Dantes Sins

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First Circle (Limbo)

The Inner Ring is made up of the blasphemers, or those who are violent against God and nature. Dante speaks kindly to him. The usurers are also here, as are those who blasphemed not just against God but also the gods, such as Capaneus, who blasphemed against Zeus. Fraud: This circle is distinguished from its predecessors by being made up of those who consciously and willingly commit fraud. As with the last two circles, this one is further divided, into four rounds. The first is Caina, named after the biblical Cain, who murdered his brother.

This round is for traitors to family. The third is Ptolomaea for Ptolemy, son of Abubus, who is known for inviting Simon Maccabaeus and his sons to dinner and then murdering them. This round is for hosts who betray their guests; they are punished more harshly because of the belief that having guests means entering into a voluntary relationship, and betraying a relationship willingly entered is more despicable than betraying a relationship born into. The fourth round is Judecca, after Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ. As in the previous circle, the subdivisions each have their own demons and punishments.

This, together with the space Dante allots theft, suggests that the poet may also be concerned with a more subtle, more extensive kind of theft, the kind that is accomplished in commerce, particularly through fradulent contracts and sales see below, chapter six. Dante is emotionally detached from this sin to the extent that he can take pride in his virtuosity while describing it, comparing himself favorably with Lucan and Ovid. But the same is not true of the counseling of fraud. He is ostensibly speaking of his poetry, but he is also aware of his own temptation here—how could a political exile who had been so involved with the plight of his city not be tempted at some point to counsel deception in order to change the situation?

Dante stretches so far to see into the ditch, he reports, that had he not seized a rock, he would have fallen into the flames Dante must have had the opportunity and, so he suggests, the inclination to counsel fraud, but he rejects the Ulysses model for Aeneas, choosing the dutiful wanderer who obeys the Gods and serves the providential destiny of empire over the clever wanderer who pursues his own interests outside the bounds of civilized life. Pride in his own powers and accomplishments is what dominates the figure of Ulysses in the tradition Dante drew on: his cry to the Cyclops is almost fatal to his ship Ovid, Metamorphoses, 14 ; in his debate with Ajax he boasts of his deeds, all feats of persuasion or guile, and gloats that as Ajax is body, he is mind Metamorphoses, From the Trojan point of view, Ulysses is treacherous cf.

There is a more sympathetic tradition of Ulysses, the wise man who triumphs over passion and adversity, in Apuleius, Cicero, and Horace, but that view is not reflected in the Comedy. What is the point of more experience now except to indulge his curiosity? Dante believes in the tremendous desire to know, as he reveals in the Convivio, but knowledge must serve a purpose, religious or social or both.

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Ulysses pursues knowledge that serves neither, so instead of guiding his country to virtue, he leads his boatload of old and tired followers to destruction in sight of the mountain of Purgatory. It is the highest mountain ever seen What is punished in his flame is pride of intellect that has been turned to antisocial purposes, first to the deception of others on a grand scale and then to rejection of duty to family and homeland. But he also turns his gifts to the wrong purposes.

He is so sure of himself that he cannot imagine himself being fooled, and yet, because he is so eager to exercise his ability, he allows himself to be duped and destroyed. He blames the pope for luring him out of the cloister, saying his plan for salvation would otherwise have worked. But he knew all along what sort the pope was Guido had ample reason to distrust the pope, having engaged in battles against the church all his life according to the Ottimo, 1.

Boniface acts here as a tyrant, and men do not have to obey tyrants, particularly in sinful acts; Pietro says the pope ought not to have ordered Guido to sin nor he to do it, noting that even the pope is subject to divine law Romagna has always been plagued with tyrants and their wars, Dante says, and the commentators support him the Ottimo, 1. The Ottimo comments that canto 26 deals with the deceptions of laymen, canto 27 is concerned with the deceptions of the clergy 1. It is, of course, precisely what Guido advises the pope to do to his enemy—make a promise he will not keep— that the pope does to him, and, like the inventor who was burned in his own machine, it is only just that Guido should be so deceived.

