Definitions

am on ones back

List of cultural references in The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri is a long allegorical poem in three parts or canticas (or "cantiche"), Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise), and 100 cantos, with the Inferno having 34, Purgatorio 33, and Paradiso 33 cantos. Set at Easter 1300, the poem describes the living poet's journey through hell and purgatory to paradise.

Throughout the poem, Dante refers to people and events from Classical and Biblical history and mythology, the history of Christianity, and the Europe of the Medieval period up to and including his own day. A knowledge of at least the most important of these references can aid in understanding the poem fully.

For ease of reference, the cantica names are abbreviated to Inf., Purg., and Par. Roman numerals are used to identify cantos and Arabic numerals to identify lines. This means that Inf. X, 123 refers to line 123 in Canto X (or 10) of the Inferno and Par. XXV, 27 refers to line 27 in Canto XXV (or 25) of the Paradiso. The line numbers refer to the original Italian text.

Boldface links indicate that the word or phrase has an entry in the list. Following that link will present that entry.

: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y ZReferences

A

B

  • Bacchus: The Roman name of the Greek god Dionysus, protector of wine.
    • Born in the Thebes. Inf. XX, 59.
  • Barratry: The sin of selling or paying for offices or positions in the public service or officialdom (cf. simony).
    • One of the sins of ordinary fraud punished in the Eighth Circle of hell. Inf. XI, 60.
    • The barrators, are found in the fifth pouch in a lake of boiling pitch guarded by the Malebranche. Inf. XXI–XXII.
  • Beatrice (12661290): Dante's idealised childhood love, Beatrice Portinari. In the poem, she awaits the poet in Paradise. She symbolised Heavenly Wisdom.
    • The "worthier spirit" who Virgil says will act as Dante's guide in Paradise. Inf. I, 121–3.
    • Asks Virgil to rescue Dante and bring him on his journey. Inf. II, 53–74.
    • Asked by Lucia to help Dante. Inf. II, 103–14.
    • When Dante appears upset by Farinata's prophecy on his future exile, Virgil intervenes and explains to him that Beatrice, "quella il cui bell' occhio tutto vede" ("one whose gracious eyes see everything"), will eventually clarify all. Inf. X, 130–2.
    • Virgil, speaking with Chiron, alludes to Beatrice as she who has entrusted Dante to him. Inf. XII, 88.
    • Speaking with Brunetto Latini Dante alludes to her as the woman who shall fully explain the sense of Brunetto's prophecy regarding his exile from Florence. Inf. XV, 90.
  • Saint Bede: English monk, and scholar, whose best-known work, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) gained him the title "The father of English history".
    • Encountered in the Fourth Sphere of Heaven (The sun). Par. X, 130–1.
  • Mastro Benvenuto: Nicknamed Asdente ("toothless"), he was a late 13th century Parma shoemaker, famous for his prophecies against Frederick II. Dante also mentions him with contempt in his Convivio, as does Salimbene in his Cronica, though with a very different tone.
    • Among the soothsayers. Inf. XX, 118–120.
  • Gualdrada Berti: Daughter of Bellincione Berti dei Ravignani, from about 1180 wife to Guido the Elder of the great Guidi family, and grandmother of Guido Guerra. The 14th century Florentine chronicler Giovanni Villani remembers her as a model of ancient Florentine virtue.
    • "The good Gualdrada". Inf. XVI, 37.
  • Bertran de Born (c. 1140–c. 1215): French soldier and troubadour poet, and viscount of Hautefort, he fomented trouble between Henry II of England and his sons.
    • Among the sowers of discord, where he carries his severed head (although he died a natural death). Inf. XXVIII, 118–142.
    • "The lord of Hautefort." Inf. XXIX, 29.
  • Guido Bonatti: A prominent 13th century astrologer, and a staunch Ghibelline, he is famous for having boasted of being responsible for the Senese victory at Montaperti in 1260.
    • Among the soothsayers. Inf. XX, 118.
  • Bonaventure: Franciscan theologian.
  • Pope Boniface VIII (c. 12351303): Elected in 1294 upon the abdication of Celestine V, whom he promptly imprisoned. He supported the Black Guelphs against Dante's party the White Guelphs (see Guelphs and Ghibellines). He was in conflict with the powerful Colonna family, who contested the legitimacy of Celestine's abdigation, and thus Boniface's papacy. Wishing to capture the impregnable Colonna stronghold of Palestrina, he sought advice from Guido da Montefeltro, offering in advance papal absolution for any sin his advice might entail. He advised Boniface to promise the Colonnas amnesty, then break it. As a result the Collonas surrendered the fortress and it was razed to the ground.
    • "One who tacks his sails". Inf. VI, 68.
    • Referred to ironically using one of the official papal titles "servo de' servi" (Servant of His servants"). Inf. XV, 112
    • Accused of avarice, deceit and violating the "lovely Lady" (the church). Inf. XIX, 52–7.
    • Pope Nicholas III prophesies his eternal damnation among the Simoniacs. Inf. XIX, 76–7.
    • The "highest priest — may he be damned!". Inf. XXVII, 70.
    • The "prince of the new Pharisees". Inf. XXVII, 85.
    • His feud with the Colonna family and the advice of Guido da Montefeltro. Inf. XXVII, 85–111.
  • Guglielmo Borsiere, a pursemaker accused of sodomy (see Sodom), who made a joke that was the subject of the Decameron (i, 8).
    • A sodomite mentioned in Hell Circle VII Round 3 by Jacopo Rusticucci as having spoken to him and his companions of the moral decline of Florence, generating great anguish and inducing Rusticucci to ask Dante for corroboration. Inf. XVI 67–72.
  • Martin Bottario: A cooper of Lucca who held various positions in the government of his city. He died in 1300, the year of Dante's travel.
  • Agnello Brunelleschi: From the noble Florentine Brunelleschi family, he sided first with the White Guelphs, then the Blacks. A famous thief, he was said to steal in disguise.
    • Among the thieves, he merges with Cianfa Donati to form a bigger serpent. Inf. XXV, 68.
  • Brutus, Lucius Junius: Traditionally viewed as the founder of the Roman Republic, because of his role in overthrowing Tarquin, the last Roman king.
    • Seen in Limbo. Inf. IV, 127.
  • Brutus, Marcus Junius (d. 43 BCE): One of the assassins of Julius Caesar, with whom he had close ties. His betrayal of Caesar was famous ("Et tu Brute") and along with Cassius and Judas, was one of the three betrayer/suicides who, for those sins, were eternally chewed by one of the three mouths of Satan. Inf. XXXIV, 53–67.
  • Bulicame: Spring near Viterbo renowned for its reddish colour and sulphurous water. Part of its water was reserved for the use of prostitutes. Inf. XIV, 79–83.

