Thursday, October 10, 2013


It seams quite unfair to me that Homer, Horace, Ovid, Lucan and Virgil have to eternally exist in the first layer of Hell. Although it isn’t the worst part of Hell, it’s definitely no Elysian Fields. Imagine if you were someone like one of these poets who thought that after they died they would be entering a classical version of the underworld. Imagine how shocked you would be to turn up in some Christian hell where you are punished because you were born at the wrong time in history. All of a sudden, you hear that there isn’t multiple, human like gods, but this one great Emperor. Then his son comes down to pull up all these other people to Paradise because they knew about this one God. It would seem very frustrating that you lived your live morally correct but you are punished solely because your lack of knowledge about this singular God. If God represents justice, then why would Dante have God punish people who sinned without any awareness that they were sinning? Even though they aren’t horribly punished, they still have to dread over the fact that the only thing preventing them from eternally existing in Paradise is the time in which they were born and their lack of exposure to Christianity, rather than some horrible sin they committed. If Dante is right and this is the way the afterlife is actually set up, imagine how crowded the fist layer of Hell would be. 

6 comments:

Brooke M. Hathaway said...

I completely agree. As we discussed in class, one of Dante's (the poet) objectives for writing Inferno was to demonstrate and prove divine justice. I also don't see how being kept from a peaceful afterlife because of the date of your birth is in any way just.

I understand, as we also talked about in class, that Dante sees this as part of God's divine plan. However, if God is just, as Dante frequently points out, why is he punishing those were simply born a bit too early? Yes, the Greeks and Romans believed in other gods, which is a big no-no in Christianity. However, they had literally no way of being enlightened in the Christian sense, because JC wasn't even born yet. Maybe a more "just" way of dealing with the souls who came before the birth of Christ would be to hold Sunday school in Limbo. They could take the class, learn about God, take a final exam, and graduate to Paradise... Obviously I'm kidding. But this to me is how Dante deals with afterlife. To him, everything is concrete and straight-forward. However, I have a hard time believing that anything regarding eternity and/or spirituality is straight-forward. Personally, I think things are much more abstract then Dante makes them out to be at time.

Samantha Gillen said...

I feel pity for Homer, Horace, Ovid, Lucan and Virgil because they have to eternally exist in the first layer of Hell as Megan said. It seems unfair to me as well. I also agree with Brooke's point about how eternity and spirituality isn't very straight-forward. Dante makes Divine Justice very concrete and I think, like Brooke said, it is more of an abstract concept.

Ian Kuehne said...

I'll play devil's advocate here and say that Dante's concept of Limbo isn't exactly a product of Medieval close-mindedness--it's pretty directly in the Bible. I'm thinking of 2 John 1:9: "Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God" (NRSV) and John 6:53: "So Jesus said to them, 'Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.'" On the other hand, there are some passages that go against Dante on this issue; for example, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13: "For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside." Still, the strong implication is that there is no salvation without Christ. This is still pretty much the position of the Roman Catholic and many Protestant churches, summed up in the phrase "extra ecclesiam nulla salus", although they tend to qualify it a bit more than Dante does. Of course, Dante lived well before the Protestant reformation, so he didn't have to address the additional question of Protestants vs. Catholics, although I'm pretty sure he'd throw them in with the heretics.

Joseph D'Amico said...

I also agree. It seems odd to me that any sinner, no matter how grievous his or her crime, can repent and get into heaven, while great, often virtuous people are stuck in hell because they were born at the wrong time. If they were given the opportunity to learn about christianity before their death or sometime afterwards in limbo,then perhaps this would be fair, but they are not. If there are indeed a Hell and a God who is completely just, I cannot believe that Hell would be run this way.

Kincy GIbson said...

This is also confusing to me. I keep wondering where the virtuous men who didn't produce great works of art go? The same place as Ovid and Virgil? Also where do Jews who were awaiting the coming of christ go? Do they get special treatment over Ovid and Virgil because God calls them his chosen people? Or do they dwell in the same levels of hell even though they believed in the coming of Christ?

Amy Clement said...

Kincy brings up a really good point. As stated by Dante, Virgil predicted Jesus's birth, so does that mean that Virgil believed that the savior was coming? If so, it seems like he should be allowed to go to Paradiso. It's not his fault he was born before Christ's birth, yet he still (according to Dante) saw that salvation was coming in the near future. Plus, he even guided Dante through the underworld, basically, as a favor to the Virgin Mary. Part of the reason Dante was chosen to be the third traveler was to be able to relay his experiences to the people through his writings, so, therefore, Virgil also helped God by inspiring Dante to write in such a way. In my opinion, Virgil should definitely be allowed to enter Paradiso, if he hasn't done so already.