The lesson here is for those who give aid and counsel to tyrants, that they cannot protect themselves. For that destruction Guido must bear some responsibility, just as Ulysses bears responsibility for the consequences of his cleverness. Ironically, the horse, as Virgil points out, was the gate from which the noble seed of the Romans issued The social consequences of the kind of deception Guido and Ulysses advise cannot be calculated or controlled by the counsellor, however clever he is, but his guilt must be determined on the basis of those consequences.

Dantes Inferno 9 Circles of Hell

That Dante intends Florence to see an immediate threat to itself from deceptive political practices is evident from the beginning of the section, when the poet connects the divided flames of the souls with the funeral pyre of Eteocles and Polynices, the brothers who caused the war at Thebes by greed, deception, and betrayal.

The flame of their pyre divided because even after death their hatred was intense, a fit symbol of the struggles that now divide Italian cities. Benvenuto also identifies Prato with the cardinal, Niccola da Prato, who was sent to Florence in to reconcile warring factions; he failed and laid the city under interdict, after which there were various disasters, including civil war and fire 2. Pietro mentions the destruction of cities by fire in connection with the flame of the souls, saying that a city can be destroyed by one word, or one counsel, as it can be by fire The effects of evil counsel in the ninth section of fraud are even more direct and widespread: divisions in church and state.

These souls are eager to identify themselves and their actions to Dante. Because I separated persons so joined, I carry my brain separated, alas! So one can see in me the retribution. The souls Dante meets in this section, which is concerned with serious divisions in the major institutions ordained for life on earth, represent all those most responsible for guiding men in that life, religious leaders, political figures, and poets.

It includes Mohammed, who supposedly split the Moslems off from Christianity, and his son-in-law, who continues the work by creating sects within Islam; Curio, who encouraged Caesar to cross the Rubicon, splitting republican Rome and causing civil war, which Dante sees as a crime against the official government, even though it led to the empire; Mosca, who instigated the murder that began the Guelph-Ghibelline feud in Florence, about whom Dante had asked Ciacco in canto 6; and Pier da Medicina, who fomented discord among nobles from which he reaped the benefits, who now warns truthfully of betrayal and murder, too late to be of any use, but not too late to incite to revenge.

He is proud of what he did, comparing himself favorably with the biblical Achitophel and boasting of his wounds. Throughout the circle of fraud, Dante presents souls who undermined the institutions of church and state by destroying the trust and denying the love and justice on which they must be based. In the tenth and final section of fraud, he groups those who falsify the basic elements of social and political life: alchemists, who change the natural elements of the universe; impersonators, who take on the identity of others; counterfeiters and liars, who falsify the fundamental elements of exchange and communication—coins and words.

Counterfeiting is even worse than tampering with the elements, because it threatens political stability directly. Fraud is the most complex circle of Hell in its structure and substance, the deception and manipulation of others in a variety of ways. But the last circle of Hell, treachery, is a far worse sin because of the objects of deception, those to whom one is bound by special ties, although it is much simpler in its conception. It is one sin, divided according to the relation between the sinner and his victim, a sin of conscious commitment in a much more intense way than any of the others because here one must not only conceive the betrayal, one must decide to deny the special loyalty that binds one to the object.

There are four categories of traitors: betrayers of family, of nation, of guest, and of benefactor, all special bonds on which the stability of any society must depend. One might expect either betrayal of family, because it is the archetypal sin against another, or betrayal of nation, because of the number of victims, to be the worst, but instead it is the betrayal of an obligation one has willingly assumed, a breaking of an implicit contract, on one side to protect, on the other to be grateful.

Second Circle (Lust)

These relations are the quintessential social relations and cannot be denied without destroying society itself. There are political overtones in all the regions of the ninth circle: several of the souls in the first section, Caina, murdered their relatives to take over their lands and powers; the second section, Antenora, is made up entirely of political traitors;[77] Tolomea is named for and inhabited by souls who betrayed guests for political reasons; and of the three souls in the Giudecca, two assassinated the first Roman emperor.

