Dante reaches the sixth circle of Hell and comes upon the heretics, and when he travels further, he encounters the circle where chaos stirs. In this article, you will learn more about the sixth and seventh circle of Hell, which deals with heresy and violence.
Sixth Circle (Heresy)
Trapped in flaming tombs, heretics are found in the sixth circle. In the poem, Dante has a conversation with a pair of Epicurian Florentines who are found in one of the tombs. The first is named Farinata degli Uberti, who is a Ghibelline (a religious figure who is condemned for heresy in 1283 after his death). The second figure is Cavalcante de Cavalcanti (a Guelph), who is the father of one of Dante’s friends and fellow poet, Guido. Due to the political ties of both men, Dante is able to engage in a discussion centered on Florentine politics.
Dante questions the ‘prophecy’ he has received during his journey and Farinata tells him that what the souls in Hell know of life on earth originates from being able to see the future, but they are unable to see the present time. When “the portal of the future has been shut,” the souls will no longer be able to know anything.
Next, Dante is on his way to the seventh circle with Virgil, who explains the geography and rationale of Lower Hell , the place where the violent and malicious sins are punished. It is explained at this time that the only two legitimate methods of obtaining wealth is with “natural resources and human activity.” The closer they get, the fouler the smell becomes.
Seventh Circle (Violence)
The violent are sent to the seventh circle. The entrance to this circle is watched over by the Minotaur , a creature that possesses the body of a man with the head of a bull. This particular circle is divided into three different rings.
The outer ring is where the souls of people are sent , those who have committed violent acts people and property. A river called Phlegethon is filled with boiling blood and fire that is matched with their sins. It is here that Dante notices Alexander the Great is immersed up to his eyebrows. The Centaurs, who are guided by Chiron, patrol the ring. If anyone dares to escape, arrows are fired at him or her. The poets navigate their way along Phlegethon with the help of a centaur named Nessus. He leads them across a ford in the river.
In the middle ring, people are sent when they have committed violence against themselves in the form of suicide. They are turned into thorny bushes and trees, which the Harpies (winged spirits) feed on. Among the dead, these souls are different because their body will not be resurrected after the final judgment since they chose to give their bodies away during their suicide. They will stay in their bushy form and to make matters worse, their own corpses hang from the limbs. When Dante snaps a twig off of a bush, the branch begins to bleed. He is able to hear the tale of Pier delle Vigne, who committed suicide after he was no longer liked by Emperor Frederick II. The inner ring is also where profligates (those who have destroyed their lives by being destruction to the sustaining means of life, such as money and property. Through the thorny undergrowth, vicious dogs give chase.
The inner ring is set aside for blasphemers , those who have been violent against God. People who have been violent against nature (sodomites) are also sent to this level of the seventh circle. The setting is similar to a desert with flaming sand and flakes made out of fire that rain from the sky. The blasphemers are positioned on the sand, while the sodomites roam about in groups. Dante speaks with two Florentine sodomites that belong to different groups. One is a mentor of Dante, while the other is a politician who believes his fate is because of his spouse.