Throughout the poem, Dante refers to people and events from Classical and Biblical history and mythology, the history of Christianity, and the Europe of the Medieval period up to and including his own day. A knowledge of at least the most important of these references can aid in understanding the poem fully.
For ease of reference, the cantica names are abbreviated to Inf., Purg., and Par. Roman numerals are used to identify cantos and Arabic numerals to identify lines. This means that Inf. X, 123 refers to line 123 in Canto X (or 10) of the Inferno and Par. XXV, 27 refers to line 27 in Canto XXV (or 25) of the Paradiso. The line numbers refer to the original Italian text.
Boldface links indicate that the word or phrase has an entry in the list. Following that link will present that entry.
"Adhaesit pavimento anima mea": ("My soul cleaveth unto the dust.") (Psalm 119:25; 118:25 in the Vulgate.)
Recited penitentially by prostrate souls on the terrace of greed in Purgatory. Purg. XIX, 73.
Aegina: A Greek island between Attica and Argolis in the Saronic Gulf. According to tradition it was named by its ruler Aeacus — son of Zeus and Aegina, daughter of the river-god Asopus — after his mother. In Ovid's Metamorphoses (VII, 501–660), Aeacus, tells of a terrible plague inflicted by a jealous Juno (Hera), killing everyone on the island but Aeacus; and how he begged Jupiter (Zeus) to give him back his people or take his life as well. Jupiter then turned the islands ants into a race of men called the Myrmidons, some of whom Achilles ultimately led to war against Troy.
"… all Aegina's people sick … when the air was so infected … received their health again through seed of ants.", compared with "the spirits languishing in scattered heaps" of the tenth Malebolge. Inf. XXIX, 58–65.
In the Heaven of Mercury, the soul of the Emperor Justinian credits Agapetus with correcting him of heretical beliefs. Par. VI, 13–18.
Aglauros: Athenian princess who envied her sister's love affair with Hermes. When she attempted to block Hermes' access, he changed her to stone.
Her voice is heard in Purgatory on the terrace of the envious as a lesson in envy. Purg. XIV, 139.
Agnus Dei: Liturgical anthem addressed to Jesus as Lamb of God. Sung while the Eucharistic bread is being divided. It ends with "Dona nobis pacem." ("Grant us peace.")
Sung by souls in the terrace of the angry in Purgatory. Purg. XVI, 16–21.
Ahasuerus: Ancient King of Persia according to the Book of Esther. He married Esther, whose father was Mordecai. Haman, the prime minister, became enraged at Mordecai for refusing to bow in his presence. Haman then plotted a pogrom of the Jews in the kingdom. The plot was discovered, and Ahasuerus had Haman executed.
Dante has a vision of the execution as he departs the terrace of the angry in Purgatory. Purg. XVII, 25–30.
Apocryphal story of his adventures in India provide a simile for the punishment of the violent against God in Inf. XIV, 31–36.
Ali: Cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, and one of his first followers. Disputes over Ali's succession as leader of Islam led to the split of Islam into the sects of Sunni and Shi'a.
He "walks and weeps" in front of Muhammed. Inf. XXVIII, 31–33.
Amphiaraus: Mythical king of Argos and seer, who although he had foreseen his death, was persuaded to join the Seven against Thebes expedition. He was killed while fleeing from pursuers, when Zeus threw a thunderbolt, and the earth opened up and swallowed him.
Pope Anastasius II: Pope who Dante perhaps mistakenly identified with the emperor Anastasius I and thus condemned to hell as a heretic. Anastasius I was a supporter of Monophysitism, a heresy which denied the dual divine/human nature of Jesus.
Dante and Virgil take shelter behind Anastasius' tomb and discuss matters of theology. Inf XI, 4–111.
Its "fateful land" as battleground, and Apulia's betrayal. Inf. XXVIII, 7–21.
Aquarius: The eleventh sign of the zodiac. When the sun is in Aquarius (between January 21 and February 21), the days start to visibly grow longer and day and night begin to approach equal length. Inf. XXIV, 1–3.
"Asperges me" ("Thou shalt sprinkle me"): Psalm 51:9 (Psalm 50:9 in the Vulgate Bible). Opening of the Asperges, a hymn sung during the sprinkling of a congregation with Holy Water. "Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow."
Dante hears the hymn when he is carried through the River Lethe. Purg. XXXI, 97–99.
Beatrice (1266–1290): Dante's idealised childhood love, Beatrice Portinari. In the poem, she awaits the poet in Paradise, replaces Virgil as Dante's guide, and conducts him through the heavens. She symbolises Heavenly Wisdom.
The "worthier spirit" who Virgil says will act as Dante's guide in Paradise. Inf. I, 121–123.
Asks Virgil to rescue Dante and bring him on his journey. Inf. II, 53–74.
When Dante appears upset by Farinata's prophecy on his future exile, Virgil intervenes and explains to him that Beatrice, "quella il cui bell' occhio tutto vede" ("one whose gracious eyes see everything"), will eventually clarify all. Inf. X, 130–132.
Virgil, speaking with Chiron, alludes to Beatrice as she who has entrusted Dante to him. Inf. XII, 88.
Speaking with Brunetto Latini Dante alludes to her as the woman who shall fully explain the sense of Brunetto's prophecy regarding his exile from Florence. Inf. XV, 90.
Virgil uses the promise of meeting Beatrice to encourage Dante to enter the fire of Purgatory. Purg. XXVII, 36.
Encountered in the Fourth Sphere of Heaven (The sun). Par. X, 130–131.
Belacqua: Personal acquaintance of Dante's, perhaps Duccio di Bonavia, a music instrument maker noted for his laziness.
Dante encounters him in Ante-Purgatory, waiting a lifetime because he waited to his deathbed to repent. Purg. IV, 106–135.
Belisarius: (c. 500–565) Roman general who served under the Emperor Justinian and regained much of Italy for the Empire.
Commended by the soul of Justinian in Heaven. Par. VI, 25–27.
"Benedictus qui venis" ("Blessed are you who come") Variation of "Benedictus qui venit" ("Blessed is he who comes"), sung in the Sanctus of the Latin Mass. The phrase comes from the Gospel of Mark (Mark 11:10), when the crowds welcome Jesus into Jerusalem.
Mastro Benvenuto: Nicknamed Asdente ("toothless"), he was a late 13th-century Parma shoemaker, famous for his prophecies against Frederick II. Dante also mentions him with contempt in his Convivio, as does Salimbene in his Cronica, though with a very different tone.
Buonconte: Son of military strategist Guido da Montefeltro, he helped expel the Guelph party from Arezzo in 1287. His army was defeated by Guelphs from Florence at the Battle of Campaldino in 1289. Dante fought for Florence in the battle. Buonconte's body was not found after the battle.
Dante encounters Buonconte waiting to enter Purgatory among the souls who died violent deaths and repented in the final moments. Purg. V, 85–125.
