The “ 9 Circles of Hell ”

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The “ 9 Circles of Hell ” : Dante Alighieri was an Italian poet. His “ Divine Comedy ” is considered an epic masterpiece and a foundational work of the western canon. This poem was written in the 14th century and one of the world’s great works of literature.

The “ 9 Circles of Hell ” : “Inferno” is the first part of his three – part epic poem “Divine Comedy”. In this first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy that inspired the latest Dan Brown’s bestseller of the same title describes the poet’s vision of Hell.

The “ 9 Circles of Hell ” : The story begins with the narrator being lost in a dark wood where he is attacked by three beasts, Which he cannot escape. These three beasts are Lion, Leopard and She wolf. They represent three human scenes, These scenes are :- Lion represent violence and  bestiality, Leopard represent fraud and malice, She wolf represent incontinence. These beasts push Dante into the darkness of a lower place and Dante rescued by a Roman poet “ Virgil ” and then the journey of underworld was started and Virgil guide Dante in that journey.

The “ 9 Circles of Hell ” : Dante and Virgil passes through the gate of hell, Which bears an inscription ending with the famous phrase “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate” It means “Leave all hope, You who enter”.

NINE CIRCLES OF HELL

The “ 9 Circles of Hell ” 1

The circles are concentric, representing a gradual increase in  wickedness and culminating at the centre of the earth , Where satan is held in bondage.

  1. First Circle :- Limbo
  2. Second Circle :- Lust
  3. Third Circle :- Gluttony
  4. Fourth Circle :- Greed
  5. Fifth Circle :- Anger
  6. Sixth Circle :- Heresy
  7. Seventh Circle :- Violence
  8. Eighth Circle :- Fraud
  9. Ninth Circle :- Treachery

First Circle Limbo

Dante’s First Circle of Hell is resided by virtuous non-Christians and unbaptized pagans who are punished with eternity in an inferior form of Heaven. They live in a castle with seven gates which symbolize the seven virtues. Here, Dante sees many prominent people from classical antiquity such as Homer, Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero, Hippocrates, and Julius Caesar.

Second Circle Lust

In the Second Circle of Hell, Dante and his companion Virgil find people who were overcome by lust. They are punished by being blown violently back and forth by strong winds, preventing them from finding peace and rest. Strong winds symbolize the restlessness of a person who is led by the desire for fleshly pleasures. Again, Dante sees many notable people from history and mythology including Cleopatra, Tristan, Helen of Troy and others who were adulterous during their lifetime.

Third Circle Gluttony

When reaching the Third Circle of Hell, Dante and Virgil find souls of gluttons who are overlooked by a worm-monster Cerberus. Sinners in this circle of Hell are punished by being forced to lie in a vile slush that is produced by never-ending icy rain. The vile slush symbolizes personal degradation of one who overindulges in food, drink, and other worldly pleasures, while the inability to see others lying nearby represents the gluttons’ selfishness and coldness.

Here, Dante speaks to a character called Ciacco who also tells him that the Guelphs (a fraction supporting the Pope) will defeat and expel the Ghibellines (a fraction supporting the Emperor to which Dante adhered) from Florence which happened in 1302 before the poem was written (after 1308).

Fourth Circle Greed

In the Fourth Circle of Hell, Dante and Virgil see the souls of people who are punished for greed. They are divided into two groups – those who hoarded possessions and those who lavishly spent it – jousting. They use great weights as a weapon, pushing it with their chests which symbolizes their selfish drive for fortune during their lifetime. The two groups that are guarded by a character called Pluto (probably the ancient Greek ruler of the underworld) are so occupied with their actions that the two poets don’t try to speak to them. Here, Dante says to see many clergymen including cardinals and popes.

Fifth Circle Anger

The Fifth Circle of Hell is where the wrathful and sullen are punished for their sins. Transported on a boat by Phlegyas, Dante and Virgil see the furious fighting each other on the surface of the river Styx and the sullen gurgling beneath the surface of the water. Again, the punishment reflects the type of the sin committed during their lifetime. While passing through, the poets are approached by Filippo Argenti, a prominent Florentine politician who confiscated Dante’s property after his expulsion from Florence.

Sixth Circle Heresy

When reaching the Sixth Circle of Hell, Dante and Virgil see heretics who are condemned to eternity in flaming tombs. Here, Dante talks with a couple of Florentines – Farinata degli Uberti and Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti – but he also sees other notable historical figures including the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, and Pope Anastasius II. The latter, however, is according to some modern scholars condemned by Dante as a heretic by mistake. Instead, as some scholars argue, the poet probably meant the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I.

Seventh Circle Violence

This is the first circle to be further segmented into sub-circles or rings. There are three of them—the Outer, Middle, and Inner rings—housing different types of violent criminals. The first are those who were violent against people and property, such as Attila the Hun. Centaurs guard this Outer Ring and shoot its inhabitants with arrows. 

The Middle Ring consists of those who commit violence against themselves (suicide). These sinners are perpetually eaten by Harpies. The Inner Ring is made up of the blasphemers, or those who are violent against God and nature. One of these sinners is Brunetto Latini, a sodomite, who was Dante’s own mentor. (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.

Eighth Circle Fraud

This circle is distinguished from its predecessors by being made up of those who consciously and willingly commit fraud. Within the eighth circle is another called the Malebolge (“Evil Pockets”), which houses 10 separate bolgias (“ditches”). In these exist types of those who commit fraud: panderers/seducers; flatterers; simoniacs (those who sell ecclesiastical preferment); sorcerers/astrologers/false prophets; barrators (corrupt politicians); hypocrites; thieves; false counselors/advisers; schismatics (those who separate religions to form new ones); and alchemists/counterfeiters, perjurers, impersonators, etc. Each bolgia is guarded by different demons, and the inhabitants suffer different punishments, such as the simoniacs, who stand head-first in stone bowls and endure flames upon their feet.

Ninth Circle :- Treachery

The deepest circle of Hell, where Satan resides. 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 second, Antenora—from Antenor of Troy, who betrayed the Greeks—is reserved for political/national traitors. 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. This round is reserved for traitors to their lords/benefactors/masters. As in the previous circle, the subdivisions each have their own demons and punishments.

After making their way through all nine circles of Hell, Dante and Virgil reach the center of Hell. Here they meet Satan, who is described as a three-headed beast. Each mouth is busy eating a specific person: the left mouth is eating Brutus, the right is eating Cassius, and the center mouth is eating Judas Iscariot. Brutus and Cassius betrayed and caused the murder of Julius Caesar, while Judas did the same to Christ. These are the ultimate sinners, in Dante’s opinion, as they consciously committed acts of treachery against their lords, who were appointed by God.

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