Antenora is named for the Trojan who, like Ulysses, was involved in the theft of the Palladium and the deception of the wooden horse, but against his own country; in it, Dante encounters a traitor to Florence, involved in the shameful defeat at Montaperti, and pulls his hair out, participating not only as an offended Florentine, but also as an instrument of divine vengeance. Perhaps implicit in the ambiguity of the name is the confusion between church and state, the interference of the church in secular affairs, which so troubles Dante in his own period, and which is reflected in the presence of the archbishop Ruggieri and of Fra Alberigo in this section.

The souls here are those who have killed their guests one cannot overstress the sanctity of hospitality in the Middle Ages , but the deed is particularly offensive to Dante when the motivation is political, as it is in every case he mentions. Indeed, Dante is moved by the souls he sees not to sympathy for them but to attacks on their cities, Pisa in This is, of course, the fruit of betrayal: it draws others into the sin so that, almost inevitably, the betrayer is betrayed.

When the Florentine traitor refuses to give his name, another soul identifies him; the first, in fury, names not only the one who gave him away, but a host of others, as if their shame somehow lessened his. One soul gnaws on the skull of his enemy, the-hatred so strong that it impels him to devour even what has no substance. Sin is finally, after all the intricate distinctions Dante has made through the cantica, selfishness, the indulgence of the self at the expense of all other obligations, and therefore, by definition, antisocial.

That is why it is possible to consider, even for a moment, that Ugolino may have tried to feed on his sons. Ugolino says he could not weep when he found himself locked in the tower because he had turned to stone inside In other words, the soul that commits such an act is already damned, incapable of moral judgment as it is incapable of feeling. Dante is making a startling point about this kind of treachery;[81] but he is also calling attention to the main lesson of this cantica, that we create hell by allowing ourselves to be dominated by these impulses.

Once we give in to them, our feelings are dead; the lake of the heart becomes the frozen lake of Cocytus, with pure evil—Satan—at its core.

True/False Questions

Around the outer limits of the ninth circle stand four giants who, at a distance, appear to Dante to be towers. Benvenuto says that a high tower figures pride, that the giants are proud rulers who presume against God and subject men to their own will, mentioning in this connection that the giant at the end of Purgatory represents the king of France 2. Pietro suggests that the giants signify earthly powers, bound and reduced to impotence by God The first giant Dante sees here is Nembrot, who built the tower of Babel to reach heaven, leading to the confusion of tongues, the destruction of communication among different peoples; his pride harmed not only his own, but all peoples.

The rest are classical figures who were involved in rebellion against the gods, and Antaeus, who fought the Christ figure, Hercules. With the giants around the edge and Satan at the center of the circle, it is rebellion against the highest ruler, God, and betrayal of the Creator that dominates the circle, the ultimate treachery and the supreme arrogance committed by the highest classes of creature, angels and giants, those just beneath the divine in the hierarchy.

At the center of the corrupt city, Dante sees its lord literally consuming his subjects, but otherwise impotent, imprisoned in the corruption he has helped create. All of them betrayed their greatest benefactor, and all of them betrayed God, either in himself, as Satan did, in his human form Christ , as Judas did, or in his vicar the emperor , as Brutus and Cassius did. Brutus and Cassius had both fought with Pompey on the side of the Roman republic; both had been pardoned by Caesar and given high office, which they accepted, and yet they plotted and carried out his murder.

The 9 Circles of Hell in Images: Dante's "The Divine Comedy" - Big Think

Dante makes an important distinction between Cato, whom he places in Purgatory because he fought Caesar as an enemy of the Roman state but remained true to his principles, and Brutus and Cassius, who changed sides and whose allegiance should have been to the empire once it was established as well as to the emperor who had befriended them.

The objects of betrayal in the final section of Hell are universal benefactors: God, who bestowed creation on all creatures, Christ, who died to redeem mankind, and the founder of the empire, which exists to restore mankind to paradise. In sinning against any of them, the implication is, we commit the worst of all sins and ultimately betray ourselves.

