|| ||||| ||| |||| |
Everything that you desire exists here. In most religious traditions, Hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife, often in the underworld. Religions with a linear history often depict Hell as endless. But in fact Hell.com is the destination of desire, the home of temptation. Without desire there is no hope and without temptation there is no passion.
Religions with a cyclic history often depict Hell as an intermediary period between incarnations (for example, see Chinese Diyu). Punishment in Hell typically corresponds to sins committed in life. Sometimes these distinctions are specific, with damned souls suffering for each wrong committed (see for example Plato's myth of Er or Dante's The Divine Comedy), and sometimes they are general, with sinners being relegated to one or more chamber of Hell or level of suffering. In Islam and Christianity, however, faith and repentance play a larger role than actions in determining a soul's afterlife destiny. In Christianity and Islam, Hell is traditionally depicted as fiery and painful, inflicting guilt and suffering. Some other traditions, however, portray Hell as cold and gloomy. Despite the common depictions of Hell as a fire, Dante's Inferno portrays the innermost (9th) circle of Hell as a frozen lake of blood and guilt. Hell is often portrayed as populated with demons, who torment the damned. Many are ruled by a death god, such as Nergal or the Christian/Islamic Devil. In contrast to Hell, other types of afterlives are abodes of the dead and paradises. Abodes of the dead are neutral places for all the dead (for example, see sheol) rather than prisons of punishment for sinners. A paradise is a happy afterlife for some or all the dead (for example, see heaven). Modern understandings of Hell often depict it abstractly, as a state of loss rather than as fiery torture literally underground. Contents [hide] The modern English word Hell is derived from Old English hel, helle (about 725 AD to refer to a nether world of the dead) reaching into the Anglo-Saxon pagan period, and ultimately from Proto-Germanic *halja, meaning "one who covers up or hides something". The word has cognates in related Germanic languages such as Old Frisian helle, hille, Old Saxon hellja, Middle Dutch helle (modern Dutch hel), Old High German helle (Modern German Hölle), Norwegian and Swedish helvete (hel + Old Norse vitti, "punishment"), and Gothic halja. Subsequently, the word was used to transfer a pagan concept to Christian theology and its vocabulary (however, for the Judeo-Christian origin of the concept see Gehenna). The English word hell has been theorized as being derived from Old Norse hel. Among other sources, the Poetic Edda, compiled from earlier traditional sources in the 13th century, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson, provide information regarding the beliefs of the Norse pagans, including a being named Hel, who is described as ruling over an underworld location of the same name. Religion, mythology, and folklore Unbalanced scales.svg The neutrality of this section is disputed. Please see the discussion on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved. (October 2008) A vision of Hell from Dante s Divine Comedy. Illustration by Gustave Doré. Hell appears in several mythologies and religions. It is commonly inhabited by demons and the souls of dead people. Hell is often depicted in art and literature, perhaps most famously in Dante's Divine Comedy. Polytheism Ancient Egypt With the rise of the cult of Osiris during the Middle Kingdom the democratization of religion offered to even his most humblest followers the prospect of eternal life, with moral fitness becoming the dominant factor in determining a persons suitability. At death a person faced judgment by a tribunal of forty-two divine judges. If they led a life in conformance with the precepts of the Goddess Maat, who represented truth and right living, the person was welcomed into the Two Fields. If found guilty the person was thrown to a devourer and didn't share in eternal life. The person who is taken by the devourer is subject first to terrifying punishment and then annihilated. These depictions of punishment may have influenced medieval perceptions of the inferno in hell via early Christian and Coptic texts. Purification for those who are considered justified may be found in the descriptions of Flame Island , where they experience the triumph over evil and rebirth. For the dammed complete destruction into a state of non being awaits but there is no suggestion of eternal torture. Divine pardon at judgement was always a central concern for the Ancient Egyptians. Greek Main article: Tartarus In classic Greek mythology, below Heaven, Earth, and Pontus is Tartarus, or Tartaros (Greek ¤¬ÁÄ±Á¿Â, deep place). It is either a deep, gloomy place, a pit or abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering that resides within Hades (the entire underworld) with Tartarus being the hellish component. In the Gorgias, Plato (c. 400 BC) wrote that souls were judged after death and those who received punishment were sent to Tartarus. As a place of punishment, it can be considered a hell. The classic Hades, on the other hand, is more similar to Old Testament Sheol. European The hells of Europe include Breton Mythology's Anaon , Celtic Mythology's Uffern , Slavic mythology's "Peklo", the hell of Lapps Mythology and Ugarian Mythology's Manala that leads to annihilation. The hells in the Middle East include Sumerian Mythology's Aralu ; the hells of Canaanite Mythology, Hittite Mythology and Mithraism; the weighing of the heart in Egyptian Mythology can lead to annihilation. The hells of Asia include Bagobo Mythology's Gimokodan and Ancient Indian Mythology's Kalichi". African hells include Haida Mythology's Hetgwauge and the hell of Swahili Mythology. The hells of the Americas include Aztec Mythology's Mictlan , Inuit mythology's Adlivun and Yanomamo Mythology's Shobari Waka . The Oceanic hells include Samoan Mythology's O le nu'u-o-nonoa and the hells of Bangka Mythology and Caroline Islands Mythology. American In Maya mythology , Xibalbá is the dangerous underworld of nine levels ruled by the demons Vucub Caquix and Hun Came. The road into and out of it is said to be steep, thorny and very forbidding. Metnal is the lowest and most horrible of the nine Hells of the underworld, ruled by Ah Puch. Ritual healers would intone healing prayers banishing diseases to Metnal. Much of the Popol Vuh describes the adventures of the Maya Hero Twins in their cunning struggle with the evil lords of Xibalbá. The Aztecs believed that the dead traveled to Mictlán, a neutral place found far to the north. There was also a legend of a place of white flowers, which was always dark, and was home to the gods of death, particularly Mictlantecutli and his spouse Mictlantecihuatl, which means literally "lords of Mictlán". The journey to Mictlán took four years, and the travelers had to overcome difficult tests, such as passing a mountain range where the mountains crashed into each other, a field where the wind carried flesh-scraping knives, and a river of blood with fearsome jaguars. Abrahamic Judaism Question book-new.svg This section does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (November 2009) Daniel 12:2 proclaims "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt." Judaism does not have a specific doctrine about the afterlife, but it does have a mystical/Orthodox tradition of describing Gehenna. Gehenna is not Hell, but rather a sort of Purgatory where one is judged based on his or her life's deeds, or rather, where one becomes fully aware of one's own shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. The Kabbalah explains it as a "waiting room" (commonly translated as an "entry way") for all souls (not just the wicked). The overwhelming majority of rabbinic thought maintains that people are not in Gehenna forever; the longest that one can be there is said to be 11 months, however there has been the occasional noted exception. Some consider it a spiritual forge where the soul is purified for its eventual ascent to Olam Habah (heb. âÕÜÝ ÔÑÐ; lit. "The world to come", often viewed as analogous to Heaven). This is also mentioned in the Kabbalah, where the soul is described as breaking, like the flame of a candle lighting another: the part of the soul that ascends being pure and the "unfinished" piece being reborn. According to Jewish teachings, hell is not entirely physical; rather, it can be compared to a very intense feeling of shame. People are ashamed of their misdeeds and this constitutes suffering which makes up for the bad deeds. When one has so deviated from the will of God, one is said to be in gehinom. This is not meant to refer to some point in the future, but to the very present moment. The gates of teshuva (return) are said to be always open, and so one can align his will with that of God at any moment. Being out of alignment with God's will is itself a punishment according to the Torah. In addition, Subbotniks and Messianic Judaism believe in Gehenna, but Samaritans probably believe in a separation of the wicked in a shadowy existence, Sheol, and the righteous in heaven. Christianity Main article: Hell in Christian beliefs The Christian doctrine of hell derives from the teaching of the New Testament, where hell is typically described using the Greek words Tartarus or Hades or the Arabic word Gehenna. These three terms have different meanings and must be recognized. * Tartarus occurs only once in the New Testament in II Peter 2:4 and is translated as a place of incarceration of demons. It mentions nothing about human souls being sent there in the afterlife. * Hades has similarities to the Old Testament term, Sheol as "the place of the dead", or in other words, the grave. Thus, it is used in reference to both the righteous and the wicked, since both wind up there eventually. * Gehenna refers to the "Valley of Hinnon", which was a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. It was a place where people burned their garbage and thus there was always a fire burning there. Bodies of those deemed to have died in sin without hope of salvation (such as people who committed suicide) were thrown there to be destroyed. Gehenna