Pope Boniface VIII (c. 1235–1303): Elected in 1294 upon the abdication of Celestine V, whom he promptly imprisoned. He supported the Black Guelphs against Dante's party the White Guelphs (see Guelphs and Ghibellines). He was in conflict with the powerful Colonna family, who contested the legitimacy of Celestine's abdication, and thus Boniface's papacy. Wishing to capture the impregnable Colonna stronghold of Palestrina, he sought advice from Guido da Montefeltro, offering in advance papal absolution for any sin his advice might entail. He advised Boniface to promise the Colonnas amnesty, then break it. As a result the Collonas surrendered the fortress and it was razed to the ground.
"One who tacks his sails". Inf. VI, 68.
Referred to ironically using one of the official papal titles "servo de' servi" (Servant of His servants"). Inf. XV, 112
Accused of avarice, deceit and violating the "lovely Lady" (the church). Inf. XIX, 52–57.
A sodomite mentioned in the seventh circle, round 3 by Jacopo Rusticucci as having spoken to him and his companions of the moral decline of Florence, generating great anguish and inducing Rusticucci to ask Dante for corroboration. Inf. XVI 67–72.
Martin Bottario: A cooper of Lucca who held various positions in the government of his city. He died in 1300, the year of Dante's travel.
Brutus, Marcus Junius (died 43 BCE): One of the assassins of Julius Caesar, with whom he had close ties. His betrayal of Caesar was famous ("Et tu Brute") and along with Cassius and Judas, was one of the three betrayer/suicides who, for those sins, were eternally chewed by one of the three mouths of Satan. Inf. XXXIV, 53–67.
Bulicame: Spring near Viterbo renowned for its reddish colour and sulphurous water. Part of its water was reserved for the use of prostitutes. Inf. XIV, 79–83.
Among the "falsifiers" of metal (alchemists), sitting with Griffolino of Arezzo, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. Inf. XXIX, 73–99.
Agrees with Dante about the vanity of the Sienese, giving as examples four of the members of the Sienese Spendthrift Club, then identifies himself. Inf. XXIX, 124–139.
He is dragged, with his belly scraped along the ground, by the tusks of Schicchi. Inf. XXX, 28–30.
Caprona: Fortress on the Arno near Pisa, in 1289, it was besieged by a TuscanGuelph army. The Ghibellines surrendered, and were allowed, under truce, to leave the castle, passing through (with trepidation) the enemy ranks. Caprona's fall along with the Guelph victory in the same year at Campaldino represented the final defeat of the Ghibellines. Dante's reference to Caprona in the Inferno, is used to infer that he took part in the siege.
Dante's fear for his safe passage through threatening devils, is compared to the fear of the surrendering soldiers at Caprona. Inf. XXI, 88–96.
Francesco de' Cavalcanti: Nicknamed Guercio ("one-eyed" or "squinter"), he was murdered for unknown reasons by the inhabitants of the village of Gaville, near Florence. Reportedly his death started a bloody feud between his family and the villagers, leaving most of the inhabitants of Galville dead.
Among the thieves, as a "blazing little serpent", he attacks the soul of Buoso Donati, causing it to transform into a serpent, and himself to transform back into human form. Inf. XXV, 82–151.
Pope Celestine V: A hermit named Pietro da Morrone, he abdicated the Papacy in 1294 after only five months. His successor, Boniface VIII, immediately jailed him and two years later apparently murdered him.
Is perhaps the person whose shade Dante meets in the Ante-Inferno, where those who lived "sanza 'nfamia e sanza lodo" (without praise and blame) dwelt, and referred to as the one, "Che fece per viltate il gran rifiuto" (who made, through cowardice, the great refusal). Inf. III, 60.
Of whom Boniface says, "I possess the power to lock and unlock Heaven; for the keys my predecessor did not prise are two". 'Inf. XXVII, 105.
Cerberus: In Greek mythology, he was the three-headed dog who guarded the gate to Hades. In the Aeneid, Virgil has the Sibyl throw a drugged honey cake into Cerberus' mouths; in the Inferno, Dante has Virgil throw dirt instead.
Charybdis: In Greek mythology, a sea monster who swallows huge amounts of water three times a day and then spouts it back out again, forming an enormous whirlpool. Mentioned frequently by classical writers.
Used in a simile to describe the punishment of the greedy and prodigal in the fourth circle. Inf. VII, 22.
Mentioned in Purgatory as a famous painter. Purg. XI, 94.
Circe: Mythical daughter of Helios, god of the Sun, and sister of Aeetis, king of Colchis. She was an enchantress who lived near the Gulf of Gaeta, who turned the crew of Odysseus into pigs on their journey home from the Trojan war. But Odysseus, with the help of Hermes, forced her to release his men from her spell (Ovid, Met. XIV, 435–440). She fell in love with Odysseus and he stayed with her for another year and in some accounts, she had a son Telegonus with Odysseus, who was to accidentally kill him.
It is said, by Ulysses (Odysseus), that she "beguiled" him. Inf. XXVI, 90–92.
The people of Tuscany fall into vice, as if under her spell. Purg. XIV, 42.
Cirra: Town in ancient Greece near Parnassus. Par. I, 36.
The "cloaks and cowls" of the hypocrites are compared to the Cluniac robes. Inf. XXIII, 61–3.
Cocytus: "The river of lamentation", in Greek mythology, it was the river on whose banks the dead who could not pay Charon wandered. It flowed into the river Acheron, across which lay Hades. In the Inferno it is a frozen lake forming the ninth circle and the bottom of Hell.
Formed from the tears of the statue of the Old Man of Crete. Inf. XIV, 94–120.
Is shut in by cold. Inf. XXXI, 121–122.
Described. Inf. XXXII, 22–39.
Frozen by flapping of the wings of Dis. Inf. XXXIV, 46–52.
Colchis: Ancient kingdom at the eastern end of the Black Sea. According to ancient Greek legend, Jason and the Argonauts sailed there in search of the Golden Fleece.
Dante compares the voyage to his journey through the heavens. Par. II, 16–18.
Cronus: In Greek mythology, King of Crete during the Golden Age. He had several children by Rhea, but swallowed them at birth because he had learned from his parents Gaia and Uranus, that he was destined to be overthrown by a son. However, Rhea managed to save Zeus who eventually fulfilled that prophecy.
Under his rule, the world lived chastely". Inf. XIV, 96.
Rhea protects Zeus from him. Inf. XIV, 100–102
Crassus: Roman general who amassed the largest fortune in Roman history. He died in a battle with the Parthians. A story later circulated that the Parthians poured molten gold into his mouth.
Cited on the terrace of the greedy as an example of greed. "Tell us, Crassus, because you know: How does gold taste?" Purg. XX, 116–117.
A voice in Purgatory cites Daniel as an example in the virtue of temperance. Purg. XXII, 146–147.
Dante compares Beatrice's solution of his mental doubts to Daniel's solution of Nebuchadnezzar's troubled dream in the biblical book of Daniel. Par. IV, 13–15.
