The structure of the Hell
I do not know how many people in the world have read Dante’s Divine Comedy, but one of the most interesting things of this story is the impressive description of the three kingdoms of the other life.
In this chapter I want to focus on the structure of the Hell. But before it, I want to explain why the Hell is a big hole inside the Earth. For this purpose a little of English literature is mandatory: in 1667, over 400 after Dante, John Milton wrote the epic poem “Paradise Lost”. This is the story of the war between God versus Lucifer. The name Lucifer means in Latin “bringer of light”, in fact he was the most beautiful angel of the sky. The war was horrible and the angels were divided in three big groups: the ones on the side of God, the ones pro-Lucifer and the angels that decided to not take part in the conflict. After three days of strong battles, Lucifer lost and felt on the Earth. The consequence was the creation of a huge hole known as Hell. The recoil to the other side of the Earth caused the born of a hill, better known with the name of Purgatory.
Dante’s Hell is a huge hole with the shape of a cone, the basis of it under Jerusalem and the vertex at center of the Earth. To be more clear, here it is a picture with the Hell’s structure.
As you can see the structure is pretty complicate. It is divided in 9 Circles, with the 7th circle splitted in three rings, the 8th circle subdivided in 10 malebolge and the 9th circle composed from 4 zones. The Dante’s Hell has three rivers: Acheron, Styx and Phlegethon, and one frozen lake, called Cogito, at the very bottom of the Hell. Further there are four big cliffs: one after the 6th circle, one between the 7th and the 8th and another one before entering the 9th circle.
It is interesting to note that, in the Hell, you find some angels. In the vestibule, between the indifferent you will find the angels that do not take part in the war between God and Lucifer. In the rest of the Hell, the devils with wings are the fallen angels that decided to fight with Satan.
Dante’s Hell is not the official Catholic Hell, but it has an interesting structure and was used by Dante to satirize against the bad political situation of Italian peninsula.