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Allegorically, this reveals the fact that the poem is beginning to deal with sins that philosophy and humanism cannot fully understand. Virgil also mentions to Dante how Erichtho sent him down to the lowest circle of Hell to bring back a spirit from there. Canto X In the sixth circle, heretics , such as Epicurus and his followers who say "the soul dies with the body" [54] are trapped in flaming tombs.

Dante holds discourse with a pair of Epicurian Florentines in one of the tombs: Farinata degli Uberti , a famous Ghibelline leader following the Battle of Montaperti in September , Farinata strongly protested the proposed destruction of Florence at the meeting of the victorious Ghibellines; he died in and was posthumously condemned for heresy in ; and Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti , a Guelph who was the father of Dante's friend and fellow poet, Guido Cavalcanti.

The political affiliation of these two men allows for a further discussion of Florentine politics.

In response to a question from Dante about the "prophecy" he has received, Farinata explains that what the souls in Hell know of life on earth comes from seeing the future, not from any observation of the present. Consequently, when "the portal of the future has been shut", [55] it will no longer be possible for them to know anything.

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Farinata explains that also crammed within the tomb are Emperor Frederick II , commonly reputed to be an Epicurean, and Ottaviano degli Ubaldini , to whom Dante refers to as il Cardinale. In his explanation, Virgil refers to the Nicomachean Ethics and the Physics of Aristotle , with medieval interpretations. Virgil asserts that there are only two legitimate sources of wealth: natural resources "Nature" and human labor and activity "Art".

Usury , to be punished in the next circle, is therefore an offence against both; it is a kind of blasphemy, since it is an act of violence against Art, which is the child of Nature, and Nature derives from God. Virgil then indicates the time through his unexplained awareness of the stars' positions. The "Wain", the Great Bear , now lies in the northwest over Caurus the northwest wind. The constellation Pisces the Fish is just appearing over the horizon: it is the zodiacal sign preceding Aries the Ram.

Canto I notes that the sun is in Aries, and since the twelve zodiac signs rise at two-hour intervals, it must now be about two hours prior to sunrise: AM on Holy Saturday , April 9. Dante and Virgil descend a jumble of rocks that had once formed a cliff to reach the Seventh Circle from the Sixth Circle, having first to evade the Minotaur L'infamia di Creti , "the infamy of Crete ", line 12 ; at the sight of them, the Minotaur gnaws his flesh. Virgil assures the monster that Dante is not its hated enemy, Theseus. This causes the Minotaur to charge them as Dante and Virgil swiftly enter the seventh circle.

Virgil explains the presence of shattered stones around them: they resulted from the great earthquake that shook the earth at the moment of Christ's death Matt. Ruins resulting from the same shock were previously seen at the beginning of Upper Hell the entrance of the Second Circle , Canto V.

Canto XV Protected by the powers of the boiling rivulet, Dante and Virgil progress across the burning plain. They pass a roving group of Sodomites, and Dante, to his surprise, recognizes Brunetto Latini. Dante addresses Brunetto with deep and sorrowful affection, "paying him the highest tribute offered to any sinner in the Inferno ", [67] thus refuting suggestions that Dante only placed his enemies in Hell. Rusticucci blames his "savage wife" for his torments. The sinners ask for news of Florence, and Dante laments the current state of the city. At the top of the falls, at Virgil's order, Dante removes a cord from about his waist and Virgil drops it over the edge; as if in answer, a large, distorted shape swims up through the filthy air of the abyss.

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Dante goes alone to examine the Usurers: he does not recognize them, but each has a heraldic device emblazoned on a leather purse around his neck "On these their streaming eyes appeared to feast" [70]. The coats of arms indicate that they came from prominent Florentine families; they indicate the presence of Catello di Rosso Gianfigliazzi , Ciappo Ubriachi , the Paduan Reginaldo degli Scrovegni who predicts that his fellow Paduan Vitaliano di Iacopo Vitaliani will join him here , and Giovanni di Buiamonte.

Dante then rejoins Virgil and, both mounted atop Geryon's back, the two begin their descent from the great cliff in the Eighth Circle: the Hell of the Fraudulent and Malicious.


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Geryon, the winged monster who allows Dante and Virgil to descend a vast cliff to reach the Eighth Circle, was traditionally represented as a giant with three heads and three conjoined bodies. The Eighth Circle is a large funnel of stone shaped like an amphitheatre around which run a series of ten deep, narrow, concentric ditches or trenches called bolge singular: bolgia. Within these ditches are punished those guilty of Simple Fraud. From the foot of the Great Cliff to the Well which forms the neck of the funnel are large spurs of rock, like umbrella ribs or spokes, which serve as bridges over the ten ditches.

Sayers writes that the Malebolge is, "the image of the City in corruption: the progressive disintegration of every social relationship, personal and public. Sexuality, ecclesiastical and civil office, language, ownership, counsel, authority, psychic influence, and material interdependence — all the media of the community's interchange are perverted and falsified".

Canto XXII One of the grafters, an unidentified Navarrese identified by early commentators as Ciampolo is seized by the demons, and Virgil questions him. The sinner speaks of his fellow grafters, Friar Gomita a corrupt friar in Gallura eventually hanged by Nino Visconti see Purg. He offers to lure some of his fellow sufferers into the hands of the demons, and when his plan is accepted he escapes back into the pitch. Alichino and Calcabrina start a brawl in mid-air and fall into the pitch themselves, and Barbariccia organizes a rescue party.