Bonturo Dati (d. 1324): Head of the popular faction in Lucca, he expelled his enemies in 1308 assuming the government of the city, boasting he would put an end to barratry. He is famous for provoking with his jeers in 1313 a war with Pisa, that has been remembered in Faida di Comune by Giosuè Carducci.
Sarcastically and ironically said that all Luccans but he are guilty of barratry. Inf. XXI, 41.
Appears depicted in a wall carving as the "humble psalmist," leading the procession of the Ark to Jerusalem. Purg. X, 64.
Decii: Three generations of men in a Patrician Roman family, who each answered the call to arms and died in battle.
Mentioned as exemplars of Roman virtue in the days of the Roman Republic. Par. VI, 47.
Deianira: Wife of Heracles, she was abducted by the centaurNessus, but Heracles shot him with a poisoned arrow. She was tricked by the dying Nessus into believing that a love potion could be made from his blood, which she later gives to Heracles poisoning him. Inf. XII, 68.
Diana: Greco-Roman goddess, known as the "virgin goddess."
Cited as an example of sexual abstinence by souls on the terrace of the lustful. Purg. XXV, 130–132.
Dido: Queen of Carthage. In Virgil's Aeneid, she becomes the lover of Aeneas despite a vow of eternal fidelity to her dead husband Sichaeus. Consequently, as "colei, che s' ancise amorosa" (she who killed herself from love"), Dante places her amongst the sexual sinners. Inf. V, 61–2.
Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40 – c. 90): Greek physician and author of a work on the medicinal properties of plants, hence Dante's description of him as "il buono accoglitor del quale"/"the good collector of the qualities".
Fra Dolcino: In 1300 he headed the Apostolic Brothers, a reformist order which, inspired by the example of St. Francis renounced all worldly possessions. He and his followers were condemned as heretics by Clement V, and fled into the hills near Novara. Facing starvation they surrendered and Dolcino was burned at the stake in 1307.
Among the "sowers of dissension", Muhammad, says to Dante: "tell Fra Dolcino to provide himself with food, if he has no desire to join me here quickly". Inf. XXVIII, 22–63.
An eagle appears twice in the Pageant of Church History. It first represents the persecution of the early Church by the Roman Empire. Purg. XXXII, 109–117. Then it returns, representing connection of the Church and Empire starting with the Emperor Constantine I. Purg. XXXII, 124–129.
Used as a reference to the time of day. Dante considered it to be 6 hours ahead of Purgatory. Purg. XXVII, 2–3.
Ecce ancilla Dei: "Behold the handmaid of God." (In the original Vulgate: "Ecce ancilla Domini.") Response of the Virgin Mary to the angel Gabriel when he announced that she would be the mother of Jesus.
Words seen in a wall-carving depicting the Annunciation. It is a visual representation of humility. Purg. X, 44.
Seen in Limbo with "her many comrades". Inf. IV, 121–8.
Elijah and Elisha: Elijah was an Old TestamentBiblicalProphet who ascends into heaven in a chariot of fire, and Elisha was his disciple and chosen successor who witnessed Elijah's ascent. Elisha curses some youths for ridiculing him, who are then eaten by bears (2 KIngs 2:23–24; 11–2)
Elijah's fiery ascent, as witnessed by "he who was avenged by bears" (Elisha), is described. Inf. XXVI, 34–9.
Seen chained in the "Well of the Giants." Inf. XXXI, 82–111.
Epicurus was an Ancient Greek philosopher who was the founder of Epicureanism, one of the most popular schools of Hellenistic Philosophy, which had many followers among Florentine Guibellines. His teaching that the greatest pleasure is merely the absence of pain was viewed as heresy in Dante's day because this greatest good could be attained without reference to a god or an afterlife.
She sent Virgil to the innermost circle of hell not long after his death. Inf. IX, 22–29.
Erinyes: (also known as the Furies). In Greek mythology, they were Alecto, Megaera, and Tisiphone, three female personifications of vengeance.
They appear and threaten Dante with the head of the Medusa. Inf. IX, 34–72.
Erysichthon: Ancient King of Thessaly who cut down a grove of trees sacred to Demeter. Her revenge was to give him insatiable hunger which eventually caused him to consume his own flesh.
Seeing fasting souls in Purgatory on the terrace of the gluttonous, Dante is reminded of Erysichthon's story. Purg. XXIII, 25–27.
Eteocles and Polynices: Mythical sons of Oedipus and Jocasta, they succeeded their father as kings of Thebes. Eteocles' refusal to share the throne led to the war of the Seven against Thebes, in which the two brothers killed each other. Their enmity in life was such that Statius (Thebais XII, 429 ff.) says even the flames of their shared funeral pyre were divided.
The separateness of the flames of Ulysses and Diomedes are compared to their funeral flames. Inf. XXVI, 52–4.
Eunoe: River originating in Terrestrial Paradise which shares a common source with the River Lethe. To drink from the Eunoe is to recall to memory all the good deeds of one's life after losing all memory in the River Lethe.
Not found in classical sources, the Eunoe is a creation of Dante. The word means "good knowledge" in Greek. Purg. XXXIII, 127–145.
Euripides: Greek playwright of the 5th century BCE.
"The city that stood long trial". Inf. XXVI, 43–5.
Fortuna: In Dante's cosmology, a power created by god to "guide the destinies of man on earth" (H. Oelsner, P.H. Wicksteed and T. Okey The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Vol I, p. 79). Inf. VII, 61–96, XV, 91–6.
His capes compared to those of the hypocrites. Inf. XXIII, 66.
His government of Italy viewed favorably. Purg. XVI, 115–120.
Vanni Fucci: Nicknamed Bestia, for his brutality, he was the Illegitimate son of Fuccio de' Lazzari. He took part in the vicious struggles that divided his city Pistoia, siding with the Black Guelphs, repeatedly sacked the houses of his political enemies. In 1293, he stole the reliquary of San Jacopo from the sacristy of the Cathedral of Pistoia, for which crime the innocent Rampino Foresi was arrested and nearly executed, before the guilt of Fucci and his accomplices was discovered.
Among the thieves, like the mythical phoenix, he is burned to ashes and restored. Inf. XXIV, 97–118.
Refers to himself as a "mule" meaning "bastard" ("mul ch'i' fui"). Inf. XXIV, 125.
Prophesies the triumph in Florence of the Black Guelphs over the Whites. Inf. XXIV, 143–151.
Swears against God while performing an obscene gesture (a "fig", the insertion of a thumb between the first and second fingers of a closed fist). Inf. XXV, 1–18.
Guardian of the eighth circle, summoned by Virgil, he is encountered in close association with the usurers. Inf. XVI, 106–36.
"La fiera con la coda aguzza, che passa i monti, e rompe i muri e l'armi! ... colei che tutto 'l mondo appuzza!" ("The beast who bears the pointed tail, who crosses mountains, shatters weapons, walls! … the one whose stench fills all the worlds!"). Inf. XVII, 1–27.
