The sixth circle; the tomb of the heretical pope, Anastasius; the plan of Hell

canto summary and diagram

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1 At the upper rim of a high bank, Composed of broken boulders in a round Formation, we looked upon an abyss which stank inferno xi 4 Disgustingly, its souls suffering more profound Cruelty than any we'd seen before. We drew back from the stench and found 7 Shelter behind the lid of a great tomb which bore This inscription: "Inside lies the pope * Anastasius, whom Photinus induced to ignore 10 The straight path." "We'll descend this slope As soon as our sense of smell can adjust To these fumes; then we'll be able to cope." inferno xi 13 Thus said the master, and I: "Yes, but you must Find some way to use the time before we go." "Indeed, I've thought of a way which I trust 16 You'll appreciate," he said. "My son, below This ring of boulders are three smaller circles spaced Concentrically, like the ones you already know. 19 Each is packed with spirits cursed and debased; And so that the sight of them will alone suffice, I'll explain now how and why they're so placed. inferno xi 22 The end of every malice is injustice, * Achieved either by fraud or violence Against others.And while heaven hates either vice, 25 Fraud is peculiar to humans, and hence Displeases God more; thus the fraudulent Are put lower and suffer a pain more intense. 28 The next circle below us is filled with the violent, But since there are three persons against whom someone Can use force, there are three rounds of punishment. inferno xi 31 Toward God, oneself, or one's neighbor—the person Himself or his goods, that is—force can be directed, As you'll see clearly from my explanation. 34 Through the use of force, one's neighbor can be subjected To painful wounds or death, and his material Goods ruined, burned, or stolen; this is reflected 37 In the first round, where murderers suffer eternal Torment side by side with plunderers and all who Maliciously assault. The second round is for those dismal inferno xi 40 Shades who in life put violent hands to Their own throats or their possessions; in vain Is the remorse of those who perversely undo 43 The life given to them, who complain When they should be joyful, or who dissipate Their advantages until none remain. 46 As for the third round, one can also perpetrate Violence against God, by denying Him at the core And cursing the bounty He and Nature create; inferno xi 49 Thus locked in this lowest round are Sodom, Cahors, * And all those who hate God in their heart And shout words which blaspheme and deplore. 52 Fraud, on the other hand, which gnaws and chews apart Every conscience, is practiced upon those who show Trust as well as those who don't; to start 55 With the latter, this kind of fraud has no Effect beyond severing the bond of love which Nature's Law provides for us; thus in the second circle below inferno xi 58 Are nests of hypocrites, flatterers, lying creatures, Sorcerers, simonists, pimps, thieves, Swindlers, seducers, and other filthy vultures. 61 By contrast, in the former mode of fraud one leaves Behind not only the love which is natural, But also the additional love which conceives 64 And creates that trust which is special; Thus in the smallest circle, at the seat of Dis, The earth's focus, all traitors suffer pain eternal." inferno xi 67 "Master," I said, "your reasoning is clear in this, And serves precisely to explain The nature and population of this abyss. 70 But tell me: What about those souls beaten by the rain, Driven by the wind, trapped in the marsh's slime, Or caught in fierce verbal battles? Why not detain * 73 These in the red city, if God condemns their crime? Or if He doesn't, why torment souls of this kind?" And he replied: "Most of the time inferno xi 76 Your thoughts are steady, so why are they so inclined To wander now? Or am I missing something? Is another idea distracting your mind? 79 Unless I'm mistaken, aren't you forgetting How the Ethics, your authority, * Describes the three conditions so revolting 82 To heaven—incontinence, mad bestiality And malice? and how, of them all, Incontinence least offends the Deity, inferno xi 85 And receives less blame? Indeed, if you'll recall That doctrine precisely, and picture those we've seen Suffering above, outside this city wall, 88 You'll readily see why these souls have been Kept apart, and why divine vengeance Hammers at them with an anger less keen." 91 "Oh sun that fills dull sight with brilliance, Your answers give me such satisfaction That I hardly prefer knowledge to ignorance. inferno xi 94 But go back a bit," I requested, "to the notion That divine goodness is offended by usury. * Can you please give that riddle a solution?" 97 "To one who understands it," he said, "Philosophy Points out—and not just in one part – That nature takes her course faithfully 100 From the divine intellect and its art. And if you inspect your Physics with care You'll find, not many pages from the start, inferno xi 103 That your own art imitates Nature, at least where * It can, like a pupil his master; thus in turn Your art is the Deity's grandchild. Now, by this pair, 106 Art and Nature, man was intended to earn His living and prosper—if you'll recall the beginning Of Genesis. But the usurer refuses to learn * 109 This lesson; he takes a different way, scorning Both Nature and her pupil, putting his aspiration In something else. But it's time we were going: inferno xi 112 The Fish are shimmering on the horizon, Toward the west the Wain * Lies over Caurus, and farther on 115 Is the place where we descend again."

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8–10. Dante's sources confused Pope Anastasius II (469–498) with the Emperor Anastasius (491–518). It was the emperor who was influenced by Photinus to adopt the Acacian heresy, which denied the divine birth of Christ. ^
22. In this instance, malice means any evil action. ^
49. The cities of Sodom, in Palestine, and Cahors, in France, 
are used as synomyms for sodomites and usurers. ^
70–72. Dante is inquiring here about the incontinent, in upper 
Hell, as distinct from the violent, within Dis. ^
80–90. The reference is to the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle."Incontinence" is overindulgence of passions which are lawful in moderation (lust, gluttony, avarice, prodigality, and anger). According to Aristotle, sins of this sort are less reprehensible than those of "malice" (fraud), or "mad bestiality" (violence). ^
95. For the medieval church the only sources of real wealth 
were Nature herself, or man's art (industry).  Usury was 
unproductive and "offensive." ^
101–103.   Aristotle's Physics teaches that Art mimics Nature. ^
105–108. This probably refers to Genesis 3:19. ^
112–113.   It's unclear how Virgil knows the positions of the stars 
from their vantage point in Hell.  However, the reference is to 
a rising Pisces, with Ursa Major in the northwest.  According to 
the first canto, the sun is in Aries, and since Aries follows Pisces 
by two hours, it must be two hours before dawn. ^

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