was a great admirer of Dante and was commissioned by the Commune of Certaldo--a Tuscan village SW of Florence where he received his first education--to read daily from the Divine Comedy. In 1373 he begun his public lectures of Inferno in the Florentine church of Santo Spirito. These lectures were published and became his famous Commento to the first 17 cantos of Inferno.

Boethius (Introduction, p. 1). Roman philosopher and statesman, consul and minister of Emperor Theodoric. He lived from 475 to 525. False charges of treason were brought against him; he was imprisoned, sentensed without trial and executed in Pavia, some 20 miles S. of Milan. While in prison he wrote, among other things, his famous Consolation of Philosophy. Boethius was considered as a martyr of the Christian faith. His Consolation of Philosophy was widely read in the Middle ages and was well-known also to Dante who mentions it frequently in his prose works. In the Divine Comedy Dante places Boethius in Paradise among the spirits distinguished for their wisdom.

Bologna (Intro., p 6 and Canto 23). City in N. central Italy, capital of the Emilia Romagna Region and of the Bologna province; it is situated at the foot of the Appennines. Its university was founded in 1088 and Bologna soon became an intellectual center famous all over Europe. Dante probably studied at the University of Bologna for some time.

Bonatti, Guido (Canto 20). Famous astrologer from Forlž (some 15 mi. S. of Ravenna). A Ghibelline, he was at the service of Frederick II, of Ezzelino da Romano, of the City of Florence after 1260, and for a long time of Guido da Montefeltro. He was still alive in 1296. Guido Bonatti wrote a treatise, On Astronomy, in ten books which became well known throughout Europe. He participated in the battle of Montaperti in 1260 as a follower of Guido Novello, Manfred's vicar in Florence. It is said that Guido Bonatti gave Guido Novello a good advice at the battle and the Ghibelline victory at Montaperti was partially credited to his calculations of the stars. It is also said that Guido da Montefeltro never undertook a battle without first seeking the astrological advice of Guido Bonatti. Dante places Guido among the Astrologers and Soothsayers in the Fourth Ditch of Circle 8, reserved for Diviners and Soothsayers, or the practitioners of "magic frauds".

Bonaventure, Saint (Introduction, p. 1). Scholastic theologian, cardinal and Doctor of the Church, born near Viterbo (in the region of Latium, central Italy), died while attending the Council of Lyons in 1274. He entered the Franciscan order, studied at the University of Paris under Alexander of Hales and taught there with St. Thomas Aquinas until 1255. In 1257 he was made General of the Franciscan order, and decided to write the official Life of St. Francis. He also wrote several philosophic, theologic and mystical works, many of which were well-known to Dante. Dante places him in Paradiso among the Doctors of the Church.

Boniface VIII (Canto 19). Born Benedetto Caetani, in Anagni (SE of Rome), in 1235, was elected pope in 1294 on the abdication of Celestine V and died in 1303. He was a pope in a time of great crisis in Europe and was at odds with several important people, including King Philip IV of France, Edward I of England and Jacopone da Todi. Dante mentions him several times in the Divine Comedy almost always negatively and with contempt for the person. Boniface VIII is placed by Dante in the Third Ditch of Circle 8 of Inferno, among the Simonists Popes.

Branca d'Oria (Canto 33). Born c.1233 to a Ghibelline family, quite prominent in the history of Genoa, died after 1325. In 1290 he invited to dinner his father-in-law, Michele Zanche, who was governor of Logodoro (a region in NW Sardinia), and murdered him as he wanted to control that part of Sardinia. Dante places his soul in the Third Zone of Circle 9, which is called Ptolomea, where Treachery to friends and guests is punished. Branca d'Oria's body is still alive: Ptolomea has a special privilege of claiming the souls of traitors before their time, while an evil spirit occupies their living body on earth.

Brunetto Latini (Canto 15). Born in Florence c. 1220, died in 1294. A famous writer, composed in French an encyclopedic work called Trťsor, and in Italian two didactic poems, Tesoretto and Favolello. He also translated into Italian the rhetorical works of Cicero. Brunetto was a Guelf and was sent as ambassador to King Alfonse X of Castile. After the Guelfs' defeat at Montaperti (1260), Brunetto went to France. He returned to Florence after the battle of Benevento (1266) when the Guelfs resumed control of Florence. He held several political positions and was also famous as a teacher in Florence. Dante places him among the homosexual in the Third Ring of Circle 7, but Brunetto's homosexuality has not been confirmed by other documents.

Brutus (Canto 34). Marcus Brutus (c. 85 BC--42 BC) and Caius Cassius were the principal assassins of Julius Caesar. Brutus had sided with Pompey, but after the battle of Pharsala (48 BC) where Pompey was routed, Caesar pardoned him and made him governor of Cisalpine Gaul. Brutus joined Cassius in the conspiracy against Caesar who was murdered in 44 BC. Dante places Brutus in the Fourth Zone of Circle 9, called Judecca and reserved for traitors of benefactors, into one of Lucifer's mouths.

Buonconte da Montefeltro (Introduction, p. 1). Son of the more famous Guido da Montefeltro, helped the Ghibellines in various battles against the Guelfs of Florence. In 1289 he became captain of the Aretines leading them at the battle of Campaldino (1289) where the Ghibellines were defeated by the Guelfs and where Buonconte himself lost his life. Dante was then 24 years old and was an assault cavalry man, for Guelf Florence, at that battle. In the Divine Comedy Dante places Buonconte in Ante-Purgatorio.

Buoso ( Canto 25). One of the five Florentine thieves placed by Dante in the Second Ditch of Circle 8. Not much is known about this Buoso. He is sometimes identified with Buoso di Forese Donati who died in 1281. Not to be confused with the following Buoso Donati, to whom however he may have been related.

Buoso Donati (Canto 30). Buoso Donati is mentioned in relation to Gianni Schicchi, a famous impersonator of the Florentine Cavalcanti family, who died around 1280 when Dante was around 15. Buoso Donati apparently had no direct heirs. When he died, his nephew Simone persuaded Gianni Schicchi to impersonate him from inside his death bed in order to dictate a new will in favour of Simone. The result of the impersonation was so perfect that both notary and witnesses were fully deceived.

Cacus (Canto 25). Son of Vulcan who lived in a cave. He stole Hercules' cattle dragging them by ther tails backwards into the cave. Hercules discovered the trick, went into the cave and killed Cacus. Cacus is the symbol of thievery through fraud. Dante portrays Cacus as a Centaur and places him in the Seventh Ditch of Circle 8.

Caiaphas (Canto 23). Caiaphas was the high priest of the Hebrews who counseled the Pharisees that it would be advisable to crucify Christ for the good of the people. Annas, Caiaphas' father-in-law, and others concurred in the advise given to the Pharisees. Dante places Caiaphas and all the others in the Sixth Ditch of Circle 8 which is reserved for the Hypocrites.

Cain (Canto 32). The eldest son of Adam and Eve. In envy he killed his brother Abel and became a fugitive. In Inferno, Caina is named after him. Dante uses him also as an example of Envy in Purgatorio (Canto 14.

Caina (Canto 32). Name given to the First Zone of Circle 9 where treachery to a relative is punished. The Zone is named after Cain who killed his brother Abel, according to the book of Genesis.

Campaldino (Introduction, p. 1). A location some 30 miles N of Arezzo and about 30 miles E of Florence (near the town of Poppi) where the Ghibellines of Arezzo were defeated by the Guelfs of Florence. Dante was at the battle as an assault cavalry man. The Ghibellines were totally defeated and one of their leaders, Buonconte da Montefeltro, was killed on the battle field.

Cangrande (Introduction, pp. 3, 6, 21). Cangrande della Scala, lord of Verona, was born in 1290 and died in 1329. He ruled the city in 1308 and from 1311 until his death. Cangrande hosted Dante during his exile and Dante, as a sign of affection and gratitude, dedicated to him his Paradiso. The dedication is contained in a lenghty letter in which Dante expounds on the four levels of interpretation which should be applicable to the Divine Comedy.

Cantica (Introduction, p. 11). The word cantica, plural cantiche, indicates a major division of the Divine Comedy. The entire poem contains three cantiche: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. Each of these is composed of 33 cantos. Inferno has also a introductury Canto to the whole poem, therefore it contains 34 cantos.

Canto (Introduction, p. 11). One of the main division of a long poem. The Divine Comedy is composed of 100 cantos.

Capaneus (Canto 14). One of the `Seven against Thebes'. During the siege Capaneus alone succeeded in climbing on the city walls and began taking them down piece by piece. While he was doing that, Capaneus challanged anyone, including god, to stop him. Thus Jupiter struck him down with his powerful thunderbolt. Dante takes the episode from Statius' Thebaid (X, 845ff). In Inferno Capaneus is placed among the Blasphemers in the Third Ring of Circle 7. (See also Thebes).

Capocchio (Canto 29). Name of an achemist from Siena placed by Dante among the Falsifiers of metals, alchemists, in the Tenth Ditch of Circle 8. According to early commentators, Dante knew him since they studied together in a course on "natural philosophy". Capocchio was burnt alive in Siena in 1293 for having practiced alchemy.

Capraia and Gorgona (Canto 33). Two small islands in the Tyrrenean Sea, respectively N.W. and N. of the Island of Elba. Both islands, during Dante's time were under the control of Pisa. In the 'Canto of Ugolino", Dante calls on these two islands to move towards the mainland and block the mouth of the Arno River, so as to drown all the inhabitants of Pisa for having starved to death Count Ugolino's four innocent children. (See also Pisa and Count Ugolino).

Cassius (Canto 34). Member of an acient Roman family, Caius Cassius (d. 42 BC) was the leader in the successful conspiracy to assassinate Julius Caesar. He supported Pompey against Caesar, but after the battle of Pharsalia (48 BC) where Pompey was defeated, Caesar pardoned him. Nontheless he became the ringleader in the plot to kill Julius Caesar. More than fifty people were involved in the conspiracy, among them was also Marcus Brutus. The plot was successful and Caesar was murdered in 44 BC. Dante places Cassius in the Fourth Zone of Circle 9, called Judecca and reserved for traitors, and puts him into Lucifer's mouth.

Catalano (Canto 23). Catalano de' Catalani (1210-1285) a Guelf, and Loderingo degli AndalÚ (c. 1210-1293), a Ghibelline, were two Jovial Friars from Bologna who were selected and called to administer the city of Florence and to try to bring peace between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines. The order of the Jovial Friars was a religious and military order formed in 1261 with the purpose of defending and helping the poor and the weak. Although both Catalano and Loderingo had had previous experiences in other Italian cities, they did not succeed in Florence. They also were accused by the Florentines of hypocrisy and of having taken advantage of their position. Dante places both of them in the Sixth Ditch of Circle 8 where are condemned the Hypocrites.

Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti (Canto 10). Of a famous Florentine Guelf family, father of the well-known poet and friend of Dante, Guido. Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti died before 1280. He was known in Florence as an Epicurean. The Epicureans believed that the individual soul dies with the body. Dante places Cavalcante in the Sixth Circle, among the Heretics.

Cavalcanti, Guido. See under Guido Cavalcanti
Celestine V (Canto 3). Born in 1215, died in 1296. After two years deadlock among the cardinals, he was elected pope succeeding Nicholas IV. Celestine V reigned for a very short time: he was elected in August and abdicated on December 13, 1294. Celestine V was a very ineffectual and weak Pope. He was totally dominated by King Charles II of Naples and pressed to resign by Benedetto Caetani who, with the help of the King of Naples, secured his own election as pope and became Boniface VIII----one of Dante's most hated popes.

Centaur (Canto 12). Mythological creature, half man and half horse, Followers of Dionysus, the Centaurs were thought to be uncuth and savage. In classical tradition they were represented as ferocious and violent, always armed with arrows. However, some of them, such as Chiron, became friends and teachers of men. Dante places the Centaurs as guardians of the Tyrants and Murderers of Phegethon, in the First Ring of Circle 7. The Centaurs are taken by early commentators to represent the mercenaries which were hired by tyrants in Dante's time.

Cerberus (Canto 6). In mythology, a many-headed dog with a mane and a tail of snakes. He guarded the entrance of Hades. Dante makes him the guardian of Circle 3 where Gluttony is punished.

Chanson de Roland (Canto 31). An epic poem of medieval France, composed around 1098-1100, describing the deeds of Charlemagne's army which, on the Breton border, was commanded by the great hero Roland. Roland was killed in a pass in the Pyrenees mountains when Basques cut off the rear guard of the Frankish army which was returning from the invasion of Spain in 778.

Charles of Valois (Introduction, p. 2). French prince and military leader, son of King Philip III (Philip the Bold) of France. He was born in 1270 and died in 1325. At the young age of 14 he was named by Pope Martin IV to the crown of Aragon and Sicily, but was defeated and renounced his claim in 1290 when he married Margaret of Anjou, daughter of King Charles II of Naples, and received Anjou and Maine as dowry. In 1300 Charles of Valois was called to Italy by Boniface VIII for the purpose of making peace between the Blacks and the Whites in Florence, and was sent to Florence in November 1301. In reality, he was in favour of the Blacks who took control of the city. The Whites, including Dante, were banished from the city in 1302.

Chiron (Canto 12). In mythology, a Centaur, son of Cronus, renowned as a wise educator, scientist and musician. He is said to have educated Hercules, Achilles and Jason. Dante places him as leader of the Centaurs who guard the Tyrants and Murderers of Phlegethon, in the First Ring of Circle 7.

Church Fathers (Introduction, p. 15). Collective name given to Christian writers of early times, both of the East and of the West, whose work is considered orthodox. The collection of their writings, both in Greek and in Latin, goes under the name of Patristic Literature.

Ciacco (Canto 6). A Florentine of Dante's time. apparently well known for his gluttony. Dante places him among the Gluttons of Circle 3. With Ciacco we have the first "prophesy" about the historical events in Florence after 1300. Ciacco tell Dante that the Whites will defeat the Blacks (May Day 1300). He adds however that in less than three years (April 1302) the Blacks will return to power with the help of a powerful person (Pope Boniface VIII). As a result a great number of Whites will be banished from Florence, and among them Dante himsef.

Cianfa (Canto 25). Cianfa Donati was a noble man, and one of the five Florentines placed by Dante among the Thieves in the Seventh Ditch of Canto 8. According to some early commentators, he was not only a cattle thief, but also one who broke into shops to steal things.

Cicero (Canto 4). Marcus Tullius Cicero was a famous Roman writer, philosopher and statesman, and the greatest Roman orator. He was born in 106 BC and died in 43 BC. He liked Pompey and strongly opposed Julius Caesar. Although Cicero did not take part in the assassination of Caesar, he applauded it. Cicero was also a bitter enemy of Marc Antony. When Octavian Augustus took Rome, he allowed Marc Antony to put Cicero's name among those who were condemned to die and hence he was executed. Cicero wrote many works, among which On Friendship, On Duty, On Old Age, On ends, On the Nature of Gods in a masterful Latin prose. These and other writings of Cicero were well known to Dante who quotes them several times in his own works. In Inferno Cicero is placed among the great men of antiquity in Limbo.

City states (Introduction, p. 18). A city state or commune was an autonomous political unit consisting of a city and surrounding countryside. The earliest communes arose in north and central Italy. In the struggle between the Emperors and the Popes, the communes gained a great deal of independence. In Italy, during the period of formation and growth, the communes fought against the feudal families in the countryside in order to consolidate their influence and domination. Florence became an autonomous commune in the 12th century.

City of Dis (Cantos 8 and 9). Dis is both the name of the lower part of Hell as well as another name for Satan, the King of Hell. In lower Hell (Circles 6-9) are punished the sins of malice and bestiality, while in upper Hell are punished the sins of incontinence. (For the divison of Hell and for the organization of punishments there, see Canto 11).

Clement V (Canto 19). A Frenchman named Bertrand de Got (1264-1314), made archibishop of Bordeaux by Boniface VIII. Through intrigues he became Pope and reigned for nine years, from 1305 to 1314, but remained under dictation of the French King Philip IV. Clement V moved the Papacy from Rome to Avignon, France, in 1309. Thus it begins the period of the so-called Babylonian Captivity which lasted until 1378 when the Papacy was moved back to Rome. For Dante Clement V is even a worse Pope than Boniface VIII. He places him (together with Pope Nicholas III) in the Third Ditch of Circle 8, which is reserved for Simonist Popes.