is used in the New Testament as a metaphor for the final place of punishment for the wicked after the resurrection. In most Christian beliefs, such as the Catholic Church, most Protestant churches (such as the Baptists, Episcopalians, etc), and Greek Orthodox churches, Hell is taught as the final destiny of those who have not been found worthy after they have passed through the great white throne of judgment  , where they will be punished for sin and permanently separated from God after the general resurrection and last judgment. The nature of this judgment is inconsistent, with many Protestant churches teaching the saving comes from accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, and the opposing view that the judgment hinges on both faith and works, the teaching of Greek Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Some Christian theologians of the early Church and some of the modern Church subscribe to the doctrines of Conditional Immortality. Conditional Immortality is the belief that the soul dies with the body and does not live again until the resurrection. This is the view held by Orthodox Jews and a few Christian sects, such as the Living Church of God, The Church of God International, and Seventh Day Adventist Church. Annihilationism is the belief that the soul is immortal but can be completely destroyed in Hell. This view is held by sects such as Jehovah's Witnesses. Universal Reconciliation is the belief that all human souls (and even Demons) will be eventually reconciled with God and admitted to Heaven. This view is held by some Unitarian-Universalists.  Islam Main article: Jahannam Muslims believe in jahannam (in Arabic: ,GFE) (which is related to the Hebrew word gehinnom and resembles the versions of Hell in Christianity). In the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, there are literal descriptions of the condemned in a fiery Hell, as contrasted to the garden-like Paradise (jannah) enjoyed by righteous believers. In addition, Heaven and Hell are split into many different levels depending on the actions perpetrated in life, where punishment is given depending on the level of evil done in life, and good is separated into other levels depending on how well one followed God while alive. The gate of Hell is guarded by Maalik who is the leader of the angels assigned as the guards of hell also known as Zabaaniyah. The Quran states that the fuel of Hellfire is rocks/stones (idols) and human beings. Although generally Hell is often portrayed as a hot steaming and tormenting place for sinners, there is one Hell pit which is characterized differently from the other Hell in Islamic tradition. Zamhareer is seen as the coldest and the most freezing Hell of all; yet its coldness is not seen as a pleasure or a relief to the sinners who committed crimes against God. The state of the Hell of Zamhareer is a suffering of extreme coldness, of blizzards, ice, and snow which no one on this earth can bear. The lowest pit of all existing Hells is the Hawiyah which is meant for the hypocrites and two-faced people who claimed to believe in Allah and His messenger by the tongue but denounced both in their hearts. Hypocrisy is considered to be one of the most dangerous sins, and so is Shirk. According to the Qur'an and Hadith, all those who have received and rejected Islamic teachings will go to Hell. Bahá'í Faith The Bahá'í Faith regards the conventional description of Hell (and heaven) as a specific place as symbolic. Instead the Bahá'í writings describe Hell as a "spiritual condition" where remoteness from God is defined as Hell; conversely heaven is seen as a state of closeness to God. Eastern Buddhism Main article: Naraka (Buddhism) Buddhism teaches that there are five (sometimes six) realms of rebirth, which can then be further subdivided into degrees of agony or pleasure. Of these realms, the hell realms, or Naraka, is the lowest realm of rebirth. Of the hell realms, the worst is Av+ci or "endless suffering". The Buddha's disciple, Devadatta, who tried to kill the Buddha on three occasions, as well as create a schism in the monastic order, is said to have been reborn in the Avici Hell. However, like all realms of rebirth, rebirth in the Hell realms is not permanent, though suffering can persist for eons before being reborn again. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha teaches that eventually even Devadatta will become a Buddha himself, emphasizing the temporary nature of the Hell realms. Thus, Buddhism teaches to escape the endless migration of rebirths (both positive and negative) through the attainment of Nirvana. The Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, according to the Ksitigarbha Sutra, made a great vow as a young girl to not reach Enlightenment until all beings were liberated from the Hell Realms or other unwholesome rebirths. In popular literature, Ksitigarbha travels to the Hell realms to teach and relieve beings of their suffering. Hinduism Main article: Naraka Yama's Court and Hell. The Blue figure is Yamaraja (The Hindu god of death) with his consort Yami and Chitragupta 17th century Painting from Government Museum, Chennai. Early Vedic religion doesn't have a concept of Hell. Zg-veda mentions three realms, bhkr (the earth), svar (the sky) and bhuvas or antarikca (the middle area, i.e. air or atmosphere)). In later Hindu literature, especially the law books and Puranas, more realms are mentioned, including a realm similar to Hell, called naraka (in Devangar+: ( 0 ). Yama as first born human (together with his twin sister Yam+) in virtue of precedence becomes ruler of men and a judge on their departure. Originally he resides in Heaven, but later, especially medieval traditions, mention his court in naraka. In the law-books (sm[tis and dharma-sktras, like the Manu-sm[ti) naraka is a place of punishment for sins. It is a lower spiritual plane (called naraka-loka) where the spirit is judged, or partial fruits of karma affected in a next life. In Mahabharata there is a mention of the Pandavas going to Heaven and the Kauravas going to Hell. However for the small number of sins which they did commit in their lives, the Pandavas had to undergo hell for a short time. Hells are also described in various Puranas and other scriptures. Garuda Purana gives a detailed account of Hell, its features and enlists amount of punishment for most of the crimes like a modern day penal code. It is believed that people who commit sins go to Hell and have to go through punishments in accordance with the sins they committed. The god Yamarja, who is also the god of death, presides over Hell. Detailed accounts of all the sins committed by an individual are kept by Chitragupta, who is the record keeper in Yama's court. Chitragupta reads out the sins committed and Yama orders appropriate punishments to be given to individuals. These punishments include dipping in boiling oil, burning in fire, torture using various weapons, etc. in various Hells. Individuals who finish their quota of the punishments are reborn in accordance with their balance of karma. All created beings are imperfect and thus have at least one sin to their record; but if one has generally led a pious life, one ascends to svarga, a temporary realm of enjoinment similar to Paradise, after a brief period of expiation in Hell and before the next reincarnation according to the law of karma. Taoism Ancient Taoism had no concept of Hell, as morality was seen to be a man-made distinction and there was no concept of an immaterial soul. In its home country China, where Taoism adopted tenets of other religions, popular belief endows Taoist Hell with many deities and spirits who punish sin in a variety of horrible ways. This is also considered Karma for Taoism. Chinese folk beliefs Main article: Diyu A Chinese glazed earthenware sculpture of "Hell's torturer," 16th century, Ming Dynasty Diyu (simplified Chinese: W0rñ; traditional Chinese: W0sD; pinyin: Dìyù; Wade-Giles: Ti-yü; literally "earth prison") is the realm of the dead in Chinese mythology. It is very loosely based upon the Buddhist concept of Naraka combined with traditional Chinese afterlife beliefs and a variety of popular expansions and re-interpretations of these two traditions. Ruled by Yanluo Wang, the King of Hell, Diyu is a maze of underground levels and chambers where souls are taken to atone for their earthly sins. Incorporating ideas from Taoism and Buddhism as well as traditional Chinese folk religion, Diyu is a kind of purgatory place which serves not only to punish but also to renew spirits ready for their next incarnation. There are many deities associated with the place, whose names and purposes are the subject of much conflicting information. The exact number of levels in Chinese Hell - and their associated deities - differs according to the Buddhist or Taoist perception. Some speak of three to four 'Courts', other as many as ten. The ten judges are also known as the 10 Kings of Yama. Each Court deals with a different aspect of atonement. For example, murder is punished in one Court, adultery in another. According to some Chinese legends, there are eighteen levels in Hell. Punishment also varies according to belief, but most legends speak of highly imaginative chambers where wrong-doers are sawn in half, beheaded, thrown into pits of filth or forced to climb trees adorned with sharp blades. However, most legends agree that once a soul (usually referred to as a 'ghost') has atoned for their deeds and repented, he or she is given the Drink of Forgetfulness by Meng Po and sent back into the world to be reborn, possibly as an animal or a poor or sick person, for further punishment. Zoroastrianism Main article: Zoroastrian eschatology Zoroastrianism has historically suggested several possible fates for the wicked, including annihilation, purgation in molten metal, and eternal punishment, all of which have standing in Zoroaster's writings. Zoroastrian eschatology includes the belief that wicked souls will remain in hell until, following the arrival of three saviors at thousand-year intervals, Ahura Mazda reconciles the world, destroying evil and resurrecting tormented souls to perfection. The sacred Gathas mention a House of the Lie 3 for those that are of an evil dominion, of evil deeds, evil words, evil Self, and evil thought, Liars.  