Fraud and Sex in a Post-Geryon World

  • a new beginning: the entrance to lower Hell
  • a built environment as compared to the perverted natural environment of the circle of violence; devils as guardians compared to the monstrous animal-based guardians of upper Hell
  • the semiotic nature of fraud
  • the list of Italian cities in Malebolge, here Bologna and Lucca: political identity as linguistic identity (“sipa”) and the connection to De vulgari eloquentia
  • the presence of sexualized sins and sinners
  • two sets of classical/contemporary couples

Inferno 18 is the first canto of the eighth circle, the circle of fraud. This enormous circle containing fraudulent souls extends from Inferno 18 all the way to Inferno 30, making up 38% of Dante’s hell, textually speaking. The opening verse of the canto self-consciously marks a narrative new beginning in the Inferno. This is—finally—the true entrance to lower Hell.

The first verse of Inferno 18 announces this entrance: “Luogo è in inferno detto Malebolge” (There is a place in Hell called Malebolge [Inf. 18.1]).

This verse is interesting on a number of counts. First, its merging of the Latinate “Luogo è” (“locus est”) with Dante’s plebeian neologism “Malebolge” will be mirrored in the classical/contemporary couplings that we find featured among the sinners of the eighth circle.

Also, and particularly interesting with respect to Dante’s ongoing techniques of verisimilitude, is the little word “detto”: an innocent past participle that is used to subliminally convey the information that the word “Malebolge” has currency as a word, that it comes trippingly off the tongues of some set of humans. To say “Luogo è in inferno detto Malebolge” (There is a place in hell called Malebolge [Inf. 18.1]) is to treat Malebolge as an accepted place on a real map, a place that is “called Malebolge” by someone. By whom is this place called Malebolge? Given that Dante invented the name, there can have been no one who uttered it until the existence of Inferno 18. But we never pose the question “detto da chi?”, because Dante’s verisimilar art has lulled us into acceptance of his invented reality.

In the narrative/stylistic analysis of lower hell in The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 4, I classify Inferno 18 as a “low” style canto, whereas, for instance, the canto that follows belongs to the “high” style. A caveat: these categories should never be taken as monolithic, since even when Dante has designated a certain section or canto as mainly belonging to a particular register or style, he nevertheless always includes some variety. That said: one of the key features of Dante’s Inferno is the extraordinary narrative and stylistic variatio that makes turning the page into a new canto a continual encounter with the new.

Inferno 18 is grosso modo a low style canto, famous for the lowly merda in which the flatterers are immersed. Indeed, in later periods many authors and arbiters of style issued rebukes to Dante for the language of Inferno 18.

The language and style of Inferno 18 clarify the nature and the properties of comedìa, as this text was recently named during the Geryon episode (see Inferno 16.128 and the end of the Introduction to that canto). We now can understand that we are witnessing a form of writing that willingly embraces every kind of language and style, because it represents all of reality, from the lowest abyss to the highest heaven.

The ongoing meditation on the nature of comedìa that runs through the post-Geryon canti includes the contrast between comedìa, which can be low as well as high, and the epics of classical antiquity, which are composed in an unremittingly high style. The contrast between the mixed vernacular style and the high style of classical epic is reflected in another feature of Malebolge, namely the classical/contemporary coupling of souls. This coupling is on display in Inferno 18. In this canto we actually find two sets of classical/contemporary couples, one couple in each bolgia: Venedico Caccianemico and Jason in bolgia 1 (Venedico is a pimp and Jason a seducer), and Alessio Interminelli and Thaïs in bolgia 2.

* * *

The circle of fraud consists of ten bolge, or “sacks” heaped with fraudulent sinners. These sinners are listed in the organizational template of Hell offered by Inferno 11, although not in the order in which they are later encountered:

  ipocresia, lusinghe e chi affattura,
falsità, ladroneccio e simonia,
ruffian, baratti e simile lordura. (Inf. 11.58-60)
  hypocrisy and flattery, sorcerers,
and falsifiers, simony, and theft,
and barrators and panders and like trash.

Inferno 18 is unusually crowded and depicts three groups of sinners, who are divided into two bolge. The first bolgia contains two related groups of sinners, both engaged in sexualized sin involving the traffic of women: the pimps and the seducers.

The two groups of the first bolgia circle the perimeter of the bolgia in opposite directions from each other. (The manner of their opposed circling is somewhat reminiscent of the method used by Dante in Inferno 7, where he treated a previous “double” sin, in that case involving the misers and the prodigals.) The second bolgia contains the flatterers.

The pimps and the flatterers are named in the summary terzina of Inferno 11: see, in the above citation, “lusinghe” (flattery) in Inferno 11.58 and “ruffian” in Inferno 11.60.

Inferno 18 is unusual in containing two bolge in one canto, giving an impression of souls packed into hell like commuters in a packed subway car. The crowded feel of these two bolge is enhanced by the two sets of sinners comprised in the first bolgia.

An aspect of Inferno 18 that is ripe for future exploration is the gendered and sexualized discourse featured throughout the canto.

The first soul with whom the pilgrim speaks does not want to be recognized, another common trait of sinners in lower Hell. But Dante persists in addressing him, asking him whether he is Venedico Caccianemico, and inquiring as to what has led him to “such pungent sauces” (“sì pungenti salse” [Inf. 18.51]). In explaining what has brought him to the bolgia of pimps and seducers, Venedico offers a synthetic account of a sordid tale. He pimped his sister, beautiful Ghisola, constraining her to do the will of the Marquis who paid him: “I’ fui colui che la Ghisolabella / condussi a far la voglia del marchese” (For it was I who led Ghisolabella / to do as the Marquis would have her do [Inf. 18.55-56]).