Cleopatra (Canto 5). Queen of Egypt, lived from 69 BC to 30 BC. She was the daughter of Ptolomey XI. At the age of 14 she married her younger brother Ptolomey XII. Cleopatra lead a revolt against her brother and with the help of Julius Caesar won the kingdom. She became the mistress of Caesar and followed him to Rome where she bore him a son. After the murder of Caesar she returned to Egypt and in 42 BC she met Marc Antony who fell in love with her. They were married in 36 BC. She was with him at the battle of Actium where he was defeated by Octavian (later Augustus). She fled to Alexandria and Antony followed her. Then Antony killed himself. Cleopatra tried to gain the love of Octavian, but seeing that he was determined to take her captive to Rome, she killed herself. Dante places her among the Lustful of Circle 2 and calls her "the wanton Cleopatra".

Cocytus (Cantos 32-34). Name given to the frozen lake of Circle 9, immersed in which are the Traitors. They are divided into four classes and are placed into four separate Zones: Caina, Antenora, Ptolomea and Judecca. Cocytus' waters which descend to it from all parts of Hell are frozen by the strong wind produced by the wings of Lucifer.

Colonna (Canto 27). Noble Roman family that played a leading part in the history of Rome from the 12th to the 16th Century. The Colonnas were old enemies of the Orsinis' family and usually sided with the Ghibellines. They were also bitter enemies of Boniface VIII who excommunicated Sciarra Colonna and the rest of the house in 1297. They left Rome, entrenched themselves in Palestrina, some 24 miles E. of Rome, and remained in exile during the remainder of Pope Boniface's reign. Sciarra Colonna fled to the court of King Philip IV of France and led the French expedition that captured Boniface in 1303. Dante recalls some aspects of their deeds in this canto, as well as in Purgatorio and Paradiso.

Constantine, the Great (Canto 19). Roman Emperor, born c. 288 died in 337. Constantine converted to Christianity in 312 when he defeated Maxentius. It is said that before the battle Constantine saw in the sky a flaming cross with the words, "In this sign shalt thou conquer". He adopted this motto and went to the battle with the cross, certain of his victory. Constantine moved the seat of the Empire from Rome to Byzentium which was renamed Constantinople after him. However, before moving to the East, he "donated" Rome and the rest of the temporal power of the West to the Pope, ostensibly for his having been cured of leprosy by Pope Sylvester. This marks the beginning of the territorial claim by the Church. The document of this "donation" was generally believed true in the Middle Ages, although not universally accepted. (The document was proven false only in the 15th century). Dante believes that the document is true, but in his Monarchia he objects on logical grounds. First, the Emperor has no right to give the empire away because it doesn't belong to him, but to the people; second, the Church, on the other hand, cannot accept such a "donation" because of the express command of Christ to live in poverty. So he blames Constantine for his action and the Church for accepting it.

Contrapasso (Canto 28). This term means counter penalty. The first and only time that Dante uses the word is in Canto 28. The word is uttered by Bertran de Born who is punished in the Ninth Ditch of Circle 8, among the Sowers of Discord. Bertran has caused the rebellion of Prince Henry against his father Henry II of England; i. e. he has caused a division between the head and the body of a family, therefore in Hell Bertran will go around with his head severed from his body, holding it with his hand. Dante uses the law of contrapasso throughout Inferno and Purgatorio. The concept of counter-penalty can be found in the biblical law called Talion (the Law of Talion): the principle or law of retaliation that a punishment inflicted should correspond in degree and kind to the offence committed by the wrongdoer. The principle is expressed in Exodus (21, 23ff), Leviticus (24, 17-20) and Deuteronomy (19, 21). Aristotle uses the term--which is similar in Greek--in the same sense in his Ethics. The term is also found in scholastic writings; and in the Middle Ages the concept is also widespread among the people.

Convivio (The Banquet) (Introduction, p. 8). Is one of Dante's works, written in Italian in a commentary style between 1304 and 1308. The Convivio is a philosophical treatise on the subjects of love and virtue. It is unfinished and it is composed of four books, one of introduction and three more as commentary to three canzoni which Dante had written earlier. Dante explains the meaning of the canzoni in accordance to a fourfold system of interpretation: literal, allegorical, moral and anagogical. In this work Dante also stresses the importance of the Vulgar language which, according to him, is "the new light and the new sun which will rise whereas the old [i.e. the Latin language] will set".

Council of the Captains of the People (Introduction, p. 2). Dante was a member of this Council from 1295 to 1296 when he was elected to the Council of the Onehundred.

Count Ugolino (Canto 33). Ugolino della Gherardesca, count of Donaratico, was the descendent of a noble Ghibelline family. In 1284 he became lord of Pisa. During the four years of his reign he tried to foster the politics of equilibrium. The Guelfs cities of Genoa, Florence and Lucca had organized in a coalition against Pisa. In order and in the hope to come to an agreement with those cities, Ugolino gave some Pisa strongholds to Lucca and to Florence. But in 1288 the Ghibelline party of Pisa, headed by archibishop Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, with the backing of the powerful families of the Gualandi, Sismondi and Lanfranchi, took control of the city. The story goes that the Archbishop pretended to support Ugolino who at the time was out of town. But when Ugolino returned to Pisa, the Archbishop arrested him and locked him up in a tower with his two sons and his two nephews who were with him at that time. They were kept in the tower from July 1288 to March 1289 when the tower was nailed shut and the prisoners starved to death. Dante places Ugolino together with Archbishop Ruggieri among the Traitors, in the Second Zone of Circle 9, called Antenora.

Cowardly, The (Canto 3). Ancient commentators defined the Cowardly by appropriating the definition given by Dante in this Canto: "the sorry souls of those who lived without infamy and without praise" (vv. 35-36). The underlying idea being that the human beings can be divided into three large groups: the good, the bad, and the no-good-and-no-bad. This last group does not belong either to the first or to the second group because they are pusillanimous, that is to say, they lack courage or resolution to embrace either vice or virtue. They are placed in Ante-Hell, because even Hell proper rejects them. As punishment they must race eternally pursuing banners that run before them; at the same time they are being stung by wasps and flies so that they must move.

Curio (Canto 28). Caius Curio was made a tribune of the plebs in Rome in 50 BC. At first he sided with the Pompeian party. Then he leaned toward Caesar. He was exiled from Rome and joined Caesar in Ravenna in 49 BC. At that time Caesar was at the famous Rubicon river which constituted the boundary between Cisalpine Gaul and the republican territory. When the Roman Senate enjoined Caesar to dismiss the troops and not to cross the Rubicon, Caesar became hesitant. But Curio--in the words of Dante--"quenched Caesar's hesitation" about crossing and invading the Roman Republic. Dante places Curio among the Sowers of political Discord in the Ninth Ditch of Circle 8.

Daedalus (Canto 29). In mythology, a craftsman and inventor. After killing his apprentice Telos in envy, Daedalus moved from Greece to Crete, at the court of King Minos, husband of PasiphaŽ. There he built for her--who had developed an insane passion for her husband's white bull--a hollow wooden cow inside of which she would go to satisfy her passion. When out of this union the Minotaur was born, Daedalus built for the King the Minotaur's labyrinth. Afterwards Daedalus wanted to leave the court. But Minos refused to let him leave, so Daedalus built wings of wax and feathers for himself and his son Icarus to excape. They flew together and Daedalus reached Sicily in safety. Icarus then flew, against his father's advice, too close to the sun; so the wax melted and he fell to his death. Daedalus is mentioned by Griffolino who is condemned among the Falsifiers in the Tenth Ditch of Circle 8. (See also Minos, Minotaur and PasiphaŽ).

De vulgari eloquentia (On the Vulgar Language) (Introduction, p. 4). A treatise in Latin written by Dante in 1308 about the Italian language. The work was to consist of four books, but only the first and part of the second were actually completed. In This treatise Dante envisions a common language for all of Italy based on the best qualities of each dialect spoken during Dante's time.

De Monarchia (On World Government) (Introduction, p. 5). A treatise in Latin written by Dante probably during Henry VII of Luxembourg's descent into Italy (1310-1313). In this work Dante takes into consideration the idea of a universal monarchy which, according to him, is necessary for the wellbeing of the people. Dante believes that this monarchy belongs by right to the Roman people, and that this right comes from God. At the end of the book, Dante envisions two supreme guides for humanity, totally in authority separate the one from the other: the Pope, and the Emperor. The Pope is designed by God to take care of the spiritual needs of the people, the Emperor also designed by God is to take care of the material needs of the people. Therefore in this treatise Dante propounds the separation between Church and State.

Decameron(Canto 8). A collection of 100 witty tales set against the background of the Black Plague. The tales written in Italian by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) treat a variety of characters and events. In one of his tales Boccaccio describes Ciacco (Canto 8) as a glutton, and Filippo Argenti (Canto 8) as an arrogant and irascible person.

Deuteronomy (Introduction, p. 23). Book of the Old Testament, last of the books of the Law, believed to be written by Moses. It is mentioned here in connection with the concept of contrapasso which in Deuteronomy is expressed as follows: "Your eye shall not pity; it shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot". ( Deut. 19, 21).

Dido (Canto 5). Queen of Carthage. In the IV book of the Aeneid Virgil tells how Dido fell in love with Aeneas who had been shipwrecked at Carthage. When Aeneas, at Jupiter's command, had to resume the continuation of his journey on to Italy, Dido killed herself. In the Middle Ages this event was considered as an allegory of the contrast between reason and passion. In fact, this was the interpretation that Dante himself had given of the episode in his Convivio (IV, xxvi 8).

Diomedes (Canto 26). Ulysses and Diomedes were two among the most famous Greek heroes in the Trojan war. Ulysses, or Odysseus, King of Ithaca, was noted for his cunning strategy; Diomedes, son of Tydaeus (who was killed in the expedition of the seven Greek kings against Thebes), was noted for his courage. They are punished together because they participated together in misdeeds, among which are the theft of the Palladium--the sacred image kept in the temple of Athena at Troy which protected the city from the enemy--and the stratagem of the wooden horse by means of which Troy was taken. Dante places Ulysses and Diomedes together, enveloped in a single flame, among the Evil Counselors in the Eighth Ditch of Circle 8. (See also under Ulysses).

Dis (See under City of Dis).

Donation of Constantine(See under Constantine).

Ebro (Introduction, p. 17). River of Spain, rising in the Cantabrian mountains in N. Spain and flowing SE. for more than 550 miles to empty in the Mediterranean SW. of Barcelona. Dante locates the source of the Ebro 90 W. of Jerusalem, 90 E. of the Mountain of Purgatory and 180 from the mouth of the Ganges river. So Jerusalem is placed exactly in the Middle, equidistant from the Ganges to the E. and from the Ebro to the W. Therefore the Mountain of Purgatory is 180 E. and W. of Jerusalem, at the antipodes.

Egloghe (Eclogues) (Introduction, p. 6). The Eclogues are two poetical compositions written by Dante in Latin and addressed to Giovanni del Virgilio, a professor at the University of Bologna. Giovanni del Virgilio had written to Dante a Latin poem urging him to write a contemporary history in Latin. According to Giovanni del Virgilio, if Dante did that, he would certainly attain fame. In his answer, Dante expresses his fervid hope to receive fame and poetical laurel not for his Latin works but for his poetry written in Italian.

Empyrean (Introduction, p. 16). The highest heaven, seat of God, of the angelic orders and of the blessed in Paradise. For Dante it is the tenth heaven of Paradise, the Rime Mover of the other heavens, but itself immoble. It is composed of pure light and replete with love; it has a shape of a vast white rose in which are the seats of the Blessed.

Ephialtes (Canto 31). In mythology, a giant born from Neptune and Iphimedia who, with twin brother Otus tried to reach heaven in order to ovethrow the gods by piling Mt. Odessa on Mt. Pelion. This would have given them the advantage to attack Mt. Olympus, abode of the gods. Dante uses Ephialtes, together with Antaeus, Briareus and Nimrod, as a guard at the edge of Circle 9.

Epicurus (Canto 10). Greek philosopher born in Samos in c. 342 BC., died in 279 BC. He claimed to be self-taught, but tradition has it that he was schooled in the systems of Plato and Democritus by his father and by other philosophers. In 306 he moved from Samos to Athens where he opened a philosophical school. The main tenet of the Epicurean School was that the highest good in life was not to be sought in methaphisics but in ethics, and precisely in pleasure or absence of pain. In the Middle Ages Epicurus had become a symbol "of those who believe that the soul dies with the body", as Dante puts it in this Canto. Therefore Dante places him among the Heretics of Circle 6 who deny the immortality of the soul.

Epistles (Letters) (Introduction, p. 6). Of the Epistles written by Dante only thirteen are extant and considered authentic. The authenticity of Letter XIII, addressed to Cangrande, his Veronese friend and patron to whom the Paradiso is dedicated, is controversial. This letter is famous because it expounds on the four levels of interpretation which should be applicable to the Divine Comedy. Other notable letters are the one written to Henry VII of Luxembourg on the occasion of his coming to Italy and, the one to "His Florentine friend" written in 1316 in which Dante refuses to accept the humiliating conditions set by Florence for his return from exile.

Eunoe (Introduction, p. 25). A name given by Dante to one of the two rivers in Earthly Paradise. The function of Eunoe is that of restoring the memory of good things. The other river is called Lethe which has the power of taking away the memory of sin. In Earthly Paradise Dante first passes through the waters of Lethe and then drinks from the waters of Eunoe, in the presence of Beatrice. (See Purgatorio, Canto 33, vv. 127ff.).

Eunuchus (Canto 18). A play by the Roman writer Terence (c. 195 BC.-159 BC.) which Dante probably knew and might have followed (at least to a certain extent) for the description of the harlot Thais, at the end of this Canto. The play was commented by Cicero in his De amicitia as well as by John of Salisbury in his Polycraticus, and it is very likely that Dante used the latter as his source. (See also Terence and Thais).

Evil Counselors (Canto 26 & 27). Because on earth the Evil Counselors used their tongue to the concealement of their real mind, in Hell their are enveloped in a tongue of fire. Dante may have taken the idea of the tongue and the fire from the Letter of James (Chapter 3). Example of Evil Counselors are Ulysses and Diomedes in Canto 26 and Guido da Montefeltro in Canto 27. Ther are placed by Dante in the Eight Ditch of Circle 8.

Evil-pouches (Introduction, p. 29). It is the literal translation of the Italian "malebolge", a name used by Dante to indicate the ten Ditches into which is divided Circle 8. In this circle is punished the first class of Fraudulent, i.e. the class of practitioners of fraud upon those who do not trust them, which Dante divides into ten sub-classes. The pouches or, better, Ditches are separated from each other by big walls and connected by a series of bridges. Dante and Virgil do not descend into the Ditches but keep along the banks and cross over the bridges, with two exceptions. One is the Third Ditch, in Canto 19, where Dante descends as he wants to talk directly and closely to the Simonist Popes; the other is the Sixth Ditch, in Canto 23, because the bridges cannot be used having been broken by the earthquake that took place in the year 34, when Christ died.

Exodus (Introduction, p. 23). Book of the Old Testament, second of the five books of the Law ascribed by tradition to Moses. It is mentioned here in connection with the concept of contrapasso which in Exodus is expressed as follows: "...If death follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, footh for footh, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe". (Exodus 21, 23-25).

Falsifiers (Canto 29 & 30). The Falsifiers are those who pervert the physical world by means of deception. As in life they corrupted nature by some forms of falsification, so in death they are corrupted by some form of disease. Falsifiers of metals or alchemists are punished with leprosy (Griffolino of Arezzo and Capocchio); Falsifiers of persons are punished with madness (Gianni Schicchi and Myrrha); Falsifiers of coins are punished with dropsy (Master Adam and Guidi of Romena); Falsifiers of words are punished with a raging fever (Potiphar's wife and the Greek Sinon).

Fano (Canto 28). City in the Marche region, in central Italy, on the Adriatic sea. An important town in Roman times, it was the scene of the victory by Rome over Carthage in 207 BC. To commemorate the victory the Romans built there a temple (called fanum in Latin) to the goddess Fortune. The city was later destroyed by the Goths, however it florished again under the Malatesta family of Rimini during Dante's time. It is mentioned here by Pier da Medicina who is placed by Dante among the Sowers of political discord in the Ninth Ditch of Circle 8.