C

  • Caccia d'Asciano: See Spendthrift Club.
  • Venedico and Ghisolabella Caccianemico: Venedico (c. 1228–c. 1302) was head of the Guelph faction in Bologna, he was exiled three times for his relationship with the marquis of Ferrara, Obizzo II d'Este.
    • Found among the panders, he confesses that he prostituted his sister Ghisolabella to Obizzo. Inf. XVIII, 40–66.
  • Cacus: A mythological monster son of Hephaestus, he was killed by Heracles for stealing part of the cattle the hero had taken from Geryon. Dante, like other medieval writers, erroneously believes him to be a Centaur. According to Virgil he lived on the Aventine.
    • As guardian of the thieves he punishes Vanni Fucci. Inf. XXV, 17–33.
  • Cadmus: Mythical son of the Phoenician king Agenor and brother of Europa, and legendary founder of Thebes. Cadmus and his wife Harmonia are ultimately transformed into serpents. (See also Hera.)
    • His transformation in Ovid's Metamophoses (IV, 562–603) is compared to the fate of the thieves. Inf. XXV, 97–9.
  • Cahors: Town in France that was notorious for the high level of usury that took place there and became a synonym for that sin.
    • Mentioned as being punished in the last circle. Inf. XI, 50.
  • Cain: The son of Adam and brother of Abel.
    • An allusion to a popular tradition that identified the Moon's spots with him. Inf. XX, 126.
  • Caiaphas: The Jewish High Priest during the govenorship of Pontius Pilate of the Roman province of Judea, who according to the Gospels had an important role in the crucifixion of Jesus.
    • Among the hypocrites, his punishment is to be crucified to the ground while the full rank of the sinners tramples him. Inf. XXIII, 110–20.
  • Calchas: Mythical Greek seer at the time of the Trojan war, who as augur at Aulis, determined the most propitious time for the Greek fleet to depart for Troy.
    • With Eurypylus, he "set the time to cut the cables". Inf. XX, 110–1.
  • Camilla: Figure from Roman mythology and Virgil's Aeneid (VII, 803; XI), was the warrior-daughter of King Metabus of the Volsci, and ally of Turnus, king of the Rutuli, against Aeneas and the Trojans, and was killed in that war.
    • One of those who "died for Italy". Inf. I, 106–8.
    • Seen in Limbo. Inf. IV, 124.
  • Cangrande della Scala (12901329): Ghibelline ruler of Verona and most probable figure behind the image of the "hound" ("il Veltro"). Inf. I, 101–111.
  • Capaneus: In Greek mythology, in the story of the Seven Against Thebes he defied Zeus who then killed him with a thunderbolt in punishment.
    • Found amongst the violent against God. Inf. XIV, 46–72.
    • His pride is compared with that of Vanni Fucci. Inf. XXV, 15.
  • Capocchio: Burned at the stake for alchemy in 1293.
    • Among the "falsifiers" of metal (alchemists), sitting with Griffolino of Arezzo, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. Inf. XXIX, 73–99.
    • Agrees with Dante about the vanity of the Sienese, giving as examples four of the members of the Sienese Spendthrift Club, then identifies himself. Inf. XXIX, 124–139.
    • He is dragged, with his belly scraped along the ground, by the tusks of Schicchi. Inf. XXX, 28.
  • Caprona: Fortress on the Arno near Pisa, in 1289, it was besieged by a Tuscan Guelph army. The Ghibellines surrendered, and were allowed, under truce, to leave the castle, passing through (with trepidation) the enemy ranks. Caprona's fall along with the Guelph victory in the same year at Campaldino represented the final defeat of the Ghibellines. Dante's reference to Caprona in the Inferno, is used to infer that he took part in the siege.
    • Dante's fear for his safe passage through threatening devils, is compared to the fear of the surrendering solidiers at Caprona. Inf. XXI, 88–96.
  • Cassius: The most senior of Julius Caesar's assassins, Gaius Cassius Longinus was a Roman politician and soldier. Along with Brutus and Judas, he was one of the three betrayer/suicides who, for those sins, were eternally chewed by one of the three mouths of Satan. Inf. XXXIV, 53–67.
  • Castel Sant'Angelo: A Papal castle in Rome with bridge attached. Inf. XVIII, 28–33.
  • Catalano dei Malavolti (c. 12101285): From a powerful Guelph family of Bologna, he was podestà in several towns, including Florence, and governor of his city. He was commander of the infantry in the Battle of Fossalta in 1249, when the Ghibellines suffered a crushing defeat. He later became a member of the Knights of St. Mary, founded by Loderingo degli Andalò.
    • Among the hypocrites. Inf. XXIII, 76–144.
  • Catiline: a Roman politician of the 1st century BC who is best known for the "Catiline conspiracy", an attempt to overthrow the Roman Republic, and in particular the power of the aristocratic Senate.
    • Probably Pistoia's "seed", which Pistoia surpasses in "wickedness". Inf. XXV, 12.
  • Cato the Younger (95 BCE46 BCE) : Politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a Stoic.
    • His crossing of the Libyan desert in 47 BCE provides a simile for the hot sands of the seventh circle. Inf. XIV, 14–5.
  • Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti: (died c. 1280) Father of Guido Cavalcanti, his shade appears to Dante, alongside the shade of Farinata degli Uberti. Inf. X 52–72.
  • Guido Cavalcanti (c. 12551300): First Florentine poet of Dolce Stil Novo, close friend of Dante and son of Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti. Inf. X, 56–63, Pur. XI, 97–8.
  • Francesco de' Cavalcanti: Nicknamed Guercio ("one-eyed" or "squinter"), he was murdered for unknown reasons by the inhabitants of the village of Gaville, near Florence. Reportedly his death started a bloody feud between his family and the villagers, leaving most of the inhabitants of Galville dead.
    • Among the thieves, as a "blazing little serpent", he attacks the soul of Buoso Donati, causing it to transform into a serpent, and himself to transform back into human form. Inf. XXV, 82–151.
  • Cecina: See Maremma.
  • Pope Celestine V: A hermit named Pietro da Morrone, he abdicated the Papacy in 1294 after only five months. His successor, Boniface VIII, immediately jailed him and two years later apparently murdered him.
    • Is perhaps the person whose shade Dante meets in the Ante-Inferno, where those who lived "sanza 'nfamia e sanza lodo" (without praise and blame) dwelt, and referred to as the one, "Che fece per viltate il gran rifiuto" (who made, through cowardice, the great refusal). Inf. III, 60.
    • Of whom Boniface says, "I possess the power to lock and unlock Heaven; for the keys my predecessor did not prise are two". 'Inf. XXVII, 105.
  • Centaur: In Greek mythology, a race part Man and part horse, with a horse's body and a human head and torso.
    • Supervising the punishment of the violent. Their leader Chiron appoints one of their number, Nessus, to guide the poets. Inf. XII, 55–139.
    • The only one not with the violent is Cacus, who supervises the thieves. Inf. XXV, 28–30.
  • Ceperano: See Apulia.
  • Cerberus: In Greek mythology, he was the three-headed dog who garded the gate to Hades. In the Aeneid, Virgil has the Sibyl throw a drugged honey cake into Cerberus' mouths, in the Inferno Dante has Virgil throw dirt instead.
    • Encountered In the Third Circle. Inf. VI, 13–33.
    • Example of divine punishment. Inf. IX, 98.
  • Cesena: City on the Savio River during Dante's time, though free, its politics were controlled by Guido da Montefeltro's cousin Galasso da Montefeltro. Inf. XXVII, 52–54.
  • Charles of Anjou (also Charles I of Sicily) (12271285): Son of Louis VIII of France, he was one of the most powerful rulers of his age and the undisputed head of the Guelph faction in Italy. His dream of building a Mediterranean Empire was wrecked by the Sicilian Vespers.
  • Charybdis: In Greek mythology, a sea monster who swallows huge amounts of water three times a day and then spouts it back out again, forming an enormous whirlpool. Mentioned frequently by classical writers.
    • Used in a simile to describe the punishment of the greedy and prodigal in the fourth circle of hell. Inf. VII, 22.
  • Charon: The mythological Greek figure who ferried souls of the newly dead into Hades over the underworld river Acheron. Inf. III, 82–129.
  • Chiron: Leader of the centaurs, legendary tutor of Achilles. Inf. XII, 65.
  • Ciacco ("pig"): Nickname, for a Florentine contemporary of Dante, perhaps well known as a glutton, and probably the same who appears in Boccaccio's Decameron (IX, 8).
    • Central figure of canto VI, he voices the first of many prophecies concerning Florence. Inf. VI, 37–99.
  • Ciampolo di Navarra: Utterly unknown to sources other than Dante, this Ciampolo (i.e. Jean Paul) appears to have been in the service of Theobald II, king of Navarre.
  • Cicero, Marcus Tullius (c. 106 BCE–c. 43 BCE): Roman statesman and author.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 141.
  • Circe: Mythical daughter of Helios, god of the Sun, and sister of Aeetis, king of Colchis. She was an enchantress who lived near the Gulf of Gaeta, who turned the crew of Odysseus into pigs on their journey home from the Trojan war. But Odysseus, with the help of Hermes, forced her to release his men from her spell (Ovid, Met. XIV, 435–40). She fell in love with Odysseus and he stayed with her for another year and in some accounts, she had a son Telegonus with Odysseus, who was to accidentally kill him.
    • It is said, by Ulysses (Odysseus), that she "beguiled" him. Inf. XXVI, 90–2.
  • Pope Clement V (12641314): Born in France as Bertran de Goth, he was made archbishop of Bordeaux by Pope Boniface VIII. He was elected pope in 1305 and was remarkable for his dissolution of the Templars and his de facto move of the Papal See from Rome to Avignon (See Avignon Papacy). He was thought to have negotiated with Philip IV of France for his papacy, becoming a puppet of the French monarchy.
    • "One uglier in deeds … a lawless shepherd from the west", whose damnation among the Simoniacs is foretold by Pope Nicholas III. Inf. XIX, 79–87.
  • Cleopatra (6930 BCE): Queen of Egypt, lover of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Like Dido, she "killed herself for love".
    • Found amongst the sexual sinners. Inf. V, 63.
  • Cluny: A Benedictine monastery founded in 909, in Burgundy. The elegant robes of the Cluniacs are described with irony in a letter of Saint Bernard, a Cistercian, to his nephew Robert, who had left the Cistercians to join the Cluniacs.
    • The "cloaks and cowls" of the hypocrites are compared to the Cluniac robes. Inf. XXIII, 61–3.
  • Cocytus: "The river of lamintation", in Greek mythology, it was the river on whose banks the dead who could not pay Charon wandered. It flowed into the river Acheron, across which lay Hades. In the Inferno it is a frozen lake forming the Ninth Circle and the bottom of Hell.
    • Formed from the tears of the statue of the Old Man of Crete. Inf. XIV, 94–120.
    • Is shut in by cold. Inf. XXXI, 121–2.
    • Described. Inf. XXXII, 22–39.
    • Frozen by flapping of the wings of Dis. Inf. XXXIV, 46–52.
  • Constantine the Great (272337): The famous Roman Emperor who passed the Edict of Milan in 313 and converted to Christianity. According to medieval legend, Constantine was inflicted with leprosy because of his persecution of Christians, and in a dream was told to seek out Pope Silvester on Mount Soracte, who baptised and cured him, and, according to the forged document, the "Donation of Constantine, because of this Constantine gave to the Pope, rule over Rome and the Western Roman Empire, which Dante sees as the source of the corruption of the Papacy.
    • Blamed for "the dower that you bestowed upon the first rich father!", Inf. XIX, 115–117.
    • Guido da Montefeltro compares Silvester being sought by Constantine to cure his leprosy, with himself being sought by Boniface to "ease the fever of his arrogance". Inf. XXVII, 94–5.
  • Cornelia Africana (c. 190 BCE100 BCE): daughter of Scipio Africanus Major, and mother of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 128.
  • Corneto: See Maremma.
  • Cronus: In Greek mythology, King of Crete during the Golden Age. He had several children by Rhea, but swallowed them at birth because he had learned from his parents Gaia and Uranus, that he was destined to be overthrown by a son. However, Rhea managed to save Zeus who eventually fulfilled that prophecy.
    • Under his rule, the world lived chastely". Inf. XIV, 96.
    • Rhea protects Zeus from him. Inf. XIV, 100–2
  • Cunizza da Romano (1198–c.1279): sister of Ezzelino III da Romano. Par. IX, 13–66.
  • Gaius Scribonius Curio: A distinguished orator, and supporter of Pompey the Great, he switched his support to Julius Caesar after Caesar paid his debts. Lucan (Phars I 270–290) has Curio urge Caesar persuasively, to quickly cross the Rubicon and invade Rome.
    • Amoing the sowers of discord, he is pointed out by Pier da Medincina, his tongue having been slit, "who once was so audacious in his talk!". Inf. XXVIII, 91–111.
  • Cyclops: Children of Uranus and Gaia, they were giants with a single eye in the middle of their forehead. In Roman mythology, they helped Vulcan make thunderbolts for Zeus.
    • The "others" who Zeus "may tire" making thunderbolts. Inf. XIV, 55.