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  4. Dante shows, through the cantica of Hell, that we choose in our acts to inhabit the city of Hell, to turn our own city into Hell. He reminds us that Hell is a city as he enters the last circle, when he asks the muses to aid him, as they aided Amphyon to enclose Thebes Benvenuto goes into lengthy detail towards the end of his commentary on Hell to show the reader how the city of Hell reflects the earthly city:.

    Considera ergo quod sicut imperator, rex vel dominus stat in medio civitatis, ita Lucifer stat in centro istius civitatis; et sicut apud regem stant nobiles et magnates, qui sunt sibi magis familiares et amici, ita de prope Luciferum stant isti proditores sub umbra alarum eius; et sicut circa palatium, ad portas et in platea stant custodes, ita hic in circuitu circa lacum stant gigantes magni et fortes, tamquam satellites et stipatores deputati ad custodiam tanti regis, per quorum manus omnes transeunt ad curiam eius.

    Et sicut postea in tota terra per diversos vicos et contratas stant cives, mercatores et artistae, ita in tota ista civitate sunt fraudulenti et violenti per diversas bulgias et circulos; quia in omni contrata inveniuntur diversae fraudes mercatorum et artistarum, et ita diversae violentiae divitum et nobilium, qui nituntur suppeditare alios quantum possunt; et sicut in suburbiis civitatis stant rustici, viles et incogniti, ita hic extra civitatem fortem et muratam stant incontinentes; et sicut communiter extra civitatem est flumen per quod transitur ad civitatem, ita hic est Acheron magnus fluvius per quem transitur ad istam civitatem maximam omnium, quae continet in se magnam partem civium omnium civitatum mundi.

    Et sicut longe a civitate stant strenui et bellatores in campis qui gerunt bella, et philosophi et heremitae qui speculantur in solitudine; ita hic in campo herboso et amoeno stant viri illustres, philosophi et poetae separati ab omni turba confusa aliorum gloriosi. Consider that, just as an emperor, king, or lord is at the middle of his city, so Lucifer is at the center of this city; and just as there are nobles and magnates with the king, who are his servants and friends, so near Lucifer are the traitors, beneath the shadow of his wings; and as at the gates and in the courtyard of the palace there are guards, so here around the lake are great and strong giants, like attendants assigned to care for the king, through whose hands all must pass to enter his court.

    And just as in the whole land, in different villages and towns, there are citizens, merchants, artisans, so in this whole city, there are the fraudulent and violent in different sections and circles; for in every town different frauds of merchants and artisans are found, just so different kinds of violence by the rich and noble, who strive to be supplied by others as much as they can; and just as in the suburbs of cities there are peasants, common and unknown, so here outside the strong walled city are the incontinent; and as there is usually a river outside the city by which one crosses into the city, so here is the great river Acheron by which one crosses to this greatest city of all which contains in itself the great part of the citizens of all the cities of the world.

    And just as the strong warriors who wage war in the fields, and philosophers and hermits who speculate in solitude are far from the city, so here in the lovely green field are the illustrious men, glorious philosophers and poets…. But the message of Hell is not unrelievedly negative. Just as his body provides Dante and Virgil the means of beginning their climb out of Hell, so his fall provides for mankind the place to climb from the sinful state to salvation. Allan H. Bonaventure ; reprint, Westport: Greenwood, , Aquinas considers a sin against a public person more serious than one against a private person because of the numbers affected, but taken as individuals, not as an entity.

    Aquinas also recognizes the three orders the individual must respect of reason, of human, and divine law and is concerned with the state as an organ of justice on earth.

    Seven Deadly Sins

    But he separates political issues from questions of sin whereas Dante intentionally confuses them, or sets the treatment of sin and virtue in a political context. Brunetto Latini comes closer to Dante in the Tresor, Bk. The Political Vision of the Comedy, ch. Eugenio DupreTheseider , 5. The Arno is the river most frequently cited, but it is by no means the only one.

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