Farinata degli Uberti (Canto 10). The most important man of the Ghibelline faction in the 13th century history of Florence. In 1248 he expelled the Guelfs from Florence, but they returned and in 1258 expelled the Ghibellines, including Farinata who took refuge in Siena. His name is strictly connected with the battle of Montaperti (a town near Siena) in 1260. Here the Guelf forces lead by the Florentines were totally overcome. Following their victory the Ghibellines held a council in Empoli, near Florence, in which it was decided to destroy Florence. Farinata was the only Ghibelline to oppose this plan, and so Florence was spared. Farinata died in 1264. A few years later, in 1283, a trial was held in Florence against him and he was posthumously condemned as a heretic. The problem of heresy was strongly felt during Dante's time. It is important to remember that sects of heretics were widely spread in Italy, Florence included. Many Ghibellines were known as heretics. Dante places Farinata among the Heretics of Circle 6.

Filippo Argenti (Canto 8). Filippo of the Florentine Adimari family was called "Argenti" because--as Boccaccio tells us--he used to shoe his horse with silver. Although we do not know much about him, he was known as an arrogant and presumptuous person. This is obvious in Dante's episode here, and it is confirmed, or repeated, by Boccaccio in a story of his Decameron (IX, 8). Dante places him among the Wrathful of Circle 5.

Flatterers (Canto 18). Only the last 36 lines of the Canto are dedicated to the Flatterers. Their are sunk up to their lips and nostrils in human excrement, the true equivalent of flattery. They are placed in the Second Ditch of Circle 8. Among them are Alessio Interminelli and Thais.

Florin (Canto 30). A gold coin of Florence, stamped with a lily and first coined in 1252. It is mentioned here in connection with counts Guidi of Romena who induced Master Adam, a famous falsifier of money, to counterfeit the Florin for them. Master Adam was discovered and burned at the stake in Florence in 1281, when Dante was 16. (See also Master Adam).

Fortune (Canto 7). Dante's conception of Fortune in this Canto is that of a "general mistress and guide", a handmaid of God appointed for the distribution of wordly goods. This conception is in opposition to the traditional one that represented Fortune as a capricious goddess in blindfold who turned the wheel at random. The idea that Fortune is a divine Intelligence, or Divine Providence, is also espressed by Dante in the Monarchia (II, ix, 8), and is the same conception already delineated by Boethius in his Consolation of Philosophy (IV, 6).

Fra Alberico (Canto 33). Alberico dei Manfredi from Faenza (N. central Italy, SE. of Bologna) was a Jovial Friar and one of the leaders of the Guelf party of the city. In 1285 he invited his brother and his brother's son to dinner in his villa. After dinner, when Alberco called out "Bring the fruit!", some assassins hired by Alberico appeared into the room and murdered his brother and his nephew. The expression "bring the fruit" passed into a proverb and Dante has Alberico say, "I am the one of the fruit" (v. 119). Fra Alberico is placed by Dante in the Third Zone of Circle 9, called Ptolomea, where Treachery to friends and guests is punished.

Fra Dolcino (Canto 28). Dolcino Torricelli from Novara (NW. Italy, in Piedmont) was popularly known as "Fra" ( Brother) Dolcino for being a leader of a heretical sect called the Apostolic Brothers. The sect was widely followed in northern Italy. They preached the common holding of property and the sharing of women. In 1305 Pope Clement V launched a crusade against the sect. Fra Dolcino and many of his followers entrenched themselves in the hills of Novara and defied for more than a year the Pope's soldiers. In 1307 Fra Dolcino gave up after many of his followers had died of starvation. Fra Dolcino was captured and was burned at the stake in Novara in 1307. Dante places him among the Sower of religious discord, in the Ninth Ditch of Circle 8.

Fra Gomita (Canto 22). A friar and chancellor of Nino Visconti of Pisa for the Gallura region in NE. Sardinia during the period 1275-1296. Not much is known about him. It seems that he was accused of barratry and of having taken bribes. Because of this Nino had him hanged. Dante places Fra Gomita, along with Ciampolo and Michele Zanche, in the Fifth Ditch of Circle 8, where Barratry is punished.

Francesca da Rimini (Canto 5). Daughter of Guido da Polenta, the Elder, Lord of Ravenna, and therefore aunt of Guido Novello who hosted Dante during the last years of his exile. Francesca was given in marriage to Gianciotto Malatesta of Rimini in 1275 for political reasons. But then she fell in love with her husband's brother Paolo. When Gianciotto discovered their adulterous affair, he killed both of them. This happened between 1283-1285, when Dante was 18-20 years old. Although we do not have any document, the fact must have been well known also in Florence where Paolo had served as Captain of the People in 1282. Dante places Francesca, together with Paolo, among the Lustful or carnal sinners of Circle 2.

Francesco d'Accorso (Canto 15). Born in 1225, the son of the Florentine jurist Accursio, Francesco was a celebrated professor of jurisprudence at the University of Bologna. Then in 1273 Edward I, King of England (1272-1307), called him to England where Francesco lectured for a few years at Oxford. In 1281 he returned to Bologna where he died in 1293. Dante places Francesco d'Accorso, together with Priscian and Brunetto Latini--two "men of letters and of great fame", as Dante tells us--among the Sodomites in the Third Ring of Circle 7.

Francesco de' Cavalcanti (Canto 25). Member of the famous Cavalcanti family of Florence, was murdered by the inhabitants of Gaville, a small village near Florence. Soon the Cavalcantis avenged his death and they did it to such an extent that, as the story goes, there was practically none left alive in Gaville. But no documents have been found to confirm this news. Dante places him, with four other Florentines (Cianfa, Agnello, Buoso, and Puccio Sciancato), among the Thieves in the Seventh Ditch of Circle 8.

Francesco d'Assisi (Canto 27). St. Francis of Assisi, son of the rich merchant Piero Bernascone, was born in 1182 and died in 1226. Founder of the Franciscan order and one of the greatest Christian saints, St. Francis has had a profound influence in Western civilization since the 12th century. Dante places him in Paradiso. Here he is mentioned in relation to Guido da Montefeltro's death. After a sinful life, Guido had converted and had become a Franciscan monk. But then he gave the evil advise to Boniface VIII committing a horrible sin again. When he died (in 1298, in the Franciscan monastery in Assisi) St. Francis came to claim Guido's soul. But the Devil too had come to claim him. The Devil won and sent Guido to Hell.

Fraudulent, The (For description, Canto 11, lines 52-66). A fraudulent is someone who commits fraud or a willful act intended to deprive another of some right. The act in a fraud is motivated by the perpetrator's desire to deceive another with the intent of causing harm. In Dante's Inferno, Fraud is one of the two great divisons of sins punished inside the City of Dis, namely in Lower Hell; the other is Violence which is considered a lighter sin than Fraud and as such it is placed in the upper part of the City of Dis. Fraud is peculiar to human beings because in committing an evil act, or "injustice" against another, the will is used. There are two kinds of fraud: (1) fraud done against those who do not trust the fraudulent, and (2) fraud committed against those who trust the perpetrator. Fraud takes up the last two Circles of Inferno, 8 and 9. In Circle 8 which is subdivided into ten Ditches are placed ten different kinds of simple fraud. Here are punished, in order, the Seducers, the Flatterers, the Simonists, the Soothsayers, the Barrators, the Hypocrites, the Thieves, the Evil Counselors, the Sowers of Discord, and the Falsifiers. In Circle 9 are placed the Traitors, subdivided into four Zones with four different names, each for a specific kind of traitor: (1) Caina, for Traitors of relatives, (2) Antenora, for Traitors of country or political party, (3) Ptolomea, for Traitors of guests, and (4) Judecca, for Traitors of benefactors. (The upper Circle inside the City of Dis, Circle 7, is reserved for Violence).

Frederick I (Introduction, p. 18). Frederick Barbarossa, c. 1125-1190, was Holy Roman Emperor from 1155 until his death. He was also a German King. In Italy Frederick's policy was to restore the imperial power, a difficult task because it was difficult for him to conciliate the Pope. He entered Italy in 1154 and was crowned Emperor in Rome, but soon had to return to Germany. In 1158 Frederick re-entered Italy seizing Milan, and so he became King of the Lombards. In 1166 he captured Rome and was proposing to fight against the Pope's Sicilian allies, but his army was destroyed by an epidemic. In 1167 the powerful Lombard League, an alliance of Lombard communes, fought against him and Frederick had to retreat to Germany. In 1174 he returned to Italy, but was defeated two years later by the League. Now he reconciled with the Pope. Later, in 1189, he set out on the Third Crusade and drowned in Cilicia a year later. Frederick is mentioned here in relation to the period of formation and growth of the Italian free communes which had to fight against his invading army.

Frederick II (Canto 10 & 13). Son of Henry VI and of Constance of Sicily and gradson of Barbarossa, Frederick II was King of the Two Sicilies and Holy Roman Emperor from 1215 until his death in 1250. His figure dominates the entire 13th century. Renowned for his policy of reuniting the Empire, he was able to gather around him all the Ghibellines of Italy. He also patronized science and philosophy and was interested in medicine, mathematics, astronomy and astrology. He made the Sicilian court one of greatest cultural centers of the 13th century. A poet himself, the Sicilian School of poetry flourished under him. He persecuted the heretics, but at the same time he was considered a heretic himself, and was always at odds with the Pope. Dante speaks of him with admiration in the Convivio and in De vulgari eloquentia, as well as in Inferno (Canto 13, line 75) and in Purgatorio. But he places him in Circle 6, among the Heretics of Canto 10.

Furies (Canto 9). Latin name of the Greek Erinyes or goddesses of vengeance in classical mythology. Daughters of Earth or of Night, the Furies were usually represented as three ugly creatures with snakes for hair. Their names were Megaera, Tisiphone and Alecto. In medieval tradition they were symbolic of the three classic forms that evil appears in man: in his mind, in his words, in his actions. The Furies are guardians of the City of Dis. Therefore, at the entrance to the City, the represent the forces of evil which are opposing the wayfarer's voyage in search of salvation. This is the strongest impediment that Dante has encountered so far. And Virgil--that is human reason--is insufficient here to remove the impediment.

Ganges (Introduction, p. 17). River in India which rises in the Himalayas and flows eastward to empty in the Bay of Bengal. For Dante the Ganges river marks the eastern horizon and the easternmost point of the inhabited world, while the westernmost point is represented by the mouth of the Ebro river (or, also Cadiz). The two points are 180o apart from each other. When it is 6:00 a.m. at the Ganges, it is 6:00 p.m. at the mouth of the Ebro, midnight in Jerusalem and noon on the mountain of Purgatory. (See also under Ebro).

Gentucca (Introduction, p. 3). An unidentified lady from Lucca (W. Tuscany) who showed hospitality and protection to the exiled Dante. Dante mentions her in Canto 34 of Purgatorio.

Geri del Bello (Canto 29). Geri del Bello di Alighiero I was a first cousin of Dante's father. He was a Guelf and therefore exiled after the Guelfs' defeat of 1260. He is mentioned in a Bolognese document in 1276, and was condemned in absentia in Prato (some 15 mi. N.W. of Florence) for having assaulted a citizen there. Dante's sons tell us that Geri was killed by Pietro Sacchetti, a member of a family that had been feuding with the Alighieris for some time. Dante places him among the Sowers of Discord, in the Ninth Ditch of Circle 8. In this Canto Dante explains to Virgil that Geri is angry at him because no one in his family has avenged him yet (i.e. in 1300, fictional date of Dante's voyage). In Dante's time relatives of a murdered person had the legal right of vindication which was a common practice. Geri was finally vindicated by a nephew of his in 1310, when Dante was about to finish the writing of Inferno.

Geryon (Canto 17). A mythological monster with three heads and three bodies. Dante portrays him with the face of a just man, two hairy paws, the rest of the body like that of a serpent and with a forked tail similar to a scorpion's pinchers. Dante makes Geryon the guardian of the Fraudulent. There is nothing in classical mythology to suggest a figure similar to the one described here by Dante. Dante borrows from the Apocalypse (9, 7-10 and 12, 9) and relative patristic comments where the dragon represents the figure of the of the ancient Serpent, i.e. Satan. In a comment attributed incorrectly to St. Thomas, Geryon is the symbol of "fraudulent deception". In portraying the monster, Dante also takes from the lore relative to scorpions which were assumed as symbol of deceit because it was believed that scorpions approached the unsuspecting prey with a pleasant and flattering face, but then killed it with its poisonous tail.

Ghibellines and Guelfs (Introduction, p. 1 etc.). The Guelfs and the Ghibellines were opposing political factions in Germany and in Italy during the later Middle Ages. The names were used to designate the papal party (Guelfs) and the imperial party (Ghibellines) during the long period of struggle for supremacy between Popes and Emperors. In Italy the names were first used in the 13th century in Florence to designate the supporters of Otto IV (of the old Guelfs's dynasty) and the supporters of the Ghibelline Frederick II (of the powerful House of the Hohenstaufens). According the Florentine historian Giovanni Villani (c. 1275-1348), the names were introduced into Florence on the occasion of a quarrel between two families: the Buondelmontis and the Amideis. Originally, however, in Italy the names were first used in Pistoia (some 23 mi. N.W. of Florence) during Frederick Barbarossa's campaign in Tuscany. In Italy many noble families (the Della Scalas of Verona, the Montefeltros of Urbino, the Viscontis of Milan, the Colonnas of Rome) were Ghibellines. During this period Italian cities and towns had no fixed party alliance. Milan, Florence, Genoa were usually Guelf; Pisa, Arezzo, Siena were normally Ghibellines. In the latter part of the century, with the total defeat of the Gibellines at Campaldino in 1289, the Guelfs remained the undisputed lords of Florence. Soon, however, they divided into Black Guelfs and White Guelfs with hostilities beginning on May 1, 1300. The Blacks were associated with the Papacy. In 1300 the Whites expelled the Blacks from Florence. But the exiled Blacks regained control of the city in 1302 with the help of Boniface VIII. The Whites were banished from Florence, and thus Dante's exile began.

Gianni Schicchi (Canto 30). Gianni Schicchi, of the Cavalcanti family of Florence, was renowned for his ability to impersonate. By 1280 he was already dead, but he must have left quite an impression on the teenaged Dante. Gianni Schicchi is mentioned in relation to Simone Donati who had asked him to impersonate his dead uncle, Buoso Donati, for the purpose of changing the latter's last will (see also under Buoso Donati). Dante places Gianni Schicchi among the Falsifiers (of persons) in the Tenth Ditch of Circle 8.

Giotto (Canto 17). Giotto di Bondone (c. 1226-c.1337) was a very famous Florentine painter, a contemporary and a very good friend of Dante. A pupil of Cimabue, Giotto broke with the old tradition and gave a new life to the art of painting in Italy. He is mentioned here in connection with the Scrovegni family of Padua who practiced usury. A member of the Scrovegni family, Reginaldo degli Scrovegni, in atonement of his father's sin of usury, erected the Scrovegni's Chapel in Padua. In 1303-4 Giotto began to paint in this chapel a series of frescos which are among the greatest works of Italian art. Giotto is placed by Dante in Purgatorio. (See also Padua and Scrovegli Chapel).

Giovanni del Virgilio (Introduction, p. 6). He was a professor at the University of Bologna from 1318 to 1325. In 1319 Giovanni del Virgilio wrote a letter to Dante (who was by this time in Ravenna) showing sincere appreciation for his genius, but blaming him for writing in Italian. Therefore Giovanni suggested to Dante to write a treatise on contemporary history in Latin, as this--according to Giovanni del Virgilio--would be a sure way for Dante to acquire fame. Dante answered with two eclogues propounding his fervid hope to receive fame for his poetry written in Italian.

Gluttons (Canto 6). Gluttony is a vice of incontinence, namely eating and/or drinking excessively. Gluttony is one of the seven capital sins. In the moral organization of Inferno, Dante places Gluttony after the sin of Lust because traditionally the former was considered as a more serious sin than the latter. In fact gluttony was considered a direct cause of lust. Dante places the Glutton in Circle 3. Here we find the Florentine glutton Ciacco.

Golden Age (Canto 14). The concept of the "golden age" is expressed by Dante in Purgatorio (Canto 22, line 148) as the first age of man. Originally it was a concept already found in classical mythology and systematized by the poets Hesiod and Ovid. They delineate the history of man through four ages: the Golden Age (a period of peace and tranquillity), the Silver Age (a less happy period in which luxury started to prevail), the Bronze Age (a period of strife and friction), and the Iron Age (the present time, a time of travail and suffering without justice and godliness). The expression is used here in connection with the Old Man of Crete, the Great Elder whom Dante places within the mountain and whose body is made up, from his head down, of gold, silver, brass, iron and with his right foot of clay. Dante combines the description of the ancient poets with a description in the Book of Daniel (2, 32-33). So that for Dante the figure not only represents the history of humanity in the absolute sense, but also that same history of humanity considered from the point of view of evil and sin.

