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Three Deserving Of Dante’s Hell Essay

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Updated: Sep 5th, 2021

The Divina Commedia is foreshadowed in the promise to the memory of Beatrice at the end of the Vita Nuova. It was completed only a few months before Dante died. “It is a n allegory of human life in the form of a vision in which Dante is led by Virgil (philosophy based on reason) through Hell and Purgatory to the Earthly Paradise (tempered felicity and spiritual liberty, where he is met by Beatrice (wisdom revealed to man) who guides him through Paradise to an experience of eternity and the anticipation of the Beatric vision (Groiler Encyclopedia: p. 22).

“In their journey through Hell, Virgil and Dante stop in the Eighth Pouch of Eight Circle where Dante speaks to Ulysses, the great hero of Homer’s epic, now doomed to an eternity among those guilty of spiritual theft (the false counselors) for his role in executing the ruse of the Trojan Horse” .

When it was clear to the Greeks that unless they could get their army into the city and take the Trojans by surprise, they would never conquer. The stratagem of the wooden horse was a creation of Ulysses. He did not overlook anything and the result was the total destruction of Troy. The attack was carried on at night and the result was butchery on both sides. When morning came, what had been the proudest city in Asia was a fiery ruin. Considering the destruction, the loss of human lives and the reduction to slavery of even the Trojan Royalty, aside from the fact that the attack was done in stealth to a sleeping civilian population, Ulysses was largely to blame and deserves to be consigned to Dante’s Hell.

“Chief among the captives was the old Queen Hecuba. For her, all was ended…’What sorrow is there that is not mine?’” (Hamilton: p. 200)

There are at least two other characters in the Iliad worthy of examination in Dante’s Divine Comedy; namely, Paris and Achilles. The inclusion of Paris is credible, but it is hard to believe this of Ulysses and Achilles since they are regarded as great heroes of the Trojan war.

The foolish judgment of Paris caused the Trojan War. He was the Trojan prince deemed by Zeus as an excellent judge of beauty. The three goddesses, Aphrodite, Hera and Athena appeared to Paris and bade him to choose who among them deserved the golden apple marked “to the fairest”. Each goddess offered a bribe: Hera promised to make him Lord of Europe and Asia; Athena, victory against the Greeks; and Aphrodite promised Helen, the fairest woman of all.

At that time, he was living with Oenone, a lovely nymph, but he chose Aphrodite. The latter led him to Sparta where Menelaus and Helen, his Queen lived The royal pair received him graciously. In Ancient Greece, ties between host and guest were strong, but Paris broke that sacred bond by carrying Helen away.

Later on, when Paris was wounded in battle, he begged to be taken to Oenone who could cure him, but she refused. “His desertion of her and his long forgetfulness could not be forgiven. She watched him die, then went away and killed herself.” (Hamilton: p. 195). Paris deserved it for he was a weakling, faithless and cowardly.

Troy did not fall because Paris was dead. He was, indeed, no great loss. In Dante’s Inferno, he must have been consigned to Ptolomea, the third ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell and the lowest depth for betraying his benefactors. There he would spend Eternity in icy submersion, lying on their backs in a frozen lake, their tears making blocks of ice over their eyes.

Lastly, we have Achilles, Champion of the Greeks. Both he and Hector, Champion of the Trojans were predicted to die before the end of the Trojan War. For nine years, victory wavered, now to the Greeks, now to the Trojans. Then a quarrel flared up between two Greeks – Agamemnon and Achilles and for a time, the tide turned in favor of the Trojans. A woman was the reason. Chryseis, daughter of Apollo’s priest whom the Greeks had carried off and given to Agamemnon. When her father tried to retrieve her, Agamemnon refused to let her go. Her father prayed to Apollo who replied by sending a pestilence down upon the Greeks. Agamemnon was obliged ot agree but he threatened that if he lost Chryseis, he must have another in her stead. When Agamemnon took the maiden Briseis away from Achilles in place of Chrysseis, Achilles swore that Agamemnon would pay dearly for his deed. The war by now had reached Olympus – the gods were ranged against each other.

Zeus’ plan was simple. He knew that the Greeks were helpless without Achilles. He sent a lying dream to Agamemnon promising him victory if he attacked. While Achilles stayed in his tent, a fierce battle followed which went hard with the Greeks. Their great champion was far away. Achilles sat alone in his tent, brooding over his wrongs. In battle, the great Trojan champion, Hector never before shown himself to be so brilliant and so brave. Agamemnon relented and promised to appease Achilles, but the Greeks received an absolute refusal. The battle came to a point when Patroclus, best friend of Achilles told him: “You can keep your wrath while your countrymen go down in ruin.” Still Achilles was not swayed.

So Patroclus took the armor of Achilles and fought as gloriously as Achilles would have, but lost his life thereby. Hector’s spear gave him a mortal wound and his soul fled from his body down to Hades. Achilles declared: “I who did not help my comrade in his sore need, will kill the destroyer of him I loved.” And true to his word, he died. He pierced the feet of Hector whom he killed and fastened them with thongs to the back of his chariot, letting the head trail. Then he lashed his horses and around the walls of Troy, he dragged all that was left of glorious Hector until his soul was satisfied with vengeance.

Up in Olympus there was dissension. The abuse of the dead displeased all the immortals. The aged King Priam went to Achilles’ tent to plead for the body of his son and grief stirred in the heart of Achilles as he granted the request of an old father. He bade his servants wash and cover Hector’s body, so Priam should not see it , mangled as it was and be unable to keep back his wrath.

Achilles feared for his own self-control if Priam vexed him. However, he gave in to Priam and proclaimed a nine-day truce to allow a decent funeral for Hector. In the Inferno, a deep valley leads into the first ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell where those who were violent toward others spend eternity in a river of boiling blood. Surely Achilles paid for the anger he displayed on earth.

“The aim of Dante in the Divine Comedy was to set forth certain truths in such wise as to affect the imaginations and touch the hearts of men, so that they should turn to righteousness. His conviction of these truths was no mere matter of belief; it had the ardor and certainty of faith.”

Works Cited

  1. Groiler Encyclopedia, Groiler Inc., 1961
  2. Hamilton, E., Mythology. New York: The New American Library, 1942.
  3. Norton, C.E., “Dante’s Inferno by Dante Alighieri”.
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