D

E

F

  • Farinata degli Uberti (d.1264): Leader of the Florentine Ghibellines famous for his defeat of the Guelphs (Dante's faction), at the Battle of Montaperti in 1260, causing the Guelphs to be exiled from Florence, though he was able to argue successfully against the destruction of the city. Farinata was posthumously condemned as a heretic during the Franciscan inquisition of 1283. To make peace between the Black and White Guelphs, Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, let his son Guido Cavalcanti, the future poet, marry Farinata's daughter.
    • One of a group of famous political Florentines, "who were so worthy … whose minds bent toward the good", asked about by Dante of Ciacco. Inf. VI, 77–81.
    • Found among the Epicurean heretics. Inf. X, 22–51, 73–123.
    • Predicts Dante's difficulty in returning to Florence after his exile. Inf. X, 79–81.
    • Explains that the damned can see the future but not the present. Inf. X, 97–108.
  • Fiumicello: Tributary of Phlegethon. Inf. XIV, 77.
  • Folquet de Marseilles (c.11651231):Troubadour, then Cistercian monk, and later Bishop of Toulouse.
    • Pointed out by Cunizza da Romano. Par. IX, 37–42.
    • Speaks to Dante and points out Rahab. Par. IX, 67–142.
  • Rampino Foresi: See Vanni Fucci.
  • Forlì: City in Romagna. In 1282, under Guido da Montefeltro, it withstood a combined siege by French and Guelph forces, dealing the French a crushing defeat. After 1300 it was ruled by the Ordelaffi.
    • "The city that stood long trial". Inf. XXVI, 43–5.
  • Fortuna: In Dante's cosmology, a power created by god to "guide the destinies of man on earth" (H. Oelsner, P.H. Wicksteed and T. Okey The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Vol I, p. 79). Inf. VII, 61–96, XV, 91–6.
  • Francesca da Rimini: See Paolo and Francesca.
  • Francesco d'Accorso: Eminent jurist of Bologna who taught law at the universities of Bologna and Oxford. Son of the great Florentine jurist Accorsio da Bagnolo, author of the Glossa Ordinaria on the Corpus Iuris Civilis.
  • Saint Francis of Assisi (11821226): Son of a wealthy merchant, he spurned his father's riches and founded the Franciscan Order, formally recognized by Pope Honorius III in 1223.
  • Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor: Was renowned for his Epicurean lifestyle, and alleged to have punished traitors by cloaking them in leaden capes and placing them into boiling cauldrons.
    • Among the Epicurean heretics. Inf. X, 119.
    • His capes compared to those of the hypocrites. Inf. XXIII, 66.
  • Vanni Fucci: Nicknamed Bestia, for his brutality, he was the Illegitimate son of Fuccio de' Lazzari. He took part in the vicious struggles that divided his city Pistoia, siding with the Black Guelphs, repeatedly sacked the houses of his political enemies. In 1293, he stole the reliquary of San Jacopo from the sacristy of the Cathedral of Pistoia, for which crime the innocent Rampino Foresi was arrested and nearly executed, before the guilt of Fucci and his accomplices was discovered.
    • Among the thieves, like the mythical phoenix, he is burned to ashes and restored. Inf. XXIV, 97–118.
    • Refers to himself as a "mule" meaning "bastard" ("mul ch'i' fui"). Inf. XXIV, 125.
    • Prophesies the triumph in Florence of the Black Guelphs over the Whites. Inf. XXIV, 143–151.
    • Swears against God while performing an obscene gesture (a "fig", the insertion of a thumb between the first and second fingers of a closed fist). Inf. XXV, 1–18.
  • Furies: see Erinyes.

G

  • Galen (131201): Ancient Greek physician.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 143.
  • Geri del Bello: A second cousin of Dante. Apparently he was killed by the Sacchetti family and avenged by the Alegheri in 1310, with the feud continuing utill 1342.
    • Of whom Dante says "…a spirit born of my own blood … his death by violence for which he still is not avenged". Inf, XXIX, 18–36.
  • Geryon: In Greek mythology, son of Chrysaor and Callirhoe, was a winged giant. The tenth labour of Herakles was to steal his cattle. In Medieval times, he was viewed as an example of treacherous deception, which may explain Dante's choice of him as an emblem of fraud.
    • Guardian of the Eighth Circle, summoned by Virgil, he is encountered in close association with the usurers. Inf. XVI, 106–36.
    • "La fiera con la coda aguzza, che passa i monti, e rompe i muri e l'armi! ... colei che tutto 'l mondo appuzza!" ("The beast who bears the pointed tail, who crosses mountains, shatters weapons, walls! … the one whose stench fills all the worlds!"). Inf. XVII, 1–27.
    • Carries Virgil and Dante on his back. Inf. XVII, 79–136.
    • Sets down Virgil and Dante in the Eighth Circle. Inf. XVIII, 19–20.
  • Giovanni di Buiamonte dei Becchi: Florentine banker, he had held several important offices which earned him a knighthood.
  • Fra Gomita: Chancellor of Nino Visconti and Governor of the giudicato of Gallura, in Sardinia — at the time a possion of Pisa. He accepted a bribe to let escape a group of Visconti's enemies who were in his custody. For this he was hanged.
    • Among the barrators with Michel Zanche, "a dir di Sardigna le lingue lor non si sentono stanche" ("their tongues are never too tired to speak of their Sardinia"). Inf. XXII, 81–90.
  • Gratian: Twelfth-century canon lawyer and Camaldolese monk.
  • Griffolino of Arezzo: He duped Alberto da Siena saying, that for money, he would teach him to fly. As a result Griffolino was burned at the stake for heresy by the Bishop of Siena, who favored Alberto, who was perhaps the Bishop's illegitimate son.
    • Among the "falsifiers" of metal (alchemists), sitting with Capocchio, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. Inf. XXIX, 73–99.
    • He introduces himself. Inf. XXIX, 109–20.
    • He identifies Schicchi and Myrrha. Inf. XXX, 31–45.
  • Guelphs and Ghibellines: Factions supporting, respectively, the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire in Italy during the 12th and 13th centuries. After the Guelphs finally defeated the Ghibellines in 1289 at Campaldino and Caprona, (Dante apparently fought for the Guelphs at both), they began to fight among themselves. By 1300 Dante's city Florence, was "divided" between the Black Guelphs who continued to support the Papacy and Dante's party the White Guelphs. That year the Whites defeated the Blacks and forced them out of Florence, however in 1302, the Blacks with the help of Pope Boniface VIII were victorious and the Whites including Dante were banished from Florence. Inf. VI, 60–72.
    • Florence the divided city. Inf. VI, 61.
    • White Guelphs, party of the woods. Inf. VI, 65.
    • Black Guelphs, prevail with help of Boniface. Inf. VI, 68–9.
    • Rivalry. Inf X.
    • Black and White Guelphs, one after the other, will "hunger" after Dante. Inf. XV, 71–72.
    • The expulsion of the White Guelphs from Florence is prophesied: "Fiorenza rinnova gente e modi". Inf. XXIV, 143–50.
  • Guido Guerra (c. 12201272): Member of one of the greatest Tuscan families, he was one of the leaders of the Guelph faction in Florence, under whose banners he fought the disastrous battle of Montaperti in 1260. Exiled following the triumph of the Ghibellines, he returned to Florence in 1267 when the Guelphs retook control of the city.
    • One of a group of three Florentine sodomites who approach Dante, and are much esteemed by him (see Jacopo Rusticucci). Inf. XVI, 1–90.
    • "In sua vita fece col senno assai e con la spada" ("In his life he did much with the senses and the sword"). Inf. XVI, 37–9.
  • Guido da Montefeltro (12231298): Renowned leader of the Ghibellines of Romagna. As ruler of Forlì, in 1282, he defeated a French force, which was besieging the city. In 1296 he retired from military life and entered the Franciscan order. Pope Boniface VIII, in 1297, asked his advice on how to capture Palestrina, the impegnable stronghold of the Colonna family, offering in advance papal absolution for any sin his advice might entail. He advised Boniface to promise the Colonnas amnesty, then break it. As a result the Collonas surrendered the fortress and it was razed to the ground. Dante also mentions him in the Convivio, where he curiously extols his piety and sanctity.
    • Among the fraudulent counsellors. Inf. XXVII, 4–132.
    • He "made a bloody heap out of the French". Inf. XXVII, 43–5.
  • Guido da Polenta: The powerful aristocratic ruler of Ravenna and Cervia, the former town taken by him in 1275 and the latter shortly after. He was father of Francesca da Rimini, and grandfather of Guido Novello da Ravenna, who was to give Dante hospitality in his last years. The coat of arms of his family contained an eagle.
    • "The eagle of Polenta". Inf. XXVII, 40–2.
  • Guido del Cassero: See Malatestino.
  • Robert Guiscard (c. 10151085): One of the most remarkable of the Norman adventurers who conquered Southern Italy and Sicily. He was count (1057-1059) and then duke (1059-1085) of Apulia and Calabria after his brother Humphrey's death.
    • His warring in Apulia. Inf. XXVIII, 13–4.
  • Guy de Montfort: Son of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester (1208August 4, 1265) who was leader of the baronial opposition to king Henry III of England. Simon was killed at the battle of Evesham and Guy revenged his death by killing the king's nephew, another Henry, in a church in Viterbo.
    • Pointed out by Nessus. Inf. XII, 118–20.

