Nuggets of Dante’s Malebolge



Virgil spoke to Geryon, the personification  of Fraud,  in order that the monster  may transport them  to the next circle. Meantime,  Dante described the souls  who have done violence against Art.  Then they  descended into the abyss of Malebolge, seated on Geryon’s back.


Dante tells us  the condition and shape of  Malebolge, that is the eighth circle of Hell, separated into ten “bolge” [=pouches] where are  punished the fraudulent sinners. Meantime,  the two poets were terrified by some  demons of the first bolgia. They met the flatterers, who were  immersed in pitch-darkness.

They came to the third bolgia of Hell, where are  punished those who had practiced simony. The Simoniacs  were condemned to have  their heads into some apertures, while  flames were burning their legs. Lastly Dante and Virgil descended   to the bottom of the bolgia, where   found  Pope Nicholas V and other popes, who were fiercely blamed by Dante for their behaviors.  Then the two poets visited  the following bolgia.


The two poets saw the punishment of the  souls who  predicted  future events. Their faces, according to the law of retaliation,   were overturned to their limbs, so they can only look behind  them. They had dared to look forward too, and now they should  look  behind their shoulders. Dante and Vergil met   some famous old diviners such as  Tiresias, Amphiaraus, and Manto.  Virgil took occasion to speak about the origins of Mantua.


Leaving the old diviners  , the two poets  passed a bridge, so that they were  arriving to the  bolgia  where  the barrators  were punished. These  souls were immersed in a sea of  boiling pitch. Then the two poets obtained  the permission  to  continue   their tough walk  from the demons.


Dante continued his redemptive “infernal journey” , accompanied by the demons, and he met  other sinners, such as Ciampolo, who, thanks to a “diabolical” trick, escaped  from the demons, who  tried unsuccessfully  to seize him with their terrible  hooks. Ciampolo both  escaped from the demons and derided them.


The  demons  were enraged  beyond measure against Ciampolo, and they flung themselves at  Dante, who, however, was defended  by Virgil. The two poets met  the hypocrites, and,  among them, Dante recognized  Catalano and Loderingo,  two “Joyous Friars” [=Italian “Frati Gaudenti”] of Bologna. They also saw Caiaphas, eternally   fixed to a cross.

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