A number of interesting points emerge from the pilgrim’s brief colloquy with Venedico. The verses in which Venedico describes what he did to his sister cast both himself and the Marchese as agents—one constrained Ghisolabella and the other profited sexually—while casting the woman as the victim. In this canto of sexualized sin the women will run the gamut from passive victim to aggressor: Ghisolabella is portrayed as victim, Hypsipyle as both victim and aggressor, like Medea, while Thaïs is depicted as aggressor.

The men who victimize Ghisola are men of power: Venedico was a powerful Bolognese Guelf, while the “Marchese” of verse 56 is Opizzo II d’Este, lord of Ferrara. Her brother sold sexual relations with his sister and Opizzo II d’Este purchased them; the financial aspect of the transaction connects it to fraud and deceit rather than simply to violence.

Violence is certainly present, however. Opizzo II is among the tyrants in the circle of violence, named in Inferno 12:

e quell'altro ch’è biondo,
è Opizzo da Esti, il qual per vero
fu spento dal figliastro sù nel mondo. (Inf. 12.110-12)
that other there, the blonde one, is Obizzo
of Este, he who was indeed undone,
within the world above, by his fierce son.

Immersed up to his brows in the river of blood in Inferno 12, Opizzo d’Este was violent toward others in both their persons and their possessions. The phrase “far la voglia del marchese” in Inferno 18.56—to do the will of the Marquis—captures the nature of a man for whom others exist only as objects. At the same time, the few verses referring to Opizzo in Inferno 12 remind us that violence breeds violence, for Opizzo was killed by his son.

We can see a vast interconnected network taking shape. The links between the souls of Dante’s afterlife have yet to be fully explored and mapped. As I wrote in “Only Historicize” (cited in Coordinated Reading): “The Commedia includes an amazing web of family—and hence political—interconnectivity spun by Dante, who so carefully chose and enmeshed the characters of his great poem” (p. 49).

Venedico’s account will also include the semiotic and representational dimension that is so heightened in the post-Geryon world. Venedico refers to the “sconcia novella” (filthy tale [Inf. 18.57]) that circulates about him and his sister, thus alluding to the oral dimension of gossip and scandal. And Venedico subsequently implicates his fellow Bolognesi in his sin, referring to them linguistically: they are those who say “sipa” for “sì” between Savena and Reno (verses 60-61).

In his characterizing of the Bolognese by their use of the affirmative adverb “sipa” Dante draws on his own background as a linguist and writer on language. He first uses the affirmative adverb as a marker of political identity in his linguistic treatise De vulgari eloquentia, where he distinguishes between Italian, French, and Occitan by their modes of affirmation:

Totum vero quod in Europa restat ab istis, tertium tenuit ydioma, licet nunc tripharium videatur; nam alii oc, alii oïl, alii affirmando locuntur; ut puta Yspani, Franci et Latini. (De vulgari eloquentia 1.8.5)

All the rest of Europe that was not dominated by these two vernaculars was held by a third, although nowadays this itself seems to be divided in three: for some now say oc, some oïl, and some , when they answer in the affirmative; and these are the Hispanic, the French, and the ItaIians.

In Inferno 18, Dante elaborates the modes of saying “yes” on the Italian peninsula, adding the Bolognese “sipa” to the larger category “sì” that he used for Italian in De vulgari eloquentia.

 * * *

The second group of sinners in the first bolgia is that of the seducers and features the great classical hero Jason, in his role as seducer and impregnator of Hypsipyle. Again the sexualized and gendered components of Dante’s account are noteworthy. Hypsipyle and the women of Lemnos are not simply victims, for the back-story of their murder of the men of Lemnos is acknowledged. Here the language is highly gendered, pitting the “femmine” against the “maschi”: “l’ardite femmine spietate / tutti li maschi loro a morte dienno” (its women, bold and pitiless, / had given all their island males to death [Inf. 18.89-90]).

But Dante subsequently, just a few verses later, depicts Hypsipyle no longer as the aggressor but as the quintessential seduced and abandoned female: “Lasciolla quivi, gravida, soletta” (And he abandoned her, alone and pregnant [Inf. 18.94]). Here the language renders Hypsipyle’s vulnerability, and the two adjectives “gravida, soletta” replace the two adjectives used for the women of Lemnos, the “ardite femmine spietate”: the bold and pitiless Hypsipyle is now pregnant and alone.

With “parole ornate” that remind us of Virgilio’s “parola ornata” in Inferno 2.67, Jason deceives Hypsipyle semiotically: “Ivi con segni e con parole ornate / Isifile ingannò” (With polished words and love signs he took in / Hypsipyle [Inf. 18.91-2]). But Dante also reminds us that Hypsipyle, now deceived by Jason, had previously deceived the women of Lemnos, saving her father from their mass murder of the island’s men: “la giovinetta / che prima avea tutte l’altre ingannate” (the girl whose own deception / had earlier deceived the other women [Inf. 18.92-3]).

In the compressed compass of his Hypsipyle narrative, Dante manages to convey the way in which Hypsipyle whipsaws between being the one who harms and the one who is harmed. Deceit is a common denominator in both parts of her story.