Carries Virgil and Dante on his back. Inf. XVII, 79–136.
Sets down Virgil and Dante in the eighth circle. Inf. XVIII, 19–20.
Before Dante passes through the fire of Purgatory, Virgil reminds him that he was safe even while riding Geryon. Purg. XXVII, 23.
Gideon: Hero of ancient Israel. According to Judges 7:4–7, he selected the best warriors by the way they drank their water.
Cited as examples of temperance and gluttony by a voice hidden in a tree of temptation. Purg. XXIV, 124–126.
According to Medieval legend, when Pope Gregory prayed for the Emperor Trajan, the emperor was raised from the dead and converted to Christianity. Purg. X, 75.
Griffin: Legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.
In the allegorical Pageant of the Church Triumphant, a griffin representing Christ draws a chariot representing the Church. Dante chose a griffin because its two noble natures (lion and eagle) correspond to the two natures (divine and human) of Christ. Purg. XXIX, 106–114.
Among the "falsifiers" of metal (alchemists), sitting with Capocchio, propping each other up, as they frantically scratch at the scabs covering their bodies. Inf. XXIX, 73–99.
He introduces himself. Inf. XXIX, 109–20.
Referred to as "the Aretine", he identifies Schicchi and Myrrha. Inf. XXX, 31–45.
Guelphs and Ghibellines: Factions supporting, respectively, the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire in Italy during the 12th and 13th centuries. After the Guelphs finally defeated the Ghibellines in 1289 at Campaldino and Caprona, (Dante apparently fought for the Guelphs at both), they began to fight among themselves. By 1300, Dante's city, Florence, was "divided" between the Black Guelphs, who continued to support the Papacy, and White Guelphs, Dante's party. That year the Whites defeated the Blacks and forced them out of Florence, however, in 1302, the Blacks, with the help of Pope Boniface VIII, were victorious and the Whites, including Dante, were banished from Florence. Inf. VI, 60–72.
Florence the divided city. Inf. VI, 61.
White Guelphs, party of the woods. Inf. VI, 65.
Black Guelphs, prevail with help of Boniface. Inf. VI, 68–9.
Rivalry. Inf X.
Black and White Guelphs, one after the other, will "hunger" after Dante. Inf. XV, 71–72.
The expulsion of the White Guelphs from Florence is prophesied: "Fiorenza rinnova gente e modi". Inf. XXIV, 143–50.
Guido Guerra (c. 1220–1272): Member of one of the greatest Tuscan families, he was one of the leaders of the Guelph faction in Florence, under whose banners he fought the disastrous battle of Montaperti in 1260. Exiled following the triumph of the Ghibellines, he returned to Florence in 1267 when the Guelphs retook control of the city.
One of a group of three Florentine sodomites who approach Dante, and are much esteemed by him (see Jacopo Rusticucci). Inf. XVI, 1–90.
"In sua vita fece col senno assai e con la spada" ("In his life he did much with the senses and the sword"). Inf. XVI, 37–9.
Dante meets him on the terrace of lustful. Purg. XXIV, 73–135.
Guido da Montefeltro (1223–1298): Renowned leader of the Ghibellines of Romagna. As ruler of Forlì, in 1282, he defeated a French force, which was besieging the city. In 1296 he retired from military life and entered the Franciscan order. Pope Boniface VIII, in 1297, asked his advice on how to capture Palestrina, the impegnable stronghold of the Colonna family, offering in advance papal absolution for any sin his advice might entail. He advised Boniface to promise the Colonnas amnesty, then break it. As a result the Collonas surrendered the fortress and it was razed to the ground. Dante also mentions him in the Convivio, where he curiously extols his piety and sanctity.
Among the fraudulent counsellors. Inf. XXVII, 4–132.
He "made a bloody heap out of the French". Inf. XXVII, 43–5.
Harpies: Monsters from Greek mythology with human female faces on the bodies of birds.
Tormentors of the suicides in the seventh circle, round 2. Their description is derived from Virgil (Aeneid iii, 209 on), which tells how they drove the Trojans from the Strophades. Inf. XII, 10–15 & 101.
Heliodorus: Minister to Seleucus IV, Hellenistic ruler of the Seleucid Empire. According to II Maccabees 3:21–28, he was sent to Jerusalem to plunder the treasury of the Temple, but was turned back by supernatural figures, including a man mounted on a horse.
Cited by souls on the terrace of the greedy as an example of greed. Purg. XX, 113.
Heliotrope stone: Also called bloodstone, is dark green with spots of red. In the Middle Ages the red spots were thought to be the blood of Jesus, and it was believed to have miraculous powers, including making its wearer invisible. Boccaccio writes about it in his Decameron (VIII, 3). Inf. XXIV, 93.
Hellespont: Narrow strait connecting the Black Sea with the Aegean Sea and separating Europe from Asia Minor. In Herodotus' account of the Persian Wars, Xerxes, king of the Persians, spanned the Hellespont with a bridge to invade Greece. When a storm destroyed the bridge, the king ordered his soldiers to flog the waters as punishment.
Dante compares the narrow Lethe River to the narrow Hellespont. Purg. XXVIII, 70–72.
The ancient towns of Abydos and Sestos were on the shores of the Hellespont. Purg. XXVIII, 74.
Henry of England (Arrigo d'Inghilterra): Henry III (1216–1272)
Dante sees him in the "Valley of the Princes," waiting as a late-repenter to enter Purgatory. Purg. VII, 130.
Hera (Juno in Roman mythology): Greek goddess, she is the wife of Zeus (Jupiter). A jealous goddess, she often sought revenge against Zeus' many lovers. One of those was Semele, who was the daughter of Cadmus, King of Thebes and the mother of Dionysus by Zeus. One of Hera's many acts of revenge against Semele, was to cause Athamas, husband of Semele's sister Ino, to be driven mad. Mistaking Ino, holding their two infant sons Learchus and Melicertes, for a lioness and her cubs, he killed Learchus, and Ino still holding Melicertes jumped off a cliff into the sea. (Ovid, Metamorphoses IV, 416–542). Another lover of Zeus, and victim of Hera was Aegina, daughter of the river-god Asopus (see Aegina above).
Her revenge against "Aegina's people". Inf. XXIX, 58–65.
Her (Juno's) revenge against Semeles' "Theban family". Inf. XXX, 1–12.
Icarus: In Greek mythology, the son of the inventor Daedalus. They escaped from imprisonment in Crete using wings of feathers and wax invented by Daedalus. However, Icarus flew too near the sun, the wax melted, and he fell to his death.
Jephthah: Judge in ancient Israel who made a careless vow to offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving for victory in battle and accidentally committed his daughter to that sacrifice. The story appears in Judges 11.
Beatrice cites Jephthah as an example of poor judgment. Par. IV, 64–68.
Jerusalem: Location of the Temple of Solomon and site of Jesus' crucifixion. Considered in the Middle Ages as the geographical center of the inhabited world.
Hell is located directly below Jerusalem. Inf. XXXIV, 112.