Gorgon (Canto 9). In mythology, one of the three monstrous sisters by the names Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. Their hair was a cluster of snakes and their faces were so hideous and ugly that anyone who saw them was turned to stone. The reference here is to the Gorgon Medusa. The three Furies guarding the City of Dis call Medusa to come and turn Dante to stone to prevent his entrance into that City. (See also under Furies).

Griffolino (Canto 29). He was from Arezzo but lived in Siena and was a great alchemist. Once he obtained money from a certain silly man by the name Albero, or Alberto (who was perhaps the natural son of the bishop of Siena) pretending to show him the magic art of flying. Alberto reported him to the bishop and Griffolino was burned alive as a heretic, in 1272. The distinction between magic and heresy was not clearcut during this time, so that frequently magicians were condemned as heretics.

Guelfs (See under Ghibellines and Guelfs).

Guido Bonatti. See Bonatti, Guido

Guido Cavalcanti (Canto 10). Son of Cavalcante dei Cavalcanti, Guido was the most important Florentine poet in Dante's time. He was born fifteen years before Dante's birth and died in 1300, at the age of 50. In relation to time, Guido Cavalcanti is considered second to Guido Guinizzelli in the Sweet New Style School. After Dante Guido Cavalcanti is the most prominent poet of the Sweet New Style and of the 13th century. Dante considered his as his "friend" and calls him "the first among my friends" in the Vita Nuova. Descendent of a noble family, Guido was also active in Florentine political life. He was a Guelf and had married the daughter of Farinata (a Ghibelline) at a time when efforts were being made to bring together the two opposing political factions. As many intellectual men of the period, Guido too denied the immortality of the soul and therefore he was a heretic. Dante places him among the Heretics of Circle 6, where Guido's father-in-law, Farinata, is also found.

Guido da Montefeltro (Canto 27). Guido, lord of Montefeltro county (W. and S. of the Republic of San Marino), was born c. 1220 and died in 1298. In 1268 he was the vicar of Corradino. As a great Ghibelline leader he won many battles against the Guelfs. When he was about 68 years old, in 1286, Guido made his submission to the Pope and was reconciled to the Church. But the Pope excommunicated him and banished him to Asti (N. W. Italy, in Piedmont). In 1289 Guido went to Pisa and became captain in the successful war of the Ghibellines against the Guelfs in Tuscany; and in 1292 he was honored for his victory in Florence. Then he became lord of Urbino, reconciled once again with the Church and finally entered the Franciscan order. He died in the Franciscan monastery at Assisi. When he died St. Francis came to claim Guido's soul. But the Devil too had come to claim him because he had sinned by giving the fraudulent counsel to Boniface VIII so that the Pope, by giving a promise to the Colonnas and not keeping it, could overcome them. The Devil won and sent Guido's soul to Hell. Dante places Guido among the Evil Counselors in the Eighth Ditch of Circle 8. (See also under Colonna and Francesco d'Assisi).

Guido Da Romena (Canto 30). One of the counts Guidi of Romena (the castle of Romena is located some 55 mi. E. of Florence). The three brothers Guido II, Alessandro and Anghinolfo, counts of Romena, hired the famous counterfeiter of money Master Adam to counterfeit for them the gold florin. The counterfeiting of the florin was considered as one of the gravest crime in Florence. Master Adam was caught and burned at the stakes in Florence in 1281. (See also under Master Adam and Florin).

Guido Novello da Polenta (Introduction, p. 3 and Canto 27). In canto 27 the reference is to Da Polentas, a Guelf family whose members had been ruling Ravenna since 1273. They took their name from the village of Polenta (about 60 mi. S. of Ravenna and 15 mi. S. W. of Cesena) where they had a castle. In the year 1300 (again, fictional date of Dante's voyage) Ravenna was ruled by Guido the Elder who died in 1310. He was the father of Francesca da Rimini and grandfather to Guido Novello da Polenta. Dante was the gust of Guido Novello at Ravenna during the last few years of his life, from c.1318 to 1321.

Guido Guerra (Canto 16). One of the Counts Guidi (of the Dovadola line) Guido Guerra was born around 1220 and spent his youth at the court of Frederick II. After returning to Florence he became one of the most resolute supporter of the Guelf party in Tuscany. In 1255 he was the captain of the Florentine Guelfs against the Ghibellines of Arezzo. After Montaperti he was the leader of the Guelfs in the battle of Benevento, in 1266, where Manfred was defeated. He died in 1272. Dante places Guido Guerra, together with Jacopo Rusticucci and Tegghiaio among the Sodomites, in the Third Ring of Circle 7.

Guido Guinizzelli (Introduction, p. 10). Born in Bologna around 1230, Guido Guinizzelli was one of the most famous poets of the generation before Dante. Dante calls him "the father of me and of the others--those my betters--who ever used sweet and gracious rhymes of love" (Purgatorio 26, 97-99). Guido Guinizzelli was the first poet of the Sweet New Style School, as defined by Dante in Purgatorio (24, 57). In his philosophical canzone Al cor gentil reimpara sempre amore, Guinizzelli sets forth the basic tenets of the Sweet New Style. He is able to fuse love and the gentle heart into a new unity, natural and necessary, in which the lady assumes the quality of an angel sent from Heaven to show noble sentiments in men and to bestow on them salute, that is salvation or deliverance from evil. Guido Guinizzelli is mentioned many times by Dante in the Convivio and in the Vulgari eloquentia. Dante places Guido Guinizzelli among the Lustful of Purgatorio (Canto 26).

Harpies (Canto 13). Foul mythological monsters with a face of a woman and a body of a bird of prey. In the Aeneid (3, 209-257) they foul up with their excrements the Trojans' tables in the Strophades (islands in the Ionian Sea) forcing Aeneas and his companions to flee. Dante places them as tormentors of the Suicides in the Second Ring of Circle 7. The Harpies here represent the suicides' violence against themselves and the unending torment that is always with them, as the Harpies' function is to feed on the suicides-plants causing pain and laments.

Harrowing of Hell (Canto 4). Christ descent into Limbo is known as the Harrowing of Hell. Christ descended into Limbo after his death in 33 A.D. to remove the just of the Old Testament and take them to Paradise. Christ descent, according to Dante's Virgil, was witnessed by Virgil himself who had been in Limbo for some 50 years (Virgil died in 19 B.C.). Hence the Harrowing of Hell, which was proclaimed as a Church dogma only at the ecumenical Lateran council of 1215 (and confirmed as such some 60 years later at the ecumenical council of Lyon in 1274), is here presented as having been witnessed by a pagan spirit (Virgil) more than a thousand years before the proclamation of the dogma by the Church. This is important to Dante, because the new article of faith, i.e. the Harrowing of Hell, was not supported by Scripture. The only exceptions being the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus--which gives an elaborate account of it--and the brief statement in the Apostles' Creed. But the idea which had its origin in ancient Christianity became very popular in the Middle Ages, and it is also included in the Middle English collection Cursor Mundi, written about 1300.

Hecuba (Canto 30). Wife of Priam, King of Troy. She had 19 children by him, including Paris, Hector, Troilus, Cassandra. Polixena and Polydorus were her two youngest children. To save Polydorus from the Greeks, Hecuba sent him to Polymnester, King of Thrace. After the fall of Troy she was taken prisoner by the Greeks. While she was being led away, her daughter was taken from her and sacrificed by the Greeks on the tomb of Achilles. At the same time she learned that Polydorus had been murdered by Polymnester. In her horrible grief, Hecuba went out of her mind and began barking like a dog. The episode is narrated by Ovid in his Metamorphoses (13, 481-568). Dante takes it from him.

Helen (Canto 5). Daughter of Leda and Zeus, and sister of Castor Pollux and Clytemnestra, Helen held as the most beautiful of all women. She became the wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta, and later was abducted by Paris, son of Hecuba and Priam, king of Troy. The abduction was the cause of the Trojan war. Some say, however, that Helen was not really abducted against her will, but that she had fallen in love with Paris. Dante places her among the Lustful of Circle 2.

Hercules (Canti 25, 26, 31). One of the most popular Greek heroes, famous for his invincible strength and for his courage. Dante mentions him many times and not only in the Divine Comedy. In Inferno he is mentioned as the killer of Cacus (Canto 25), as the one who set up his signs, or the so-called Pillars of Hercules, "so that men should not go further" (Canto 26), and for his combat with the giant Antaeus (Canto 31).

Hoarderers and Squanderers (Canto 7). See under Avaricious and Prodigals.

Homer (Canto 4). The principal figure in ancient Greek literature. Two epic poems are attributed to Homer: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Dante, as the greatest majority of the people of his time, did not know Greek, however he had a great admiration for Homer. In fact Dante calls him "the lord of the incomparable song / who, like an eagle, soars above the rest" (Canto 4, lines 95-96). Dante places Homer, together with the Latin poets Horace, Ovid and Lucan, in Limbo.

Horace (Canto 4). Quintus Horatius Flaccus, one of the greatest Latin lyric poets, was born in Venosa (S. Italy, some 65 mi. N.E. of Salerno) in 65 B.C., and died in 8 B.C. He studied in Rome and was introduced by Virgil to Caius Maecenas (Roman statesman and patron of letters) who became his friend and benefactor. After retirement, Maecenas formed his famous literary circle which included Horace, Virgil and Propertius. Horace wrote, among other works, the Satires. The Satires were famous in the Middle Ages as men of that time read them with the intent to discover moral Christian principles. Dante knew all of the works of Horace very well, including his Ars poetica which he quotes in De vulgari eloquentia. Dante places Horace, together with Homer, Ovid and Lucan, in Limbo.

Hypocrites (Canto 23). A hypocrite is a person who pretends to have a virtuous character, or a moral and/or religious belief and principles which he/she doesn't actually possess. In other words, a hypocrite is a simulator who is rotten inside and pretentiously shows himself to be good. Hypocrisy, according to Dante, is a worse sin than Simony or Barratry because its nature is typically fraudulent and it permeates not only civil society but also religious community. Dante places the Hypocrites in the Sixth Ditch of Circle 8. Their punishment is to walk round and round very slowly, weeping and weighted down by big robes shaped like a monk's habit, gilded outside but inside heavy with lead. This, of course, suggests the contrapasso. Dante's image of the hypocrites seems to derive from a passage in John of Salisbury's Policraticus (7, 21, 692b). Among Dante's hypocrites we find Catalano and Loderingo, Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas.

Iacopo Rusticucci (Canto 16). Not much is known about Iacopo, except that he is mentioned in some documents of about the middle of the 13th century, and that in 1266 he was still alive. He is one of the five Florentines (with Farinata degli Uberti, Tegghiaio Aldobrandini,Arrigo and Mosca dei Lamberti) whose minds appeared on earth bent toward the good, but who are now among the blackest souls of Hell. Dante places Iacopo with Guido Guerra and Tegghiaio among the Sodomites in the Third Round of Circle 7.

Ignavi (Canto 3). It is the Italian equivalent of the Cowardly , those who in life "lived without praise and without blame" (line 36), that is those who in life didn't have the courage to do either good or evil. Dante has a profound contempt for them, as they did not exercise their free will to chose either good or bad. Free will is what distinguishes men from brute animals. Dante mentions only one of the Cowardly punished there. He is Pope Celestine V who resigned his office only after a few months he had been elected Pope.

Incontinence (Canto 11). Incontinence is a lack of moderation or control, or the inability to restrain the natural appetites. Incontinence is distinguished from fraud or malice. The latter implies an evil intent on the part of the one who commits a wrongful act. In a sin of malice there is participation of the will, while a sin of incontinence is the excessive indulgence of, or submission to passions. On the basis of this concept--which is originally Aristotelian--Dante places the sinners either outside the City of Dis (sins of incontinence), or inside the City of Dis (sins of fraud). Sins of incontinence are, Lust (Circle 2), Gluttony (Circle 3), Avarice and Prodigality (Circle 4), Wrath (Circle 5).

Ino (Canto 30). Daughter of Cadmus, founder of Thebes, Ino was the second wife of Athamas, King of Boetia. She bore him two children, Learchus and Melicertes. Later her husband Athamas went mad, and in his rage he mistook his wife and sons for a lioness and her cubs. He gave chase and killed Learchus. In order to escape, Ino and her other son leaped into the sea to their death, and they were changed into sea divinities. (See also Athamas).

Jacopo da Santo Andrea (Canto 13). Santo Andrea is a small village some 6 mi. N. of Padua. Jacopo was at the service of Frederick II in 1237 and was assassinated in 1239 by order of Ezzelino IV da Romano. Apparently he was quite rich and was well known as an insane and bizarre squanderer, to the point of having his beautiful villa burnt for the insane desire of wanting to see a big fire--as Boccaccio tells us. Dante places him among the Violent against their possessions or Squanderers, in Ring 2 of Circle 7.

Jason (Canto 18). In mythology, son of King Aeson of Iolcus, Thessaly. When his father was deposed from his rightful throne by Pelias, most of his family was killed. Jason, however, was smuggled off to the Centaur Chiron who reared him secretly. Later Pelias promised Jason his rightful kingdom if would bring the Golden Fleece to Boetia. So Jason and a group of brave men sailed in the Argo ship (hence they came to be known as Argonauts) in quest of the Fleece which was kept in Colchis. The first stop on their way was the island of Lemnos where Jason seduced the young maiden Hypsipyle and then "abandoned her, alone and pregnant"----as Dante tells us. Once in Colchis, the King's daughter Medea was also seduced by Jason, and she fell in love with him. Medea was skilled in magic and sorcery and gave Jason magical protection that allowed him to complete his task. Jason and Medea exchanged marriage oaths, and she bore him two children. But later Jason didn't keep his oath and abandoned her for another woman by name Creusa. In revenge Medea killed Creusa and her own two children. Dante places Jason among the Seducers in the First Ditch of Circle 8. (See also Medea).

Jerusalem (Introduction, pp. 16-17). In accordance with the Book of Ezechiel (Ezek. 5,5), Dante places Jerusalem at exactly the central point of our hemisphere, or land surface. It is located midway between the mouth of the Ganges river to the east and the source of the Ebro river to the west. The Mountain of Purgatory is exactly at the antipodes of Jerusalem, in a straight line that passes through the center of earth and hence of Hell. Thus the four points, Ganges--Jerusalem--Ebro--Purgatory, are 90 or 6 hours apart from each other, to the east or to the west. Therefore when it is 6:00 a.m. at the Ganges, it is Midnight at Jerusalem, 6:00 p.m. at the Ebro, and Noon on the Mountain of Purgatory. Italy lies exactly at midpoint between Jerusalem and the Ebro, therefore 45 east of the Ebro and west of Jerusalem, hence 3Ī hours apart from each respectively.

John of Salisbury (Canto 18). English Scholastic philosopher, born in Salisbury about 1110 and died 1180. He studied in Paris and Chartres under Abelard and other famous teachers. He was well acquainted with the Latin classics and wrote several works, among which the Polycraticus, a treatise on the principles of government. This work was widely read in Europe. John of Salisbury is mentioned here in connection with the courtesan Thais mentioned by Dante in this Canto and found in the Eunuchus of Terence. John of Salisbury had commented the work of Terence in his Polycraticus. Dante knew this treatise of John of Salisbury and may have used it for his source.

Judas (Canto 31). Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples and the betrayer of Christ. Judas went to the chief priest and offered to betray Jesus for which he was paid the sum of 30 pieces of silver. After the Last Supper he lead an armed band to Gethsemane and there identified Jesus to the soldiers by kissing him. Later he repented and killed himself. Dante places Judas in the very last Zone of Cocytus, in Circle 9, where Traitors of benefactors are punished. Dante places him in one of Lucifer's mouths, with his head inside the mouth being chewed by Lucifer, and the body outside torn apart by the Devil's claws.

Judecca (Canto 33). Also called by Dante "Juda's Circle" since it is named after Judas. It is one of the four Zones into which is divided Circle 9, or Cocytus. Judecca is the very last Zone and reserved for the most heinous crimes, where traitors of benefactors are punished. In addition to Judas, here we also find Brutus and Cassius, the traitors of Julius Caesar. The three traitors are each placed inside the three mouths of Lucifer.