In verse 100 Dante transitions to the bolgia of flattery, where the sinners are immersed in shit. The inventive rhyme-words, taken from everyday life and resolutely non-literary—for instance “scuffa”/“muffa”/“zuffa” (Inf. 18.104-8)—are used to give a plebeian tone to the degraded surroundings of the final two sinners of Inferno 18.

Dante sees a man whose head is so covered with shit that it is impossible to discern whether he is lay or cleric: “vidi un col capo sì di merda lordo, / che non parëa s’era laico o cherco” (I saw one with a head so smeared with shit, / one could not see if he were lay or cleric [Inf. 18.116-7]). With this aside, the poet reminds us that back in Inferno 7 he was able to recognize the clerics among the misers of the fourth circle, a group that includes cardinals and popes. At that time Dante was able to discern the tonsured heads of the clerics (Inf. 7.46-7); now such details are not visible.

The pilgrim forcefully names this sinner, Alessio Interminelli of Lucca (Inf. 18.122), despite his unwillingness to be named. Both Italian sinners in this canto crave anonymity, and both have long and mellifluous names that Dante seems to delight in spreading out over the length of the verse: first “Venedico se’ tu Caccianemico” (You are Venedico Caccianmico [Inf. 18.50]), and then “e se’ Alessio Interminei da Lucca” (You are Alessio Interminelli of Lucca [Inf. 18.122]).

There is a division of labor in Inferno 18 between Dante (contemporary) and Virgilio (classical) that is keyed to the contemporary/classical couplings of the souls.

In bolgia one the pilgrim recognizes and names Venedico, while Virgilio points to Jason (“Quelli è Iasón” [86]); in bolgia two the pilgrim recognizes and names Alessio, while Virgilio points to Thaïs. This division of labor anticipates the pièce de résistance of classical/contemporary couplings in Malebolge: Virgilio insists that he should be the one to speak to Ulysses (Inferno 26), and then instructs Dante to address Guido da Montefeltro, given that he is Italian (Inferno 27).

Thaïs is a whore in Terence’s comic play Eunuchus, a play that Cicero cites in De Amicitia XXVI.98. Cicero is most likely Dante’s source. Dante misunderstands his source and inverts the flatterer and the flattered, ascribing the wrong role to Thaïs.

The erudite and Latinate context from which Thaïs derives does not preclude her being described in the sexualized terms that we have seen throughout Inferno 18. She is the “sozza e scapigliata fante / che là si graffia con l’unghie merdose” (that besmirched, bedraggled harridan / who scratches at herself with shit-filled nails [Inf. 18.130-1]). The adjective “scapigliata” in verse 130, which specifies the courtesan’s “bedroom hair”, reminds us that Dante does not sexualize hair in the infernal canto that treats lust (Inferno 5), as he certainly does with respect to Thaïs here, and as he does as well with respect to Manto in Inferno 20. (For the sexualizing of hair and Dante’s avoidance of it in his treatment of lust in the Commedia, see “Dante’s Sympathy for the Other”, cited in Coordinated Reading.)

The vulgarity of the Dantean verse that conjures Thaïs’ past profession, “e or s’accoscia e ora è in piedi stante” (and now she crouches, now she stands upright [Inf. 18.132]), stands in fascinating contrast to the dialogue that follows between Thaïs and her lover (most likely translated from Cicero’s De Amicitia), in which the courtesan speaks flatteringly and with hyper-courtesy:

Taide è, la puttana che rispuose
al drudo suo quando disse “Ho io grazie
grandi apo te?”: “Anzi maravigliose!”. (Inf. 18.133-35)

That is Thais, the harlot who returned
her lover’s question, “Are you very grateful
to me?” by saying, “Yes, enormously.”

For Dante, the perfumed nature of Thaïs’ brief speech act is linguistic deceit in action. The narrator makes the deceitfulness of Thaïs’ speech clear by affirming what she is, insisting on her essentialized nature as a “puttana” (verse 133): a whore, someone incapable of engaging in courteous language unless for reasons of deceit. In the essentialized language that makes Thaïs a puttana Dante gives us his final sexualized sinner of Inferno 18.

Coordinated Reading

The Undivine Comedy, Chapter 4, “Narrative and Style in Lower Hell”, pp. 74-78; “Dante Alighieri,” in Women and Gender in Medieval Europe: An Encyclopedia, ed. Margaret Schaus (New York and London: Routledge, 2006), pp. 190-192; “‘Only Historicize’: History, Material Culture (Food, Clothes, Books), and the Future of Dante Studies,” in Dante Studies 127 (2009): 37-54; “Dante’s Sympathy for the Other, or the Non-Stereotyping Imagination: Sexual and Racialized Others in the Commedia,” in Critica del Testo 1 (2011): 177-204 (=Dante, oggi, vol. 1. Eds. Roberto Antonelli, Annalisa Pandolfi, and Arianna Punzi. Roma: Viella, 2011. 3 vols.).

Recommended Citation

Barolini, Teodolinda. “Inferno 18: Fraud and Sex in a Post-Geryon World.” Commento Baroliniano, Digital Dante. New York, NY: Columbia University Libraries, 2017. https://digitaldante.columbia.edu/dante/divine-comedy/inferno/inferno-18/

About the Commento

1 Luogo è in inferno detto Malebolge,
2 tutto di pietra di color ferrigno,
3 come la cerchia che dintorno il volge.

4 Nel dritto mezzo del campo maligno
5 vaneggia un pozzo assai largo e profondo,
6 di cui suo loco dicerò l’ordigno.

7 Quel cinghio che rimane adunque è tondo
8 tra ’l pozzo e ’l piè de l’alta ripa dura,
9 e ha distinto in dieci valli il fondo.

