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

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  • 0:04 The Sin of the Third Circle
  • 0:36 Description
  • 1:07 Punishment
  • 1:37 The Tormented
  • 2:14 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.

As Dante descends further and further into the pit of Hell, he comes across more pitiful, tormented souls. This lesson will look at the punishment and description of the Third Circle of Hell in Dante's 'Inferno.'

The Sin of the Third Circle

In Inferno, the Third Circle of Dante's Hell is reserved for the Gluttonous. One of the seven deadly sins, gluttony is defined as an overzealous or greedy appetite for something. Usually, it is associated with food and drink, but it can also refer to any type of consumption. You might also have heard the idiom ''glutton for punishment''. This idiom imagines that someone who takes on all kinds of difficult tasks must enjoy the hardship.

A great example of a glutton

These overeaters and overindulgers are the ones Dante meets as he and Virgil descend into the Third Circle of Hell.


As he enters the Third Circle of Hell, Dante is faced with an awful sight. All around his feet, the Gluttonous writhe and moan in a deep, stinking mire. No matter where he turns, he sees their miserable forms on the ground.

A cold, hard, heavy rain falls eternally. Huge hail stones, sleet, and snow constantly pelt the damned souls and create a filthy slush on the ground over and around the tormented souls. If you can picture a bunch of pigs in a muddy pen, it's like that, only a lot worse.

The Third Circle of Hell is similar to a muddy pig pen, but much worse.


Aside from being constantly beaten and pelted by the rain and hail, the souls damned to the Third Circle of Hell are also tormented by Cerberus. Dante borrowed this three-headed hellhound, along with many of the other guardians he finds in Hell, from Greek mythology. In Dante's Hell, Cerberus rips, rends, and flays the souls around him with his teeth and claws.


Cerberus comes after Dante and Virgil when he spots them, but Virgil saves the day by throwing some of the putrid mire into each of the hellhound's three mouths.

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