H

  • Harpies: Monsters from Greek mythology with human female faces on the bodies of birds.
    • Tormentors of the suicides in Hell Circle VII round 2. Their description is derived from Virgil (Aeneid iii, 209 on), which tells how they drove the Trojans from the Strophades. Inf. XII, 10–15 & 101.
  • Hector: The greatest Trojan warrior, in the Trojan War.
    • Seen in Limbo. Inf. IV, 121–8.
  • Hecuba: Wife of Priam king of Troy, mother of Hector, Paris, Polyxena and Polydorus. Captured after the fall of Troy, she went mad after seeing her daughter Polyxena, sacrificed on the tomb of Achilles and the corpse of her son Polydorus, murdered by Polymestor, King of Thrace (Euripides, Hecuba, Ovid Metamorphoses XIII, 429–575). According to Ovid she growled and barked like a mad dog.
    • Her "fury" at the deaths of Polyxena and Polydorus. Inf, XXX, 13–21.
  • Helen: Wife of the Spartan king Menelaus and lover of the Trojan Paris, her abduction caused the Trojan War.
    • Found amongst the sexual sinners. Inf. V, 64–5.
  • Heliotrope stone: Also called bloodstone, is dark green with spots of red. In the Middle Ages the red spots were thought to be the blood of Jesus, and it was believed to have miraculous powers, including making its wearer invisible. Boccaccio writes about it in his Decameron (VIII, 3). Inf. XXIV, 93.
  • Heraclitus (c. 535 BCE–c. 475 BCE): Greek Presocratic philosopher.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 138.
  • Hera (Juno in Roman mythology): Greek goddess, she is the wife of Zeus (Jupiter). A jealous goddess, she often sought revenge against Zeus' many lovers. One of those was Semele, who was the daughter of Cadmus, King of Thebes and the mother of Dionysus by Zeus. One of Hera's many acts of revenge against Semele, was to cause Athamas, husband of Semele's sister Ino, to be driven mad. Mistaking Ino, holding their two infant sons Learchus and Melicertes, for a lioness and her cubs, he killed Learchus, and Ino still holding Melicertes jumped off a cliff into the sea. (Ovid, Metamorphoses IV, 416–542). Another lover of Zeus, and victim of Hera was Aegina, daughter of the river-god Asopus (see Aegina above).
    • Her revenge against "Aegina's people". Inf. XXIX, 58–65.
    • Her (Juno's) revenge against Semeles' "Theban family". Inf. XXX, 1–12.
  • Heracles (Latin: Hercules): Son of Zeus and Alcmene, he is probably the most famous Hero of Greek mythology. Of his many achievements, the most famous are the Twelve Labours.
  • Hippocrates (c. 460 BCE380 BCE): Ancient Greek physician, often called "the father of medicine.".
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 143.
  • Homer: Greek poet credited with the authorship of the epic poems the Iliad, which tells the story of the Trojan War, and the Odyssey, which tells the story of the Greek hero Odysseus' adventures returning from that war.
    • Encountered in Limbo, leading, "as lord", the three Latin poets Horace, Ovid and Lucan. Inf. IV, 83–90.
    • "The lord of song incomparable who like an eagle soars above the rest." Inf. IV, 95–6.
    • The poets ask Dante "to join their ranks", Inf. IV, 100–102.
    • Dante and Virgil leave the company of the poets. Inf IV, 148.
  • Horace: Latin lyric poet.
    • One of a group of classical poets (see Homer) encountered in Limbo. Inf. IV, 89.
  • Hypsipyle: Queen of Lemnos, she was seduced and abandoned by Jason while in route to the Colchis with the Argonauts.
    • Pitied by Virgil for Jason's actions. Inf. XVIII, 88–95.

I

J

  • Jacopo da Santo Andrea: Notorious spendthrift from Padua. He may have been executed by Ezzelino da Romano in 1239.
    • One of two spendthrifts (the other called "Lano" is probably Arcolano of Siena) whose punishment consists of being hunted by female hounds. Inf. XIII, 115–29.
  • Jason: Greek mythological hero who led the Argonauts to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece.
    • Found among the Seducers, for his seduction and abandonment of Hypsipyle and Medea. Inf. XVIII, 83–99.
  • Jason: Brother of the High Priest of Israel Onias III, he succeeded his brother in c. 175 BCE. According to 2 Maccabees he obtained his office by bribing the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
  • Jesus: Central figure of Christianity. According to Christian legend, in what is called the Harrowing of Hell, he descended into Hell after his death and rescued certain souls from Limbo.
    • Virgil describes witnessing his descent into Hell. Inf. IV, 52–63.
    • Took spoils from Dis. Inf. XII, 38—39.
    • He asked no gold from Saint Peter. Inf. XIX, 90–3.
  • John the Baptist: The desert prophet, who baptised Jesus. He became the patron saint of Florence, displacing the Roman Mars, and his image was stamped on the cities gold coin, the florin.
    • "The first patron gave way" to him. Inf. XIII, 143–4.
    • "The currency which bears" his seal. Inf. XXX, 74.
  • John the Evangelist: The name used to refer to the author of the Gospel of John. He is also traditionally identified with John the Apostle and the author of the Book of Revelation.
    • Dante interprets a passage of John's Revelations (17:1–3) as a prophecy on the future corruption of the Roman Curia. Inf. XIX, 106–8.
  • Jove: See Zeus.
  • Jubilee: The first Jubilee of the Roman Catholic church took place in 1300. Inf. XVIII, 28–33.
  • Judas Iscariot: Disciple who betrayed Jesus.
    • Virgil's visit to "Judas' circle". Inf. IX, 25–27.
    • "The transgressing soul" replaced by Saint Matthias. Inf. XIX 94–6.
    • Along with Brutus and Cassius, one of the three betrayer/suicides who, for those sins, were eternally chewed by one of the three mouths of Satan. Inf. XXXIV, 53–67
  • Julia : Daughter of Julius Caesar and wife of Pompey.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 128.
  • Julius Caesar (10044 BCE): The celebrated Roman dictator and military commander.
    • Virgil's remembers him (erroneously) as ruler of Rome at his birth. Inf. I, 70.
  • Justinian: Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus, an emperor of Byzantium, known as "the last Roman emperor". A saintly man respected for his law reforms.
    • His "mending [Italy's] bridle". Purg. VI, 88–93.
    • Encountered in the Second Sphere: Mercury, as an unnamed "holy form [concealed] within his rays". Par. V, 115–39.
    • His discourse on the history of Rome. Par. VI, 1—111.
    • His description of the souls in Mercury. Par. VI, 112—42.

