The 9 Circles of Hell in Images: Dante's "The Divine Comedy"

A spiritual journey through the world beyond the grave, a hell, a purgatory, and a paradise is considered a masterwork of world literature.


Dante Alighieri completed his epic poem “The Divine Comedy” in 1320. A spiritual journey through the world beyond the grave, a hell, a purgatory, and a paradise is considered a masterwork of world literature.

Calling his poem a "Comedy," Dante uses the medieval classification: a comedy, he says in a letter to Cangrande Della Scala is “all poetry in middle style with a terrifying beginning and a happy end, written in the vernacular.” “The Divine Comedy” is replete with allegories which reflect the postulates of Catholicism along with Italian political issues at that time. Throughout the journey, Dante meets many historical figures from myths, the classical age, early Christianity and biblical history, Europe of the medieval period: Homer, Socrates, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Alexander the Great, Judas Iscariot, Solomon and many others.

Dante elaborates this idea and describes the underworld, with graphical vividness, deciding all the details of his architectonic. In the beginning, Dante's hero meets the poet Vergil, and their path takes them through a colossal funnel of inferno with nine circles, or stages. Then they cross through the center of Earth and, after overcoming the seven terraces of Purgatory, finally reach the gates of Paradiso. The final, third part of the poem is dedicated to the journey of Dante through heavenly paradise with a new guide, Beatrice. Beatrice was Dante's true love: she was a real person, and Dante decided to use her as an important character in his masterpiece.

Below you can see Illuminations, created by Master of the Antiphonar of Padua in the 14th century. In 1845, D. Pietro Zani, a writer and critic of Italian art, discovered the value of this manuscript. Later, in 1842, British Library became the owner of this parchment. The manuscript was digitized by British Library and could be found on Picryl, the largest public domain media search engine.

1. The first circle of Inferno: The Noble Caste: Here stay the souls of unbaptized infants and virtuous non-Christians.


 

2. The second circle of Inferno: Lust: Souls overcome by lust are suffering from violent storms without rest.


 

3. The third circle of Inferno: Gluttony : Gluttony is a sin of these souls. They are rotting in the rain and hail under the guard of Cerberus.


 

4. The fourth circle of the Inferno: Greed: Avaricious souls are doomed to drag enormous weights from place to place.


 

5. The fifth circle of the Inferno: Wrath: Dante and Virgil entering the black cloud of the wrathful souls.



6. The fifth circle of the Inferno: Heresy: Dante bending over to speak to one of the proud souls, perhaps Oderisi of Gubbio.


7. The sixth circle of the Inferno: Violence: Dante with Count Ugolino, who is gnawing the scalp of Archbishop Ruggieri.


8. The seventh circle of the Inferno: Fraud: Statius and Dante observing the giant and the harlot in an embrace.


9. The ninth circle of the Inferno: Treachery: Dante speaking to Alberigho, who is lying in ice with traitors.


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See the whole collection: https://picryl.com/collections/illustrations-dante-alighieri

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.