Judgment Day (Canto 6). Called also Doomsday, it is a central point of Christian eschatology. When this world will come to an end, the dead will rise and resume their bodies, and Christ will come in glory to judge all. Everyone will be more perfect, because perfection lies in the union of body and spirit. This concept of perfection, which originated with Aristotle, was also shared by St. Augustine (In Ioh. 49, 10) and was accepted by Medieval thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas and by Dante as well. But this also means that the pains of Hell will be more "perfect", i.e. will increase, after Doomsday. By the same token, the pleasure of the blessed will also be greater after Judgment Day. (Dante mentions this latter point in Paradiso 14, 43-51).

La Vita Nuova (The New Life) (Introduction, p. 7). A work in Italian written by Dante part in verse and part in prose. The prose is used mostly to interpret the poems. The Vita Nuova was composed between 1292 and 1293, after Beatrice's death, and describes Dante's ideal love for her. It is a composite work in which Dante exalts Beatrice as the giver of `beatitude' and hence of salvation. At the end of the booklet Dante concludes with the promise that one day he will say of her what has never been said in rhyme of any other woman. The allusion is clearly to the Divine Comedy. Dante dedicates the Vita Nuova to his "first friend" Guido Cavalcanti. (
Read more).

Lethe (Introduction, p. 25). In mythology, river of oblivion in Hades. The dead drunk from Lethe upon arriving in the underworld and were granted forgetfulness of the past. Dante moves the location of Lethe from the underworld to Earthly Paradise, at the top of the Mountain of Purgatory, where he also places another river, the Eunoe. The function of this second river is that of restoring the memory of good things to souls ready to ascend to Paradise. Therefore the souls in Earthly Paradise will first pass through the waters of Lethe and then drink from the waters of Eunoe. (See also Eunoe).

Leviticus (Introduction, p. 22). Book of the Old Testament, third of the five books of the Law, ascribed to Moses. It is mentioned here in connection with the concept of contrapasso which in Leviticus is expressed as follows: "He who kills a man shall be put to death. [...] When a man causes disfigurement in his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has disfigured a man. he shall be disfigured. He who kills a beast shall make it good, and he who kills a man shall be put to death". (Lev. 24, 17-20).

Limbo (Canto 4). In Christian theology Limbo was understood as the abode of the just Hebrew patriarchs who died before the coming of Christ, and who were freed by Him right after His death. Then Limbo was reserved as abode of unbaptized infants. In theological tradition there was no Limbo for pre-Christian non-Hebrew adults or post-Christian unbaptized adults. Therefore this is an invention of Dante who places in Limbo all those who followed moral and intellectual virtues, but didn't know and hence did not have the theological virtue of Faith. In other words Dante created a unique abode for the just and sage of the ancient world, a place that is not Paradise and is not Hell. The only `pain' the inhabitants of Limbo suffer is longing, without any hope, of seeing God. Dante places Limbo in Circle 1, outside Hell proper. Loderingo (Canto 23). See under Catalano.

Lucan (Canto 4). Marcus Aenneus Lucanus (39-65) was a Latin poet born in Cordova, Spain. He was the nephew of Seneca. Lucan wrote Bellum civile, an epic poem on the civil war between Caesar and Pompey, commonly known as Pharsalia. After Virgil, Lucan is the second epic model of Dante. Dante mentions him throughout the Commedia, and is indebted to him for many episodes or details found not only in Inferno, in Purgatorio and Paradiso. Lucan's Pharsalia is also mentioned and/or quoted in the Monarchia and in the Convivio. Dante places Lucan in Limbo, together with Homer, Horace and Ovid.

Lucca (Canto 18). An important city in Tuscany, W. of Florence, near the Ligurian Sea, and about 12 mi. N.E. of Pisa. Lucca became e free commune in the 12th century and soon developed into a republic. During the conflict between Guelfs and Ghibellines, the city of Lucca was in frequent wars especially with Florence and Pisa. Lucca was the native place of Alessio Interminelli (Canto 18), of the poet Bonagiunta degli Orbicciani whom Dante meets in Purgatorio, and of Gentucca who showed Dante hospitality during his exile, perhaps between 1307 and 1308.

Lucifer (Canto 34). Latin equivalent of `bearer of light', Lucifer is the name for Satan and a synonym for the Devil. He was cast out of Heaven because of his pride, and now he is in the center of earth, the farthest point from God. Lucifer is the antithesis of God and, despite his name, the total expression of darkness. His three faces represent a travesty of Trinity. When Lucifer was cast out of Heaven he fell head-down on the earthly side opposite to our hemisphere, where there was land at the beginning of creation. But when Lucifer came down, the land retreated under water and re-emerged in our hemisphere. So Lucifer's fall upset the original universal order by moving the land from the hemisphere of innocence to the hemisphere of sin. Observed from the other hemisphere--as Dante suggests--Lucifer stands in a topsy turvy position, with his legs turned up and his head downward.

Lustful, The (Canto 5). The Lustful, or carnal sinners, are those people who, according to Dante, "subject reason to instinct" (v. 39). The instinct to lust is an inborn tendency to action peculiar and common to the animal species. But humans are also gifted with reason to control this animal tendency, and therefore they have the responsibility to raise themselves above the brute animals. Those who allow sexual instincts to dominate their reason undergo a kind of human degradation that puts them at the level of animals. The punishment of the Lustful is to be swept eternally by a violent whirlwind (See also Francesca da Rimini).

Machiavelli (Canto 7). NiccolÚ Machiavelli (1469-1527) was a Florentine author and statesman and one of the outstanding figures of the Italian Renaissance. Among his many works the best known is The Prince, a treatise describing the means by which a prince can gain and maintain power. Machiavelli is mentioned here in relation to the concept of Fortune which is quite different from the concept set forth by Dante in this Canto. Machiavelli's conception is that man, with his intelligence and virtý, can control Fortune to his advantage.

Malacoda (Canti 21-22). The Italian equivalent of `Evil-tail', Malacoda is the name given to the head of the Malebranche's family of devils. The Malebranches, or `Evil-claws', are what Dante calls "the ministers of the fifth ditch" (Canto 23, 56), that is to say the demons assigned to guard the Barrators punished in the boiling pitch of Circle 8. The individual names of the Malebranches are invented by Dante. Some of these names are, Graffiacane (`Scratch-dog'), Cagnazzo (`Ugly-dog'), Ciriatto (`Swine-face'), Draghignazzo (`Vile-dragon'), Barbariccia (`Porcupine-beard'), and so on. In the Malebranches' family there are twelve member-devils. It has been noted that in coining these names, Dante was inspired by actual family names which existed in Tuscany at that time. This is an important element considering the political undertones of these two cantos.

Malebolge (`Evil-pouches') Canto 18). A compound word invented by Dante and the name given by him to the Eighth Circle of Inferno in which Fraud is punished. The Circle is made up "all of iron-colored stone" and gradually slopes on all sides. The Circle is made up by ten concentric bolge, literally `pouches'. (But Dante uses several names for them, including tombe, fossi, fosse, and valli; the English `dip ditch' seems to render the idea). The two Poets walk around the borders of these ditches to observe the souls punished inside. The ditches are connected to each other by a series of arched bridges made of stone. In each `pouch' or ditch is punished a specific type of fraudulent sinners with a specific punishment assigned to it, in accordance with the law of contrapasso. Geryon, the symbol or "image of fraud" is the guardian of Circle 8.

Malebranche (Canto 21). `Evil-claws' in English, is the family name of the devils assigned to guard the Barrators in the Fifth Ditch of Circle 8. Their functions is to claw the Barrators punished there when they try to surface from the boiling pitch into which they are, and must remain, immersed. (See also Malacoda).

Manto (Canto 20). Famous Theban soothsayer mentioned by Virgil, Ovid and Statius. Her father was Tiresias, another famous soothsayer of Thebes. According to Dante's Virgil, Manto after the death of her father went to northern Italy and settled in a solitary place, apart from society. After her death, the inhabitants that lived nearby decided to found in her honor the city of Mantua (some 15 mi. S.W. of Verona), the city considered by Virgil as his birthplace. Dante's account which actually takes a full one-third of this Canto is inconsistent with the account described by Virgil in the Aeneid. Commentators have noted that the "correction" of the story of the foundation of Mantua by Virgil in the Inferno is fully justified. In the Middle Ages Virgil was believed as a wizard and a magician, and Dante's intention in this Canto is to exonerate him from that popular belief and to have him condemn "the magic frauds". (See also Mantua).

Mantua (Canto 20). A city in N. Italy, in Lombardy (S.W. of Verona), bordered on three sides by lakes formed by the Mincio River, an affluent of the Po River which flows nearby. Originally Mantua was an Etruscan settlement and received her name from Mantus, the Etruscan god of the underworld. Mantua was later a Roman town and subsequently became a free commune in the 12th century. It was, and is, known as the birthplace of Virgil, although the Latin Poet was actually born in a nearby village about 4 mi. S.E. of Mantua. In Canto 20, Dante has Virgil "correct" his account of Mantua's foundation as he has it in the Aeneid. (See also Manto).

Master Adam (Canto 30). A Master Adam from England was retained by the Counts Guidi of Romena to counterfeit the gold Florin for them. Up to 1252 Florence minted only silver coins. But then the city had become rich and powerful, and it was decided to mint the new Florin, a 24-carat gold coin, first struck in 1252. The Master Adam decided to make a Florin that contained only 21-carat gold, so it could hardly be noticed. In fact the fraud was only discovered by chance when a large amount of counterfeited coins were found in a house that accidentally burnt down. This gave the counts Guidi quite a substantial profit, but it created a currency crisis in northern Italy and in France where, in the period between 1260-1270, there were more than twenty large Florentine companies doing business, all financed by Florentine banks. Master Adam was caught, brought to Florence and burned alive in 1281.

Matelda (Introduction, pp. 24-25). Matelda is one of Dante's guides. She guides him through Earthly Paradise, after Virgil is no longer his guide and before the coming of Beatrice. Matelda leads Dante to his final ritual of purification in Earthly Paradise by having him drink of the waters of Eunoe, the river "that restores the memory of good". (See Purgatorio, Canti 28-33).

Medea (Canto 18). Daughter of the King of Colchis, she helped Jason obtain the golden fleece. Medea was seduced by Jason , bore him two son and then he abandoned her for another woman by name Creusa. Dante mentions Medea in connection with Jason who is placed among the Seducers in the First Ditch of Circle 8. It is interesting to note that, in this connection and in relation to Hypsipyle--the previous woman seduced and abandoned by Jason--Medea is barely mentioned by Dante. This is due to the fact that Medea was well known as a ruthless magician and sorcerer. In fact, in vindication against Jason, Medusa not only killed their two sons, but sent Creusa an enchanted wedding gown that burnt Jason's new woman to death.

Medusa (Canto 9). She is the most famous of the Gorgon monsters whose faces were so hideous that turned to stone anyone who saw them. Dante knew the myth of the Gorgon sisters from Ovid's Metamorphoses (4, 779-781) but here, as in other instances, he is using the myth allegorically. Medusa is here invoked to come and turn Dante to stone by the three Furies who are stationed at the entrance of the City of Dis. The Gorgon Medusa represents fear and terror intended as an impediment to Dante in his voyage to salvation.

Michael Scot (Canto 20). Possibly the most famous astrologer of the time. He was born in Scotland about 1175, perhaps studied at Oxford, Bologna and Paris, and died c. 1234. Scot served as astrologer and physician at the court of Emperor Frederick II. He wrote several philosophical and astrological treatises and translated important works of Aristotle and AverroŽs into Latin. Scot was very well known as a magician and famed for his occult learning. Many legends arose about him and his exploits; some of these legends were still alive in Scotland at the end of last century--according to Scartazzini's comment. Indeed, he also figures in Sir Walter Scott's Lay of Last Minstrel (canto 2). Dante places him among the magicians and soothsayers in the Fourth Ditch of Circle 8.

Michele Zanche (Canto 22). Governor of Logudoro (a region in N.W. Sardinia) for King Enzo, son of Frederick II. Not much is known about his life, and the accounts given by early commentators are not clear, but it seems that he was involved in political intrigue and barratry. Approximately during the years 1290-1294 his son-in-law Branca d'Oria invited Michele Zanche to dinner and had him murdered as he wanted to control that part of Sardinia. In fact we know that a few years later, in 1299, Branca d'Oria asked Boniface VIII for an official recognition of his right on Logudoro. Dante places Michele Zanche, together with Ciampolo of Navarra, and Fra Gomita, among the Barrators in the Fifth Ditch of Circle 8.

Minos (Canto 5). Mythical King of Crete, son of Zeus and Europe, and husband of PasiphaŽ. Because Minos, breaking the promise made, failed to sacrifice the white bull to Neptune, the god instilled in PasiphaŽ a lustful passion for the white bull, by whom she bore the Minotaur. (Dante mentions the PasiphaŽ's myth in connection with the Minotaur in Canto 12, and as an example of chastened lust in Purgatorio 26). Minos became the richest king in the Mediterranean area and was renowned for both his justice and his power. After his death he became one of the three judges of the Hades. Dante assigns to Minos the extremely important office of judge of Hell, transforming him into a devil with a tail. He is placed at the entrance of Hell proper (Circle 2). When the souls of the sinners come before him, he hears their confessions, examines their sins and assigns to each his/her place in Hell by the number of times he encircles himself with his tail: the number indicates the Circle the soul must go. (See also Minotaur and PasiphaŽ and Daedalus).

Minotaur (Canto 12). Monster, half man and half bull, born to PasiphaŽ after her intercourse with the beautiful white bull for which she had developed a lustful passion. The bull had been given to her husband Minos, King of Crete, by Neptune with the understanding that the King would sacrifice it to the god in a sumptuous ceremony with the participation of everyone. But King Minos was stalling since he wanted all of his many cows to be impregnated by the this white bull. Neptune became impatient and one day, while PasiphaŽ was by chance there where the bull was servicing her husband's cows, the god took revenge against Minos and caused her to develop this insane passion for the bull. Once born, the Minotaur was kept by Minos in a labyrinth constructed by Daedalus, and was fed youths and maidens paid as tribute to Minos. The Monotaur was finally killed by Theseus, son of the King of Athens, with the help of Ariadne, daughter of Minos. Dante doesn't mention the Minotaur by name, but only as "the infamy of Crete, conceived into the artificial cow" (vv. 12-13). This is the hollow wooden cow made also by Daedalus, inside which PasiphaŽ would go to copulate with the bull. (See also PasiphaŽ, Minos and Daedalus).

Mohammed (Canto 28). Born in Mecca c. 560, died in Medina in 632. He was a prophet and the founder of Islam, the latest of the three great monotheistic religions, after Judaism and Christianity. According the medieval western tradition, Mohammed was originally a Christian priest and the he became an apostate. This was a common belief which found its way in the works of medieval encyclopedists such as Vincent of Beauvais and others. For instance, Brunetto Latini in his Tesoro (1, 88) speaks of Mohammed as an evil preacher who drove away people from the true religion. Dante believed him to be a sower of religious disunity, and in fact places him among the Sowers of religious discord, in the Ninth Ditch of Circle 8. Mohammed is presented by Dante as split open from the chin downwards--an obvious contrapasso.

Monarchia (Introduction, p. 5). On World Monarchy is a treatise written by Dante in Latin, in three books, probably during the period 1310-1313 when the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg was in Italy. Dante was hoping that Henry VII would put an end to the strife between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines and restore peace to Italy. The three books of De Monarchia deal with the following points: (1) a world government is necessary for the well-being of the people; (2) the Romans are the rightful people to assume leadership of the world government; (3) the right of the universal monarchy come directly from God, it doesn't depend on the Papacy, and the Emperor owes the Pope only filial reverence and counsel in spiritual matters. Hence with his Monarchia Dante propounds the concept of separation between the two authorities, Church and State.

Montaperti (Canto 32). A village in Tuscany, about 6 mi. E. of Siena, on the Arbia River, where in 1260 took place the famous battle between the Ghibellines of Manfred and the Guelfs of Florence. Montaperti is mentioned in connection with Bocca degli Abati. Bocca's family was Ghibelline. In 1258 many Ghibelline families had been expelled from Florence, but the Abatis remained in the city; Bocca become a `turncoat' and went with the Guelfs to Montaperti. During the battle Bocca cut off the hand of the Guelfs' standard bearer, Jacopo de' Pazzi, causing the rallying banner to fall to the ground. Thus the Guelf troops became confused and panicky and were defeated by the Ghibellines. In Canto 10, referring to the battle of Montaperti, Dante recalls "the carnage and the great bloodshed that stained the Arbia'a waters red" (vv. 85-86). Se also Bocca degli Abati).