L

  • Laertes: Mythical father of Odysseus (Ulysses), he was one of the Argonauts. In the Odyssey he takes part in the massacre of Penelope's suitors.
    • Not even Ulysses' love for his father (and wife and son) was enough to overrule his desire "to gain experience of the world and of the vices and the worth of men". Inf. XXVI, 94–9.
  • Lancelot: Central figure of the Arthurian legend. Reading tales of his amorous adventures led Paulo and Francesca astray.
    • Inf. V, 128.
  • Lano: See Arcolano of Siena.
  • Brunetto Latini: Famous Florentine Guelph politician and writer, friend and teacher of Dante till his death in 1294.
    • Encountered by Dante among the sodomites in the 7th Circle of Hell. The meeting between Dante and Brunetto is one of the most important in the Inferno, as Brunetto is given the key role of prophesying the future exile of Dante. Dante extols his encyclopaedia, Li Livres dou Tresor, of which Dante has Brunetto say: "Sieti raccomandato il mio Tesoro, nel qual io vivo ancora". Inf. XV, 22–124.
  • Lateran Palace: The principle papal residence, from the beginning of the 4th century, until the begininng of Avignon Papacy, in 1305.
    • Used by Dante to allude to Boniface's warring against Christians, rather than "Jews" or "Saracens". Inf. XXVII, 86.
  • Latinus: The "Latian king" and one of a group of figures associated with the history of Troy, Virgil's Aeneid, and the history of Rome encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 121–8.
  • Lavinia: Daughter of Latinus and one of a group of figures associated with the history of Troy, Virgil's Aeneid, and the history of Rome encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 121–8.
  • Learchus: See Hera.
  • Lethe: One of the rivers of Hades in Greek mythology. To drink its waters is to forget everything.
    • Its location is asked about and given. Inf. XIV, 130–8.
    • Probably the little stream. Inf. XXXIV 130–2.
    • Passage of. Pur. XXX, 142–5.
  • Limbo: The first circle of Dante's Hell and the scene of Inf. IV. It is a kind of antechamber in which the souls of the good who died before Jesus spend eternity with no punishment other than the lack of the divine presence. In Dante's version, figures from Classical antiquity significantly outnumber those from the Old Testament.
  • Linus: Mythical son of Apollo who taught music to Orpheus.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 141.
  • Livy (c. 59 BCE17 CE): The famous Roman historian author of the monumental Ab Urbe Condita, telling the history of Rome from the origins down to his own times.
    • The historian "who does not err". Inf. XXVIII, 12.
  • Peter Lombard (c.10901160): Theologian and Bishop; author of The Sentences, a famous medieval textbook of theology.
  • Lucan (3965): Latin poet, whose Pharsalia, an epic poem on the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, is an important source for Dante. Like Seneca he was forced to commit suicide by Nero for his participation in the Pisonian conspiracy.
    • One of a group of classical poets (see Homer) encountered in Limbo. Inf. IV, 90.
    • The serpents in the Malebolge comes from his Pharsalia (IX, 710 ff). Inf. XXIV, 85–90.
    • His description in Pharsalia (IX, 761–804) of the deaths and "transformations" of Sabellus and Nasidiusis is compared with the transformations of the thieves and sinners in the Malebolge. Inf. XXV, 94–6.
  • Lucca: A Tuscan city of considerable importance in the Middle Ages; generally Guelph, it was traditionally an ally of Florence and an enemy of Pisa.
    • Dante, through the words of a devil, accuses its magistrates of being all corrupt: "torno ... a quella terra, che n'è ben fornita: ogn'uom v'è barattier, ... del no, per li denar, vi si fa ita" Inf. XXI, 39–42.
  • Lucia of Syracuse: 4th century martyr saint associated with light and those, like Dante, who suffered from poor eyesight. She symbolises Illuminating Grace in the poem.
    • Serves as an intermediary between the "gentle lady" (see Mary) and Beatrice. Inf. II, 97–108.
  • Lucretia: Mythical figure in the history of the Roman Republic, whose rape by the son of Tarquinius Superbus was revenged by Brutus by the overthrowing of that king.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 128.

M

  • Paolo Malatesta: See Paolo and Francesca.
  • Malatesta da Verucchio: Founder of the powerful Malatesta family, he and his son Malatestino, were Guelph rulers of Rimini from 1295, who killed the chief members of the rival Ghibelline family, the Parcitati, including their leader Montagna de' Parcitati. Malatesta had two other sons Giovanni, who married Guido da Polenta's daughter Francesca, and Paolo who became her lover (see Paolo and Francesca).
    • The old mastiff of Verucchio". Inf. XXVII, 46–8.
  • Malatestino: Son of Malatesta da Verrucchio, after his father's death in 1312, he became Signore of Rimini. He had two nobles of Fano, Guido del Cassero and Angiolello di Carignano, drowned, after he had sommoned them to a parley at Cattolica.
    • The new mastiff of Verruchio. Inf. XXVII, 46–8.
    • The "foul tyrant" and "traitor who sees only with one eye", his betrayal of Guido and Angiolello. Inf. XXVIII, 76–90.
  • Malebolge ("evil-pouches"): The eighth circle of Dante's hell, it contains ten trenches wherein the ten types of "ordinary" fraud are punished.
    • Encountered. Inf. XVIII.
    • Described as a funnel consisting of concentric and progressively lower ditches. Inf. XXIV, 34–40.
    • Its "final cloister" filled with "lay brothers". Inf. XXIX, 40–2.
  • Malebranche ("evil-claws"): In the Inferno, it is the name of a group of demons in the fifth pouch of the Malebolge. They are led by Malacoda ("evil-tail"), who assigns ten of his demons to escort Dante: Alichino, Calcabrina, Cagnazzo ("big dog"), Barbariccia (leads the ten), Libicocco, Draghignazzo, Ciriatto, Graffiacane ("dog-scratcher") Farfarello and Rubicante. Another Malebranche is Scarmiglione.
    • Encountered. Inf. XXI, 29–XXIII, 56.
    • A demon is described plunging a barrator into a boiling lake of pitch and returning to Lucca "for more". Inf. XXI, 29–46.
    • Their using prongs to keep the sinner submerged is compared to cooking meat in a pot. Inf. XXI, 55–57.
    • Escort assigned. Inf. XXI 118–123.
    • Scarmiglione. Inf. XXI, 100–105.
    • Barbarariccia's remarkable trumpet. Inf. XXI, 136–XXII, 12.
    • The demons escort Dante, guarding the shore as they go. A sinner is dragged ashore, attacked by the demons and is questioned but escapes, and two demons fight and fall into the boiling pitch. Inf. XXII, 13–151.
    • Dante and Virgil escape their pursuit. Inf. XXIII 13–56.
    • Malacoda's lie is discovered. Inf. XXIII 140–1.
  • Manto: Mythical daughter of Tiresias, from her father she inherited the power of prophecy.
    • Seen among the seers. Inf. XX, 52–7.
    • Virgil tells how Manto travelled till she arrived in the spot that was to be called after her Mantua. Inf. XX, 58–93.
  • Mantua: An important and ancient city in Lombardy. Its name is probably of Etruscan origin.
    • Birthplace of Virgil. Inf. I, 69.
    • Beatrice addresses Virgil as "courteous Mantuan spirit". Inf. II, 58.
    • Virgil tells Dante of the origin of the name of Mantua and about its foundation. Inf. XX, 58–99.
    • Sordello addresses Virgil as "Mantuan". Purg. VI, 74.
  • Marcia: Wife of Cato the younger.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 128.
  • Maremma: Area consisting of part of southern Tuscany (and partly coincident with the province of Grosseto) and some part of northern Latium (a bordering region of the province of Viterbo). in Dante's time it was a desolate marshland, plaugued by malaria.
    • Identified as between Cecina and Corneto. Inf. XIII, 7–9.
    • Reputation for snakes. Inf. XXV, 19–20.
    • Sickness from July until September. Inf. XXIX, 46–8.
  • Mars: In Roman mythology, the god of war.
    • As ei per questo//sempre con l'arte sua la farà trista (he who with this art always will make it [Florence] sad) he is identified as the patron of Florence before John the Baptist. Inf. XIII, 143–4.
  • Charles Martel of Anjou (1271-1295): son of Charles II of Naples.
    • In the sphere of Venus, he discusses degeneracy among noble families, and denounces confusion of vocations. Par. VIII, 31–148.
    • His prophecy. Par. IX, 1—9.
  • Mary: The mother of Jesus.
    • Probably the "gentle lady", who takes pity on Dante and calls on Lucia to ask Beatrice to help him. Inf. II, 94–9.
  • Master Adam: Possibly an Englishman, who came to Bolognia by way of Brescia. He was employed by the Guidi, counts of Romena, to counterfeit the Florentine florin. Stampted with the image of John the Baptist, the florin contained 24 carets of gold. His contained 21, for which crime, he was burned at the stake in 1281.
    • Among the falsifiers, he points out two liars, Potiphar's wife and Sinon, with whom he exchanges insults. Inf. XXX, 49–129.
  • Saint Matthias: After Judas' betrayal and suicide, he took his place as one of the twelve apostles (Acts of the Apostles I:23–26). Late legends state he was either crucified in Colchis or stoned by the Jews.
    • How he became an apostle is contrasted with the Simoniacs. Inf. XIX, 94–6.
  • Medea: Mythical daughter of Aeetes, king of Colchis, she helped Jason get the Golden Fleece, but was abandoned by him. She took revenge by killing their two children.
    • For her also is Jason punished. Inf. XVIII, 96.
  • Medusa (also known as the Gorgon): In Greek mythology, a female monster whose gaze could turn people to stone. See Erinyes.
  • Megaera: See Erinyes.
  • Melicertes: See Hera.
  • Michael: Archangel who defeated Satan. Inf. VII 11–2.
  • Minos: A semi-legendary king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. In The Divine Comedy, he sits at the entrance to the second circle in the Inferno, which is the beginning of Hell proper. Here, he judges the sins of each dead soul and assigns it to its rightful punishment by indicating the circle to which it must descend. He does this by circling his tail around his body the appropriate number of times.
    • Encountered by Dante. Inf. V, 4–24.
    • Sends suicides to their appointed punishments. Inf. XIII, 96.
    • Amphiaraus falls down to him. Inf. XX, 35–6.
    • He can also speak, to clarify the soul's location within the circle indicated by the wrapping of his tail. Inf. XXVII, 124–7.
    • Who "cannot mistake", condemns Griffolino of Arezzo to the tench pouch. Inf. XXIX, 118–20.
  • Minotaur: In Greek mythology, a creature that was half man and half bull. It was held captive by King Minos of Crete, inside the Labyrinth, an elaborate maze designed by Daedalus. It was slain by Theseus.
    • Guards the Seventh Circle of hell. Inf. XII, 11–27.
  • Mongibello: Sicialian name for Mount Etna, though to be Vulcan's furnace.
    • "The sooty forge". Inf. XIV, 56.
  • Mosca de' Lamberti: Ghibelline who in 1215 rekindled feuding with the Guelphs by urging the killing of the Guelph Buondelmonte dei Buondelmonte, for breaking a marriage engagement.
    • One of a group of famous political Florentines, "who were so worthy … whose minds bent toward the good", asked about by Dante of Ciacco. Inf. VI, 77–81.
    • Found among the Sowers of Scandal and Schism in the Eighth Circle, Ninth Pouch. He was a "seed of evil for the Tuscans". Inf. XXVIII, 106–9.
  • Moses
  • Muhammad (c. 570632): The founder of Islam.
    • Found among the "sowers of dissension", he points out his son-in-law Ali, and through Dante, warns Fra Dolcino. Inf. XXVIII, 22–63.
  • Muses: In Greek and Roman mythology, the inspiring goddesses of song, poetry and art. Inf. II, 7–9
  • Myrrha: In Greek Mythology mother of Adonis, who in disguise committed incest with her father (Ovid, Metamorphoses, X, 298–502).
    • Among the falsifiers, "taking another's shape", she "loved her father past the limits of just love". Inf. XXX, 37–41.