However, the only Zoroastrian text that describes hell in detail is the Book of Arda Viraf. It depicts particular punishments for particular sins -- for instance, being trampled by cattle as punishment for neglecting the needs of work animals. Literature "Dante And Virgil In Hell" (1850) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. In his Divina commedia ("Divine comedy"; set in the year 1300), Dante Alighieri employed the conceit of taking Virgil as his guide through Inferno (and then, in the second canticle, up the mountain of Purgatorio). Virgil himself is not condemned to Hell in Dante's poem but is rather, as a virtuous pagan, confined to Limbo just at the edge of Hell. The geography of Hell is very elaborately laid out in this work, with nine concentric rings leading deeper into the Earth and deeper into the various punishments of Hell, until, at the center of the world, Dante finds Satan himself trapped in the frozen lake of Cocytus. A small tunnel leads past Satan and out to the other side of the world, at the base of the Mount of Purgatory. John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667) opens with the fallen angels, including their leader Satan, waking up in Hell after having been defeated in the war in heaven and the action returns there at several points throughout the poem. Milton portrays Hell as the abode of the demons, and the passive prison from which they plot their revenge upon Heaven through the corruption of the human race. 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud alluded to the concept as well in the title and themes of one of his major works, A Season In Hell. Rimbaud's poetry portrays his own suffering in a poetic form as well as other themes. Many of the great epics of European literature include episodes that occur in Hell. In the Roman poet Virgil's Latin epic, the Aeneid, Aeneas descends into Dis (the underworld) to visit his father's spirit. The underworld is only vaguely described, with one unexplored path leading to the punishments of Tartarus, while the other leads through Erebus and the Elysian Fields. The idea of Hell was highly influential to writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre who authored the 1944 play "No Exit" about the idea that "Hell is other people". Although not a religious man, Sartre was fascinated by his interpretation of a Hellish state of suffering. C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce (1945) borrows its title from William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793) and its inspiration from the Divine Comedy as the narrator is likewise guided through Hell and Heaven. Hell is portrayed here as an endless, desolate twilight city upon which night is imperceptibly sinking. The night is actually the Apocalypse, and it heralds the arrival of the demons after their judgment. Before the night comes, anyone can escape Hell if they leave behind their former selves and accept Heaven's offer, and a journey to Heaven reveals that Hell is infinitely small; it is nothing more or less than what happens to a soul that turns away from God and into itself. Piers Anthony in his series Incarnations of Immortality portrays examples of Heaven and Hell via Death, Fate, Nature, War, Time, Good-God, and Evil-Devil. Robert A. Heinlein offers a yin-yang version of Hell where there is still some good within; most evident in his book Job: A Comedy of Justice. Lois McMaster Bujold uses her five Gods 'Father, Mother, Son, Daughter and Bastard' in The Curse of Chalion with an example of Hell as formless chaos. Michael Moorcock is one of many who offer Chaos-Evil-(Hell) and Uniformity-Good-(Heaven) as equally unacceptable extremes which must be held in balance; in particular in the Elric and Eternal Champion series. Biblical words translated as "Hell" Sheol In the King James Bible, the Old Testament term Sheol is translated as "Hell" 31 times. However, Sheol was translated as "the grave" 31 other times. Sheol is also translated as "the pit" three times. Modern translations, however, do not translate Sheol as "Hell" at all, instead rendering it "the grave," "the pit," or "death." See Intermediate state . Gehenna In the New Testament, both early (i.e. the KJV) and modern translations often translate Gehenna as "Hell." Young's Literal Translation is one notable exception, simply using "Gehenna", which was in fact a geographic location just outside Jerusalem (the Valley of Hinnom). Tartarus Appearing only in II Peter 2:4 in the New Testament, both early and modern translations often translate Tartarus as "Hell." Again, Young's Literal Translation is an exception, using "Tartarus". Hades Hades is the Greek word traditionally used for the Hebrew word Sheol in such works as the Septuagint, the Greek translations of the Hebrew Bible. Like other first-century Jews literate in Greek, Christian writers of the New Testament followed this use. While earlier translations most often translated Hades as "hell", as does the King James Version, modern translations use the transliteration "Hades" or render the word as allusions "to the grave" , "among the dead", "place of the dead" and many other like statements in other verses. In Latin, Hades could be translated as Purgatorium (Purgatory in English use) after about 1200 A.D., but no modern English translations Hades to Purgatory. See Intermediate state . Abaddon The Hebrew word Abaddon, meaning "destruction", is sometimes used as a synonym of Hell. Infernus The Latin word infernus means "being underneath" and is often translated as "Hell". Inferno (Italian for "Hell") is the first part of Dante Alighieri's fourteenth-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through what is largely the medieval concept of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth. Allegorically, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul towards God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin. * 1 Overview o 1.1 First Circle (Limbo) o 1.2 Second Circle (Lust) o 1.3 Third Circle (Gluttony) o 1.4 Fourth Circle (Avarice or Greed) o 1.5 Fifth Circle (Wrath and Sullenness) o 1.6 Sixth Circle (Heresy) o 1.7 Seventh Circle (Violence) o 1.8 Eighth Circle (Fraud) o 1.9 Ninth Circle (Treason) The poem begins on the day before Good Friday in the year 1300. The narrator, Dante Alighieri himself, is thirty-five years old, and thus "halfway along our life's path" (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita) half of the Biblical life expectancy of seventy (Psalm 90:10). The poem finds him lost in a dark wood. The forest may symbolize the narrator's contemplations of suicide, considering later references to suicide and its connection to the woods. He is assailed by beasts (a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf) he cannot evade, and unable to find the "straight way" (diritta via) also translatable as "right way" to salvation (symbolized by the sun behind the mountain). Conscious that he is ruining himself and that he is falling into a "deep place" (basso loco) where the sun is silent ('l sol tace), Dante is at last rescued by the Roman poet Virgil, and the two of them begin their journey to the underworld. Each sin's punishment in Inferno is a contrapasso, a symbolic instance of poetic justice; for example, fortune-tellers have to walk forwards with their heads on backwards, unable to see what is ahead, because they tried to look ahead to the future in life. Allegorically, the Inferno represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is, and the three beasts represent three types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious. These three types of sin also provide the three main divisions of Dante's Hell: Upper Hell (the first 5 Circles) for the self-indulgent sins; Circles 6 and 7 for the violent sins; and Circles 8 and 9 for the malicious sins. The Barque of Dante by Eugène Delacroix Dante passes through the gate of Hell, which bears an inscription, the ninth (and final) line of which is the famous phrase "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate", or "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" Before entering Hell completely, Dante and his guide see the Uncommitted, souls of people who in life did nothing, neither for good nor evil (among these Dante recognizes either Pope Celestine V or Pontius Pilate; the text is ambiguous). Mixed with them are outcasts who took no side in the Rebellion of Angels. These souls are neither in Hell nor out of it, but reside on the shores of the Acheron, their punishment to eternally pursue a banner (i.e. self interest) while pursued by wasps and hornets that continually sting them while maggots and other such insects drink their blood and tears. This symbolizes the sting of their conscience and the repugnance of sin (as with the Purgatorio and Paradiso, the Inferno has a structure of 9+1=10, with this "vestibule" different in nature from the nine circles of Hell, and separated from them by the Acheron). Then Dante and Virgil reach the ferry that will take them across the river Acheron and to Hell. The ferry is piloted by Charon, who does not want to let Dante enter, for he is a living being. Virgil forces Charon to take him by means of another famous line Vuolsi così colà ove si puote (which translates to So it is wanted there where the power lies, referring to the fact that Dante is on his journey on divine grounds), but their passage across is undescribed since Dante faints and does not awake until he is on the other side. Virgil guides Dante through the nine circles of Hell. The circles are concentric, representing a gradual increase in wickedness, and culminating at the center of the earth, where Satan is held in bondage. Each circle's sinners are punished in a fashion fitting their crimes: each sinner is afflicted for all of eternity by the chief sin he committed. People who sinned but prayed for forgiveness before their deaths are found not in Hell but in Purgatory, where they labor to be free of their sins. Those in Hell are people who tried to justify their sins and are unrepentant. Furthermore, those in Hell have knowledge of the past and future, but not of the present. This is a joke on them in Dante's mind because after the Last Judgment, time ends; those in Hell would then know nothing.  