Purgatory is a mountain at the antipodes of Jerusalem. Inf. XXXIV, 118–126, Purg. IV, 67—71.
Dante interprets a passage of John's Revelation (17:1–3) as a prophecy on the future corruption of the Roman Curia. Inf. XIX, 106–108.
John's vision (Rev. 4:6–11) of four beasts in the heavenly court draws from a vision of similar beasts by the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1–21). The beasts appear as allegories of the four Gospels in the Pageant of the Church Triumphant. Purg. XXIX, 103–105.
"Kill! Kill!" ("Martira, martira!"): The martyrdom of St. Stephen by an angry mob. He died without anger as he was stoned to death. His last words were a prayer for forgiveness for his enemies. (Acts 7:58–60)
Seen in a vision by Dante as he enters the terrace of the angry in Purgatory. Purg. XV, 106–114.
"Labïa mëa, Domine": Abbreviation of "Domine, labia mea aperies; et os meum annunciabit laudem tuam." ("O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim thy praise.") (Psalm 51:15; Ps 50:15 in the Vulgate.) Verse recited at the beginning of the first monastic prayer office of the day.
Chanted in penitence by souls on the terrace of the gluttonous in Purgatory. Purg. XXIII, 10–12.
Brunetto Latini: Famous Florentine Guelph politician and writer, friend and teacher of Dante till his death in 1294.
Encountered by Dante among the sodomites in the seventh circle. The meeting between Dante and Brunetto is one of the most important in the Inferno, as Brunetto is given the key role of prophesying the future exile of Dante. Dante extols his encyclopaedia, Li Livres dou Tresor, of which Dante has Brunetto say: "Sieti raccomandato il mio Tesoro, nel qual io vivo ancora". Inf. XV, 22–124.
One of a group of figures associated with the history of Troy, Virgil's Aeneid, and the history of Rome encountered by Dante in Limbo. Inf. IV, 121–128; Par. VI, 3.
Dante has a vision of Lavinia mourning for her mother Amata, who committed suicide after inciting a war between the Latins and the Trojans. The vision comes as Dante departs the terrace of the angry in Purgatory. Purg. XVI, 34–39.
Lawrence: Deacon in the Church in Rome, martyred in 258. According to tradition, he was tied to a grate and burned to death.
Beatrice cites Lawrence as an example of a steadfast will. Par. IV, 83.
Leah: Sister to Rachel, first wife of Jacob, and mother of six of the tribes of ancient Israel. She was the less attractive of the two sisters, but Jacob was tricked into marrying her first. (Gen 29:16–25)
In a dream, Dante sees her gathering flowers. Purg. XXVII, 97–108.
Leander: Ancient Greek youth who carried on a love affair with Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, who lived on the opposite shore of the Hellespont. Each night he would swim across the strait to be with her.
Dante compares the Lethe River to the Hellespont, and his desire for Matilda to that of Leander for Hero.
Lethe: One of the rivers of Hades in Greek mythology. To drink its waters is to forget everything. In the Comedy, its source is in Terrestrial Paradise at the top of Purgatory. When it reaches the base of the mountain, it flows down a narrow passageway to the center of the earth.
Its location is asked about and given. Inf. XIV, 130–138.
Probably the little stream Dante hears at the center of the earth. Inf. XXXIV 130–132.
Guido Guinizelli tells Dante that even Lethe will not erase his memory of their conversation. Purg. XXVI, 106–108.
Levi: Son of Jacob and Leah and eponymous forebear of a tribe of ancient Israel. The tribe of Levi was responsible for duties of worship and did not receive a tribal homeland.
Dante refers to the clergy as "Levi's sons." Purg. XVI, 131.
Libra: Constellation of the zodiac. During the events of the Comedy, it would be highest in the sky at about 1 A.M.
Used to indicate the time of day. Purg. XXVII, 3.
Limbo: The first circle of Dante's Hell and the scene of Inf. IV. It is a kind of antechamber in which the souls of the good who died before Jesus spend eternity with no punishment other than the lack of the divine presence. In Dante's version, figures from Classical antiquity significantly outnumber those from the Old Testament.
One of a group of classical poets (see Homer) encountered in Limbo. Inf. IV, 90.
The serpents in the Malebolge comes from his Pharsalia (IX, 710 ff). Inf. XXIV, 85–90.
His description in Pharsalia (IX, 761–804) of the deaths and "transformations" of Sabellus and Nasidiusis is compared with the transformations of the thieves and sinners in the Malebolge. Inf. XXV, 94–96.
Lucca: A Tuscan city of considerable importance in the Middle Ages; generally Guelph, it was traditionally an ally of Florence and an enemy of Pisa.
Dante, through the words of a devil, accuses its magistrates of being all corrupt: "torno ... a quella terra, che n'è ben fornita: ogn'uom v'è barattier, ... del no, per li denar, vi si fa ita" Inf. XXI, 39–42.
Lucia of Syracuse: (Saint Lucy) 4th-century martyr saint associated with light and those, like Dante, who suffered from poor eyesight. She symbolises Illuminating Grace in the poem.
Serves as an intermediary between the "gentle lady" (see Mary) and Beatrice. Inf. II, 97–108.
Lifts Dante in his sleep to the Gate of St. Peter in Purgatory. Purg. IX, 55.
Cited as a reason for the end of Roman monarchy. Par. VI, 41.
Luke: Writer of the third Gospel. Luke includes a story of the resurrected Jesus quietly joining two disciples as they walked the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13–27)
When Statius joins Virgil and Dante as they walked in Purgatory, Dante compares the meeting to the event in Luke. Purg. XXI, 7–13.
Lycurgus: Ancient king of Nemea. According to Statius'sThebaid (V.499–730), Lycurgus received Hypsipyle and her two sons as refugees from Lemnos and put his own son in her care. When she accidentally permitted the Lycurgus' son to die of a snakebite, the enraged king wanted to kill her. Her two sons rushed to her side to protect her.
The "foul tyrant" and "traitor who sees only with one eye", his betrayal of Guido and Angiolello. Inf. XXVIII, 76–90.
Malebolge ("evil-pouches"): The eighth circle of Dante's hell, it contains ten trenches wherein the ten types of "ordinary" fraud are punished.
Encountered. Inf. XVIII.
Described as a funnel consisting of concentric and progressively lower ditches. Inf. XXIV, 34–40.
Its "final cloister" filled with "lay brothers". Inf. XXIX, 40–2.
Malebranche ("evil-claws"): In the Inferno, it is the name of a group of demons in the fifth pouch of the Malebolge. They are led by Malacoda ("evil-tail"), who assigns ten of his demons to escort Dante: Alichino, Calcabrina, Cagnazzo ("big dog"), Barbariccia (leads the ten), Libicocco, Draghignazzo, Ciriatto, Graffiacane ("dog-scratcher") Farfarello and Rubicante. Another Malebranche is Scarmiglione.
Encountered. Inf. XXI, 29–XXIII, 56.