N

O

P

  • Maghinardo Pagani da Susinana: Signore of Faenza on the river Lamone, and Imola on the river Santerno. Ghibelline by birth, he was a Guelph in Florence. His coat of arms was a white lion on a blue field.
    • The "young lion of the white lair". Inf. XXVI, 49–51.
  • Palladium: A statue of Pallas Athena. Since it was believed that Troy could not be captured while it contained this statue, Odysseus (Ulysses) and Diomedes stole it during the Trojan War (Aeneid II, 228–240).
    • Its theft is one of the things for which Ulysses and Diomedes are punished. Inf. XXVI, 63.
  • Paolo and Francesca: Brother and wife, respectively, of Giovanni Malatesta. The pair were lovers and reputedly killed by Giovanni. Francesca was the daughter of Guido da Polenta.
    • Found among the sexual sinners. Inf. V, 73–138.
  • Montagna de' Parcitati: Of the noble Parcitati family, he was head of the Ghibelline faction in Rimini till Malatesta da Verrucchio assumed control of the town in 1295. Montagna was first jailed and then treacherously murdered by Malatesta and his son Malatestino.
    • His abuse by the mastiffs of Verruchio". Inf. XXVII, 47.
  • Saint Paul: One of the apostles of Jesus. Referred to by Dante as the "Chosen Vessel" (Acts 9:15). His legendary journey to Hell (2 Corinthians 12:2–4) serves as a model for Dante. Inf. II, 28–32.
  • Paris: Trojan, son of Priam and Hecuba, brother of Hector, and abductor of Helen.
    • Found amongst the sexual sinners. Inf. V, 67.
  • Penelope: Faithful wife of Odysseus (Ulysses) king of Ithaca, refusing the many suitors who invaded her home, she waited twenty years for him to return home from the Trojan War.
    • Not even Ulysses' love for his wife (and son and father) was enough to overrule his desire "to gain experience of the world and of the vices and the worth of men". Inf. XXVI, 94–9.
  • Penthesilea: Queen of the Amazons, she fought on for Troy during the Trojan War.
    • Seen in Limbo. Inf. IV, 124.
  • Perillus: See Sicilian bull.
  • Saint Peter: One of the apostles of Jesus, and first pope.
    • "la porta di San Pietro" ("the gateway of Saint Peter"). Inf. I, 133.
    • In contrast to the Simoniacs, he paid no gold, to become head of the church, nor did he ask for any from Saint Matthias to make him an apostle. Inf. XIX, 90–6.
    • Par XXIV, Dante's "Examination of Faith" by St. Peter; his presence first described by Beatrice: "And she: 'O eternal light of the great man/ To whom Our Lord entrusted the same keys/ Of wondrous gladness that he brought below'." (trans. by Cotter, ln. 34-36).
  • Phaëton: In Greek mythology, the son of Helios, the sun god. To prove his paternity, he asked his father to allow him to drive the chariot of the sun for one day. Unable to control the horses, Phaëton almost destroyed the earth, but was killed by Zeus.
    • Used as a simile for fear in Inf. XVII, 106–8.
  • Philip IV of France (12681314): King from 1285, his reign is memorable for many reasons. In particular he is famous for having shattered the temporal ambitions of the popes.
    • Probably an allusion to the accusation that Clement V had got his pontificate by promising to pay Philip. Inf. XIX, 87.
  • Phlegethon: "River of fire", in Greek mythology, one of the rivers of Hades.
    • Boiling river of blood. Inf. XII, 47–48.
    • Encountered and described. Inf. XIV, 76–90.
    • Formed from the tears of the statue of the Old Man of Crete. Inf. XIV, 94–116.
    • Identified as the "red stream boiling". Inf. XIV, 130–135.
    • Its deafening roar compared to the waterfall near the monastery of San Benedetto dell'Alpe. Inf. XVI, 91–10
  • Phlegra: In Greek mythology, the site of Zeus's defeat of the Giants (Gigantes) at the end of the Gigantomachy. Inf. XIV, 58.
  • Phlegyas: In Greek mythology he was the ferryman for the souls that cross the Styx. Inf. VIII, 10–24.
  • Phoenix: Mythical bird, which at the end of its life-cycle, burns itself to ashes, from which a reborn phoenix arises.
    • Its description here is derived from Ovid's Metamorphoses (XV, 392–407). Inf. XXIV, 107–111.
  • Pholus: A wise Centaur and friend of Herakles. Inf. XII 72.
  • Photinus, a deacon of Thessalonica. See Anastasius.
  • Pier da Medicina: Apparently a political intriguer in Romagna, of whom little is known. Early commentators say he sowed discord between the Malatesta and Polenta families.
  • Piccarda: Sister of Dante's friend Forese Donati.
    • In the sphere of the moon, she explains to Dante the varieties of blessedness among those in Paradise. Par. III, 34-120.
  • Pier della Vigna (c. 11901249) Minister of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor. He fell from favour in 1347 and subsequently committed suicide.
    • Punished amongst the suicides in Inf. XIII, 28–108.
  • Pillars of Hercules: Name given to the promontories — the Rock of Gibraltar in Europe and Monte Hacho near Ceuta in Africa — that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. According to legend, Heracles (Hercules}, on his way to steal the cattle of Geryon split a mountain in half, thereby forming the Strait of Gibraltar and connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The pillars marked the western boundary of the classical world, beyond which it was not safe to sail.
    • Ulysses describes sailing past these "boundary stones" to the see the world which "lies beyond the sun". Inf. XXVI 106–16.
  • Pinamonte dei Bonacolsi: An able and shrewd politician he took advantage of the fights between Guelphs and Ghibellins that were dividing Mantua to establish himself in 1273 as supreme ruler of the city, founding a Signoria that was kept by his family till 1328.
  • Pistoia: A Tuscan town which in Dante's time had lost much of its autonomy, becoming a sort of Florentine dependency.
    • Vanni Fucci prophesies the exile of the Black Guelphs from the town. Inf. XXIV, 143.
    • Invective against the town. Inf. XXV, 10–2.
  • Plato: Greek philosopher and teacher of Aristotle. In Dante's day, his writings were less influential than those of his student.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 134.
  • Plutus: In Greek mythology, he was the personification of wealth. Dante almost certainly conflated him with Pluto, the Roman god of the Underworld. He is found in the fourth circle of Dante's hell, in which the greedy and prodigal are punished. Inf. VII, 1–15.
  • Pola: Italian seaport (now part of Croatia) famed for its Roman necropolis.
    • Simile for the tombs in the sixth circle. Inf. IX, 112.
  • Polydorus: See Hecuba.
  • Polynices: See Eteocles
  • Polyxena: Trojan daughter of Priam and Hecuba. In some accounts, Achilles fell in love with her, and was killed while visiting her. At the demand of Achilles' ghost, Polyxena is sacrificed on Achilles' tomb.
    • With whom "Achilles finally met love—in his last battle". Inf. V, 65.
    • Her death helps drive Hecuba mad with fury. Inf. XXX, 16–8.
  • Priam: King of Troy, husband of Hecuba, father of Hector and Paris.
    • King when Troy was brought down. Inf. XXX, 15.
    • Asked Sinion to tell the truth about the Trojan horse. Inf. XXX, 114.
  • Priscian: Eminent Latin grammarian active in 500s who wrote the Institutiones grammaticae, extremely popular in the Middle Ages.
  • Proserpina: Wife of Pluto king of the underworld.
    • "Queen of never-ending lamentation". Inf. IX, 44.
    • Moon goddess whose face is "kindled" (once a month). Inf X 79.
  • Ptolemy (c. 85165): Greek geographer, astronomer, and astrologer.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 142.
  • Puccio Sciancato: Of the noble Ghibelline Florentine Galigai family, he was exiled in 1268 after the Guelphs' triumph, but accepted the peace brokered in 1280 by Cardinal Latino to reconcile the factions. He was nicknamed Sciancato ("lame").
    • Among the thieves. Inf. XXV, 148–50.
  • Pyrrhus: Either Achilles's son Neoptolemus, killer of Priam and many other Trojans, or Pyrrhus of Epirus, could be intended, although the latter was praised by Dante in his Monarchy (II, ix, 8).
    • Pointed out by Nessus. Inf. XII, 135.