Montereggioni (Canto 31). Fortress, some 7 mi. N.W. of Siena, belonging to the Sienese and built in 1213 as an outpost on the road from Florence to Siena. The massive wall and the fourteen towers that surrounded it were built after the battle of Montaperti. Part of the wall and some towers are still standing. During Dante's time the towers jutted out some 60 feet from the wall, producing from far away a strong impression on the onlooker. Dante compares the terrifying giants, towering over the bank of Circle 9, to the towers of Montereggioni.

Mosca (Canto 28). Mosca dei Lamberti, born in the latter part of the 12th century, died in 1242. The Lambertis were one of the most important and noble Ghibelline families in Florence. Mosca was a noteworthy gentleman who served as mayor of various cities outside Tuscany (Viterbo, Todi, Reggio). The Lambertis were associated with the noble family of the Amideis. In 1216 Buondelmonte dei Buondelmonti, who was engaged with a daughter of the Amideis, broke the promise and married another woman. This called for retaliation. The Amideis consulted with the Lambertis, and Mosca urged them to kill the Guelf Buondelmonte. The killing was the beginning of the rivalry and the strife between Guelfs and Ghibellines in Florence. Dante places Mosca among the Sowers of political discord, in the Ninth Ditch of Circle 8. (The tragic episode is also recalled by Dante in Paradiso 16).

Muses (Canti 2, 32). In mythology, patron goddesses of the arts, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. Originally only three, they were later considered as nine. In the Divine Comedy Dante mentions only three directly: Calliope, the Muse of epic poetry and eloquence; Polymnia, the Muse of oratory or sacred poetry; and Urania, the Muse of Astronomy. InInferno the Muses are invoked twice and in a general way: once at the beginning of the Comedy, and once before the description of Circle 9, at the end of Inferno. The invocations to the Muses which was a tradition in classical poetry, is a literary topos maintained by Christian poets.

Myrrha (Canto 30). In mythology, she was the daughter of Cinyras, King of Cyprus. Myrrha conceived a strong lustful passion for her own father and with the help of her maiden, in the absence of her mother and in darkness, she introduced herself into his chamber pretending to be the maid. The deception was discovered by her father who tried to kill her. But Venus protected her and she was able to escape. She went to Arabia where she gave birth to Adonis, who became the most beautiful young man on earth and lover of Venus. Myrrha was later transformed into the myrrh-tree. The story is told by Ovid (Metamorphoses 10, 298-502). Dante places Myrrha with Gianni Schicchi among the Falsifiers of person, in the Tenth Ditch of Circle 8.

Nesso (Canto 12). Nessus is one of the Centaurs who function as guardians of of the Violent in the First Ring of Circle 7. In mythology, Nessus tried to rape Hercules' wife Deianira after he had helped her cross the flood of a river. But from the other bank Hercules shot him with his arrow which had been soaked in the poisonous Hydra's blood, and thus Nessus was poisoned to death. However, before his death, Nessus dipped his robe in his blood poisoned by the arrow, and gave it to Deianira and told her that it would preserve her husband's love. When later Deianira found her husband in love with Iole, she gave him the poisoned robe. Hercules put it on and the powerful poison killed him. The story is told by Ovid (Metam. 9, 101-169). Nessus guides Dante and Virgil across the boiling river of blood, the Phlegethon.

Nicholas III (Canto 19). Nicholas III was Pope from 1277 to 1280. Born Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, of the powerful Roman family that included three popes and other numerous high level churchmen and statesmen. Pope Nicholas III was a strong man who worked hard to render the Holy See free of civil interference from both the Emperor (Rudolph I) and the King of Naples (Charles I). He has been called the founder of the Vatican. Dante associated him with simony and nepotism, which in fact were an essential part of the Pope's political practices, as it is pointed out by the historians of the period, such as Giovanni Villani and Salimbene da Parma. Dante places Nicholas II among the Simoniac Popes in the Third Ditch of Circle 8.

Nimrod (Canto 31). The biblical king of Babylon, one of the giants who stand around the edge of Circle 9. Patristic tradition attributed to Nimrod the construction of Babel's Tower which he wanted to make so high as to reach the Heaven and God. This act of presumption was punished by God by the confusion of the only language spoken at that time, as it is related by Genesis 11, 1-9. The original language--according to St. Augustine, Isidore of Seville, Brunetto Latini and many others, including Dante--was believed to be the Hebrew language. In the Vulgari eloquentia (I, 7, 4) Dante states that after the confusion of the tongues, the original language was spoken, unchanged, only by the Hebrews. A point of view that he will drastically revise in Paradiso (Canto 26, 124ff).

Novara (Canto 28). A city in the Piedmont region of Italy, some 25 mi. W. of Milan. It is mentioned here in connection with Fra Dolcino, the leader of the heretical sect called the Apostolic Brothers. (See Fra Dolcino).

Old Man of Crete (Canto 14). The Old Man of Crete is a large statue which Dante takes almost literally from the biblical text describing the vision of King Nabuchodonosor, as explained to the King by the prophet Daniel (Dan. 2, 31-33). However, Dante combines Daniel's biblical description with the classical myth of the four ages described by Ovid (Metam. I, 89ff). Thus Dante is able to intertwine the biblical account with the classical myth and create this great allegory of the history of humanity, projected here against the history of salvation and damnation. (See also Golden Age).

Ovid (Canto 4). Publius Ovidius Naso was a Latin poet, born at Sulmona (about 45 mi. S.W. of Pescara) in 43 B.C. and died in 18 A.D. He enjoyed early fame as a poet and was known to Emperor Augustus. After Virgil, he is without a doubt the most famous poet throughout the Middle Ages. Dante knew several of Ovid's works but was particularly fond of his Metamorphoses which in the Convivio he calls "The Greater Ovid". Dante also quotes Ovid in the Vulgari eloquentia (II, 6, 7), and mentions, imitates and quotes episodes from him many times throughout the Divine Comedy. Dante places Ovid, together with Homer, Horace and Lucan, in Limbo. This is the group of poets to which also belongs Virgil. And it is important to underline that the poets of this group invite Dante to be one of them. Thus Dante becomes "the sixth [poet] among such intellects" (v. 102). It is obvious that Dante very consciously builds here the bridge that connects him to the ancient world of supreme poetry.

Padua (Canto 17). A city some 20 mi. W. of Venice. During Roman time, Padova was one of the richest city of Italy, and second only to Rome for wealth. At the beginning of the 7th century, the city was destroyed by the Lombards but it was soon rebuilt. In the 12th century Padova became a free commune and quickly grew in political, economic and cultural importance. The university was founded in 1222 and soon acquired great fame throughout Europe. From 1237 to 1256 Padua was controlled by Ezzelino da Romano (1194-1259), an Italian Ghibelline leader who also controlled Verona and Vicenza and who was a faithful supporter of Frederick II, his father-in-law since 1238 when Ezzelino had married a daughter (illegitimate) of the Emperor. Padova is mentioned here in connection with the Scrovegni family who erected there a chapel where Giotto painted his famous frescos. (See also Giotto and Scrovegni Chapel).

Palestrina (Canto 27). A fortress in the territory of ancient Praeneste, called by Dante "Penestrino", located some 24 mi. E. of Rome. In the 13th century the fortress was a stronghold of the Colonna's family. During the strife of the Colonnesi against Boniface VIII, the Colonnas entrenched themselves in the fortress, and surrendered to Boniface only on the latter's promise not to persecute them. The Pope made the promise with the intention not to keep it, on the evil counsel of Guido da Montefeltro who, by then, was reconciled with the Church and had become a Franciscan Friar. For this sin, Guido is placed by Dante among the Evil Counselors in Canto 27. (See also Colonna and Guido da Montefeltro).

Panderers and Seducers (Canto 18). Panderers and Seducers are placed by Dante together in the First Ditch of Circle 8, although in two separate lanes moving in opposite direction. They are naked and are lashed with big whips by horned demons. With precise symmetry, Dante presents here two sinners, one his contemporary whom he recognizes, the other ancient who is introduced by Virgil; the former is the Bolognese panderer Venedico dei Caccianemici, the latter is the seducers Jason the Argonaut. (See also Jason and Venedico Caccianemico).

Paolo (Canto 5). Paolo Malatesta was a son of Malatesta da Verrucchio. Malatesta was a powerful Guelf leader who had become magistrate of Rimini and had used his position to entrench the family's interests in the area. He died in 1313. Paolo had three brothers, one was the hunchback Gianciotto. In 1275 Gianciotto married, for political reasons, Francesca the daughter of Guido Vecchio da Polenta--the family that later will host the exiled Dante at Ravenna. Paolo served as Captain of the People in Florence for one year in 1282-83 where he became well known and might have been seen, perhaps, by the youthful Dante. After his return to Rimini, Paolo and Francesca fell in love; but in 1285 they were surprised together by Gianciotto who killed them. Paolo is not mentioned by name by Francesca who tells the tragic story to Dante. He remains a silent partner with her among the Lustful of Circle 2> (See also Francesca).

Paris (Canto 5). In mythology, son of Priam and Hecuba and brother of Hector. With the help of Venus Paris abducted Helen, the wife of the King of Sparta Menelaus. The abduction was the cause of the Trojan War. Dante places Paris among the Lustful of Circle 2.

PasiphaŽ (Canto 12). Daughter of the Sun and of Persa and hence sister of Circe and aunt of Medea, she was the wife of Minos, King of Crete. In retaliation against Minos who had broken the promise to sacrifice the white bull to Neptune, the god caused PasiphaŽ to fall in love with the bull. So Daedalus, the famous inventor at the court of King Minos, built for her a hollow wooden cow inside of which she placed herself to satisfy her lust for the bull. Out of this union, the Minotaur was born, a monster half human and half bull. Dante makes reference to PasiphaŽ, without mentioning her, in connection with the Minotaur, who is placed by Dante as guardian of Circle 7 where the Violent are condemned. (PasiphaŽ is mentioned by name and is used as an example of punished lust in Canto 26 of Purgatory). (See also Minotaur and Daedalus).

Perillus (Canto 27). Athenian inventor who, around 555 B.C., was at the service of Phalaris, tyrant of Agrigentum, Sicily (c. 570-552). Without being asked, Perillus built and offered to the tyrant a full size, but hollow, brazen bull, inside of which a man could be roasted to death. The contrivance was built in such a way that the scream of the man roasting inside could sound outside as the bellowing of a bull. Phalaris accepted the gift, but wanted first to experiment it with its own inventor Perillus, who thus died in his own contraption. The story is told by Ovid (Ars amatoria, I, 653-56 and Tristia III, 11, 41-54) and by Paulus Orosius (Historia 20, 1-4). Dante uses this as a simile to introduce Guido da Montefeltro's voice which also come out of a flame.

Phalaris (Canto 22). Greek tyrant of Agrigentum, Sicily, c.570-554 B.C.. He is the tyrant for whom Perillus invented and built the brazen bull. According the several authors, including Cicero (De officiis II, 7, 27), the people of Agrigentum finally revolted against him and roasted him inside the bull which he had used to execute many of his people including its own inventor Perillus. (see also Perillus).

Physics (Canto 3). A work by Aristotle quoted several times by Dante, especially in the Convivio and in De monarchia. Here it is mentioned in connection with the concept of imitation: "Art imitates nature as much as possible" (Physics II, 2, 194a), a canonical phrase repeated many times in the Middle Ages.

Phlegethon (Canto 14). One of the five rivers of Hades which here becomes one of the rivers of Hell, the "fiery" river the waters of which are actually boiling blood. Immersed in it to various depth are those who have committed violent acts against neighbors. The Phlegethon flows on a bed of stone, with its slopes and margins also made of stone. Its steams quenches the flames of fire that fall from above, so Dante and Virgil can walk alongside the river protected by the falling flakes of fire.

Phlegyas (Canto 8). In mythology, son of Mars and Chryse, King of Lapithal in Thessaly. Phlegyas' daughter Coronis had been violated by Apollo. Thus Phlegyas vindicated her by setting fire to the temple of Apollo in Delphi. For this sacrilegious act, he was struck down and sent to the eternal punishment in Tartarus. Dante places Phlegyas as ferryman on the Styx. He carries Dante and Virgil across the Stygean marsh and takes them at the foot of the tower guarding the City of Dis. Phlegyas in Dante is the symbol of blind rage and revenge.

Pier da Medicina (Canto 28). Medicina was, and still is, a fairly large agricultural village, some 12 mi. E. of Bologna. Not much is known about Piero. Early commentators of the Comedy--such as Benvenuto de Rambaldis who was from Imola, a town only 6 miles away from Medicina--tells us that Piero became rich sowing discords between Guido da Polenta, lord of Ravenna, and Malatesta, lord of Rimini. Others say that Piero da Medicina was a sower of political discord throughout the region. It is also said that Dante was sometimes host of the Medicina's lords, and that he met Piero in one of those visits. Dante's personal knowledge is clearly implied by the text. Dante places Piero among the Sowers of political discord, in the Ninth Ditch of Circle 8.

Pier della Vigna (Canto 13). Pier della Vigna, or delle Vigne, was born c. 1190 in Capua ((some 15 mi. N. of Naples) and studied in Bologna under two famous professors, Maestro Bene from Florence and Francesco d'Accursio. In 1220 Piero was called to the court of Frederick II, where he served first as a Notary, then Judge and finally in 1247 he became private chancellor of Frederick. He was sent on special missions to other important men of the time: to Rome on mission to Pope Gregory IX and Pope Innocent IV, and to England to negotiate the marriage of Frederick with Isabella, sister of Henry III. In addition to being a smart politician, Pier della Vigna was also an important man of letters. He was renowned for his epistolary style and his letter were studied as a model in the schools of rhetoric. He was also a poet, and together with Frederick he dominated the group of poets and men of letter at the court, i. e. the so-called "Sicilian School". But in 1248 Pier della Vigna fell into disgrace with the Emperor, and was imprisoned and blinded. He killed himself in 1249. The reason for this disgrace has not been ascertained historically. Dante and, in general, his contemporaries believe that Pier della Vigna was a victim of a court conspiracy motivated by jealousy. Dante places Pier della Vigna among the Suicides, in the Second Ring of Circle 7.

Pisa (Canto 33). Located some 50 mi. E of Florence on the Arno river, Pisa was an extremely important city before and during Dante's time. From the 9th to the 11th centuries it developed into a powerful maritime republic rivaling Genoa and Venice. Defeated by its archirival Geonoa in 1284, Pisa went into a gradual decline as its harbor was filling with silt from the Arno river. As a staunch Ghibelline center in the 13th and 14th centuries, the city was constantly at war with Florence. The city's world famous architectural structures (Cathedral, Baptistery, leaning Tower, and Campo Santo) were all in existence in Dante's time. Pisa is mentioned in connection with the episode of Count Ugolino. Here Dante utters a harsh invective against Pisa for having starved to death Count Ugolino's four innocent boys. In this wrath Dante calls on the two islands, Capraia and Gorgona, to move and lock the mouth of the Arno so that everyone in Pisa may drown. (See also Count Ugolino, Ruggieri degli Ubaldini, Capraia and Gorgona).

Pistoia (Canto 24). A city in Tuscany about 13 mi. NW of Florence. Pistoia was the birthplace of the Italian Guelfs and Ghibellines during Frederick Barbarossa's campaign in Tuscany. It is mentioned by Vanni Fucci whom Dante places among the Thieves in the Seventh Ditch of Circle 8.

Plato (Canto 4). The great Athenian philosopher Plato was born around 427 B.C. For a time he lived at the court of Dionysus the Elder, tyrant of Siracuse. He was the follower of Socrates and the teacher of Aristotle. Plato founded a school, the Academia, where he taught mathematics and philosophy until his death in 347 B.C. Plato extant work is in the forms of letters and dialogues. There are 35 Dialogues, 28 of which are considered to be authentic with certainty. Dante knew Plato only indirectly, especially through Cicero's De finibus, although he may have read the Timaeus which was well known in the Middle Ages in a Latin translation by Calcidius. Dante places Plato with Socrates among the ancient philosophers in Limbo.

Pluto (Canto 6). The Greek god of wealth whom Dante places as guardian of Circle 6 where the Avaricious and Prodigals are punished.