First Circle (Limbo) Here reside the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans, who, though not sinful, did not accept Christ. They are not punished in an active sense, but rather grieve only their separation from God, without hope of reconciliation. Limbo shares many characteristics with the Asphodel Meadows; thus the guiltless damned are punished by living in a deficient form of Heaven. Without baptism ("the portal of faith," Canto IV.36) they lacked the hope for something greater than rational minds can conceive. Limbo includes green fields and a castle, the dwelling place of the wisest men of antiquity, including Virgil himself, as well as the Islamic philosophers Averroes and Avicenna. In the castle Dante meets the poets Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan and the philosophers Socrates and Aristotle as well as the Roman general and politician Julius Caesar. Interestingly, he also sees Saladin in Limbo (Canto IV). Dante implies that all virtuous pagans find themselves here, although he later encounters two (Cato of Utica and Statius) in Purgatory and two in heaven (Trajan and Ripheus). Beyond the first circle, all of those condemned for active, deliberately willed sin are judged by Minos, who sentences each soul to one of the lower eight circles by wrapping his tail around himself a corresponding number of times. The lower circles are structured according to the classical (Aristotelian) conception of virtue and vice, so that they are grouped into the sins of incontinence, violence, and fraud (which for many commentators are represented by the leopard, lion, and she-wolf). The sins of incontinence weakness in controlling one's desires and natural urges are the mildest among them, and, correspondingly, appear first, while the sins of violence and fraud appear lower down. Gianciotto Discovers Paolo and Francesca by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres  Second Circle (Lust) Those overcome by lust are punished in this circle. Dante condemns these "carnal malefactors" for letting their appetites sway their reason. They are the first ones to be truly punished in Hell. These souls are blown about to and fro by the terrible winds of a violent storm, without hope of rest. This symbolizes the power of lust to blow one about needlessly and aimlessly. In this circle, Dante sees Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Achilles and many others who were overcome by sensual love during their life. Dante is informed by Francesca da Rimini of how she and her husband's brother Paolo committed adultery and died a violent death at the hands of her husband (Canto V).  Third Circle (Gluttony) Cerberus guards the gluttons, forced to lie in a vile slush made by freezing rain, black snow (ash), and hail. This symbolizes the garbage that the gluttons made of their lives on earth, slavering over food. Dante converses with a Florentine contemporary identified as Ciacco ("Hog" probably a nickname) regarding strife in Florence and the fate of prominent Florentines (Canto VI).  Fourth Circle (Avarice or Greed) In Gustave Doré's illustrations for the fourth circle, the weights are huge money bags Those whose attitude toward material goods deviated from the desired mean are punished in this circle. They include the avaricious or miserly, who hoarded possessions, and the prodigal, who squandered them. Guarded by Plutus, the Roman god of wealth, the two groups joust, using as weapons great weights which they push with their chests (Canto VII): " & I saw multitudes to every side of me; their howls were loud while, wheeling weights, they used their chests to push. They struck against each other; at that point, each turned around and, wheeling back those weights, cried out: Why do you hoard? Why do you squander?' "  Fifth Circle (Wrath and Sullenness) In the swamp-like water of the river Styx, the wrathful fight each other on the surface, and the sullen lie gurgling beneath the water, withdrawn "into a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe." Phlegyas reluctantly transports Dante and Virgil across the Styx in his skiff. On the way they are accosted by Filippo Argenti, a Black Guelph from a prominent family (Cantos VII and VIII). When Dante responds "In weeping and in grieving, accursed spirit, may you long remain," Virgil blesses him. Literally, this reflects the fact that souls in Hell are eternally fixed in the state they have chosen, but allegorically, it reflects Dante's beginning awareness of his own sin. The lower parts of Hell are contained within the walls of the city of Dis, which is itself surrounded by the Stygian marsh. Punished within Dis are active (rather than passive) sins. The walls of Dis are guarded by fallen angels. Virgil is unable to convince them to let Dante and him enter, and the Furies and Medusa threaten Dante. An angel sent from Heaven secures entry for the poets, opening the gate by touching it with a wand, and rebuking those who opposed Dante (Cantos VIII and IX).  Sixth Circle (Heresy) Heretics, such as Epicurians, are trapped in flaming tombs. Dante holds discourse with a pair of Epicurian Florentines in one of the tombs: Farinata degli Uberti, a Ghibelline; and Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, a Guelph who was the father of Dante's friend and fellow poet Guido Cavalcanti (Cantos X and XI). Cavalcante explains to Dante that what the souls in Hell know of life on earth comes from seeing the future, so that when "the portal of the future has been shut," it will no longer be possible for them to know anything.  Seventh Circle (Violence) 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. This circle houses the violent. Its entry is guarded by the Minotaur, and it is divided into three rings: * Outer ring, housing the violent against people and property, who are immersed in Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood, to a level commensurate with their sins: Alexander the Great is up to his eyebrows in it. The Centaurs, commanded by Chiron, patrol the ring, firing arrows into those trying to escape. The centaur Nessus guides the poets along Phlegethon and across a ford in the river (Canto XII). This passage may have been influenced by the early medieval Visio Karoli Grossi. * Middle ring: In this ring are the suicides, who are transformed into gnarled thorny bushes and trees. They are torn at by the Harpies. Unique among the dead, the suicides will not be bodily resurrected after the final judgment, having given their bodies away through suicide. Instead they will maintain their bushy form, with their own corpses hanging from the limbs. Dante breaks a twig off one of the bushes and hears the tale of Pier delle Vigne, who committed suicide after falling out of favor with Emperor Frederick II. The other residents of this ring are the profligates, who destroyed their lives by destroying the means by which life is sustained (i.e. money and property). They are perpetually chased by ferocious dogs through the thorny undergrowth. (Canto XIII) The trees are a metaphor; in life the only way of the relief of suffering was through pain (i.e. suicide) and in Hell, the only form of relief of the suffering is through pain (breaking of the limbs to bleed). * Inner ring: The violent against God (blasphemers), the violent against nature (sodomites), and the violent against order (usurers), all reside in a desert of flaming sand with fiery flakes raining from the sky. The blasphemers lie on the sand, the usurers sit, and the sodomites wander about in groups. Dante converses with two Florentine sodomites from different groups. One of them is Dante's mentor, Brunetto Latini. Dante is very surprised and touched by this encounter and shows Brunetto great respect for what he has taught him. The other is Iacopo Rusticucci, a politician. (Cantos XIV through XVI) Those punished here for usury include the Florentines Catello di Rosso Gianfigliazzi, Ciappo Ubriachi, and Giovanni di Buiamonte and the Paduans Reginaldo degli Scrovegni and Vitaliano di Iacopo Vitaliani. Eighth Circle (Fraud) The last two circles of Hell punish sins that involve conscious fraud or treachery. The circles can be reached only by descending a vast cliff, which Dante and Virgil do on the back of Geryon, a winged monster represented by Dante as having the face of an honest man and a body that ends in a scorpion-like stinger (Canto XVII). (He is possibly not in his original form as a three bodied man to avoid confusion with Satan.) The fraudulent those guilty of deliberate, knowing evil are located in a circle named Malebolge ("Evil Pockets"), divided into ten bolgie, or ditches of stone, with bridges spanning the ditches: * Bolgia 1: Panderers (pimps) and seducers march in separate lines in opposite directions, whipped by demons. Just as they misled others in life, they are driven to march by demons for all eternity. In the group of panderers the poets notice Venedico Caccianemico, who sold his own sister to the Marchese d'Este, and in the group of seducers Virgil points out Jason (Canto XVIII). * Bolgia 2: Flatterers are steeped in human excrement. This is because their flatteries on earth were nothing but "a load of excrement" (Canto XVIII). * Bolgia 3: Those who committed simony are placed head-first in holes in the rock which resemble baptismal fonts, with flames burning on the soles of their feet (resembling an inverted baptism, and symbolic of the Church offices they sold). One of them, Pope Nicholas III, denounces as simonists two of his successors, Pope Boniface VIII and Pope Clement V (Canto XIX). Ciampolo escapes back into the pitch. Dante's guide rebuffs Malacoda and his fiends between bolgie five and six in the Eighth Circle of Hell, Inferno, Canto 21. Dante climbs the flinty steps in bolgia seven in the Eighth Circle of Hell, Inferno, Canto 26. Dante speaks to the traitors in the ice, Inferno, Canto 32. * Bolgia 4: Sorcerers and false prophets have their heads twisted around on their bodies backward. In addition, they cry so many tears that they cannot see. This is symbolic because these people tried to see into the future by forbidden means (and possibly retribution for the delusions they concocted that probably led their followers to their own perils); thus in Hell they can only