The Nine Circles from Dante’s Inferno

First Circle (Limbo)

The first circle of Hell is resided in by non-Christians and unbaptized pagans who are sentenced to an eternity of living in a poor version of Heaven. These poor wretches live in a castle with several gates that symbolize the seven virtues. Dante sees many famous people from antiquity—famous names like Socrates, Aristotle, Cicero, Homer and Julius Caesar.

Second Circle (Lust)

The second circle of Hell is filled with people who were overcome by lust. They are punished by constant torment at the hand of violent winds, which prevent them from having any rest—or peace. Those strong winds symbolize the restlessness of a person who is driven by desire of the flesh. Dante sees Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and other famous adulterers living in the second circle.

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Third Circle (Gluttony)

Dante and Virgil find souls of those who were gluttons in the third circle of Hell. Forced to live in slush that is produced by never-ending rain, sinners are unable to see others who lie nearby to remind them of their selfishness and coldness. It is in the third circle that Dante meets Ciacco who explains that the Guelphs would defeat the Ghibellines.

Fourth Circle (Greed)

The fourth circle of Hell contains sinners who are constantly punished for their greed. Dante didn’t speak to anyone at this level—but did notice that many of the inhabitants of the fourth circle were cardinals, clergymen and popes, and their punishment was having weights pushed into their chests, which was said to symbolize their selfish drive for fortune during their time on earth.

Fifth Circle (Anger)

The home of the sullen and wrathful was the fifth circle. Dante and Virgin see the wrathful fighting each other on the surface of the river Styx and the sullen gurgling beneath the surface of the water.

Sixth Circle (Heresy)

Dante and Virgil see heretics who are condemned to an eternity in flaming tombs in the sixth circle of Hell. Dante noted seeing several historic figures on this level including Pope Anastasias II.

Seventh Circle (Violence)

This circle of Hell is divided into three rings of its own. The outer ring houses murderers and those who were violent to other people and property. Alexander the Great, Guy de Montfort and Dionysius I were seen here being sunk into a river of boiling blood and fire. In the middle ring, Dante saw suicides who have been turned into foliage like trees and hedges, and who are fed upon by harpies. In the inner ring, Dante sees blasphemers and sodomites who live in a desert of burning sand and are punished by constant burning rain that pours from the sky.

Eight Circle (Fraud)

Frauds reside in the eighth circle of Hell. Dante and Virgil reach this circle on the back of a flying monster. They find sorcerers, false prophets, corrupt politicians, hypocrites, thieves, falsifiers and alchemists.

Ninth Circle (Treachery)

Divided into four rounds, all the residents of the ninth circle are frozen in an icy lake. The darker your sin, the deeper you are frozen within the ice. The four rounds are named after an individual who is the personification of the sin. Round 1 is named Caina after Cain who killed his brother Abel; Round 2 is named Antenora after Anthenor of Troy who was Priam’s counselor during the Trojan War; Round 3 is named Ptolomaea after Ptolemy (son of Abubus); while Round 4 is named Judecca after Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

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