When of references to Greek culture (

When  I read   The  Inferno without  any  prior cognition  of  the relationship  between  the Greek  and  Roman cultures  I  was confused  by  Dante’s design  of  Hell. Dante  has  placed the  characters  whose sins  included  lust, wrath,  and  violence in  the  upper circles  of  Hell; in  the  lower, more  evil  circles are  sinners  who lied,  deceived,  and committed  treason. To  readers of our days,  such  classification  of  evils  may seem backwards, but Dante’s Hell is consistent with Roman thought..

The  Inferno  as  I  said  earlier has  a  lot  of  references to  Greek  culture ( Greek Mythology ),  and in thattopic I’d like to tell you about characters whose  made  me  think.  At  the first  sight, names  of  protectors  of  each  circle were  not  so  interesting for me. In my  opinion,  the  main reason  is  explanationof  their  functions  in  hell:                                        Canto 3 “All  those who  perish  in  the  wrath  of  God Here  meet together  out  of  every  land; And  ready  are  they  to pass  o’er  the  river,  Because  celestial  Justice  spurs  them on, So  that  their  fear is  turned  into  desire. This  way  there never  passes  a  good  soul; And  hence if  Charon  doth complain  of  thee, Well  mayst thou  know  now  what his  speech  imports.”In  that  part of poem  we recognized  that  Charon  resolves problem  of  transportation.Or:                                   Canto5 There  standeth  Minos  horribly,  and  snarls; Examines  the  transgressions  at  the  entrance; Judges,  and  sends according  as  he  girds  him.      In  circle  two, Minos  judges  the sinners  and  decides how  they  will serve  one’s sentence.  However,  Minos  as  I  know  is a   son of  Zeus and  Europe  whom we  know from  Greek  Mythology.

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 Also  in   Homer’s Odyssey  our  character  plays  the  same  role  of  judge in  another  world: “Minos, gloriousson of Zeus… holding a golden sceptre, and passing judgments on the dead, whostood and sat around the king, seeking justice, throughout the spacious gatesof Hades’ home” (Homer, 11.733-37)           The  Romans  adopted  almost the  whole  civilization from  the  Greeks, except  their  idea of  sin. The Greeks felt that aviolent act against another human being was the worst form of evil. A goodexample is the Trojan Horse in Homer’s The Iliad. The Greeksexalted the resourcefulness and inventiveness of the Trojan Horse. The Romanidiom hated the Trojan Horse for its deceitfulness. The Romans held deceit andtreason as the worst of all evils and felt physical violence was not as harsh.

This belief could stem from the fact that the Roman Empire was so strong thatit had nothing to fear from physical violence but was always defeated bytreason and treachery.Dante believed in the Roman idea of evil, so hisstructure of Hell is consistent. There are lesser examples of Dante’s affectionfor Roman culture, such as his spelling “Odysseus” with its Latin form, “Ulysses.

“Although it may not fit contemporary views of evil, Dante’s Hell is consistentwith the Roman ideas of sin.The Renaissance or therebirth of learning, began in Italy in the fourteenth century and influencedall of Western civilization. Wealthy families in Italy, such as the Medicis ofFlorence, were supporting financially the arts and sciences. Trade flourishedand prosperity thrived throughout much of the country.In contrast to these positive occurrences, all was notwell in Italy during the Renaissance.

(With all the financial support received,one would be safe to assume that things wereall fine and dandy. But, during theRenaissance, things were a bit rough.) Rulers of the independent Italian statesoften fought with each other to establish a large political unit. The GuelphPolitical party (which favored local authority) and the Ghibelline Political party(which favored imperial authority) were two such rival factions; the two hadbeen at war periodically since the thirteenth century.Dante’s birth in 1265 came at a time when the Guelphparty, favoring local authority, was in control of Florence. Dante turned awayfrom his Guelph heritage to embrace the imperial philosophy of the Ghibellines.

His change in politics is best summed up in his treatise De Monarchia, in whichDante states his belief in the separation of church and state. The Ghibellines,however, were pushed from power by the Guelphs during Dante’s adulthood andconfined to northern Tuscany.The Guelph Political party eventually divided into twogroups: the Whites (led by the Cerchi family) and the Blacks (led by the Donatifamily and later aided by Pope Boniface VIII). Dante became a member of theWhites and served as an ambassador to talk with the Pope in Rome aboutconditions in Florence. While Dante was out of town, the Blacks took overFlorence.

The Blacks sentenced Dante to banishment from the city; hispunishment for return would be death. His wanderings gave him time to write andto study the Scriptures. This banishment also gave Dante his perspective on thecorruption of the fourteenth century papacy, a view that he would clearlydescribe in The Inferno. In the year 1310, Henry VII became Holy Roman Emperor;Dante believed that this German prince would bring peace.

But Henry VII died in1313 and his Italian campaign collapsed. Dante became disillusioned and leftthe political life; he ceased work on other materials he had begun andconcentrated on The DivineComedy.  


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