see what is behind them and cannot see forward (Canto XX). * Bolgia 5: Corrupt politicians (barrators) are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch, which represents the sticky fingers and dark secrets of their corrupt deals. They are guarded by devils called the Malebranche ("Evil Claws"). Their leader, Malacoda ("Evil Tail"), assigns a troop to escort Virgil and Dante to the next bridge. The troop hook and torment one of the sinners (identified by early commentators as Ciampolo), who names some Italian grafters and then tricks the Malebranche in order to escape back into the pitch (Cantos XXI through XXIII). * Bolgia 6: The bridge over this bolgia is broken: the poets climb down into it and find the Hypocrites listlessly walking along wearing gilded lead cloaks. Dante speaks with Catalano and Loderingo, members of the Jovial Friars. The poets also discover that the guardians of the fraudulent (the malebranche) are hypocrites themselves, as they find that they have lied to them, giving false directions, when at the same time they are punishing liars for similar sins. Caiaphas, the high priest responsible for ordering Jesus crucified, is seen here; he is crucified to the ground, while the others trample over him (Canto XXIII). * Bolgia 7: Thieves, guarded by the centaur (as Dante describes him) Cacus, who has a fire-breathing dragon on him (in his original form Cacus was a fire-breathing monster slain by Heracles), are pursued and bitten by snakes and lizards. The snake bites make them undergo various transformations, with some resurrected after being turned to ashes, some mutating into new creatures, and still others exchanging natures with the reptiles, becoming lizards themselves that chase the other thieves in turn. Just as the thieves stole other people's substance in life, and because thievery is reptilian in its secrecy, the thieves' substance is eaten away by reptiles and their bodies are constantly stolen by other thieves (Cantos XXIV and XXV). * Bolgia 8: Fraudulent advisors are encased in individual flames. They, like their true thoughts in life, cannot be seen. Dante includes Ulysses and Diomedes together here for their role in the Trojan War. Ulysses tells the tale of his fatal final voyage (an invention of Dante's), where he left his home and family to sail to the end of the Earth. He equated life as a pursuit of knowledge that humanity can attain through effort, and in his search God sank his ship outside of Mount Purgatory. Guido da Montefeltro recounts how his advice to Pope Boniface VIII resulted in his damnation, despite Boniface's promise of absolution (Cantos XXVI and XXVII). * Bolgia 9: A sword-wielding demon hacks at the sowers of discord, dividing parts of their bodies as in life they divided others. As they make their rounds the wounds heal, only to have the demon tear apart their bodies again. "See how I rend myself! How mutilated, see, is Mahomet; In front of me doth Ali weeping go, Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin; And all the others whom thou here beholdest, Disseminators of scandal and of schism. While living were, and therefore are cleft thus." Muhammad tells Dante to warn the schismatic and heretic Fra Dolcino (Cantos XXVIII and XXIX). Dante describes Muhammad as a schismatic, apparently viewing Islam as an off-shoot from Christianity, and similarly Dante seems to condemn Ali for schism between Sunni and Shiite. Dante also encounters Bertran de Born, who carries around his severed head like a lantern, as a punishment for (Dante believes) fomenting the rebellion of Henry the Young King against his father Henry II. * Bolgia 10: Here various sorts of falsifiers (alchemists, counterfeiters, perjurers, and impersonators), who are a disease on society, are themselves afflicted with different types of diseases (Cantos XXIX and XXX). Potiphar's wife is briefly mentioned here for her false accusation of Joseph. In the notes on her translation, Dorothy L. Sayers remarks that the descent through Malebolge "began with the sale of the sexual relationship, and went on to the sale of Church and State; now, the very money is itself corrupted, every affirmation has become perjury, and every identity a lie;" so that every aspect of social interaction has been progressively destroyed.  Ninth Circle (Treason) 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. 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: Caïna, 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. 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. The Divine Comedy (Italian: La Divina Commedia) is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321. It is widely considered the preeminent work of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem's imaginative and allegorical vision of the Christian afterlife is a culmination of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church. It helped establish the Tuscan dialect in which it is written as the Italian standard. It is divided into three parts, the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Originally the work was simply titled Commedia and was later christened Divina by Giovanni Boccaccio. The first printed edition to add the word divine to the title was that of the Venetian humanist Lodovico Dolce, published in 1555 by Gabriele Giolito de' Ferrari.  Structure and story Detail of a manuscript in Milan's Biblioteca Trivulziana (MS 1080), written in 1337 by Francesco di ser Nardo da Barberino, showing the beginning of Dante's Comedy. The Divine Comedy is composed of over 14,000 lines that are divided into three canticas (Ital. pl. cantiche) Inferno (Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Paradise) each consisting of 33 cantos (Ital. pl. canti). An initial canto serves as an introduction to the poem and is generally considered to be part of the first cantica, bringing the total number of cantos to 100. The number 3 is prominent in the work, represented here by the length of each cantica. The verse scheme used, terza rima, is hendecasyllabic (lines of eleven syllables), with the lines composing tercets according to the rhyme scheme aba, bcb, cdc, ded, .... The poem is written in the first person, and tells of Dante's journey through the three realms of the dead, lasting from the night before Good Friday to the Wednesday after Easter in the spring of 1300. The Roman poet Virgil guides him through Hell and Purgatory; Beatrice, Dante's ideal woman, guides him through Heaven. Beatrice was a Florentine woman whom he had met in childhood and admired from afar in the mode of the then-fashionable courtly love tradition which is highlighted in Dante's earlier work La Vita Nuova. In Northern Italy's political struggle between Guelphs and Ghibellines, Dante was part of the Guelphs, who in general favored the Papacy over the Holy Roman Emperor. Florence's Guelphs split into factions around 1300, the White Guelphs, and the Black Guelphs. Dante was among the White Guelphs who were exiled in 1302 by the Lord-Mayor Cante de' Gabrielli di Gubbio, after troops under Charles of Valois entered the city, at the request of Pope Boniface VIII, who supported the Black Guelphs. This exile, which lasted the rest of Dante's life, shows its influence in many parts of the Comedy, from prophecies of Dante's exile to Dante's views of politics to the eternal damnation of some of his opponents. In Hell and Purgatory, Dante shares in the sin and the penitence respectively. The last word in each of the three parts of the Divine Comedy is stelle, "stars."  Inferno Gustave Doré's engravings illustrated the Divine Comedy (1861 1868); here Charon comes to ferry souls across the river Acheron to Hell. Main article: Inferno (Dante) The poem begins on the night before Good Friday in the year 1300, "halfway along our life's path" (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita). Dante is thirty-five years old, half of the biblical life expectancy of 70 (Psalms 90:10), lost in a dark wood (understood as sin), assailed by beasts (a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf) he cannot evade, and unable to find the "straight way" (diritta via) - also translatable as "right way" - to salvation (symbolized by the sun behind the mountain). Conscious that he is ruining himself and that he is falling into a "deep place" (basso loco) where the sun is silent ('l sol tace), Dante is at last rescued by Virgil, and the two of them begin their journey to the underworld. Each sin's punishment in Inferno is a contrapasso, a symbolic instance of poetic justice; for example, fortune-tellers have to walk with their heads on backwards, unable to see what is ahead, because that was what they had tried to do in life: "they had their faces twisted toward their haunches and found it necessary to walk backward, because they could not see ahead of them. "' since he wanted so to see ahead, he looks behind and walks a backward path. Allegorically, the Inferno represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is, and the three beasts represent three types of sin: the self-indulgent, the violent, and the malicious. These three types of sin also provide the three main divisions of Dante's Hell: Upper Hell (the first 5 Circles) for the self-indulgent sins; Circles 6 and 7 for the violent sins; and Circles 8 and 9 for the malicious sins. Dante gazes at Mount Purgatory in an allegorical portrait by Agnolo Bronzino, painted circa 1530  Purgatorio Main article: Purgatorio Having survived the depths of Hell, Dante and Virgil ascend out of the undergloom, to the Mountain of Purgatory on the far side of the world. The Mountain is on an island, the only land in the Southern Hemisphere, created by the displacement of rock which resulted when Satan's fall created Hell (which Dante portrays as existing underneath Jerusalem). At the shores of Purgatory, Dante and Virgil are attracted by a musical performance by Casella, but are reprimanded by Cato, a pagan who has been placed by God as the general guardian of the approach to the mountain. The text gives no indication whether or not Cato's soul is destined for heaven: his symbolic significance has been much debated (Cantos I and II). Allegorically, the Purgatorio represents the Christian life. Christian souls arrive escorted by an angel, singing in exitu Israel de Aegypto. In his Letter to Cangrande, Dante explains that this reference to Israel leaving Egypt refers both to the redemption of Christ and to "the conversion of the soul from the sorrow and misery of sin to the state of grace." Appropriately, therefore, it is Easter Sunday when Dante and Virgil arrive. The Purgatorio is notable for demonstrating the medieval knowledge of a spherical Earth. During the poem, Dante discusses the different stars visible in the southern hemisphere, the altered position of the sun, and the various timezones of the Earth. At this stage it is, Dante says, sunset at Jerusalem, midnight on the River Ganges, and sunrise in Purgatory.  