A demon is described plunging a barrator into a boiling lake of pitch and returning to Lucca "for more". Inf. XXI, 29–46.
Their using prongs to keep the sinner submerged is compared to cooking meat in a pot. Inf. XXI, 55–57.
The demons escort Dante, guarding the shore as they go. A sinner is dragged ashore, attacked by the demons and is questioned but escapes, and two demons fight and fall into the boiling pitch. Inf. XXII, 13–151.
Dante and Virgil escape their pursuit. Inf. XXIII 13–56.
Her call for more wine at the marriage at Cana (John 2:3) was for decorum and not because she wanted more wine. Lesson in temperance heard spoken from the tree on the terrace of the gluttonous. Purg. XXII, 142–144.
Cited as an example in sexual abstinence by souls on the terrace of the lustful. Purg. XXV, 128.
Guido Reni's archangel Michael (in the Capuchin church of Sta. Maria della Concezione, Rome) trampling Satan
Depicted as an example of arrogance in a wall carving in Purgatory. Purg. X, 68.
Midas: legendary Phrygian king who greedy asked that all he touched be turned to gold.
Cited by souls in the terrace of the greedy as an example of the tragedy of greed. Purg. XX, 103–105.
Minerva: Roman goddess of wisdom, equivalent to the Greek goddess Athena.
Minos: A semi-legendary king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. In The Divine Comedy, he sits at the entrance to the second circle in the Inferno, which is the beginning of Hell proper. Here, he judges the sins of each dead soul and assigns it to its rightful punishment by indicating the circle to which it must descend. He does this by circling his tail around his body the appropriate number of times.
Encountered by Dante. Inf. V, 4–24.
Sends suicides to their appointed punishments. Inf. XIII, 96.
Chanted by souls waiting to enter Purgatory. Purg. V, 24.
"Modicum, et non videbitis me; et iterum, modicum, vos videbitis me." ("In a little while, you will not see me; and in a little while, you will see me again.") Spoken by Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper. John 16:16.
Quoted by Beatrice before her departure with Dante into Paradise.
Nicholas: Saint and Bishop of Myra in the 4th century CE. One legend about Nicholas is that he rescued three young poor girls from a life of prostitution by a secret gift of dowries.
Cited by Hugh Capet, who is repenting the terrace of the greedy, as an example of generosity. Purg. XX, 31–33.
Pope Nicholas III (c. 1220–1280): Born Giovanni Gaetano Orsini from an eminent Roman family, he was made cardinal by Innocent IV and became pope in 1277, where he distinguished himself for his ability as a politician.
An Eagle ("the Bird of Jove") attacks the Chariot (the Church), representing the persecutions of Christians by various Roman Emperors. Purg. XXXII, 109–117.
A malnourished Fox, representing the various early heresies of the Church, leaps onto the Chariot until it is chased away by "my Lady." Purg. XXXII, 118–123.
The eagle returns and covers the chariot with its feathers, representing the alliance of Church and Roman Empire beginning with the Emperor Constantine I. Purg. XXXII, 124–129.
A dragon cuts the chariot in half with its tail and drags away half, representing the Islamic conquests during the early centuries of Islam. Purg. XXXII, 130–135.
The chariot is covered and choked with weeds, representing the institutional corruptions of the church and the confusion of temporal and spiritual authorities. Purg. XXXII, 136–141.
A harlot appears in the chariot, accompanied by an amorous giant. The harlot, an allusion to Revelation 17, represents the corrupted church, while the giant represents Philip IV of France, who removed the papacy from Rome to Avignon in France in 1307. Purg. XXXII, 142–160.
Pageant of the Church Triumphant: Elaborate allegorical representation of the Church Triumphant which Dante witnesses in Purgatory. Purg. XXIX & XXX.
Twenty-four elders dressed in white, representing the 24 books of the Old Testament. Purg. XXIX, 82–87.
Four beasts with multiple wings and eyes (Lion, Ox, Eagle, & Angel), representing the four Gospels. Ancient tradition associates the four beasts seen in the visions of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:4–14) and John (Revelation 4:6–8) to the four Gospels. Purg. XXIX, 88–105.
A Griffin drawing a chariot, representing Christ leading the Church. Purg. XXIX, 106–114.
"la porta di San Pietro" ("the gateway of Saint Peter"). Inf. I, 133.
In contrast to the Simoniacs, he paid no gold, to become head of the church, nor did he ask for any from Saint Matthias to make him an apostle. Inf. XIX, 90–96.
Souls in Purgatory call on Peter to pray for them. Purg. XIII, 51.
Par XXIV, Dante's "Examination of Faith" by St. Peter; his presence first described by Beatrice: "And she: 'O eternal light of the great man/ To whom Our Lord entrusted the same keys/ Of wondrous gladness that he brought below'." (trans. by Cotter, ln. 34–36).
St. Peter's Pine Cone: A colossal bronze pine cone cast in the 1st or 2nd century CE in Rome. Originally located in the Campus Martius, it is now located in a courtyard in the Vatican Museum.
Dante compares it to the dimensions of Nimrod's head. Inf. XXXI, 59.
Phaëton: In Greek mythology, the son of Helios, the sun god. To prove his paternity, he asked his father to allow him to drive the chariot of the sun for one day. Unable to control the horses, Phaëton almost destroyed the earth, but was killed by Zeus.
Used as a simile for fear in Inf. XVII, 106–108.
Used as a reference to the sun. Purg. IV, 73.
Philip IV of France (1268–1314): King from 1285, his reign is memorable for many reasons. In particular he is famous for having shattered the temporal ambitions of the popes.
Probably an allusion to the accusation that Clement V had got his pontificate by promising to pay Philip. Inf. XIX, 87.
Pia de' Tolomei: A Sienese woman allegedly murdered by her husband, Paganello de' Pannocchieschi, who had her thrown from a window in Maremma.
She asks for Dante's prayers when he encounters her waiting to enter Purgatory among souls who died suddenly and unprepared. "Son Pia, Siena mi fé, disfecemi Maremma." ("I am Pia. Siena made me; Maremma unmade me.") Purg. V, 130–136.
Pisistratus: Athenian tyrant of the 6th century BCE. His wife angrily demanded the life of a young man seen embracing their daughter in public. Pisistratus refused to succumb to anger and gives a mild reply.
Seen by Dante in a vision as he enters the terrace of the angry in Purgatory. Purg. XV, 94–105.
Pistoia: A Tuscan town which in Dante's time had lost much of its autonomy, becoming a sort of Florentine dependency.
Plutus: In Greek mythology, he was the personification of wealth. Dante almost certainly conflated him with Pluto, the Roman god of the Underworld. He is found in the fourth circle of Dante's hell, in which the greedy and prodigal are punished. Inf. VII, 1–15.
Polyxena: Trojan daughter of Priam and Hecuba. In some accounts, Achilles fell in love with her, and was killed while visiting her. At the demand of Achilles' ghost, Polyxena is sacrificed on Achilles' tomb.
