Dis (Divine Comedy)

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Lower Hell, inside the walls of Dis, in an illustration by Stradanus. There is a drop from the sixth circle to the three rings of the seventh circle, then again to the ten rings of the eighth circle, and, at the bottom, to the icy ninth circle.

In Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy, the City of Dis (in Italian, la città ch'ha nome Dite, "the city whose name is Dis")[1] encompasses the sixth through the ninth circles of Hell.[2] The most serious sins, those associated with violence and fraud, are punished here.

The walls of Dis are guarded by fallen angels and the Erinyes (Furies). Dante emphasizes the character of the place as a city by describing its architectural features: towers, gates, walls, ramparts, bridges, and moats. It is thus an antithesis to the heavenly city, as for instance described by St. Augustine in his City of God.[3] Among these structures are mosques, "the worship places of the most dangerous enemies of medieval Christendom."[4] In Dante's schematics of Hell, some Muslims and Jews are placed among the heretics. The presence of mosques probably also recalls the reality of Jerusalem in Dante's own time, where gilded domes dominated the skyline.[5]

Punished within Dis are those whose lives were marked by active (rather than passive) sins: heretics, murderers, suicides, blasphemers, usurpers, sodomites, panderers, seducers, flatterers, Simoniacs, sorcerers, barrators, hypocrites, thieves, false counsellors, schismatics, falsifiers and traitors. Sinners unable to control their passions offend God less than these, whose lives were driven by malizia ("malice, wicked intent"):

Of every malice (malizia) gaining the hatred of Heaven, injustice is the goal; and every such goal injures someone either with force or fraud.[6]

There is perhaps a distinction between malizia as the characteristic of circles seven and eight, and the matta bestialitade, "inhuman wickedness," of circle nine, which punishes those who threaten "the most basic civic, familial, and religious foundations of happiness."[7]

In ancient Roman mythology, Dis Pater ("Father Dis") is the ruler of the underworld and is named as such in the sixth book of Virgil's "Aeneid", one of the principal influences on Dante in his depiction of Hell (the god was also known as Pluto, a name not used by Virgil in the Aeneid). The hero Aeneas enters the "desolate halls and vacant realm of Dis"[8] with his guide, the Sibyl, who correspond in The Divine Comedy to "Dante" as the speaker of the poem and his guide, Virgil.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Inferno 8.68. Citations from The Divine Comedy, unless otherwise noted, are those of H. Wayne Storey, entry on "Dis," in The Dante Encyclopedia (Routledge, 2010), pp. 306–307.
  2. ^ Inferno 9.106 to 34.81.
  3. ^ Storey, The Dante Encyclopedia, p. 306.
  4. ^ Peter Bondanella, The Inferno: Dante Alighieri, note to the translation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Fine Creative Media, 2003), pp. 206–207.
  5. ^ Anthony K. Cassell, "The Tomb, the Tower and the Pit: Dante's Satan," in Dante: Dante and Interpretation (Routledge, 2003), p. 204.
  6. ^ VV. 22–24, as cited by Storey, The Dante Encyclopedia, p. 307.
  7. ^ Storey, The Dante Encyclopedia, p. 307.
  8. ^ Domos Ditis uacuas et inania regna (Aeneid 6.269).