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The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.
-Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy

Writing in the vernacular, and helping to create a new vernacular for much of Italy, allowed Dante’s ideas to take wide root – and helped set the stage for the intellectual revolutions to come in the Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment. 

Christian Blauvelt

1308-1320 CE

Dante Alighieri

But it’s just one line of the 14,233 that make up The Divine Comedy, the three-part epic poem published in 1320 by Florentine bureaucrat turned visionary storyteller Dante Alighieri. Literary ambition seems to have been with Dante, born in 1265, from early in life when he wished to become a pharmacist. In late 13th Century Florence, books were sold in apothecaries, a testament to the common notion that words on paper or parchment could affect minds with their ideas as much as any drug.

He had the presumption to fill in what the Bible leaves out. And, setting the stage for the Renaissance and its rebirth of Classical learning, Dante’s idea of Hell draws from Aristotle’s view that reason is the most important thing in life – which would be the later idea in Protestantism that an individual’s reason is their path to salvation. Each circle of Hell, and the Seven Deadly Sins assigned to them along with a few other categories, is classified based on either failures of reason (the lesser crimes, in which primal impulses overwhelm intellect, such as lust, gluttony, greed and sloth) or outright, conscious assaults on reason (such as fraud and malice, which are the direst crimes in Hell and for whom the damned are placed in the lowest, darkest circles).

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ravenna, italy

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2020 | Present