R

  • Rachel: The biblical second wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She symbolises the contemplative life in the poem.
  • Rhea: See Cronus.
  • Rinier da Corneto and Rinier Pazzo: Highwaymen who lived in Dante's day. Pazzo was excommunicated by Pope Clement IV, in 1268
    • Pointed out by Nessus. Inf. XII, 137.
  • Richard of St. Victor: One of the most important 12th century mystic theologicans. A Scot, he was prior of the famous Augustinian abbey of Saint-Victor in Paris from 1162 until his death in 1173. His writings on mystical contemplation won him the title "Magnus Contemplator", the great contemplator.
    • "He whose meditation made him more than man". Par. X, 130.
  • Rudolf I, King of the Romans (1273-1291). Dante finds him at the gates of Purgatory and is described as "he who neglected that which he ought to have done," perhaps a reference to his failure to come to Italy to be crowned Emperor by the Pope.
  • Ruggiere degli Ubaldini: See Ugolino della Gherardesca.
  • Jacopo Rusticucci: Florentine Guelph of Guido Cavalcanti's guild, active in politics and diplomacy.
    • One of a group of famous political Florentines, "who were so worthy … whose minds bent toward the good", asked about by Dante of Ciacco. Inf. VI, 77–81.
    • One of a group of three Florentine sodomites who approach Dante, and are much esteemed by him. Inf. XVI, 1–90.
    • Blames his wife for his sin: '"e certo fu la fiera moglie più ch'altro mi nuoce". Inf. XVI, 43–5.
    • Questions Dante about Borsiere's reports of the moral decay of Florence, which have caused great anguish for him and his companions. Inf. XVI, 66–72.
    • Represents (with the other two sodomites) past civic virtue, providing an opportunity for Dante to rail against "La gente nuova e i sùbiti guadagni" ("newcomers and quick gains"), as the cause of Florentine decadence. Inf. XVI, 73–5.

S

  • Sabellus and Nasidius: Two soldiers of Cato's army in Lucan's poem Pharsalia (IX, 761–804), who are bitten by snakes, while marching in the Libyan Desert, after which their bodies "transform", Sabellus' into a rotting formless mass, Nasidius' swells, then bursts.
    • Their cruel fate is compared to that of the thieves. Inf. XXV, 94–5.
  • Saladin: 12th century Muslim leader renowned for his military prowess, generosity, and merciful attitude to his opponents during the Crusades.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 129.
  • Sardinia: Italian Island north of Tunisia and south of Corsica. In Dante's time it was plagued by maleria.
    • Sickness from July until September. Inf. XXIX, 46–8.
  • Satan: Biblical angel who embodies evil and is the greatest foe of God and mankind. He is the ruler of Hell. Inf. XXXIV, 28–67
  • Gianni Schicchi: Disguised as the Florentine Buoso Donati, who had just died, he dictated a new will, bequeathing to himself Donati's best mare.
  • Michael Scot (c. 11751234): Scottish mathematician, philosopher, alchemist and astrologer, honoured by popes and emperors, especially Frederick II, he developed a popular reputation as a magician and seer.
    • Damned among the soothsayers. Of him it is said "che veramente de le magiche frode seppe 'l gioco". Inf. XX, 115–7.
  • Second Punic War: The second of the wars fought between Carthage and Rome (219–202). According to Livy, Hannibal sent to Carthage "a pile" of gold rings from the fingers of thousands of slaughtered Romans.
    • "The long war where massive mounds of rings were battle spoils". Inf. XXVIII, 10–2.
  • Semele: See Hera.
  • Semiramis: Legendary figure who was, in Dante's day, believed to have been sexually licentious after the death of her husband Ninus.
    • Found amongst the sexual sinners. Inf. V, 52–60.
  • Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (C. 4 BCE65): Roman philosopher, statesman and dramatist, forced to commit suicide by Nero for his participation in the Pisonian conspiracy, called "morale" (moral), by Dante.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 141.
  • Serchio: A river near Lucca.
    • Leisurely floating on ones back in this river is contrasted, by the Malebranche, with the different kind of swimming by the barrators in the lake of boiling pitch. Inf. XXI, 49.
  • Sextus Pompeius: Son of Pompey the Great and opponent of Julius Caesar, portrayed by Lucan as a cruel pirate (Pharsalia VI, 420–2).
    • Pointed out by Nessus. Inf. XII, 135.
  • Sichaeus: First husband of Dido and ruler of Tyre, he was murdered by Dido's brother.
    • It is remembered that Dido "ruppe fede al cener di Sicheo". Inf. V, 62.
  • Sicilian bull: A brazen figure of a bull used as an instrument of torture. The echoing screams of its victims, roasting inside, were thought to imitate the bellowing of a bull. It was created by Perillus for the tyrant Phalaris. Its creator was also its first victim.
    • It "would always bellow with its victims voice". Inf. XXVII, 7–12.
  • Silvester I: A saint, he was Pope from 314 to 335. In the Middle Ages, supported by a forged document called the "Donation of Constantine", it was believed that he had baptized Constantine and cured him of leprosy, and as a result, that he and his successors, had been granted rule over Rome and the Western Roman Empire. For Dante, this event was the beginning of the ever increasing worldly wealth and power of the papacy, and the corruption that went along with it.
    • "The first rich father!" Inf. XIX, 117.
    • Guido da Montefeltro compares Silvester being sought by Constantine to cure his leprosy, with himself being sought by Boniface to "ease the fever of his arrogance". Inf. XXVII, 94–5.
  • Silvius: See Aeneas.
  • Simon Magus: The magician (or proto-Gnostic) of Samaria. In the Acts of the Apostles (8:9–24) he is rejected by the apostle Peter for trying to buy the ability to confer the Holy Spirit. From his name is derived the word Simony.
    • His followers "fornicate for gold and silver". Inf. XIX, 1–4.
  • Simony: Sin of selling or paying for offices or positions in the church hierarchy (cf. barratry).
    • One of the sins of ordinary fraud punished in the Eighth Circle of hell. Inf. XI, 59.
    • Dante arrives in the 3rd Bolgia of the 8th Circle where the Simoniacs are set upside-down in rock pits, with their exposed feet in flames. Inf. XIX, 1–117.
  • Socrates: Greek philosopher.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 134.
  • Reginaldo Scrovegni: One of the richest Paduan bankers. In expiation of his father's sin his son Enrico commissioned in 1300 the Cappella degli Scrovegni, that was frescoed by Giotto.
    • Among the usurers. Inf. XVII, 64–75.
  • Sodom: Biblical city, which during the Middle Ages, became associated in Christian thinking with the "sin" of homosexuality. Sodomy, like usury, was viewed as a sin against nature.
    • Used to locate the sodomites as being punished in the last ring of the Seventh Circle. Inf. XI, 50.
  • Solomon: Biblical king; son of King David; proverbially the wisest of men.
    • Not named, but called "the high mind blessed to know to such great depths, no second ever rose who saw so much" by Thomas Aquinas in the sphere of the Sun. Par. X, 109–14.
  • Spendthrift Club (Brigata Spendereccia): A group of rich young Sienese nobles, devoted to squandering their fortunes on foolish extravagances and entertainments. Arcolano of Siena was a member.
    • Four of its members described by Capocchio: "Stricca", "Niccolò", "Caccia d'Asciano" and "Abbagliato". Inf. XXIX, 125–32.
  • Sordello: 13th-century Italian troubadour, born in Goito near Virgil's home town Mantua.
    • In Purgatory he personifies patriotic pride. Purg. VI, 74.
  • Statius: Roman poet of the Silver Age and author of the Silvae and the Thebais. Dante and Virgil encounter him in the level of Purgatory reserved for the avaricious, and he accompanies them on the rest of their trip through Purgatory.
  • Stricca: See Spendthrift Club.
  • Strophades: See Harpies.
  • Styx: One of the rivers encircling Hades in the Aeneid (VI, 187, 425).
    • Encountered and described. Inf. VII, 100–29.
    • Formed from the tears of the statue of the Old Man of Crete. Inf. XIV, 94–116.