Paradiso Main article: Paradiso (Dante) Dante and Beatrice speak to Piccarda and Constance of Sicily, in a fresco by Philipp Veit, Paradiso, Canto 3 First printed edition, 11 April 1472 After an initial ascension (Canto I), Beatrice guides Dante through the nine celestial spheres of Heaven. These are concentric and spherical, similar to Aristotelian and Ptolemaic cosmology. Dante admits the vision of heaven he receives is the one that his human eyes permit him to see. Thus, the vision of heaven found in the Cantos is Dante's own personal vision, ambiguous in its true construction. The addition of a moral dimension means that a soul that has reached Paradise stops at the level applicable to it. Souls are allotted to the point of heaven that fits with their human ability to love God. Thus, there is a heavenly hierarchy. All parts of heaven are accessible to the heavenly soul. That is to say all experience God but there is a hierarchy in the sense that some souls are more spiritually developed than others. This is not determined by time or learning as such but by their proximity to God (how much they allow themselves to experience Him above other things). In Dante's schema all souls in Heaven are, on some level, always in contact with God. While the structures of the Inferno and Purgatorio were based around different classifications of sin, the structure of the Paradiso is based on the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues.  Earliest manuscripts According to the Italian Dante Society, no original manuscript written by Dante has survived, though there are many manuscript copies from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries - more than 825 are listed on their site. The oldest belongs to the 1330s, almost a decade after Dante's death. The most precious ones are the three full copies made by Giovanni Boccaccio (1360s), who himself did not have the original manuscript as a source. The first printed edition was published in Foligno, Italy, by Johann Numeister and Evangelista Angelini on 11 April 1472. Of the 300 copies printed, fourteen still survive. The original printing press is on display in the Oratorio della Nunziatella in Foligno.  Thematic concerns The Divine Comedy can be described simply as an allegory: Each canto, and the episodes therein, can contain many alternative meanings. Dante's allegory, however, is more complex, and, in explaining how to read the poem - see the Letter to Cangrande - he outlines other levels of meaning besides the allegory: the historical, the moral, the literal, and the anagogical. The structure of the poem, likewise, is quite complex, with mathematical and numerological patterns arching throughout the work, particularly threes and nines, which are related to the Trinity. The poem is often lauded for its particularly human qualities: Dante's skillful delineation of the characters he encounters in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise; his bitter denunciations of Florentine and Italian politics; and his powerful poetic imagination. Dante's use of real characters, according to Dorothy Sayers in her introduction to her translation of the Inferno, allows Dante the freedom of not having to involve the reader in description, and allows him to "[make] room in his poem for the discussion of a great many subjects of the utmost importance, thus widening its range and increasing its variety." Dante called the poem "Comedy" (the adjective "Divine" was added later in the 14th century) because poems in the ancient world were classified as High ("Tragedy") or Low ("Comedy"). Low poems had happy endings and were of everyday or vulgar subjects, while High poems were for more serious matters. Dante was one of the first in the Middle Ages to write of a serious subject, the Redemption of Man, in the low and vulgar Italian language and not the Latin language as one might expect for such a serious topic. Boccaccio's account that an early version of the poem was begun by Dante in Latin is still controversial.  Dante's personal involvement In his allegorical description of sin (in the Inferno) and virtue (in the Purgatorio and Paradiso), Dante draws on real characters from ancient Greek and Roman myths and history, and from his own times. However, his own actions often also illustrate the concepts he is discussing. For example, Dante shares the fleshly sins of the damned at several points in the upper circles of Hell. At the first circle where the virtuous pagans who pursued honor above all else are punished by eternally knowing they have fallen short for their lack of faith, Dante shares with them their love of honor, as evidenced by the word honor being used repeatedly in the Canto. Similarly, at the third circle where Ciacco and other gluttons are punished for their appetites, Dante s appetite for political information about his fellow Florentines appears equally gluttonous: "And I to him: I wish thee still to teach me, And make a gift to me of further speech. Farinata and Tegghiaio, once so worthy, Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, and Mosca, And others who on good deeds set their thoughts, Say where they are, and cause that I may know them; For great desire constraineth me to learn If Heaven doth sweeten them, or Hell envenom." Conversely, in the Purgatorio, after leaving the terrace of the proud, Dante has learned from the example set by Omberto and suppresses his own pride, declining to speak of his achievements: "And I: Through midst of Tuscany there wanders A streamlet that is born in Falterona, And not a hundred miles of course suffice it; From thereupon do I this body bring. To tell you who I am were speech in vain, Because my name as yet makes no great noise." Albert Ritter sketched the Comedy's geography from Dante's Cantos: Hell's entrance is near Florence with the circles descending to Earth's centre; sketch 5 reflects Canto 34's inversion as Dante passes down, and thereby up to Mount Purgatory's shores in the southern hemisphere, where he passes to the first sphere of Heaven at the top. Although the Divine Comedy is primarily a religious poem, discussing sin, virtue, and theology, Dante also discusses several elements of the science of his day (this mixture of science with poetry has received both praise and blame over the centuries). The Purgatorio repeatedly refers to the implications of a spherical Earth, such as the different stars visible in the southern hemisphere, the altered position of the sun, and the various timezones of the Earth. For example, at sunset in Purgatory it is midnight at the Ebro (a river in Spain), dawn in Jerusalem, and noon on the River Ganges: Just as, there where its Maker shed His blood, the sun shed its first rays, and Ebro lay beneath high Libra, and the ninth hour's rays were scorching Ganges' waves; so here, the sun stood at the point of day's departure when God's angel happy showed himself to us. Dante travels through the centre of the Earth in the Inferno, and comments on the resulting change in the direction of gravity in Canto XXXIV (lines 76 120). A little earlier (XXXIII, 102 105), he queries the existence of wind in the frozen inner circle of hell, since it has no temperature differentials. Inevitably, given its setting, the Paradiso discusses astronomy extensively, but of course in the Ptolemaic sense. The Paradiso also discusses the importance of the experimental method in science, with a detailed example in lines 94 105 of Canto II: "Yet an experiment, were you to try it, could free you from your cavil and the source of your arts' course springs from experiment. Taking three mirrors, place a pair of them at equal distance from you; set the third midway between those two, but farther back. Then, turning toward them, at your back have placed a light that kindles those three mirrors and returns to you, reflected by them all. Although the image in the farthest glass will be of lesser size, there you will see that it must match the brightness of the rest." A briefer example occurs in Canto XV of the Purgatorio (lines 16-21), where Dante points out that both theory and experiment confirm that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. Other references to science in the Paradiso include descriptions of clockwork in Canto XXIV (lines 13 18), and Thales' theorem about triangles in Canto XIII (lines 101 102). Galileo Galilei is known to have lectured on the Inferno, and it has been suggested that the poem may have influenced some of Galileo's own ideas regarding mechanics.  