Sunday, February 14, 2010

Dante's Inferno The Ninth Circle of Hell

Ninth Circle
The Ninth Circle is ringed by classical and Biblical giants, perhaps to partly represent the Titans and rebellious Gigantes of Greek mythology who were imprisoned in Tartarus by the gods. The giants are standing either on the ninth circle of Hell, or on a ledge above it, and are visible from the waist up at the ninth circle of the Malebolge. They include Ephialtes, who with his brother Otus tried to storm Olympus. The giant Antaeus lowers Dante and Virgil into the pit that forms the ninth circle of Hell. (Canto XXXI) Traitors, distinguished from the "merely" fraudulent in that their acts involve betraying one in a special relationship to the betrayer, are frozen in a lake of ice known as Cocytus. Each group of traitors is encased in ice to a different depth, ranging from only the neck and through to complete immersion. The circle is divided into four concentric zones:

Round 1: Ca├»na, named for Cain, is home to traitors to their kindred. The souls here are immersed in the ice up to their faces – "the place where shame can show itself." (Canto XXXII)
Round 2: Antenora is named for Antenor of Troy, who according to medieval tradition betrayed his city to the Greeks. Traitors to political entities, such as party, city, or country, are located here. Count Ugolino pauses from gnawing on the head of his rival Archbishop Ruggieri to describe how Ruggieri imprisoned him along with his children, condemning them to death by starvation. The souls here are immersed in the ice deep enough that they are unable to bend their necks. (Cantos XXXII and XXXIII)
Round 3: Ptolomaea is probably named for Ptolemy, son of Abubus, who invited Simon Maccabaeus and his sons to a banquet and then killed them. Traitors to their guests are punished here. Fra Alberigo explains that sometimes a soul falls here before Atropos cuts the thread of life. Their bodies on Earth are immediately possessed by a demon. The souls here lay supine on the ice, which covers them except for half of their faces. As they cry, their tears freeze and seal their eyes shut–they are denied even the comfort of tears. (Canto XXXIII)
Round 4: Judecca, named for Judas Iscariot, Biblical betrayer of Christ, is for traitors to their lords and benefactors. All of the sinners punished within are completely encapsulated in ice, distorted in all conceivable positions.

Satan is trapped in the frozen central zone in the Ninth Circle of Hell, Inferno, Canto 34.Dante and Virgil, with no one to talk to, quickly move on to the center of hell. Condemned to the very center of hell for committing the ultimate sin (personal treachery against God) is Satan (Lucifer), who has three faces, one red, one black, and one a pale yellow, each having a mouth that chews on a prominent traitor. Satan himself is represented as a giant, terrifying beast, weeping tears from his six eyes, which mix with the traitors' blood sickeningly. He is waist deep in ice, and beats his six wings as if trying to escape, but the icy wind that emanates only further ensures his imprisonment (as well as that of the others in the ring). The sinners in the mouths of Satan are Brutus and Cassius in the left and right mouths, respectively. They were involved in the assassination of Julius Caesar—an act which, to Dante, represented the destruction of a unified Italy and the killing of the man who was divinely appointed to govern the world.[16] In the central, most vicious mouth is Judas Iscariot—the namesake of this zone and the betrayer of Jesus. Judas is being administered the most horrifying torture of the three traitors, his head in the mouth of Satan, and his back being forever skinned by Satan's claws. (Canto XXXIV) What is seen here is a perverted trinity: Satan is impotent, ignorant, and evil while God can be attributed as the opposite: all powerful, all knowing, and good. The two poets escape by climbing down Satan's ragged fur, passing through the center of the earth, emerging in the other hemisphere (described in the Purgatorio) just before dawn on Easter Sunday, beneath a sky studded with stars.