10 Quale, dove per guardia de le mura
11 più e più fossi cingon li castelli,
12 la parte dove son rende figura,

13 tale imagine quivi facean quelli;
14 e come a tai fortezze da’ lor sogli
15 a la ripa di fuor son ponticelli,

16 così da imo de la roccia scogli
17 movien che ricidien li argini e ’ fossi
18 infino al pozzo che i tronca e raccogli.

19 In questo luogo, de la schiena scossi
20 di Gerïon, trovammoci; e ’l poeta
21 tenne a sinistra, e io dietro mi mossi.

22 A la man destra vidi nova pieta,
23 novo tormento e novi frustatori,
24 di che la prima bolgia era repleta.

25 Nel fondo erano ignudi i peccatori;
26 dal mezzo in qua ci venien verso ’l volto,
27 di là con noi, ma con passi maggiori,

28 come i Roman per l’essercito molto,
29 l’anno del giubileo, su per lo ponte
30 hanno a passar la gente modo colto,

31 che da l’un lato tutti hanno la fronte
32 verso ’l castello e vanno a Santo Pietro,
33 da l’altra sponda vanno verso ’l monte.

34 Di qua, di là, su per lo sasso tetro
35 vidi demon cornuti con gran ferze,
36 che li battien crudelmente di retro.

37 Ahi come facean lor levar le berze
38 a le prime percosse! già nessuno
39 le seconde aspettava né le terze.

40 Mentr’ io andava, li occhi miei in uno
41 furo scontrati; e io sì tosto dissi:
42 «Già di veder costui non son digiuno».

43 Per ch’ïo a figurarlo i piedi affissi;
44 e ’l dolce duca meco si ristette,
45 e assentio ch’alquanto in dietro gissi.

46 E quel frustato celar si credette
47 bassando ’l viso; ma poco li valse,
48 ch’io dissi: «O tu che l’occhio a terra gette,

49 se le fazion che porti non son false,
50 Venedico se’ tu Caccianemico.
51 Ma che ti mena a sì pungenti salse?».

52 Ed elli a me: «Mal volentier lo dico;
53 ma sforzami la tua chiara favella,
54 che mi fa sovvenir del mondo antico.

55 I’ fui colui che la Ghisolabella
56 condussi a far la voglia del marchese,
57 come che suoni la sconcia novella.

58 E non pur io qui piango bolognese;
59 anzi n’è questo luogo tanto pieno,
60 che tante lingue non son ora apprese

61 a dicer ‘sipa’ tra Sàvena e Reno;
62 e se di ciò vuoi fede o testimonio,
63 rècati a mente il nostro avaro seno».

64 Così parlando il percosse un demonio
65 de la sua scurïada, e disse: «Via,
66 ruffian! qui non son femmine da conio».

67 I’ mi raggiunsi con la scorta mia;
68 poscia con pochi passi divenimmo
69 là ’v’ uno scoglio de la ripa uscia.

70 Assai leggeramente quel salimmo;
71 e vòlti a destra su per la sua scheggia,
72 da quelle cerchie etterne ci partimmo.

73 Quando noi fummo là dov’ el vaneggia
74 di sotto per dar passo a li sferzati,
75 lo duca disse: «Attienti, e fa che feggia

76 lo viso in te di quest’ altri mal nati,
77 ai quali ancor non vedesti la faccia
78 però che son con noi insieme andati».

79 Del vecchio ponte guardavam la traccia
80 che venìa verso noi da l’ altra banda,
81 e che la ferza similmente scaccia.

82 E ’l buon maestro, sanza mia dimanda,
83 mi disse: «Guarda quel grande che vene,
84 e per dolor non par lagrime spanda:

85 quanto aspetto reale ancor ritene!
86 Quelli è Iasón, che per cuore e per senno
87 li Colchi del monton privati féne.

88 Ello passò per l’isola di Lenno,
89 poi che l’ardite femmine spietate
90 tutti li maschi loro a morte dienno.

91 Ivi con segni e con parole ornate
92 Isifile ingannò, la giovinetta
93 che prima avea tutte l’ altre ingannate.

94 Lasciolla quivi, gravida, soletta;
95 tal colpa a tal martiro lui condanna;
96 e anche di Medea si fa vendetta.

97 Con lui sen va chi da tal parte inganna:
98 e questo basti de la prima valle
99 sapere e di color che ’n sé assanna».

100 Già eravam là ’ve lo stretto calle
101 con l’ argine secondo s’incrocicchia,
102 e fa di quello ad un altr’ arco spalle.

103 Quindi sentimmo gente che si nicchia
104 ne l’altra bolgia e che col muso scuffa,
105 e sé medesma con le palme picchia.

106 Le ripe eran grommate d’una muffa,
107 per l’alito di giù che vi s’appasta,
108 che con li occhi e col naso facea zuffa.

109 Lo fondo è cupo sì, che non ci basta
110 loco a veder sanza montare al dosso
111 de l’arco, ove lo scoglio più sovrasta.

112 Quivi venimmo; e quindi giù nel fosso
113 vidi gente attuffata in uno sterco
114 che da li uman privadi parea mosso.

115 E mentre ch’io là giù con l’occhio cerco,
116 vidi un col capo sì di merda lordo,
117 che non parëa s’era laico o cherco.

