Dante’s “Inferno”

Gustave Dore - Dantes Inferno - ArchHeretics

A description of the Nine Circles of Hell.

Dante’s Inferno is the first part of Divine Comedy, a poem written by Dante Alighieri, an Italian poet, in the fourteenth century. Inferno is a fictional recount of Dante’s journey through the Nine Circles of Hell (as the medieval people envisioned it).

The First Circle

Limbo, Dante found the atheists; people who had never been baptised and despised Christianity. The first circle is not particularly horrific; in fact, Limbo is rather like a grassy meadow. This circle is designed to show atheists (who may not technically have sinned) that they can never quite reach heaven.

The Second Circle

Lust, is, unlike Limbo, a place of true punishment  People who, in life, have grown so in love for another that they have lost their minds, having been completely overcome by sexual temptation. Their souls are forever caught in the winds of a violent storm, never to rest.

The Third Circle

Gluttony houses people who have overindulged in various addictions and grown uncaring of others. The gluttons lie in a foul slush, guarded by a three-mouthed monster.

The Fourth Circle

Greed is the place home to the souls of those who have fallen victim to great greed over their lives. Their souls are split into two groups: The Avaricious  who hoard money and the Prodigal, who mindlessly throw it away. These two groups are forced to joust each other, using enormous sacks of money as weapons.

The Fifth Circle

Wrath and Sullenness is home to an eternal fight amongst the wrathful on the surface of the river Styx, beneath which lie the sullenly who are locked in a place where they can find no joy in God or the universe.

The Sixth Circle

Heresy is filled with flaming tombs, housing those who do not believe in any afterlife at all. These heretics are completely dead, with no thought, no feeling and no future.

The Seventh Circle

Violence is split into three rings. In the outer ring, reside the souls of people who are violent against people and property. Their souls are thrown into the river Phlegethon (boiling blood). In the second ring, the suicidal are turned into gnarly bushes and trees, which are then eaten by Harpies. In the innermost ring, the blasphemers are left in a desert where flaming flakes fall from the sky. This circle is guarded by the Minotaur.

The Eigth Circle

  • Seducers are marched in all directions by demons for eternity (like they used other people’s passions to make them do their bidding).
  • Flatterers are imprisoned in piles of human excrement, representing the empty words they used to manipulate people.
  • Simoniacs (people who buy their way into high religious positions) are locked in stone stocks while their feet burn.
  • False prophets, astrologers and sorcerers have their heads twisted around by 180 degrees so that they could not see ahead of them, and thus had to walk backwards (magic is twisted).
  • Corrupt politicians are thrown into a lake of burning pitch.
  • Hypocrites (those who hold fake beliefs) walk around wearing lead cloaks which “weigh them down and make spiritual process impossible.”
  • Thieves are bitten by snakes and lizards, while being transformed into many different shapes (their identities are stolen). They are guarded by Carcus, a centaur with a fire breathing dragon on his shoulder.
  • Evil councillors (who use their positions to engage in fraud) are each concealed in their own flame, where they burn forever.
  • Those who cause angst and divide other people are continually hacked to bits by a demon.
  • Falsifiers (who, in a nutshell, spread lies) are ripe with diseases.

The Seventh Circle

Betrayal is the final (and therefore presumably worst) circle of Hell. The ninth circle is split into four rounds, depending on what sort of traitors its inhabitants are:

  • In the first round, traitors to their own kindred are submerged in ice from the face down.
  • Those who betray society are imprisoned in round two, where their heads are feasted upon.
  • In the third round, traitors to their own guests are also locked in ice, their bodies possessed by demons.
  • In round four, people who have betrayed Christ are completely encased in ice.

Waist deep in the ice, in the centre of the ninth circle, is Satan (three-headed) who bites and claws at his three prisoners: Judas, Brutus and Cassius (who assassinated Julius Caesar), beneath Satan is the centre of the earth, Dante and Virgil’s escape route from Hell.

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