Armchair Field Trip: The Sixth Circle of Hell

Mary
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Oh dear. The Dante's Inferno Test has banished me to the eternal fiery pit, sixth floor. Apparently, "the three infernal Furies stained with blood, with limbs of women and hair of serpents, dwell in this circle of hell." Which is all well and good, except that serpents don't have hair. I think this may be a case of iffy grammar -- the Furies, like Medusa, had tresses made of snakes.

What else can I expect on my upcoming trip to Dante's land of eternal damnation? The sixth circle of Hell includes the self-contained City of Dis (at least I'll get to live in an urban environment!) and is reserved for heretics. Judging by the primary source, it looks like I'll spend most of my time lying in a flaming tomb with some politicians from Dante's time, including the jaunty fellow pictured here, one "Farinata," a Ghibelline who was obsessed with the machinations of Florentine leaders. A bit of Dante's travelogue describing this lovely scenario is after the jump, or you can consult this more modern translation. And yes, I do realize that my glibly heretical attitude toward the test results is probably enough to get me into Circle Six all by itself.

PS: The questions in the Inferno Test are deadly (no pun intended) serious. If you prefer a more light-hearted assessment of your place in Dante's canon, try this quiz, which asks such questions as "have you ever betrayed Julius Caesar?" and "is your nickname Benedict?"

Soon as I was within, cast round mine eye,
And see on every hand an ample plain,
Full of distress and torment terrible.

Even as at Arles, where stagnant grows the Rhone,
Even as at Pola near to the Quarnaro,
That shuts in Italy and bathes its borders,

The sepulchres make all the place uneven;
So likewise did they there on every side,
Saving that there the manner was more bitter;

For flames between the sepulchres were scattered,
By which they so intensely heated were,
That iron more so asks not any art.

All of their coverings uplifted were,
And from them issued forth such dire laments,
Sooth seemed they of the wretched and tormented.

And I: "My Master, what are all those people
Who, having sepulture within those tombs,
Make themselves audible by doleful sighs?"

And he to me: "Here are the Heresiarchs,
With their disciples of all sects, and much
More than thou thinkest laden are the tombs.

Here like together with its like is buried;
And more and less the monuments are heated."
And when he to the right had turned, we passed
Between the torments and high parapets.

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October 2, 2006 - 6:24am
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