Dante and Virgil take advantage of the confusion to slip away. The centaur Cacus arrives to punish the wretch; he has a fire-breathing dragon on his shoulders and snakes covering his equine back. In Roman mythology, Cacus, the monstrous, fire-breathing son of Vulcan , was killed by Hercules for raiding the hero's cattle; in Aeneid VIII, —, Virgil did not describe him as a centaur. Dante then meets five noble thieves of Florence and observes their various transformations. Agnello Brunelleschi, in human form, is merged with the six-legged serpent that is Cianfa Donati.

Puccio Sciancato remains unchanged for the time being. Dante replies with a tragic summary of the current state of the cities of Romagna. Guido then recounts his life: he advised Pope Boniface VIII to offer a false amnesty to the Colonna family , who, in , had walled themselves inside the castle of Palestrina in the Lateran.

When the Colonna accepted the terms and left the castle, the Pope razed it to the ground and left them without a refuge. Guido describes how St. Francis , founder of the Franciscan order, came to take his soul to Heaven, only to have a devil assert prior claim.

Although Boniface had absolved Guido in advance for his evil advice, the devil points out the invalidity: absolution requires contrition , and a man cannot be contrite for a sin at the same time that he is intending to commit it [91]. Schicchi sinks his tusks into Capocchio's neck and drags him away like prey.

Griffolino explains how Myrrha disguised herself to commit incest with her father King Cinyras , while Schicchi impersonated the dead Buoso Donati to dictate a will giving himself several profitable bequests. Dante then encounters Master Adam of Brescia , one of the Counterfeiters Falsifiers of Money : for manufacturing Florentine florins of twenty-one rather than twenty-four carat gold , he was burned at the stake in He is punished by a loathsome dropsy -like disease, which gives him a bloated stomach , prevents him from moving, and an eternal, unbearable thirst.

Master Adam points out two sinners of the fourth class, the Perjurers Falsifiers of Words.


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These are Potiphar's wife punished for her false accusation of Joseph , Gen. Both suffer from a burning fever. Master Adam and Sinon exchange abuse, which Dante watches until he is rebuked by Virgil. As a result of his shame and repentance, Dante is forgiven by his guide. Sayers remarks that the descent through Malebolge "began with the sale of the sexual relationship, and went on to the sale of Church and State; now, the very money is itself corrupted, every affirmation has become perjury, and every identity a lie" [95] so that every aspect of social interaction has been progressively destroyed.

The classical and biblical Giants — who perhaps symbolize pride and other spiritual flaws lying behind acts of treachery [96] — stand perpetual guard inside the well-pit, their legs embedded in the banks of the Ninth Circle while their upper halves rise above the rim and can be visible from the Malebolge. Also here is the Giant Antaeus , who did not join in the rebellion against the Olympian Gods and therefore is not chained. At Virgil's persuasion, Antaeus takes the Poets in his large palm and lowers them gently to the final level of Hell.

Trapped in the ice, each according to his guilt, are punished sinners guilty of treachery against those with whom they had special relationships.

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The lake of ice is divided into four concentric rings or "rounds" of traitors corresponding, in order of seriousness, to betrayal of family ties, betrayal of community ties, betrayal of guests, and betrayal of lords. This is in contrast to the popular image of Hell as fiery; as Ciardi writes, "The treacheries of these souls were denials of love which is God and of all human warmth. Only the remorseless dead center of the ice will serve to express their natures. As they denied God's love, so are they furthest removed from the light and warmth of His Sun.

As they denied all human ties, so are they bound only by the unyielding ice. In "the most pathetic and dramatic passage of the Inferno ", [99] Ugolino describes how he conspired with Ruggieri in to oust his nephew, Nino Visconti , and take control over the Guelphs of Pisa. However, as soon as Nino was gone, the Archbishop, sensing the Guelphs' weakened position, turned on Ugolino and imprisoned him with his sons and grandsons in the Torre dei Gualandi.

In March , the Archbishop condemned the prisoners to death by starvation in the tower. In the very centre of Hell, condemned for committing the ultimate sin personal treachery against God , is the Devil , referred to by Virgil as Dis the Roman god of the underworld; the name "Dis" was often used for Pluto in antiquity, such as in Virgil's Aeneid.

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The arch-traitor, Lucifer was once held by God to be fairest of the angels before his pride led him to rebel against God, resulting in his expulsion from Heaven. Lucifer is a giant, terrifying beast trapped waist-deep in the ice, fixed and suffering. He has three faces, each a different color: one red the middle , one a pale yellow the right , and one black the left :.

Sayers notes that Satan's three faces are thought by some to suggest his control over the three human races : red for the Europeans from Japheth , yellow for the Asiatic from Shem , and black for the African the race of Ham. He weeps from his six eyes, and his tears mix with bloody froth and pus as they pour down his three chins.

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Each face has a mouth that chews eternally on a prominent traitor. Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus dangle with their feet in the left and right mouths, respectively, for their involvement in the assassination of Julius Caesar March 15, 44 BC — an act which, to Dante, represented the destruction of a unified Italy and the killing of the man who was divinely appointed to govern the world. Judas is receiving the most horrifying torture of the three traitors: his head is gnawed inside Lucifer's mouth while his back is forever flayed and shredded by Lucifer's claws.

According to Dorothy L. Sayers, "just as Judas figures treason against God, so Brutus and Cassius figure treason against Man-in-Society; or we may say that we have here the images of treason against the Divine and the Secular government of the world". When they reach Satan's genitalia, the poets pass through the center of the universe and of gravity from the Northern Hemisphere of land to the Southern Hemisphere of water. When Virgil changes direction and begins to climb "upward" towards the surface of the Earth at the antipodes , Dante, in his confusion, initially believes they are returning to Hell.