118 Quei mi sgridò: «Perché se’ tu sì gordo
119 di riguardar più me che li altri brutti?».
120 E io a lui: «Perché, se ben ricordo,

121 già t’ho veduto coi capelli asciutti,
122 e se’ Alessio Interminei da Lucca:
123 però t’adocchio più che li altri tutti».

124 Ed elli allor, battendosi la zucca:
125 «Qua giù m’hanno sommerso le lusinghe
126 ond’io non ebbi mai la lingua stucca».

127 Appresso ciò lo duca «Fa che pinghe»,
128 mi disse «il viso un poco più avante,
129 sì che la faccia ben con l’occhio attinghe

130 di quella sozza e scapigliata fante
131 che là si graffia con l’unghie merdose,
132 e or s’accoscia e ora è in piedi stante.

133 Taïde è, la puttana che rispuose
134 al drudo suo quando disse “Ho io grazie
135 grandi apo te?”: “Anzi maravigliose!”.

136 E quinci sien le nostre viste sazie».

There is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
made all of stone the color of crude iron,
as is the wall that makes its way around it.

Right in the middle of this evil field
is an abyss, a broad and yawning pit,
whose structure I shall tell in its due place.

The belt, then, that extends between the pit
and that hard, steep wall’s base is circular;
its bottom has been split into ten valleys.

Just as, where moat on moat surrounds a castle
in order to keep guard upon the walls,
the ground they occupy will form a pattern,

so did the valleys here form a design;
and as such fortresses have bridges running
right from their thresholds toward the outer bank,

so here, across the banks and ditches, ridges
ran from the base of that rock wall until
the pit that cuts them short and joins them all.

This was the place in which we found ourselves
when Geryon had put us down; the poet
held to the left, and I walked at his back.

Upon the right I saw new misery,
I saw new tortures and new torturers,
filling the first of Malebolge’s moats.

Along its bottom, naked sinners moved,
to our side of the middle, facing us;
beyond that, they moved with us, but more quickly—

as, in the year of Jubilee, the Romans,
confronted by great crowds, contrived a plan
that let the people pass across the bridge,

for to one side went all who had their eyes
upon the Castle, heading toward St. Peter’s,
and to the other, those who faced the Mount.

Both left and right, along the somber rock,
I saw horned demons with enormous whips,
who lashed those spirits cruelly from behind.

Ah, how their first strokes made those sinners lift
their heels! Indeed no sinner waited for
a second stroke to fall—or for a third.

And as I moved ahead, my eyes met those
of someone else, and suddenly I said:
“I was not spared the sight of him before.”

And so I stayed my steps, to study him;
my gentle guide had stopped together with me
and gave me leave to take a few steps back.

That scourged soul thought that he could hide himself
by lowering his face; it helped him little,
for I said: “You, who cast your eyes upon

the ground, if these your features are not false,
must be Venedico Caccianemico;
but what brings you to sauces so piquant?”

And he to me: “I speak unwillingly;
but your plain speech, that brings the memory
of the old world to me, is what compels me;

For it was I who led Ghisolabella
to do as the Marquis would have her do—
however they retell that filthy tale.

I’m not the only Bolognese who weeps here;
indeed, this place is so crammed full of us
that not so many tongues have learned to say

sipa between the Savena and Reno;
if you want faith and testament of that,
just call to mind our avaricious hearts.”

And as he spoke, a demon cudgeled him
with his horsewhip and cried: “Be off, you pimp,
there are no women here for you to trick.”

I joined my escort once again; and then
with but few steps, we came upon a place
where, from the bank, a rocky ridge ran out.

We climbed quite easily along that height;
and turning right upon its jagged back,
we took our leave of those eternal circlings.

When we had reached the point where that ridge opens
below to leave a passage for the lashed,
my guide said: “Stay, and make sure that the sight

of still more ill—born spirits strikes your eyes,
for you have not yet seen their faces, since
they have been moving in our own direction.”

From the old bridge we looked down at the ranks
of those approaching from the other side;
they too were driven onward by the lash.

And my good master, though I had not asked,
urged me: “Look at that mighty one who comes
and does not seem to shed a tear of pain:

how he still keeps the image of a king!
That shade is Jason, who with heart and head
deprived the men of Colchis of their ram.

He made a landfall on the isle of Lemnos
after its women, bold and pitiless,
had given all their island males to death.

With polished words and love signs he took in
Hypsipyle, the girl whose own deception
had earlier deceived the other women.

And he abandoned her, alone and pregnant;
such guilt condemns him to such punishment;
and for Medea, too, revenge is taken.

With him go those who cheated so: this is
enough for you to know of that first valley
and of the souls it clamps within its jaws.”

We were already where the narrow path
reaches and intersects the second bank
and serves as shoulder for another bridge.

We heard the people whine in the next pouch
and heard them as they snorted with their snouts;
we heard them use their palms to beat themselves.

And exhalations, rising from below,
stuck to the banks, encrusting them with mold,
and so waged war against both eyes and nose.

The bottom is so deep, we found no spot
to see it from, except by climbing up
the arch until the bridge’s highest point.

This was the place we reached; the ditch beneath
held people plunged in excrement that seemed
as if it had been poured from human privies.

And while my eyes searched that abysmal sight,
I saw one with a head so smeared with shit,
one could not see if he were lay or cleric.