With whom "Achilles finally met love—in his last battle". Inf. V, 65.
Her death helps drive Hecuba mad with fury. Inf. XXX, 16–18.
Pompey: Pompey "the Great" (106 BCE - 48 BCE). Famous patrician Roman general.
Cited as a virtuous Roman in the days of the Roman Republic. Par. VI, 52.
Puccio Sciancato: Of the noble Ghibelline Florentine Galigai family, he was exiled in 1268 after the Guelphs' triumph, but accepted the peace brokered in 1280 by Cardinal Latino to reconcile the factions. He was nicknamed Sciancato ("lame").
Among the thieves. Inf. XXV, 148–150.
Pygmalion: Ancient King of Tyre. He murdered his uncle and brother-in-law to obtain their wealth.
Remembered as an example of greed by souls in the terrace of the greedy. Purg. XX, 103–105.
"Qui lugent": ("Who mourn") An abbreviation of "Beati qui lugent quoniam ipsi consolabuntur." ("Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted") (Mat 5:4; 5:5 in the Vulgate)
Spoken by an angel as Dante passes out of the terrace of the slothful. Purg. XIX, 50.
Quintius: Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus (520–430 BCE). Ancient Roman noble who assumed dictatorial powers in a crisis and then promptly relinquished them to return to his farm. The city of Cincinnati, Ohio, is named in his honor.
Cited as an exemplar of ancient Roman virtue. Par. VI, 46–47.
Rachel: Sister to Leah, second wife of Jacob, and mother of six of the tribes of ancient Israel, including Joseph and Benjamin. She was the more attractive of the two sisters, but Jacob was tricked into marrying her second. (Gen 29:16–25) She symbolises the contemplative life in the Comedy.
In a dream, Dante hears Leah mention her beautiful sister. Purg. XXVII, 103–108.
Rehoboam: King of ancient Israel. He was the son of Solomon and succeeded him on the throne. Because of his oppressive taxation, the northern tribes revolted and formed an independent kingdom.
Depicted on the pavement in Purgatory as example of arrogance. Purg. XII, 46.
"Rejoice, you who have overcome." ("Godi tu che vinci!"): A paraphrase combining "Rejoice and be exceeding glad," (Mat 5:12) with "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life" (Rev 2:7).
Heard by Dante in Purgatory as he departs the terrace of the envious. Purg. XV, 39.
Dante sees him in the "Valley of the Princes," waiting to enter Purgatory. Rudolph is described as "he who neglected that which he ought to have done", perhaps a reference to his failure to come to Italy to be crowned Emperor by the Pope. Purg. VII, 91–96.
One of a group of famous political Florentines, "who were so worthy … whose minds bent toward the good", asked about by Dante of Ciacco. Inf. VI, 77–81.
One of a group of three Florentine sodomites who approach Dante, and are much esteemed by him. Inf. XVI, 1–90.
Blames his wife for his sin: '"e certo fu la fiera moglie più ch'altro mi nuoce". Inf. XVI, 43–5.
Questions Dante about Borsiere's reports of the moral decay of Florence, which have caused great anguish for him and his companions. Inf. XVI, 66–72.
Represents (with the other two sodomites) past civic virtue, providing an opportunity for Dante to rail against "La gente nuova e i sùbiti guadagni" ("newcomers and quick gains"), as the cause of Florentine decadence. Inf. XVI, 73–5.
Sabellus and Nasidius: Two soldiers of Cato's army in Lucan's poem Pharsalia (IX, 761–804), who are bitten by snakes, while marching in the Libyan Desert, after which their bodies "transform". Sabellus' transforms into a rotting formless mass; Nasidius' swells, then bursts.
Their cruel fate is compared to that of the thieves. Inf. XXV, 94–95.
Sabine Women: Young women abducted by Roman youths in the early days of Rome. Par. VI, 41.
Saladin: 12th-century Muslim leader renowned for his military prowess, generosity, and merciful attitude to his opponents during the Crusades.
Damned among the soothsayers. Of him it is said "che veramente de le magiche frode seppe 'l gioco". Inf. XX, 115–117.
Second Punic War: The second of the wars fought between Carthage and Rome (219–202). According to Livy, Hannibal sent to Carthage "a pile" of gold rings from the fingers of thousands of slaughtered Romans.
"The long war where massive mounds of rings were battle spoils". Inf. XXVIII, 10–12.
Leisurely floating on ones back in this river is contrasted, by the Malebranche, with the different kind of swimming by the barrators in the lake of boiling pitch. Inf. XXI, 49.
Seven Deadly Sins: A list developed by Christian moralists of the principal vices. They include Pride (superbia), Greed (avaritia), Lust (luxuria), Envy (invidia), Gluttony (gula), Anger (ira), and Sloth (acedia).
Dante's Purgatory is structured in seven levels where souls are purged of these vices before entering Paradise. Virgil explains them in order of ascent.
Pride is "hope of excellence through the abasement of another." Purg. XVII, 115–117.
Envy is "love of misfortune" of another when the other excels. Purg. XVII, 118–120.
Anger is "seeking another's harm" after being injured by another. Purg. XVII, 121–123.
Sloth is love for the Good which is "slack." Purg. XVII, 130–132.
Greed, Gluttony & Lust are "excessive self-abandonment" (troppo s'abbandona) to the lesser goods of possessions, food & drink, and sexual desire. Purg. XVII, 136–139.
Shepherd: reference to the Pope as chief shepherd of the Christian flock.
Criticized for failure to distinguish spiritual and secular powers. He can "chew the cud" (has wisdom) but does not "have cleft hooves" (have both spiritual and temporal authorities). See Lev 11:3. Purg. XVI, 98–99. He also has "joined the sword to the shepherd's crook." Purg. XVI, 109–110.
Sichaeus: First husband of Dido and ruler of Tyre, he was murdered by Dido's brother.
It is remembered that Dido "ruppe fede al cener di Sicheo". Inf. V, 62.
Sicilian bull: A brazen figure of a bull used as an instrument of torture. The echoing screams of its victims, roasting inside, were thought to imitate the bellowing of a bull. It was created by Perillus for the tyrant Phalaris. Its creator was also its first victim.
It "would always bellow with its victims voice". Inf. XXVII, 7–12.
Silvester I: A saint, he was Pope from 314 to 335. In the Middle Ages, supported by a forged document called the "Donation of Constantine", it was believed that he had baptized Constantine and cured him of leprosy, and as a result, that he and his successors had been granted rule over Rome and the Western Roman Empire. For Dante, this event was the beginning of the ever increasing worldly wealth and power of the papacy, and the corruption that went along with it.
"The first rich father!" Inf. XIX, 117.
Guido da Montefeltro compares Silvester being sought by Constantine to cure his leprosy, with himself being sought by Boniface to "ease the fever of his arrogance". Inf. XXVII, 94–95.
Simony: Sin of selling or paying for offices or positions in the church hierarchy (cf. barratry).
One of the sins of ordinary fraud punished in the eighth circle. Inf. XI, 59.
