Dante's Inferno Eighth Circle of Hell: Punishments & Description

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  • 0:04 The First Seven Circles
  • 0:57 The Eighth Circle
  • 1:51 The Pits
  • 5:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Arielle Windham

Arielle has worked worked with elementary, middle, and secondary students in American and Japan. She has a bachelor's degree in English and a master's in Education.

Dante's crossing of the Eighth Circle of Hell is one of the longest and most detailed in the entire 'Inferno.' With ten pits and even more sinners, it can be pretty daunting. This lesson will summarize the landscape and punishments of sinners.

The First Seven Circles

It has been a day and a half since Dante started his descent through Hell. So far, he has traveled seven of the nine circles. Before we descend into the sins of fraud, Circle Eight, let's recap who Dante found in each circle.

Circle 1 - The Unbaptized and Virtuous Pagans. This circle is also called Limbo.

Circle 2 - The Lustful.

Circle 3 - The Gluttonous.

Circle 4 - The Hoarders and Spendthrifts.

Circle 5 - The Wrathful and Sullen.

Circle 6 - Heretics. This is the first circle within the City of Dis.

Circle 7 - A triple ring that holds the Violent against Neighbors, the Violent against Selves (Suicides and Profligates), and the Violent against Nature (Blasphemers, Sodomites, and Usurers).

That's a lot of sinners so far! But the worst is still to come.

The Eighth Circle

Dante and Virgil approach the sheer cliff leading to the Eighth Circle. Now, they must rely on the creature Geryon to continue. With its human face, monstrous body, and poisonous stinging tail, it's the embodiment of Fraud. Fitting that it should be the one to carry them to the Eighth Circle, the circle of fraud against humanity.

Like the Seventh Circle, the Eighth Circle also holds several types of sinners. The circle is a funnel of gray stone leading down to the pit of the Ninth Circle. Dante calls it malebolge, which roughly translates to Evil Pits. Within the Eighth Circle, there are ten bolges, or pits, where souls who committed fraud against humanity are punished.

Several stone ridges form natural bridges across the pits. For the most part, Dante and Virgil use these. However, the bridges were damaged in the great earthquake, so sometimes they have to travel in the bolges.

The Pits

Now that you have an idea of the layout, let's look at the pits.

Pit 1 - Panders and Seducers

In the first pit, the Panders (pimps) and Seducers run naked in opposite directions as horned demons with whips goad them on.

Pit 2 - Flatterers

The second pit is filled with stinking filth where those guilty of flattery are plunged.

Pit 3 - Simoniacs

Sinners in the third pit were guilty of selling religious offices, positions, and favors. Dante finds these sinners head down in stone tubes as flames lick the bottoms of their feet. Dante speaks to Pope Nicholas III and finds out that there are more tormented souls in the pipes.

Pit 4 - Sorcerers

In the fourth pit, the Sorcerers wander with their heads turned backward on their shoulders. In life, they tricked others by pretending to see the future. Now they can only see behind and move backward. Dante lumps all these sinners together as Sorcerers, but this pit also includes witches, astrologers, soothsayers, and fortune tellers.

Pit 5 - Barrators

These sinners are similar to the Simoniacs, but instead of selling religious offices, they sold public offices and took bribes. Their punishment is to be submerged in boiling pitch as demons patrol the edges of the pitch with hooks. If the sinners break the surface, the demons attack them.

Pit 6 - Hypocrites

The Hypocrites wear beautiful golden cloaks that cover their whole bodies. However, the insides of these are lined with lead, making them heavy. The Hypocrites must walk around forever in these heavy cloaks. There are also Hypocrites crucified on the ground that the others must walk over.

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