Throughout history there have been many religions. Each of these religions has had an idea of what the afterlife consists of. Many artists and authors have portrayed their versions in their works. One of the best known authors is Dante Alighieri who wrote “The Divine Comedy”. In “Volume I: Inferno” Dante describes his version of hell in detail. There are nine circles of hell according to Dante; some even have multiple levels within themselves. Each level is centered on a specific kind of sinner that has to spend eternity in hell and they suffer a punishment that they have to endure for eternity.
In the beginning of civilization in the Mediterranean and what is now Europe there were people of all faiths who sinned. As this history is learned there are five who could find their eternal fate within Dante’s Inferno. These include Peter Abelard, Justinian, Etienne Marcel, Marcus Porcius Cato, and Alcibiades. What these people did that can be considered a sin and what level of hell they shall endure along with their eternal punishment shall be discussed. Peter Abelard (1070-1142) lived in Paris during the 12th century. Abelard was one of the most sought after intellectuals of his time.
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Abelard opened his own school in Paris after he came to the conclusion that the teachers in Paris were not as smart as they thought they were. Abelard was so popular that he was even asked to teach some students privately. One of these students was a girl named Heloise. Heloise was the niece of a local cleric. At some point in the beginning of the teacher/student relationship, Abelard and Heloise began to be romantically involved. (Kishlansky, p. 276) For this Peter Abelard is placed into the second circle of Dante’s hell. The second circle of hell is the place where souls of the lustful reside for eternity.
These souls sinned in the flesh, turning away from common sense and what is right to pursue pleasing the wants and needs of their bodies. They are within a dark place where they are caught up in an eternal wind. “The infernal storm, eternal in its rage, sweeps and drives the spirits with its blast: it whirls them, lashing them with punishment. ” (Dante/Musa, p. 110) The next is Justinian (527-565). Justinian was an emperor of the Byzantine state. “Strong-willed, restless, and ambitious, Justinian is remembered as ‘the emperor who never slept. ‘” (Kishlansky, p. 190) He wanted to rebuild the glory found in the old Roman empire.
He spent almost everything within his empire to reclaim land and build the empire up. His efforts, while amazing, were so expensive that he left the empire in dire need of finances. (Kishlansky, p. 190-191) For this Justinian is placed within the fourth circle of Dante’s hell. Here the souls of the miserly and the prodigal are damned for all eternity. Justinian wasted his finances to create an empire that was soon invaded and taken over. His punishment is a heavy weight that he must push against the miserly because how they felt about money on earth is opposite.
When they make contact with each other, they have to push to turn the other way while the miserly scream “Why waste? ” and the prodigal scream “Why hoard? ” for all eternity. (Dante/Musa, p. 130-135) The next person is Etienne Marcel (1316-1358). Marcel was a rich merchant that led a group of merchants on a revolt against the dauphin. This group wanted money and reforms and killed for it. (Kishlansky, p. 305) As a result, Marcel is placed into the seventh circle of Dante’s hell where the souls of the violent reside for all eternity.
There are three levels to this circle for those were violent in different ways. First were the violent against their neighbors, then the violent against themselves, then the third level has three types of violence: Blasphemers-the violent against god, Sodomites-the violent against nature, and Usurers-the violent against art. Marcel is within the first level of circle seven for his violence against his neighbors. He shall remain here for all eternity within the river Phlegethon and be tortured by the centaurs which keep him at the correct depth based on how violent he was. (Dante/Musa, p. 176-204)