Dante arrives in the 3rd Bolgia of the eighth circle where the Simoniacs are set upside-down in rock pits, with their exposed feet in flames. Inf. XIX, 1–117.
Siren: Seductive chimera, half-woman and half-bird, who lures sailors to shipwreck on rocks with her singing.
Appears to Dante in a dream. Purg. XIX, 7–33.
Beatrice tell Dante that other women are sirens on his spiritual journey. Purg. XXXI, 44.
"Sitiunt": ("They thirst.") Abbreviation of "Beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt iustitiam quoniam ipsi saturabuntur." ("Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.") One of the Beatitudes preached by Jesus in Matthew 5.
Heard by Dante as he departed the terrace of the greedy in Purgatory. Purg. XXII, 6.
Terrestrial Paradise: According to the Comedy, Terrestrial Paradise is the Garden of Eden where the original man and woman first lived. (Gen 2 & 3) It is located at the top of the mountain of Purgatory. The events of Cantos XXVIII through XXXIII in the Purgatorio take place there.
Seen chained in the "Well of the Giants". Inf. XXXI, 124.
Tobit: Protagonist of the ancient Jewish book of the same name. Tobit is conducted on a journey by the Archangel Raphael.
Beatrice tells Dante that Raphael may have appeared in human form, but that this form is an accommodation to the limits of the human imagination. Par. IV, 48.
Tomyris: Queen of the Massagetae in the 6th century BCE. According to Herodotus, Cyrus the Great led a failed invasion of her lands. After his defeat and death in battle, Tomyris plunged his severed head into a wineskin filled with blood.
Cyrus' death is depicted on the pavement in Purgatory as an example of arrogance. Purg. XII, 56.
Torquatus: Titus Manlius Torquatus, Consul and Dictator in Rome during the 4th century, BCE.
Cited as an example of the noble Roman. Par. VI, 46.
Tours: City in France. Pope Martin IV was treasurer of the church there when he was elected pope in 1281.
Trajan: Roman Emperor (98–117) at the height of the Empire. According to Medieval legend, he was posthumously converted to Christianity by Pope Gregory the Great.
Appears depicted in a wall carving as an exemplar of humility, granting justice to a widow. Purg. X, 73–93.
Troy: Also called Ilium, the site of the Trojan War, described in Homer's Iliad, and the home of Aeneas. The Greeks were victorious by means of the wooden Trojan Horse, which the Greeks left as a "gift" for the Trojans. The Trojans brought the horse through the gates into their walled city, and the Greek soldiers who had hid inside the horse were able to open the gates and let in the rest of the Greek army.
Aeneas' escape. Inf. I, 73.
"That horse's fraud that caused a breach". Inf. XXVI, 58–60.
Trojan (meaning perhaps, through Aeneas, their Samnite descendants) wars in Apulia. Inf. XXVIII, 7–9.
The "pride of Troy … dared all" but "was destroyed". Inf. XXX, 13–15.
Destruction of Troy depicted on the pavement in Purgatory as an example of arrogance. Purg. XII, 61.
Turnus: A chieftain of the Rutuli whose conflict with Aeneas is the subject of the second half of the Aeneid, at the end of which he was killed by Aeneas in single combat (Aeneid II, 919) — one of those who "died for Italy". Inf. I, 106–108.
Ugolino della Gherardesca: Leader of one of two competing Guelph factions in Pisa. In 1288 he conspired with the Archbishop Ruggiere degli Ubaldini to oust the leader of the other faction, his grandson Nino de' Visconti. Ugolino was, in turn, betrayed by Ruggiere and imprisoned with several of his sons and grandsons. They all died of starvation in prison.
Found with Ruggiere amongst those damned for treason. Inf. XXXII, 124–XXXIII 90.
Usury: The practice of charging a fee for the use of money; viewed by the medieval church as a sin because it went contrary to the idea that wealth is based on natural increase, which was believed to be a gift from God.
Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro) (October 15, 70 – 19 BCE): Latin poet. He serves as Dante's guide through the Inferno and Purgatorio. In the absence of texts of Homer, the readers in the Middle Ages considered Virgil's Aeneid to be the great epic poem of the Classical world. In Dante's time, many believed that Virgil had predicted the arrival of Christianity in lines from his Eclogue IV: "at the boy's birth in whom/the iron shall cease, the golden race arise" (trans John Dryden). This made him doubly suited to his role as guide. He also symbolises Reason. Virgil accompanies Dante from Inf. I, 61 to Purg. XXX, 54.
Sudden appearance. Inf. I, 61–3
The "light and honor of all other poets" (Mandelbaum). Inf. I, 82
Dante's inspiration. Inf. I, 85–87
Offers to be Dante's guide. Inf. I, 112–4
In Purgatory, the poet Statius claims that Virgil's Aeneid was his poetic inspiration. It was my "mother" and my "nurse." Purg. XXI, 97–98.
In a story created by Dante, Statius relates how reading Virgil's Eclogue IV helped to convert him to Christianity. "Per te poeta fui, per te cristiano." ("Through you I became a poet; through you a Christian.") There is no evidence that Statius was a Christian. Purg. XXII, 64–93.
Departs from Dante without saying farewell. Purg. XXX, 49–54.
Michel Zanche (d. 1290): Governor of the giudicato of Logudoro, in Sardinia. He administered the province for King Enzo, son of the Emperor Frederick II. When Enzo was made prisoner in 1249, his wife divorced and married Zanche. The latter ruled Logudoro till 1290, when he was murdered by his son-in-law Branca Doria.
Defied by Capaneus, he kills him with a thunderbolt Inf XIV, 43–75.
An Eagle ("the bird of Jove"), representing the Roman Empire, attacks the young Church in the Pageant of Church History. Purg. XXXII, 109–117.
Saint Zita (c. 1215–1272): Canonized in 1696, she is the Patron saint of all maids and domestics. In her city, Lucca, she was already, in life, an object of popular devotion and reputed a saint. In Dante's time, her fame had already made her a sort of patron saint of her city. The Elders of Saint Zita were ten citizens of Lucca who, along with the chief magistrate, were the rulers of the city.
An "elder of Saint Zita" (perhaps Bottario) is plunged into a lake of boiling pitch with the barrators. Inf. XXI, 35–54.
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Inferno, translated by Allen Mandelbaum, (Bantam Classics 1982) ISBN 0-553-21339-3.
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, bilingual edition with commentaries and notes, J. A. Carlyle, P.H. Wicksteed and T. Okey (translators), H. Oelsner, (notes), Temple Classics, 3 vols. 1899–1901. Republished by Vintage (July 12, 1955). ISBN 0-394-70126-7.
The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, translated by Henry F. Cary. The Harvard Classics. Vol. XX. (New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14). Also: Kessinger Publishing (January 2004). ISBN 0-7661-8184-7.
The Inferno, bilingual edition with commentaries and notes, translated by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Doubleday, 2000). ISBN 0-385-49697-4.