Islamic philosophy In 1919, Professor Miguel Asín Palacios, a Spanish scholar and a Catholic priest, published La Escatología musulmana en la Divina Comedia ("Islamic Eschatology in the Divine Comedy"), an account of parallels between early Islamic philosophy and the Divine Comedy. Palacios argued that Dante derived many features of and episodes about the hereafter indirectly from the spiritual writings of Ibn Arabi and from the Isra and Mi'raj or night journey of Muhammad to heaven. The latter is described in the Hadith and the Kitab al Miraj (translated into Latin in 1264 or shortly before as Liber Scalae Machometi, "The Book of Muhammad's Ladder"), and has some slight similarities to the Paradiso, such as a sevenfold division of Paradise, although this is not unique to the Kitab al Miraj. Dante lived in a Europe of substantial literary and philosophical contact with the Muslim world, encouraged by such factors as Averroism and the patronage of Alfonso X of Castile. Of the twelve wise men Dante meets in Canto X of the Paradiso, Thomas Aquinas and, even more so, Siger of Brabant were strongly influenced by Arabic commentators on Aristotle. Medieval Christian mysticism also shared the Neoplatonic influence of Sufis such as Ibn Arabi. Philosopher Frederick Copleston argued in 1950 that Dante's respectful treatment of Averroes, Avicenna, and Sigier of Brabant indicates his acknowledgement of a "considerable debt" to Islamic philosophy. Although this philosophical influence is generally acknowledged, many scholars have not been satisfied that Dante was influenced by the Kitab al Miraj. The twentieth century Orientalist Francesco Gabrieli expressed skepticism regarding the claimed similarities, and the lack of evidence of a vehicle through which it could have been transmitted to Dante. Even so, while dismissing the probability of some influences posited in Palacios' work, Gabrieli recognized that it was "at least possible, if not probable, that Dante may have known the Liber scalae and have taken from it certain images and concepts of Muslim eschatology". Shortly before her death, the Italian philologist Maria Corti pointed out that, during his stay at the court of Alfonso X, Dante's mentor Brunetto Latini met Bonaventura de Siena, a Tuscan who had translated the Kitab al Miraj from Arabic into Latin. According to Corti, Brunetto may have provided a copy of that work to Dante. However, no evidence exists to support this speculation.  Literary influence in the English-speaking world and beyond The work was not always so well regarded. After being recognized as a masterpiece in the first centuries following its publication, the work was largely ignored during the Enlightenment, with some notable exceptions such as Vittorio Alfieri, Antoine de Rivarol, who translated the Inferno into French, and Giambattista Vico, who in the Scienza nuova and in the Giudizio su Dante inaugurated what would later become the romantic reappraisal of Dante, juxtaposing him to Homer. The Comedy was "rediscovered" by William Blake - who illustrated several passages of the epic - and the romantic writers of the 19th century. Later authors such as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Samuel Beckett, C.S. Lewis and James Joyce have drawn on it for inspiration. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was its first American translator, and modern poets, including Seamus Heaney, Robert Pinsky, John Ciardi, and W. S. Merwin, have also produced translations of all or parts of the book. In Russia, beyond Pushkin's memorable translation of a few triplets, Osip Mandelstam's late poetry has been said to bear of the mark of a "tormented meditation" on the Comedy. In 1934 Mandelstam gave a modern reading of the poem in his labyrinthine "Conversation on Dante". The Divine Comedy has been a source of inspiration for countless artists for almost seven centuries. There are many references to Dante's work in literature. In music, Franz Liszt was one of many composers to write works based on the Divine Comedy. In sculpture, the work of Auguste Rodin is notable for themes from Dante, and many visual artists have illustrated Dante's work, as shown by the examples above. There have also been many references to the Divine Comedy in cinema and computer games. God is a deity in theistic and deistic religions and other belief systems, representing either the sole deity in monotheism, or a principal deity in polytheism. God is most often conceived of as the supernatural creator and overseer of the universe. Theologians have ascribed a variety of attributes to the many different conceptions of God. The most common among these include omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, omnibenevolence (perfect goodness), divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. God has also been conceived as being incorporeal, a personal being, the source of all moral obligation, and the ñgreatest conceivable existentî. These attributes were all supported to varying degrees by the early Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologian philosophers, including Maimonides, Augustine of Hippo, and Al-Ghazali, respectively. Many notable medieval philosophers and modern philosophers developed arguments for the existence of God. Many notable philosophers and intellectuals have, by contrast, developed arguments against the existence of God. The earliest written form of the Germanic word god comes from the 6th century Christian Codex Argenteus. The English word itself is derived from the Proto-Germanic * Auan. Most linguists agree that the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European form * ihu-tU-m was based on the root * ihau(Y)-, which meant either îto callî or îto invokeî. The Germanic words for god were originally neuter applying to both genders but during the process of the Christianization of the Germanic peoples from their indigenous Germanic paganism, the word became a masculine syntactic form. The capitalized form God was first used in UlfilasÍs Gothic translation of the New Testament, to represent the Greek Theos. In the English language, the capitalization continues to represent a distinction between monotheistic îGodî and îgodsî in polytheism. In spite of significant differences between religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, the Bah.ÍI Faith, and Judaism, the term îGodî remains an English translation common to all. The name may signify any related or similar monotheistic deities, such as the early monotheism of Akhenaten and Zoroastrianism. When used in English within a community with a common monotheistic background, îGodî always refers to the deity they share. Those with a background in different Abrahamic religions will usually agree on the deity they share, while still differing on details of belief and doctrine they will disagree about attributes of [the] God, rather than thinking in terms of îmy Godî and îyour (different) Godî. Names of God Conceptions of God can vary widely, but the word God in English and its counterparts in other languages, such as Latinate Deus, Greek ouA-, Slavic Bog, Sanskrit Ishvara, or Arabic Allah are normally used for any and all conceptions. The same holds for Hebrew El, but in Judaism, God is also given a proper name, the tetragrammaton (usually reconstructed as Yahweh or YHWH), believed to be a mark of the religionÍs henotheistic origins. In many translations of the Bible, when the word îLORDî is in all capitals, it signifies that the word represents the tetragrammaton. God may also be given a proper name in monotheistic currents of Hinduism which emphasize the personal nature of God, with early references to his name as Krishna-Vasudeva in Bhagavata or later Vishnu and Hari. For aboriginal Guanches (Tenerife, Spain) God is called Acham.n. It is difficult to distinguish between proper names and epitheta of God, such as the names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament, the names of God in the QurÍan, and the various lists of the thousand names of Hindu gods and List of titles and names of Krishna in Vaishnavism. Throughout the Hebrew and Christian Bible there are many names for God that portray his (God is always characterised as male) nature and character. One of them is elohim, which has been argued to mean strong one , among other things, although the etymology is debated and obscure. Another one is El Shaddai, meaning God Almighty . A third notable name is El Elyon, which means The Most High God . Conceptions of God Conceptions of God vary widely. Theologians and philosophers have studied countless conceptions of God since the dawn of civilization. The Abrahamic conceptions of God include the trinitarian view of Christians, the Kabbalistic definition of Jewish mysticism, and the Islamic concept of God. The dharmic religions differ in their view of the divine: views of God in Hinduism vary by region, sect, and caste, ranging from monotheistic to polytheistic to atheistic; the view of God in Buddhism is almost non-theist. In modern times, some more abstract concepts have been developed, such as process theology and open theism. Conceptions of God held by individual believers vary so widely that there is no clear consensus on the nature of God. The contemporaneous French philosopher Michel Henry has however proposed a phenomenological approach and definition of God as phenomenological essence of Life. Existence of God Main article: Existence of God Many arguments which attempt to prove or disprove the existence of God have been proposed by philosophers, theologians, and other thinkers for many centuries. In philosophical terminology, such arguments concern schools of thought on the epistemology of the ontology of God. There are many philosophical issues concerning the existence of God. Some definitions of God are sometimes nonspecific, while other definitions can be self-contradictory. Arguments for the existence of God typically include metaphysical, empirical, inductive, and subjective types, while others revolve around holes in evolutionary theory and order and complexity in the world. Arguments against the existence of God typically include empirical, deductive, and inductive types. Conclusions reached include: îGod does not existî (strong atheism); îGod almost certainly does not existî (de facto atheism); îno one knows whether God existsî (agnosticism); îGod exists, but this cannot be proven or disprovenî (theism); and îGod exists and this can be provenî (theism). There are numerous variations on these positions. Theological approaches Main article: Theology Theologians and philosophers have ascribed a number of attributes to God, including omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, perfect goodness, divine simplicity, and eternal and necessary existence. God has been described as incorporeal, a personal being, the source of all moral obligation, and the greatest conceivable being existent. These attributes were all claimed to varying degrees by the early Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars, including St Augustine, Al-Ghazali, and Maimonides. Many medieval philosophers developed arguments for the existence of God, while attempting to comprehend the precise implications of GodÍs attributes. Reconciling some of those attributes generated important philosophical problems and debates. For example, GodÍs omniscience implies that God knows how free agents will choose to act. If God does know this, their apparent free will might be illusory, or foreknowledge does not imply predestination; and if God does not know it, God is not omniscient. The last centuries of philosophy have seen vigorous questions regarding the arguments for GodÍs existence raised by such philosophers as Immanuel Kant, David Hume and Antony Flew, although Kant held that the argument from morality was valid. The theist response has been either to contend, like Alvin Plantinga, that faith is îproperly basicî; or to take, like Richard Swinburne, the evidentialist position. Some theists agree that none of the arguments for GodÍs existence are compelling, but argue that faith is not a product of reason, but requires risk. There would be no risk, they say, if the arguments for GodÍs existence were as solid as the laws of logic, a position summed up by Pascal as: îThe heart has reasons which reason knows not of.