Polydorus (Canto 30). Youngest son of Priam, king of Troy, and of Hecuba. To save him from the Greeks, his parents sent him to Thrace to be taken care of by Polymnester. Polymnester had married Priam and Hecuba's oldest daughter and hence he was their son-in-law. The King had also sent to Polymnester a substantial sum of money, the treasure belonging to the court. Ten years later, after Troy had fallen, Polymnester considered the treasure as his own and therefore had Polydorus killed, and his body thrown into the sea. (See also Hecuba and Polixena).

Polixena (Canto 30). She was the second youngest child of Priam, King of Troy and of Hecuba. Polixena was famous for her beauty and grace. When Priam went to the battle field to Achilles' tent to ask for the restitution of his son's body (Hector), he brought along the beautiful Polyxena. Achilles fell in love with her. Subsequently Achilles went to Apollo's temple in Thymbra in the hope to see Polixena again. It was here that Achilles was slain by the famous arrow of Paris. Then Achilles' spirit appeared to his son demanding the immolation of Polyxena, which was done on Achilles' tomb and at the presence of Hecuba. Soon after Hecuba sow on the waters of the sea the dead body of Polydorus. At this sight she became mad and began barking like a dog. (See also Hecuba and Polydorus).

Potiphar (Canto 30). Chief official of the Pharaoh. He bought Joseph, son of Job and gave him a high position in his house. Later Potiphar's wife tried to seduce Joseph. When Joseph refused her advances, she falsely accused him of trying to seduce her. As a consequence Potiphar put Joseph into prison. The story is told in the book of Genesis (39, 6-23). Dante places Potiphar's wife among the Falsifiers of word in the Tenth Ditch of Circle 8.

Primum mobile (Introduction, p. 16). The first movement, or the Crystalline Heaven, or the large heavenly sphere and hence the farthest from earth. The Primum mobile takes the movement from God and imparts it to all the other spheres below. It is resembles moral philosophy and it is presided over by the angelic order of the Seraphim, which is the highest order of angels and the closest to God.

Priscian (Canto 15). A Latin grammarian of the 6th century, born in Cesarea, Mauretania. Priscian taught grammar at Constantinople. he was the author a Latin grammar called Institutiones grammaticae. This book was used read in all medieval schools and was undoubtedly the most wide spread Latin grammar in the Middle Ages. Dante places Priscian among the Sodomites, or homosexuals, in the Third Ring of Circle 7. Critics have not been able to ascertain why Dante placed Priscian among the homosexuals. It has been pointed out recently that a passage in Uguccione's Magnae derivationes (a medieval dictionary that Dante knew very well) may give credence to such an opinion. However this indication has not been confirmed and has been seriously challenged.

Ptolemaic System (Introduction, p. 16). The most influential of the geocentric cosmological theories that placed the earth at the center of the universe, with all the celestial bodies revolving around it. The system is named after the Greek-Egyptian mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy who lived in the 2nd century A.D. Dante, in his conception of the universe, follows the Ptolemaic system. (See also Ptolemy).

Ptolemy (Canto 4). Claudianus Ptolemaeus, the celebrated mathematician, geographer and astronomer, born towards the end of the first century, and lived during the time of the Roman Emperors Adrian and Antoninus. His most important work is called Almagest. This and other works of his were translated into Latin and were readily available to medieval students. Ptolemy presented a collection of all ancient astronomical observations and explanations dealing with the then known heavenly bodies in their relation to earth. About the Middle of the 9th century a Pakistani astronomer by name Al-Farghani (called also Alfarganus) wrote an extremely important work called Elementa which is a thorough summary of Ptolemaic astronomy. This book was translated into Latin and had a very wide circulation in Europe from the 12th century onward. It is very likely that Dante's knowledge of Ptolemy was derived from Al-Farghani's compilation.

Ptolomea. The third zone of Cocytus in the ninth circle of Inferno. It is reserved for traitors of friends and guests. The name derives from the biblical Ptolomy, governor of Gerico. According to the Bible, he had his father-in-law, Simon Maccabee, and his childrenĖwhom he had invited to a banquetĖkilled. The story is told in 1 Macc. 16, 11-16.

Puccio (Canto 25). Puccio, of the noble Ghibelline family of the Galigai, nicknamed Sciancato, "The lame one", is one of the five Florentine thieves placed by Dante in the Seventh Ditch of Circle 8. His Florentine companions of misdeeds and pain--Agnello, Cianfa, Buoso and Francesco dei Cavalcanti--all undergo transformation, but he does not. There is no apparent reason for this. However, the chronicles of the time say that, because of his handicap, Puccio could not participate with his companions in raids made during the night. This might be a reason for the exception.

Purgatory (Introduction, p. 12). In the teaching of the Catholic Church Purgatory is the state after death in which the soul who died in grace with God can be "purged" or purified before ascending into Paradise. In the New testament there is no doctrine for the existence of Purgatory, and the idea of Purgatory developed during the 2nd century. The Fathers of the Church envisioned Purgatory underground, but Dante's Purgatory is in the open-air and consists of a mountain-island rising in the middle of the ocean in the hemisphere opposite to ours, and precisely at the antipodes of Jerusalem. According the Dante, the mountain-island of Purgatory was formed by the mass which for fear of Lucifer retreated from inside earth where he fell and recoiled back into that hemisphere, forming the only land mass on the waters. (See also Jerusalem, Ganges and Ebro).

Pyrenees (Canto 31). Mountain chain of SW Europe between France and Spain. It extends nearly 300 mi. from the Bay of Biscay on the west to the the Mediterranean Sea to the east. It is mention here in relation to Roland's blast on his famous horn at Roncesvalles, one of the passes into France on the Pyrenees, Dante compares the blast of Roland's horn to the bugle blast of the giant Nimrod. (See also Roland and Roncesvalles).

Ravenna (Canto 27). City in the Emilia-Romagna region, N Italy, located near the Adriatic Sea. Ravenna became the capital of the Western Empire in 402 under Emperor Honorius. Later, during the 5th and 6th centuries, was the capital of the Ostrogoth kings Odoacer and Theodoric. It was also the seat of the exarchs, or governors of Byzantine Italy, from the late 6th century to 751 when it was conquered by the Lombards. Later, from the 13th to the 15th centuries, the Da Polenta family were the lords of Ravenna. The family hosted Dante during the last few years of his exile. Dante died in Ravenna and is buried there. Ravenna is mentioned by Dante in response to Guido da Montefeltro's inquiry, who wants to know about the present political situation of the Romagna region. (See also Romagna).

Revelation (Canto 19). Called also Apocalypse (Greek for "uncovering"), is the name given to the last book of the New Testament. It was written before the end of the 1th century by one John who has been traditionally identified as the disciple St. John who is also the author of the fourth Gospel. The book consists of cryptic and prophetic visions, foreseeing persecutions and in general the coming of evil, but with the final triumph of God. It is mentioned here by the name of the author, i. e. "The Evangelist", and in relation to the whore "who sits upon the waters" (vv. 106-108), a circumlocution to indicate the Popes corrupted by temporal interests.

Rime (Rhymes) (Introduction, p. 7). A collection of several poetic compositions written by Dante during the period that spans from his first youthful compositions to the years 1307-1308 when he began writing the Divine Comedy. The Rhymes are sometimes also referred to as Canzoniere.

Rimini (Canto 27). An ancient city in Emilia-Romagna (N central Italy), on the Adriatic Sea. It was a Roman colony of strategic importance. Later it came under Byzantine rule and was a member of the Pentapolis. In the 13th century the powerful Malatesta family seized control of the city. It is mentioned here to Malatestino dei Malatesta, son of Malatesta da Verrucchio and of his first wife. Malatestino was therefore a step brother of Gianciotto and Paolo. He was considered by Dante as a tyrant and a traitor. (See also Malatestino).

Roland (Canto 31). According to a tradition, Roland was the nephew of Charlemagne and was with him in several war undertakings, particularly those against the Muslims of Cordoba. Thus Roland became the great French hero of the medieval Charlemagne cycle of chanson de geste and is immortalized in the Chanson de Roland. Dante mentions him in connection with his famous horn that he blew so hard, but too late. He wanted to inform Charlemagne-- who was quite ahead of him in their retreat--that his rear guard had been attacked by the Saracens, at the Pass of Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees. Historically the battle took place on August 15, 778 and the presence of a Hroulandus in the battle has been ascertained. (See also Chanson the Roland and Charlemagne).

Romagna (Canto 27). The eastern part of today's Emilia-Romagna Region (N Italy), Romagna was a former Roman Province. After the fall of Rome, the Region began its fragmentation. Romagna was ruled from Constantinople and its main center was Ravenna which became the capital of the Empire in the West in the 5th century. In the Middle Ages Romagna became fiefs of important families, and subsequently it became even more fragmented. In Dante's time there are many lords controlling various cities and towns in Romagna. Here it is mentioned in relation to the fact that Guido da Montefeltro, the spirit from Romagna, wants to know from Dante whether in his (Guido's) homeland there is war or peace. In his answer Dante mentions cities in a political triangle that stretches from Rimini to Cervia to Ravenna on the Adriatic coast, and from Rimini to Cesena to Forlž to Faenza and to Imola on the old Roman road, the Aemilian Way. (See also under the name of those cities).

Ruggieri degli Ubaldini (Canto 33). Ruggieri was the nephew of Cardinal Ottaviano degli Ubaldini, and therefore he belonged to one of the most famous and powerful Ghibelline family of Tuscany. After the defeat of Pisa by Genoa in 1284 Count Ugolino became lord of Guelf Pisa; but a few years later, in 1288, he changed again party and aligned himself with the Ghibellines which were then headed by Archbishop Ruggieri. The Ghibelline leader with the help of the powerful families od the Gualandi, Sismondi and Lanfranchi had been able to take control of the city. Count Ugolino in the meantime was out of town. Thus the Archbishop, pretending to support Count Ugolino, called him back to Pisa. But when Ugolino returned, as soon as he set foot in Pisan territory, the Archbishop had him arrested together with his two sons and two nephews who were with him at the time, and locked up in a tower. After about one year the tower was nailed shut and the prisoners starved to death. Dante places Ruggieri together with count Ugolino among the Traitors in the Second Zone of Circle 9.

Rusticucci (Canto 16). See Iacopo Rusticucci.

Saint Francis of Assisi (Canto 27). See Francesco d'Assisi

St. John's Baptistery (Canto 19). Named after the city's patron Saint, St. John the Baptist, the octagonal Battistero was used for administering baptism and dates from the 11th and 12th centuries. Architecturally it is an original interpretation of the Romanesque style and quite impressive with its bands of pink, white and green marble. Dante calls it "my beautiful San Giovanni" (v.17). The interior ceiling mosaics were finished in 1297 and Dante was very well acquainted with them. In fact it is likely that he derived the inspiration for his Lucifer from the "Mosaics of Hell" depicted on its cupola. The mosaics portray, in part, Satan chewing three damned spirits in his three mouths. (See reproduction).

San Gimignano (Introduction, p. 2). A hill town in Tuscany, 23 mi. NW of Siena and 34 mi SW of Florence. Famous for its 13 medieval towers remaining today, from its 75 the town had at the height of the Guelf-Ghibelline conflict. Dante knew the town well. In May 1300 he had been sent there as an ambassador to perorate the cause of the Guelfs in the hope of reconstituting the Tuscan Guelf League.

Saracens (Canto 27). In the Middle Ages Saracens was a term used to indicate the Arabs in general and by extension the Muslims in general. The term strictly designate the people of NW Arabia, while in Spain the Muslims were generally known as Moors. During this period Christians were fighting against the Moors in their defence, or because they had usurped the Holy Land, due to the negligence of the Popes. Saracens are mentioned here in relation to Pope Boniface VIII who, instead of making war upon them, was waging war against the house of Colonna; meaning that Boniface VIII is more interested to fight a war for the supremacy of Rome and hence of temporal power, rather than for the supremacy of Christian faith. (See also Colonna and Guido da Monte Feltro).

Satan (Canto 7). A Hebrew word meaning "adversary". The name Satan with its meaning was well known in the Middle Ages and figured as a standard entry in Medieval dictionaries. It is of biblical origin and Dante uses "the ancient adversary" for Satan a couple of times in Purgatorio (Canto 11 and 14). Here it is used as a synonym or Lucifer. It is the only time that the name is found in the Divine Comedy and is here in connection with other mysterious words put by Dante in the mouth of Pluto, guardian of Circle 4. The other mysterious words----which form the first line of the Canto----are also said to be Hebrew.

Schoolmen (Introduction p. 15). A term used to designate Medieval writers who dealt with theology and philosophy after the method of Scholasticism. Scholasticism is the system of theological and philosophical teaching of Western Christianity in the Middle Ages, based mostly on the authority of the Fathers of the Church, of Aristotle and his commentators, particularly Avicenna and AverroŽs. (See also Church Fathers, Aristotle,Avicenna and AverroŽs).

Scrovegni Chapel (Canto 17). A chapel in Padua built by Enrico degli Scrivegni with the intent to atone his own and his father's sins of usury. His father, Reginaldo degli Scrovegni, had been dead five years when Enrico had the chapel built in 1303. In the same year Enrico called Giotto to Padua to have it decorated with his famous frescoes.

Seducers. See Panderers and Seducers.

Semiramis (Canto 5). Queen of Assyria (1356-1314 B.C.) and wife of Nino whom she succeeded. Dante's information about Semiramis is taken from Paulus Orosius' Historia (I, 4). Orosius, a pupil of St. Augustine, was born in Tarragona, Spain, in 385 and died in 420. His Historia became a kind of textbook of universal history for the Middle Ages, and was extremely important for Dante's knowledge of history. Here Dante repeats Orosius almost literally. It is interesting to note (or, perhaps, it is to be expected) that many authors in the Middle Ages refer to Semiramis as an example of wanton lust

Siena (Canto 29). A city in Tuscany, some 35 mi. S of Florence. Siena became a free commune in the 12th century, it soon developed into a wealthy republic and a stronghold of the Ghibelline party in central Italy. During the 12th and 13th centuries Siena became a great rival of Florence, and there was constant warfare between the two cities. A memorable date during this period was the year 1260 when the Guelf Florentine troops were totally destroyed at the battle of Montaperti. A decade later, however, Siena was defeated by the Guelfs of Tuscany in 1269. Siena is mentioned here by Griffolino d'Arezzo as the birthplace of Alberto, the man who had accused him to be a magician. For this Griffolino was accused of heresy and burned at the stakes. (See also Griffolino and Montaperti).

Simon the Magician (Canto 19). Samaritan sorcerer or magician who attempted to buy spiritual power from the Apostles, and especially the power to confer the Holy Spirit. But he was rebuked by St. Peter for thinking that such a power, which is a gift from God, could be bought or sold. The story is told in the fifth book of the New Testament called the Acts of the Apostles (8, 9-24). From the name Simon derives the word Simony as applied to the buying and selling of ecclesiastical preferments or offices. The person engaged in this kind of traffic is called simonist. (See also Barrators).

Simonists. See Simon the Magician.

Sodomites (Canto 15). The word `sodomite' is derived from the biblical name of Sodom or Sodoma, the principal city of the Plain which was destroyed by fire from heaven because of the inhabitants unnatural carnal wickedness. The story is related both in the Old and in the New Testaments. Homosexuality is understood as an unnatural act or, better, as an act of violence against nature. In keeping with biblical tradition the Sodomites of Inferno are punished with flakes of fire that fall upon them from above. At the same time they must continually run over a desert of burning sand. (See also Brunetto Latini, Francesco d'Accorso and Priscian).

Soothsayers and Diviners (Canto 20). A soothsayer is a person who professes to foretell events; and divination is the practice of attempting to foretell future events or to discover hidden knowledge by occult or supernatural means. For Dante soothsayers and diviners are practitioners of "magic frauds". In Inferno they are condemned to walk backwards because their heads are twisted so that they cannot see ahead, that is in front of them. They cannot see forwards, but only backwards. Dante places them in the Forth Ditch of Circle 8. Among them are Anphiaraus, Tiresias, Manto, Michael Scot, and Guido Bonatti. (See also the names just mentioned).

Sowers of Discord (Canto 28). Sowers of Discord, or Schismatics, are those who divide human communities: religious, political or family. As such this is typically a `public' sin, and Dante felt it very deeply because he himself was a victim of the bitter political division that was taking place at every level of society during the communal strife of the 13th and 14th centuries. Dante places the Sowers of Discord in the Ninth Ditch of Circle 8. Their punishment is to be continually slashed, mutilated and torn apart by the swords of demons. Among the Sowers of Discord Dante places Mohammed, Ali, Fra Dolcino, Pier da Medicina, Mosca dei Lamberti, Bertran de Born and one of his relatives called Geri del Bello. (See also the names just mentioned).

