This is Limbo, also known as the first circle of Hell. In Limbo, you'll find unbaptized babies and the virtuous pagans, who, though not sinful, did not accept Christ. The poets Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan, the Amazon queen Penthesilea, the mathematician Euclid, the scientist Pedanius Dioscorides, the statesman Cicero, the first doctor Hippocrates, the philosophers Socrates, Averroes, and Aristotle, and many others, including Julius Caesar in his role as Roman general, Electra, Camilla, Latinus, Lucius Junius Brutus, Lucretia, and Orpheus reside here.
Beyond the first circle, all of those condemned for active, deliberately willed sin are judged by King Minos, who sentences each soul to one of the lower eight circles by wrapping his tail around himself a corresponding number of times. He decides which unclean soul goes to which circle.
Lust, the second circle. In the second circle of Hell are those overcome by lust. The souls here are the first ones to be truly punished in Hell. These souls are blown about to and fro by the terrible winds of a violent storm, without hope of rest. This symbolises the power of lust to blow one about needlessly and aimlessly.
In this circle, you'll find Semiramis, Dido, Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Achilles, Paris, Tristan, and many others who were overcome by sensual love during their life. Cleopatra is the ruler of this circle and trashes her souls in a giant tornado. Though it might seem like it's a great big orgy and Lust is the best circle, these souls never find their "release" and are forever plagued by unstatisfaction.
Gluttony, the third circle. The Great Worm, also known as Cerberus, guards this circle and the gluttons, forced to lie in a vile slush produced by ceaseless foul, icy rain. The gluttons lie here sightless and heedless of their neighbours, symbolising the cold, selfish, and empty sensuality of their lives. Just as lust has revealed its true nature in the winds of the previous circle, here the slush reveals the true nature of sensuality which includes not only overindulgence in food and drink, but also other kinds of addiction.
This circle is also inhabited by Gorger Worms that feast on the flesh of glutton souls over and over again. The river in this circle is filled with sickening waste and exposed organs. Without a doubt, this is the most distugsting circle.
Greed, the fourth circle. In this circle, you'll find those whose attitude toward material goods deviated from the appropriate mean are punished. They include the avaricious or miserly including many clergymen, popes, and cardinals who hoarded possessions, and the prodigal, who squandered them. The guarded figure, Plutus, the Greek god of wealth, resides here.
Here you'll find the Wheel of Fortune, an engine of chance awaiting to flouder any fortune. Hoarders and wasters scream in agony here, for these piteous creatures cannot resolve their impulses. There are also molton gold pits here, filled with desired riches, yet are impossible to grasp.
Anger, the fifth circle. In the swamp-like water of the river Styx, the wrathful fight each other on the surface, and the sullen lie gurgling beneath the water, withdrawn into a black sulkiness which can find no joy in God or man or the universe.
The lower parts of Hell are contained within the walls of the city of Dis, which is itself surrounded by the Stygian marsh. Punished within Dis are active rather than passive sins. The walls of Dis are guarded by fallen angels. The main guardian of this circle is Phlegyas. In this horrid river, those awash with anger drown over and over again...
Heresy, the sixth circle. In this circle, Heretics, such as Epicurians, who say the soul dies with the body, are trapped in flaming tombs, this includes self-worshipping priests.
A giant statue of Abraham guards this circle.
Violence, the seventh circle. The seventh circle houses the violent. Its entry is guarded by the Minotaur, and it is divided into three rings:
The Outer Ring: This ring houses the violent against people and property, who are immersed in Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood and fire, to a level commensurate with their sins. Alexander the Great is immersed up to his eyebrows. Dionysius I of Syracuse, Azzolino da Romano, Guy de Montfort, Obizzo d'Este, Ezzelino III da Romano, Rinier da Corneto, and Rinier Pazzo are also seen in the Phlegethon as well as references to Atilla the Hun. The Centaurs, commanded by Chiron and Pholus, patrol the ring, shooting arrows into any sinners who emerge higher out of the river than each is allowed.