î Most major religions hold God not as a metaphor, but a being that influences our day-to-day existences. Many believers allow for the existence of other, less powerful spiritual beings, and give them names such as angels, saints, djinni, demons, and devas. Theism and Deism Theism generally holds that God exists realistically, objectively, and independently of human thought; that God created and sustains everything; that God is omnipotent and eternal; personal and interacting with the universe through for example religious experience and the prayers of humans. It holds that God is both transcendent and immanent; thus, God is simultaneously infinite and in some way present in the affairs of the world. Not all theists subscribe to all the above propositions, but usually a fair number of them, c.f., family resemblance. Catholic theology holds that God is infinitely simple and is not involuntarily subject to time. Most theists hold that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent, although this belief raises questions about GodÍs responsibility for evil and suffering in the world. Some theists ascribe to God a self-conscious or purposeful limiting of omnipotence, omniscience, or benevolence. Open Theism, by contrast, asserts that, due to the nature of time, GodÍs omniscience does not mean the deity can predict the future. îTheismî is sometimes used to refer in general to any belief in a god or gods, i.e., monotheism or polytheism. Deism holds that God is wholly transcendent: God exists, but does not intervene in the world beyond what was necessary to create it. In this view, God is not anthropomorphic, and does not literally answer prayers or cause miracles to occur. Common in Deism is a belief that God has no interest in humanity and may not even be aware of humanity. Pandeism and Panendeism, respectively, combine Deism with the Pantheistic or Panentheistic beliefs discussed below. The Name of God written in Arabic calligraphy by 17th century Ottoman artist H,f1z Osman. In Islam, it is considered a sin to anthropomorphize God. Some writers such as Karen Armstrong believe that the concept of monotheism sees a gradual development out of notions of henotheism and monolatrism. In the Ancient Near East, each city had a local patron deity, such as Shamash at Larsa or Sin at Ur. The first claims of global supremacy of a specific god date to the Late Bronze Age, with AkhenatenÍs Great Hymn to the Aten, and, depending on dating issues, ZoroasterÍs Gathas to Ahura Mazda. Currents of monism or monotheism emerge in Vedic India in the same period, with e.g. the Nasadiya Sukta. Philosophical monotheism and the associated concept of absolute good and evil emerges in Classical Antiquity, notably with Plato (c.f. Euthyphro dilemma), elaborated into the idea of The One in Neoplatonism. According to The Oxford Companion To World Mythology, îThe lack of cohesion among early Hebrews made monotheism even monolatry, the exclusive worship of one god among many an impossibility...And even then it can be argued that the firm establishment of monotheism in Judaism required the rabbinical or Talmudic process of the first century B.C.E. to the sixth century C.E.î. In Islamic theology, a person who spontaneously îdiscoversî monotheism is called a %an+f, the original %an+f being Abraham. Austrian anthropologist Wilhelm Schmidt in the 1910s postulated an Urmonotheismus, îoriginalî or îprimitive monotheismî, a thesis now widely rejected in comparative religion but still occasionally defended in creationist circles. Monotheism and pantheism Monotheists hold that there is only one god, and may claim that the one true god is worshiped in different religions under different names. The view that all theists actually worship the same god, whether they know it or not, is especially emphasized in Hinduism and Sikhism. Adherents of different religions, however, generally disagree as to how to best worship God and what is GodÍs plan for mankind, if there is one. There are different approaches to reconciling the contradictory claims of monotheistic religions. One view is taken by exclusivists, who believe they are the chosen people or have exclusive access to absolute truth, generally through revelation or encounter with the Divine, which adherents of other religions do not. Another view is religious pluralism. A pluralist typically believes that his religion is the right one, but does not deny the partial truth of other religions. An example of a pluralist view in Christianity is supersessionism, i.e., the belief that oneÍs religion is the fulfillment of previous religions. A third approach is relativistic inclusivism, where everybody is seen as equally right; an example in Christianity is universalism: the doctrine that salvation is eventually available for everyone. A fourth approach is syncretism, mixing different elements from different religions. An example of syncretism is the New Age movement. Pantheism holds that God is the universe and the universe is God, whereas Panentheism holds that God contains, but is not identical to, the Universe; the distinctions between the two are subtle. It is also the view of the Liberal Catholic Church, Theosophy, some views of Hinduism except Vaishnavism which believes in panentheism, Sikhism, some divisions of Buddhism, some divisions of Neopaganism and Taoism, along with many varying denominations and individuals within denominations. Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, paints a pantheistic/panentheistic view of God which has wide acceptance in Hasidic Judaism, particularly from their founder The Baal Shem Tov but only as an addition to the Jewish view of a personal god, not in the original pantheistic sense that denies or limits persona to God. Dystheism and nontheism Dystheism, related to theodicy is a form of theism which holds that God is either not wholly good or is fully malevolent as a consequence of the problem of evil. One such example would be Satanism or the Devil. Nontheism holds that the universe can be explained without any reference to the supernatural, or to a supernatural being. Some non-theists avoid the concept of God, whilst accepting that it is significant to many; other non-theists understand God as a symbol of human values and aspirations. Many schools of Buddhism may be considered non-theistic. Scientific positions regarding God See also: Evolutionary origin of religions and Evolutionary psychology of religion Stephen Jay Gould proposed an approach dividing the world of philosophy into what he called înon-overlapping magisteriaî (NOMA). In this view, questions of the supernatural, such as those relating to the existence and nature of God, are non-empirical and are the proper domain of theology. The methods of science should then be used to answer any empirical question about the natural world, and theology should be used to answer questions about ultimate meaning and moral value. In this view, the perceived lack of any empirical footprint from the magisterium of the supernatural onto natural events makes science the sole player in the natural world. Another view, advanced by Richard Dawkins, is that the existence of God is an empirical question, on the grounds that îa universe with a god would be a completely different kind of universe from one without, and it would be a scientific difference.î Carl Sagan argued that the doctrine of a Creator of the Universe was difficult to prove or disprove and that the only conceivable scientific discovery that could challenge it would be an infinitely old universe. Pascal Boyer argues that while there is a wide array of supernatural concepts found around the world, in general, supernatural beings tend to behave much like people. The construction of gods and spirits like persons is one of the best known traits of religion. He cites examples from Greek Mythology, which is, in his opinion, more like a modern soap opera than other religious systems. Bertrand du Castel and Timothy Jurgensen demonstrate through formalization that BoyerÍs explanatory model matches physicsÍ epistemology in positing not directly observable entities as intermediaries. Anthropologist Stewart Guthrie contends that people project human features onto non-human aspects of the world because it makes those aspects more familiar. Sigmund Freud also suggested that god concepts are projections of oneÍs father. Likewise, ...mile Durkheim was one of the earliest to suggest that gods represent an extension of human social life to include supernatural beings. In line with this reasoning, psychologist Matt Rossano contends that when humans began living in larger groups, they may have created gods as a means of enforcing morality. In small groups, morality can be enforced by social forces such as gossip or reputation. However it is much harder to enforce morality using social forces in much larger groups. He indicates that by including ever watchful gods and spirits, humans discovered an effective strategy for restraining selfishness and building more cooperative groups. Distribution of belief in God Main article: List of religious populations The percentage of population in European countries who responded in a 2005 census that they îbelieve there is a Godî. Countries with Roman Catholic (eg: Poland, Portugal) Eastern Orthodox (Greece, Romania) or Muslim (Turkey) majorities tend to poll highest.