Squanderers (Canto 13). The Squanderers here are not to be confused with the Prodigals of Canto 7, a category of people opposite to the Avaricious. Here, instead, the Squanderer is a person who acts with furious violence against his own possessions to the point of total destruction. This is the reason for which they are condemned among the Suicides, in Second Ring of Circle 7, but with a different punishment: the destroyers of their own possessions are here pursued, mutilated and destroyed by ferocious black hounds. (See also Jacopo da Santo Andrea).

Statius (Introduction, p. 24). Publius Papinus Statius, Latin poet, born in Naples about 45 A.D., lived in Rome most of his life and died c. 96. He was a favorite of Emperor Domitian. Statius wrote an epic poem in the manner of Virgil called Thebaid which was well known to Dante. Dante does not mention Statius in Inferno. Statius is met by Dante in Purgatorio. He is briefly mentioned here because in the Comedy Statius functions as one of Dante's guides, in the sense that he accompanies Dante, even after Virgil has disappeared, and walks with him (Dante) through Earthly Paradise. In addition, together with Dante, he is led by Matelda to drink of the waters of Eunoe.

Strait of Gibraltar (Canto 26). Alluded to by Ulysses, the Strait of Gibraltar is where Hercules "planted" the two Pillars marking the far west boundaries of the world beyond which no man could sail and hope to return. (See also Ulysses).

Styx (Canto 7-8). In mythology, Styx was a river of Hades that the souls of the dead had to cross on their journey from the realm of the living. In Dante's conception Styx is a river of Hell in the form of a marsh which separates upper Hell from its lower section, which is called the City of Dis. In the Stygean filthy marsh are condemned the Wrathful, some half way and some totally immersed in its muddy waters. Dante and Virgil cross the Styx on Phlegyas' boat, and while they are on their way Filippo Argenti, one of the souls condemned there, tries to impede their passage. Filippo is rejected and rebuked with extremely harsh words by Dante, and Virgil approves. (See also Filippo Argenti).

Sylvester I (Canto 19). A Roman, Sylvester I was Pope (314-335) during the reign of Emperor Constantine I who built for him the Lateran and several other churches in Rome. Here Pope Sylvester is referred to as "the first rich father", in connection with the so-called Donation of Constantine. (See Constantine).

Tegghiaio (Canto 18). Tegghiaio Aldobrandi belonged to the powerful Florentine family of the Adimari and was a very important Guelf leader. In 1256 he became mayor of Arezzo and died before 1266. He was one of the captains of the Florentine troops at the battle of Montaperti, although he had been one of those who strongly counseled the Florentine Guelfs not to undertake that expedition against Siena which, in fact, resulted as a total defeat of the Florentine Guelfs. Dante places Tegghiaio, together with Jacopo Rusticucci and Guido Guerra among the Sodomites, in the Third Ring of Circle 7.

Terence (Canto 18). Publius Terentius Afer was born in Carthage about 195 B.C. and died in Rome about 159 B.C. He was a Roman writer of comedies and six play by him survive. Terentius is alluded here for a passage in his comedy Eunuchus. The specific reference is to Thais, a harlot in the Eunuchus. This play of Terence was well known and this particular reference had been commented, among others, by Cicero in his De amicitia, and by John of Salisbury in his Policraticus. (See also ThaÔs).

Tesoro (Canto 15). It is Brunetto Latini's major work written in French prose between 1262 and 1266 and called Trťsor. The Thesaurus is a vast encyclopedic work in three volumes. It was translated into Italian by Bono Giamboni a contemporary of Brunetto Latini. It is mentioned here in connection to the fact that, during their conversation in this Canto, Brunetto Latini recommends to Dante his Tesoro, "in which I still live", says Brunetto. Some critics have taken this statement as a pre-humanistic assertion that man can become "eternal" through his/her works done in life.

ThaÔs (Canto 18). Name of a courtesan in Terence's play Eunuchus (III, 1). Although Terence's ThaÔs is obviously a fictitious character of a play, there was in reality a historical ThaÔs, from Athens. She was a courtesan and a follower of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) in Asia. This ThaÔs is described by various Latin poets among whom Ovid and Juvenal. But Dante's ThaÔs, in this Canto, is a flatterer described by Virgil as a "filthy and dishevelled wench who scratches at herself with shit-filled nails" (vv. 130-131)--a crude realism that brings back the reader to the filthy contrapasso that must be endured by the Flatterers of the Second Ditch of Circle 8, who are sunk in human excrements.

Thebes (Canto 14). The main city of Boetia. at the end of the 6th century B.C. Thebes began to struggle against Athens in order to maintain her position in Boetia and in Greece. During the Persian wars Thebes sided (480-479) with the Persians, but the Persians were defeated and Thebes was punished. After the death of Edipus, King of Thebes, the two mail heirs were Eteocles and Polynices. Instead of dividing the kingdom in half, they agreed to alternate yearly as kings. Then a dispute arose because Eteocles at the end of his term refused to give up his reign. Consequently Polynices asked for help from Adrastus, King of Argus, and an expedition against Thebes was undertaken by them with the help of five additional Kings. The expedition goes under the name of the `Seven against Thebes'. The seven Kings were, Polynices, Adrastus, Amphiaraus, Capaneus, Hippomedon, Parthenopaeus, Tydaeus. With the exception of Adrastus, all of the rest were killed. The story of the expedition is told by Aeschylous and by Statius in his Thebaid. Thebes is mentioned or alluded to several times in the Comedy. In this Canto the city is mentioned in connection with Capaneus and the expedition of Adrastus. In Canto 33 Dante qualifies Pisa as the "New Thebes" Thebes, because for the ancients Thebes was symbolic of corruption and injustice.

Thibaut of Navarre (Canto 22). Born in 1237, Thibaut II became King of Navarre in 1253. Navarra is in N. Spain, but during this period the kingdom of Navarra extended beyond the Pirenees and included also Champagne in French territory. Thibaut II married Isabelle of France, daughter of Louis IX, the Saint. In 1270 Louis IX undertook the VIII Crusade, and Thibaut joined his father-in-law. But the Crusade was cut short due to an epidemic desease which killed Louis IX while in Tunisia. Thibaut, too, became ill; so he was brought to Sicily where he died before the end of the year. Thibaut is here referred to by Ciampolo (a barrator from Navarra of whom we know very little) who calls Thibaut a "good king".

Thomas Aquinas. See Aquinas, Thomas

Traitors (Canti 32-34). Traitors are placed in Circle 9 and are divided into four classes. See Fraudulent, The.

Tristan (Canto 5). Hero of medieval French romance. He was the lover of Yseult, wife of King Mark of Cornwall. When King Mark discovered the two lovers in Yseult's chamber, he mortally wounded Tristan with his poisoned sword. In his death throes Tristan embraced Yseult so strongly that both died in that embrace. Dante places Tristan among the Lustful of Circle 2.

Ulysses (Canto 26). Latin name for Odysseus, Ulysses was the son and successor of King Laertes of Ithaca. A leader of Greek forces during the Trojan war, Ulysses was noted for his cunning strategy. At the beginning he avoided serving in the war because his wife Penelope had just born him a son, Telemacus, and Ulysses didn't feel like leaving the family and feigned to be mad. However he was exposed by Palamedes, King of Euboea, and joined the war. During the ten years siege of Troy he rendered many and important services to the Greeks. In these exploits he was almost always with Diomedes, King of Argos. Among their misdeeds there was the theft of the Palladium (the famous statue of Minerva which protected Troy from the enemy), and there was the stratagem of the wooden horse by means of which Troy was taken. After the fall of Troy, Ulysses wandered about the world for ten years before returning to Ithaca. However, here Dante broke with tradition and imagined Ulysses as never returning to his home in Ithaca, but continuing his wanderings pushed by an irresistible passion to experience the world even beyond the Pillars of Hercules--his fatal decision. In Inferno Dante places Ulysses together with Diomedes among Fraudulent Counselors in the Eighth Ditch of Circle 8. (See also Diomedes).

Usurers (Canto 17). Usury is understood as an excessive percentage charge for the use of money. In the Middle Ages the Church forbade the use of usury, as the practice created social problem. In addition, money was considered a barren commodity and therefore unproductive. However, the bankers and merchants princes of north Italy disregarded the Church restrictions and loaned money at very high rates of interest. For the medieval mind the idea that money would make more money without actual work on the part of man appeared to be an operation against nature. You cannot cause to be productive what by nature is barren. But investing in land or stock was considered appropriate. This was a concept already set forth by Aristotle in his Politics (I, x, 1257b). During Dante's time the practice of usury had brought big problems to the cities and particularly to Florence. Dante feels a profound disdain against the usurers. The majority of usurers mentioned in this Canto are from Florence. For Dante a usurer looses his human appearance and become almost an animal. In fact the usurers' punishment in Hell is to be crouched up on a barren desert of burning sand, their faces indistinguishable and each bearing about his neck a money bag on which the arms of the owner are placed. On each emblem is depicted an animal which indicates the banker's family and, at the same time, is symbolic of the `degradation' of their humanity to animality. Dante places the Usurers among the Violent in the Third Ring of Circle 7.

Vanni Fucci (Canto 24). Vanni was the illegitimate son of Fuccio dei Lazzeri, a noble family of Pistoia (23 mi NW of Florence). Perhaps Dante had met him during the war between Florence and Pisa, in 1292, in which Vanni had sided with the Florentine troops as a mercenary. In the few documents we have about him, he is described as a militant Black and as a violent person. Dante, however, places Vanni not among the Violent, but among the Thieves, in the Seventh Ditch of Circle 8, because he stole some ornaments from the Cathedral of Pistoia, which at that time was famous for its treasures. Someone else had been accused and imprisoned for that theft, and later when Vanni was implicated, he run away and wasn't caught. Also, apparently it was not widely known that Vanni was actually one of the thieves in that sacrilegious robbery, and Dante insists here in making the point. Vanni takes his revenge on Dante by "prophesising" events that will see the defeat and expulsion of the Whites from Florence (1302) and their definite defeat in 1306. It is to be noted that this is the fourth "prophesy" that Dante hears in Inferno: the first from Ciacco, the second from Farinata, and the third from Brunetto Latino.

Venedico Caccianemico (Canto 18). Venedico of the Caccianemici family of Bologna was born around 1228. He was a Guelf and had important positions in several cities, including Milan in 1275 and 1286, Pistoia in 1283, Modena in 1273 and 1274. He was therefore well known in north Italy. Dante also knew him, although we do not know the circumstances of their meeting. Venedico was accused of being a panderer because he had brought his own sister Ghisolabella to do the will of the marquis of Este, Obizzo II (1264-1293), inducing her to sin. Dante places Venedico among the Panderers and Seducers in the First Ditch of Circle 8.

Verona (Introduction, pp. 3-5). Verona is located on the banks of the Adige River, some 65 mi W of Venice. The city grew to power and prosperity within the Roman Empire as a result of its commercial and military strategic position. During the barbarian invasions of the 5th and 6th centuries, Odoacer made Verona his fortress and Theodoric made it his favorite residence. The city became then a seat of the Lombard duchy, and subsequently it became a free commune in the 12th century. In 1167 Verona joined the Lombard League in opposition to Frederick Barbarossa. From 1226 to 1259 the city was ruled by the tyrant Ezzelino da Romano. Then the Della Scala family became the lords of Verona, and the city reached its maximum splendor under Cangrande della Scala (1290-1329). Cangrande ruled Verona first in 1308 and then from 1311 until his death. During his exile Dante enjoyed the hospitality of Cangrande from 1313 to, perhaps, 1318. In recognition and as a sign of friendship toward his host, Dante will later dedicate his Paradiso to Cangrande.

Villani, Giovanni (Introduction, p. 3). Italian historian of Florence, was born c. 1275, ten years after Dante, and died in the plague of 1348. He wrote a universal history that spans from ancient time to 1348. Villani was a functionary of the city of Florence and was witness to several events that he describes. As such, his history of the city is quite reliable for the period of time in which he lived.

Violent, The (Canti 12-17). Violence is an unjust exertion done with force (1) against God, Nature or Art; (2) against ones own person or possessions; and (3) against neighbors' persons or possessions. In Dante's Inferno all these sinners are all condemned in Circle 7, in three separate Rings corresponding to the three different kinds of violence: Ring 1 punishes the violent against their neighbors' persons or possessions; Ring 2 punishes the violent against their own persons or possessions; Ring 3 punishes the violent against God (Blasphemers), against Nature (Sodomites), and against Art (Usurers).

Vergil or Virgil. Publius Vergilius Maro, the great Roman poet, was born near Mantua, in northern Italy, in 70 B.C. He first studied in Cremona (some 40 mi W of Mantua), and then in Milan, Naples and Rome. After his education Virgil returned to his father's farmhouse where he lived for some ten years farming, studying and writing poetry. Then he moved to Rome where he became part of the literary circle which was patronized by the wealthy Roman statesman Maecenas and by the first Roman Emperor Augustus. Virgil published his Eclogues, or Bucolics, in 37 B.C.. A few years later he published the Georgics, written at the request of Maecenas and dedicated to him. For the rest of his life Virgil worked on the Aeneid, the great national epic narrating the adventures of Aeneas. Virgil died in 19 B.C. and at his request was buried near Naples. Virgil's influence was enormous, and several poets have acknowledge their debt to him, including first and foremost Dante.
In the Divine Comedy Virgil is Dante's most important guide, after Beatrice. In Dante's work he represents the light of human reason which is indispensable in guiding human beings toward the good. As such, Virgil is even more important than Beatrice. In addition, Virgil is for dante `his master and his author, the only one from whom he took the style that brought him honor'--as Dante himself acknowledged at the very beginning of his masterpiece (Canto 1, 85-88). Therefore while historically Virgil is Dante ideal author and authority, symbolically he represents the maximum edge that human beings can reach with reason and philosophy. Beyond that theology and grace are necessary to the attainment of the ultimate goal which is God

Whites. See Blacks.

Wrathful, The (Canto 8). Wrath is understood as one of the feelings "natural" to animals, but human beings must control it with their reasons. According to Aristotle and to medieval thinkers, wrath is a natural and positive feeling which is good to have, but it must be kept in check. This is also the position held by St. Thomas Aquinas, and the position followed also by Dante. Basically anger becomes a reproachable and condemnable vice when it turns into intemperate anger or blind rage. As such wrath is a mortal sin. Dante places the Wrathful in the Fifth Circle of Hell immersed, partially or totally, in a marsh called Styx. Dante and Virgil cross the Styx in Phlegyas' boat. Phlegyas is the guardian of this circle.


The list of books below is a minimal bibliography. For a fuller listing, and for a deeper treatment of many subjects relating to Dante and his works, see the appropriate entry in the following:

The Dante Encyclopedia. Richard H. Lansing, General Editor. New York: Garland Publishing, 1999.

Auerbach, Eric. Dante, Poet of the Secular World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961.

Barbi Michele. Life of Dante. Trans. Paul Rugggiers. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1954.

Bergin, Thomas G. Dante. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1954.

Cosmo, Umberto. A Handbook to Dante Studies. Trans. David More. Oxford: Blackwell and New York: Barnes and Noble, 1950.

Curtius, Ernst R. European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper and Row, 1963.

Davis, Charles. Dante's Italy and Other Essays. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984.

Demaray, John G. The Invention of Dante's Commedia. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1974.

Fergusson, Francis. Dante's Drama of the Mind. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953.

Ferrante, Joan. The Political Vision of the Divine Comedy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Foster, Kenelm. The Two Dantes and Other Studies. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977.

Gilson, …tienne. Dante and Philosophy. New York, Evanston and Los Angeles: Harper and Row, 1963.

Kantorowicz, Ernst H. The King's Two Bodies. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957.

Hollander, Robert. Allegory in Dante's "Commedia". Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.

Larner, John. Italy in the Age of Dante and Petrarch. London and New York: Longman, 1980.

Mancusi-Ungaro, Donna. Dante and the Empire. New York: Peter Lang, 1987.

Mazzotta, Giuseppe. Dante Poet of the Desert: History and Allegory in the Commedia. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.

Vossler, Karl. Medieval Culture: An Introduction to Dante and His Times. New York: Ungar, 1958.

Singleton, Charles. An Essay on the Vita Nuova. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1949.

------ . Journey to Beatrice. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.