He howled: “Why do you stare more greedily
at me than at the others who are filthy?”
And I: “Because, if I remember right,

I have seen you before, with your hair dry;
and so I eye you more than all: you are
Alessio Interminei of Lucca.”‘

Then he continued, pounding on his pate:
“I am plunged here because of flatteries—
of which my tongue had such sufficiency.”

At which my guide advised me: “See you thrust
your head a little farther to the front,
so that your eyes can clearly glimpse the face

of that besmirched, bedraggled harridan
who scratches at herself with shit—filled nails,
and now she crouches, now she stands upright.

That is Thais, the harlot who returned
her lover’s question, ‘Are you very grateful
to me?’ by saying, ‘Yes, enormously.'”

And now our sight has had its fill of this.”

THERE is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
Wholly of stone and of an iron colour,
As is the circle that around it turns.

Right in the middle of the field malign
There yawns a well exceeding wide and deep,
Of which its place the structure will recount.

Round, then, is that enclosure which remains
Between the well and foot of the high, hard bank,
And has distinct in valleys ten its bottom.

As where for the protection of the walls
Many and many moats surround the castles,
The part in which they are a figure forms,

Just such an image those presented there;
And as about such strongholds from their gates
Unto the outer bank are little bridges,

So from the precipice’s base did crags
Project, which intersected dikes and moats,
Unto the well that truncates and collects them.

Within this place, down shaken from the back
Of Geryon, we found us; and the Poet
Held to the left, and I moved on behind.

Upon my right hand I beheld new anguish,
New torments, and new wielders of the lash,
Wherewith the foremost Bolgia was replete.

Down at the bottom were the sinners naked;
This side the middle came they facing us,
Beyond it, with us, but with greater steps;

Even as the Romans, for the mighty host,
The year of Jubilee, upon the bridge,
Have chosen a mode to pass the people over;

For all upon one side towards the Castle
Their faces have, and go unto St. Peter’s;
On the other side they go towards the Mountain.

This side and that, along the livid stone
Beheld I horned demons with great scourges,
Who cruelly were beating them behind.

Ah me ! how they did make them lift their legs
At the first blows ! and sooth not any one
The second waited for, nor for the third.

While I was going on, mine eyes by one
Encountered were; and straight I said: “Already
With sight of this one I am not unfed.”

Therefore I stayed my feet to make him out,
And with me the sweet Guide came to a stand,
And to my going somewhat back assented;

And he, the scourged one. thought to hide himself,
Lowering his face, but little it availed him;
For said I: “Thou that castest down thine eyes

If false are not the features which thou bearest;
Thou art Venedico Caccianimico;
But what doth bring thee to such pungent sauces ?”

And he to me: “Unwillingly I tell it;
But forces me thine utterance distinct,
Which makes me recollect the ancient world.

I was the one who the fair Ghisola
Induced to grant the wishes of the Marquis,
Howe’er the shameless story may be told.

Not the sole Bolognese am I who weeps here;
Nay, rather is this place so full of them,
That not so many tongues to—day are taught

‘Twixt Reno and Savena to say _sipa;_
And if thereof thou wishest pledge or proof,
Bring to thy mind our avaricious heart.”

While speaking in this manner, with his scourge
A demon smote him, and said: “Get thee gone
Pander, there are no women here for coin.”

I joined myself again unto mine Escort;
Thereafterward with footsteps few we came
To where a crag projected from the bank.

This very easily did we ascend,
And turning to the right along its ridge,
From those eternal circles we departed.

When we were there, where it is hollowed out
Beneath, to give a passage to the scourged,
The Guide said: “Wait, and see that on thee strike

The vision of those others evil—born,
Of whom thou hast not yet beheld the faces,
Because together with us they have gone.”

From the old bridge we looked upon the train
Which tow’rds us came upon the other border,
And which the scourges in like manner smite.

And the good Master, without my inquiring,
Said to me: “See that tall one who is coming,
And for his pain seems not to shed a tear;

Still what a royal aspect he retains !
That Jason is, who by his heart and cunning
The Colchians of the Ram made destitute.

He by the isle of Lemnos passed along
After the daring women pitiless
Had unto death devoted all their males.

There with his tokens and with ornate words
Did he deceive Hypsipyle, the maiden
Who first, herself, had all the rest deceived.

There did he leave her pregnant and forlorn;
Such sin unto such punishment condemns him,
And also for Medea is vengeance done.

With him go those who in such wise deceive;
And this sufficient be of the first valley
To know, and those that in its jaws it holds.”

We were already where the narrow path
Crosses athwart the second dike, and forms
Of that a buttress for another arch.

Thence we heard people, who are making moan
In the next Bolgia, snorting with their muzzles,
And with their palms beating upon themselves

The margins were incrusted with a mould
By exhalation from below, that sticks there,
And with the eyes and nostrils wages war.

The bottom is so deep, no place suffices
To give us sight of it, without ascending
The arch’s back, where most the crag impends.

Thither we came, and thence down in the moat
I saw a people smothered in a filth
That out of human privies seemed to flow

And whilst below there with mine eye I search,
I saw one with his head so foul with ordure,
It was not clear if he were clerk or layman.

He screamed to me: “Wherefore art thou so eager
To look at me more than the other foul ones ?”
And I to him: “Because, if I remember,

I have already seen thee with dry hair,
And thou’rt Alessio Interminei of Lucca;
Therefore I eye thee more than all the others.”