T

  • Tagliacozzo: Site of a defeat by Manfred's nephew Conradin, by Charles of Anjou, who, following the advice of his general Erard ("Alardo") de Valery, surprised Conradin, with the use of reserve troops.
    • "Where old Alardo conquered without weapons". Inf. XXVIII, 17–8.
  • Tarquin: Last king of Rome, he was overthrown by Lucius Junius Brutus, considered the founder of the Republic.
    • Seen in Limbo. Inf. IV, 121–8.
  • Telemachus: Son of Odysseus (Ulysses) and Penelope, he plays an important role in the Odyssey. In the lost Telegony he appears to have married Circe and been granted immortality.
    • Not even Ulysses' love for his son (and wife and father) was enough to overrule his desire "to gain experience of the world and of the vices and the worth of men". Inf. XXVI, 94–9.
  • Tiresias: A mythical blind soothsayer who was transformed into a woman and then back into a man, seven years later. He has an important role in classical literature, including the Odyssey.
    • His double transformation is told. Inf. XX, 40–5.
    • Father of Manto. Inf. XX, 58.
  • Thais: A courtesan in Terence's Eunuchus. Perhaps misled by Cicero's commentary (De amicitta XXVI, 98), he places her among the flatterers.
    • Virgil contemptuously calls her "puttana" ("whore"). Inf. XVIII, 127–135.
  • Thales (c. 635 BCE543 BCE): Greek philosopher.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 137.
  • Theobald V of Champagne (c. 12381270): The eldest son of Theobald IV of Champagne, on his death in 1253 he succeeded him as Count of Champagne and, as Theobald II, king of Navarre. He died childless in 1270.
    • The "good king Theobald" ("buon re Tebaldo"). Inf. XXII, 52.
  • Theseus: Legendary king of Athens who visited the underworld and, in the version used by Dante, was rescued by Herakles.
    • His name invoked by the Erinyes. Inf. XI, 54.
    • The "Duke of Athens" who killed the Minatour. Inf. XII, 17.
  • Tisiphone: see Erinyes.
  • Tityas: "Force us not to go to Tityus or Typhon" Inf. XXXI, 124.
  • Troy: Also called Ilium, the site of the Trojan War, described in Homer's Iliad, and the home of Aeneas. The Greeks were victorious by means of the wooden Trojan Horse, which the Greeks left as a "gift" for the Trojans. The Trojans brought the horse through the gates and into their walled city, and the Greek soldiers who had hid inside the horse, were able to open the gates and let in the rest of the Greek army.
    • Aeneas' escape. Inf. I, 73.
    • "That horse's fraud that caused a breach". Inf. XXVI, 58–60.
    • Trojan (meaning perhaps, through Aeneas, their Samnite descendants) wars in Apulia. Inf. XXVIII, 7–9.
    • The "pride of Troy … dared all" but "was destroyed". Inf. XXX, 13–15.
  • Tullio/Tully: See Cicero.
  • Turnus: A chieftain of the Rutuli whose conflict with Aeneas is the subject of the second half of the Aeneid, at the end of which, he was killed by Aeneas in single combat (Aeneid II, 919) — one of those who "died for Italy". Inf. I, 106–108.
  • Tristan: Hero of medieval French romance, he was a Cornish Knight of the Round Table, and adulterous lover of Isolde.
    • Found amongst the sexual sinners. Inf. V, 67.
  • Typhon: "Force us not to go to Tityus or Typhon" Inf. XXXI, 124.

U

  • Ugolino della Gherardesca: Leader of one of two competing Guelph factions in Pisa. In 1288 he conspired with the Archbishop Ruggiere degli Ubaldini to oust the leader of the other faction, his grandson Nino de' Visconti. Ugolino was, in turn, betrayed by Ruggiere and imprisoned with several of his sons and grandsons. They all died of starvation in prison.
    • Found with Ruggiere amongst those damned for treason. Inf. XXXII, 124–XXXIII 90.
  • Ulysses: See Odysseus.
  • Usury: The practice of charging a fee for the use of money; viewed by the medieval church as a sin because it went contrary to the idea that wealth is based on natural increase, which was believed to be a gift from god.
    • Explained by Virgil to Dante. Inf. XI, 97–111.
    • The usurers are punished in the Seventh Circle Inf. XVII, 34–75.

V

  • Venerable Bede: See Saint Bede.
  • Venetian Arsenal: Shipyard and naval depot for Venice, built c. 1104, in Castello sestiere, it was one of the most important shipyards in Europe, and was instrumental in maintaining Venice as a great naval power.
    • Described. Inf. XXI, 7–15
  • Volto Santo ("Holy face") of Lucca: An early Byzantine crucifix made of very dark wood, greatly venerated as having been miraculously created.
  • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) (October 15, 7019 BCE): Latin poet. He serves as Dante's guide through the Inferno and Purgatorio. In the absence of texts of Homer, the Middle Ages considered Virgil to be the great epic poet of the Classical world. In Dante's time, many believed that Virgil had predicted the arrival of Christianity in the following lines from his Eclogue IV "at the boy's birth in whom/the iron shall cease, the golden race arise" (trans John Dryden). This made him doubly suited to his role as guide. He also symbolises Reason. Inf. I, 61–Purg. XXXIII.
    • Sudden appearance. Inf. I, 61–3
    • The "light and honor of all other poets" (Mandelbaum). Inf. I, 82
    • Dante's inspiration. Inf. I, 85–87
    • Offers to be Dante's guide. Inf. I, 112–4
  • Vitaliano del Dente: Paduan banker, he was podestà of Vicenza in 1304 and of Padua in 1307.
  • Vulcan: In Classical mythology, blacksmith of the gods and, with the help of the Cyclops, maker of thunderbolts for Jove.
    • From whom Jove "took in wrath the keen-edged thunderbolt". Inf. XIV, 52–7.

Z

  • Michel Zanche (d. 1290): Governor of the giudicato of Logudoro, in Sardinia. He administered the province for king Enzo, son of the Emperor Frederick II. Since Enzo was made prisoner in 1249, her wife divorced and married Zanche. The latter ruled Logudoro till 1290, when he was murdered by his son-in-law Branca Doria.
  • Zeno of Elea (c. 490 BCE–c. 430 BCE): Greek presocratic philosopher.
    • Encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 138.
  • Zeus (also Jove or Jupiter): Chief god of Classical mythology.
    • Defied by Capaneus, he kills him with a thunderbolt Inf XIV, 43–75.
  • Saint Zita (c. 12151272): Canonized in 1696, she is the Patron saint of all maids and domestics. In her city, Lucca, she was already in life an object of popular devotion and reputed a saint. In Dante's time her fame had already made her a sort of patron saint of her city. The Elders of Saint Zita, were ten citizens of Lucca who, along with the chief magistrate, were the rulers of the city.
    • An "elder of Saint Zita" (perhaps Bottario) is plunged into a lake of boiling pitch with the barrators. Inf. XXI, 35–54.

References

  • Dante
    • The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno, translated by Allen Mandelbaum, (Bantam Classics 1982) ISBN 0-553-21339-3.
    • The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, bilingual edition with commentaries and notes, J. A. Carlyle, P.H. Wicksteed and T. Okey (translators), H. Oelsner, (notes), Temple Classics, 3 vols. 1899–1901. Republished by Vintage (July 12, 1955). ISBN 0-394-70126-7.
    • The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, translated by Henry F. Cary. The Harvard Classics. Vol. XX. (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14). Also: Kessinger Publishing (January 2004). ISBN 0-7661-8184-7.
    • The Inferno, bilingual edition with commentaries and notes, translated by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 2000). ISBN 0-385-49697-4.
    • The Divine Comedy of Dante, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (translator), Kessinger Publishing (June 30, 2004). ISBN 1-4191-5994-1. Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise
  • Fay, Edward Allen. Concordance of the Divina Commedia, (Cambridge, MA: Dante Society, 1888) ISBN 0-8383-0183-5.
  • Jacoff, Rachel (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Dante (Cambridge: University, 1993) ISBN 0-521-42742-8.
  • Lansing, R., The Dante Encyclopedia, Garland; 1 edition (April 6, 2000). ISBN 0-8153-1659-3.
  • Ryan, Christopher. "The Theology of Dante" in Jacoff (1993) pp. 136–152.
  • Toynbee, Paget. Concise Dictionary of Proper Names and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante (Oxford: University, 1914) ISBN 0-87753-040-8.
  • Bosco-Reggio, La Divina Commedia, Inferno (Milano, Le Monnier 1988) ISBN 88-00412424
  • Vittorio Sermonti, Inferno di Dante (Milano, Rizzoli 2001) ISBN 88-17-86068-9

External links

  • Parker, Deborah World of Dante Website with searchable database of cultural references in the Divine Comedy.

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