And he thereon, belabouring his pumpkin:
“The flatteries have submerged me here below,
Wherewith my tongue was never surfeited.”

Then said to me the Guide: “See that thou thrust
Thy visage somewhat farther in advance,
That with thine eyes thou well the face attain

Of that uncleanly and dishevelled drab,
Who there doth scratch herself with filthy nails,
And crouches now, and now on foot is standing.

Thais the harlot is it, who replied
Unto her paramour, when he said, ‘ Have I
Great gratitude from thee ?’— ‘ Nay, marvellous ;

And herewith let our sight be satisfied.”

There is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
made all of stone the color of crude iron,
as is the wall that makes its way around it.

Right in the middle of this evil field
is an abyss, a broad and yawning pit,
whose structure I shall tell in its due place.

The belt, then, that extends between the pit
and that hard, steep wall’s base is circular;
its bottom has been split into ten valleys.

Just as, where moat on moat surrounds a castle
in order to keep guard upon the walls,
the ground they occupy will form a pattern,

so did the valleys here form a design;
and as such fortresses have bridges running
right from their thresholds toward the outer bank,

so here, across the banks and ditches, ridges
ran from the base of that rock wall until
the pit that cuts them short and joins them all.

This was the place in which we found ourselves
when Geryon had put us down; the poet
held to the left, and I walked at his back.

Upon the right I saw new misery,
I saw new tortures and new torturers,
filling the first of Malebolge’s moats.

Along its bottom, naked sinners moved,
to our side of the middle, facing us;
beyond that, they moved with us, but more quickly—

as, in the year of Jubilee, the Romans,
confronted by great crowds, contrived a plan
that let the people pass across the bridge,

for to one side went all who had their eyes
upon the Castle, heading toward St. Peter’s,
and to the other, those who faced the Mount.

Both left and right, along the somber rock,
I saw horned demons with enormous whips,
who lashed those spirits cruelly from behind.

Ah, how their first strokes made those sinners lift
their heels! Indeed no sinner waited for
a second stroke to fall—or for a third.

And as I moved ahead, my eyes met those
of someone else, and suddenly I said:
“I was not spared the sight of him before.”

And so I stayed my steps, to study him;
my gentle guide had stopped together with me
and gave me leave to take a few steps back.

That scourged soul thought that he could hide himself
by lowering his face; it helped him little,
for I said: “You, who cast your eyes upon

the ground, if these your features are not false,
must be Venedico Caccianemico;
but what brings you to sauces so piquant?”

And he to me: “I speak unwillingly;
but your plain speech, that brings the memory
of the old world to me, is what compels me;

For it was I who led Ghisolabella
to do as the Marquis would have her do—
however they retell that filthy tale.

I’m not the only Bolognese who weeps here;
indeed, this place is so crammed full of us
that not so many tongues have learned to say

sipa between the Savena and Reno;
if you want faith and testament of that,
just call to mind our avaricious hearts.”

And as he spoke, a demon cudgeled him
with his horsewhip and cried: “Be off, you pimp,
there are no women here for you to trick.”

I joined my escort once again; and then
with but few steps, we came upon a place
where, from the bank, a rocky ridge ran out.

We climbed quite easily along that height;
and turning right upon its jagged back,
we took our leave of those eternal circlings.

When we had reached the point where that ridge opens
below to leave a passage for the lashed,
my guide said: “Stay, and make sure that the sight

of still more ill—born spirits strikes your eyes,
for you have not yet seen their faces, since
they have been moving in our own direction.”

From the old bridge we looked down at the ranks
of those approaching from the other side;
they too were driven onward by the lash.

And my good master, though I had not asked,
urged me: “Look at that mighty one who comes
and does not seem to shed a tear of pain:

how he still keeps the image of a king!
That shade is Jason, who with heart and head
deprived the men of Colchis of their ram.

He made a landfall on the isle of Lemnos
after its women, bold and pitiless,
had given all their island males to death.

With polished words and love signs he took in
Hypsipyle, the girl whose own deception
had earlier deceived the other women.

And he abandoned her, alone and pregnant;
such guilt condemns him to such punishment;
and for Medea, too, revenge is taken.

With him go those who cheated so: this is
enough for you to know of that first valley
and of the souls it clamps within its jaws.”

We were already where the narrow path
reaches and intersects the second bank
and serves as shoulder for another bridge.

We heard the people whine in the next pouch
and heard them as they snorted with their snouts;
we heard them use their palms to beat themselves.

And exhalations, rising from below,
stuck to the banks, encrusting them with mold,
and so waged war against both eyes and nose.

The bottom is so deep, we found no spot
to see it from, except by climbing up
the arch until the bridge’s highest point.

This was the place we reached; the ditch beneath
held people plunged in excrement that seemed
as if it had been poured from human privies.

And while my eyes searched that abysmal sight,
I saw one with a head so smeared with shit,
one could not see if he were lay or cleric.

He howled: “Why do you stare more greedily
at me than at the others who are filthy?”
And I: “Because, if I remember right,

I have seen you before, with your hair dry;
and so I eye you more than all: you are
Alessio Interminei of Lucca.”‘

Then he continued, pounding on his pate:
“I am plunged here because of flatteries—
of which my tongue had such sufficiency.”

At which my guide advised me: “See you thrust
your head a little farther to the front,
so that your eyes can clearly glimpse the face

of that besmirched, bedraggled harridan
who scratches at herself with shit—filled nails,
and now she crouches, now she stands upright.

That is Thais, the harlot who returned
her lover’s question, ‘Are you very grateful
to me?’ by saying, ‘Yes, enormously.'”

And now our sight has had its fill of this.”

THERE is a place in Hell called Malebolge,
Wholly of stone and of an iron colour,
As is the circle that around it turns.

Right in the middle of the field malign
There yawns a well exceeding wide and deep,
Of which its place the structure will recount.

Round, then, is that enclosure which remains
Between the well and foot of the high, hard bank,
And has distinct in valleys ten its bottom.

As where for the protection of the walls
Many and many moats surround the castles,
The part in which they are a figure forms,

Just such an image those presented there;
And as about such strongholds from their gates
Unto the outer bank are little bridges,

So from the precipice’s base did crags
Project, which intersected dikes and moats,
Unto the well that truncates and collects them.

Within this place, down shaken from the back
Of Geryon, we found us; and the Poet
Held to the left, and I moved on behind.

Upon my right hand I beheld new anguish,
New torments, and new wielders of the lash,
Wherewith the foremost Bolgia was replete.

Down at the bottom were the sinners naked;
This side the middle came they facing us,
Beyond it, with us, but with greater steps;

Even as the Romans, for the mighty host,
The year of Jubilee, upon the bridge,
Have chosen a mode to pass the people over;

For all upon one side towards the Castle
Their faces have, and go unto St. Peter’s;
On the other side they go towards the Mountain.

This side and that, along the livid stone
Beheld I horned demons with great scourges,
Who cruelly were beating them behind.

Ah me ! how they did make them lift their legs
At the first blows ! and sooth not any one
The second waited for, nor for the third.

While I was going on, mine eyes by one
Encountered were; and straight I said: “Already
With sight of this one I am not unfed.”

Therefore I stayed my feet to make him out,
And with me the sweet Guide came to a stand,
And to my going somewhat back assented;

And he, the scourged one. thought to hide himself,
Lowering his face, but little it availed him;
For said I: “Thou that castest down thine eyes

If false are not the features which thou bearest;
Thou art Venedico Caccianimico;
But what doth bring thee to such pungent sauces ?”

And he to me: “Unwillingly I tell it;
But forces me thine utterance distinct,
Which makes me recollect the ancient world.

I was the one who the fair Ghisola
Induced to grant the wishes of the Marquis,
Howe’er the shameless story may be told.

Not the sole Bolognese am I who weeps here;
Nay, rather is this place so full of them,
That not so many tongues to—day are taught

‘Twixt Reno and Savena to say _sipa;_
And if thereof thou wishest pledge or proof,
Bring to thy mind our avaricious heart.”

While speaking in this manner, with his scourge
A demon smote him, and said: “Get thee gone
Pander, there are no women here for coin.”

I joined myself again unto mine Escort;
Thereafterward with footsteps few we came
To where a crag projected from the bank.

This very easily did we ascend,
And turning to the right along its ridge,
From those eternal circles we departed.

When we were there, where it is hollowed out
Beneath, to give a passage to the scourged,
The Guide said: “Wait, and see that on thee strike

The vision of those others evil—born,
Of whom thou hast not yet beheld the faces,
Because together with us they have gone.”

From the old bridge we looked upon the train
Which tow’rds us came upon the other border,
And which the scourges in like manner smite.

And the good Master, without my inquiring,
Said to me: “See that tall one who is coming,
And for his pain seems not to shed a tear;

Still what a royal aspect he retains !
That Jason is, who by his heart and cunning
The Colchians of the Ram made destitute.

He by the isle of Lemnos passed along
After the daring women pitiless
Had unto death devoted all their males.

There with his tokens and with ornate words
Did he deceive Hypsipyle, the maiden
Who first, herself, had all the rest deceived.

There did he leave her pregnant and forlorn;
Such sin unto such punishment condemns him,
And also for Medea is vengeance done.

With him go those who in such wise deceive;
And this sufficient be of the first valley
To know, and those that in its jaws it holds.”

We were already where the narrow path
Crosses athwart the second dike, and forms
Of that a buttress for another arch.

Thence we heard people, who are making moan
In the next Bolgia, snorting with their muzzles,
And with their palms beating upon themselves

The margins were incrusted with a mould
By exhalation from below, that sticks there,
And with the eyes and nostrils wages war.

The bottom is so deep, no place suffices
To give us sight of it, without ascending
The arch’s back, where most the crag impends.

Thither we came, and thence down in the moat
I saw a people smothered in a filth
That out of human privies seemed to flow

And whilst below there with mine eye I search,
I saw one with his head so foul with ordure,
It was not clear if he were clerk or layman.

He screamed to me: “Wherefore art thou so eager
To look at me more than the other foul ones ?”
And I to him: “Because, if I remember,

I have already seen thee with dry hair,
And thou’rt Alessio Interminei of Lucca;
Therefore I eye thee more than all the others.”

And he thereon, belabouring his pumpkin:
“The flatteries have submerged me here below,
Wherewith my tongue was never surfeited.”

Then said to me the Guide: “See that thou thrust
Thy visage somewhat farther in advance,
That with thine eyes thou well the face attain

Of that uncleanly and dishevelled drab,
Who there doth scratch herself with filthy nails,
And crouches now, and now on foot is standing.

Thais the harlot is it, who replied
Unto her paramour, when he said, ‘ Have I
Great gratitude from thee ?’— ‘ Nay, marvellous ;

And herewith let our sight be satisfied.”