The Middle Ring: In this ring are the suicides, the violent against self, who are transformed into gnarled thorny bushes and trees, which are fed on by the Harpies. Also here are Lano da Siena and Jacopo da Sant' Andrea. The trees are a metaphor for the state of mind in which suicide is committed. The suicides, unique among the dead, will not be bodily resurrected after the final judgement, having given their bodies away through suicide. Instead they will maintain their bushy form, with their own corpses hanging from the thorny limbs. The other residents of this ring are the profligates, who destroyed their lives by destroying the means by which life is sustained (i.e. money and property). They are perpetually chased and mauled by ferocious dogs; the destruction wrought upon the wood by the profligates' flight and punishment as they crash through the undergrowth causes further suffering to the suicides, who cannot move out of the way.
The Inner Ring: Here the violent against God, blasphemers and the violent against nature,sodomites and, as explained in the sixth circle, usurers, all reside in a desert of flaming sand with fiery flakes raining from the sky, a similar fate to Sodom and Gomorrah. The blasphemers lie on the sand, the usurers sit, and the sodomites wander about in groups. The other sodomite is Iacopo Rusticucci, a politician, who blames his wife for his fate. Those punished here for usury include the Florentines Catello di Rosso Gianfigliazzi, Guido Guerra, Iacopo Rusticucci, Ciappo Ubriachi, and Giovanni di Buiamonte; and the Paduans Reginaldo degli Scrovegni and Vitaliano di Iacopo Vitaliani. They are identified not primarily by name, but by heraldic devices emblazoned on the purses around their necks, purses which their eyes seemed to feast upon.
Fraud, the eight circle and the ten stages or Bolgias within it. The last two circles of Hell punish sins that involve conscious fraud or treachery. These circles can be reached only by descending a vast cliff. Geryon is an image of fraud, with his face appearing to be that of an honest man, the body of a beautifully-colored wyvern, the furry paws of a lion, and a poisonous sting in the pointy snake-like tail.
The fraudulent, those guilty of deliberate, knowing evil are located in a circle named Malebolge divided into ten Bolgie, or ditches of stone, with bridges spanning the ditches:
Bolgia 1: Panderers and seducers march in separate lines in opposite directions, whipped by demons. Just as the panderers and seducers used the passions of others to drive them to do their bidding, they are themselves driven by demons to march for all eternity. In the group of panderers, there is Venedico Caccianemico, who sold his own sister to the Marchese d'Este. Jason who gained the help of Medea by seducing and marrying her only to later desert her for Creusa. Jason also seduced Hypsipyle, but abandoned her, alone and pregnant.
Bolgia 2: Flatterers also exploited other people, this time using language. They are steeped in human excrement, which represents the words they produced. Alessio Interminei of Lucca and Thaïs are seen here.
Bolgia 3: Those who committed simony are placed head-first in holes in the rock resembling baptismal fonts, with flames burning on the soles of their feet. One of the simoniacs, Pope Nicholas III, denounces two of his successors, Pope Boniface VIII and Pope Clement V, for the same offence. Simon Magus, who offered gold in exchange for holy power to Saint Peter, is also seen here.
Bolgia 4: Sorcerers, astrologers, and false prophets here have their heads twisted around on their bodies backward, so that they found it necessary to walk backward because they could not see ahead of them. While referring primarily to attempts to see into the future by forbidden means, this also symbolises the twisted nature of magic in general. You will see Amphiaraus, Tiresias, Tiresias' daughter Manto, Aruns, Michael Scot, Alberto de Casalodi, and Guido Bonatti, among others.
Bolgia 5: Corrupt politicians, barrators, are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch, which represents the sticky fingers and dark secrets of their corrupt deals. The barrators are the political analogue of the simoniacs. They are guarded by devils called the Malebranche, who provide some savage and satirical black comedy. The leader of the Malebranche is Malacoda.
Bolgia 6: In the sixth Bolgia, the hypocrites listlessly walk along wearing gilded lead cloaks, which represent the falsity behind the surface appearance of their actions, falsity that weighs them down and makes spiritual progress impossible for them. Catalano and Loderingo, two members of the Jovial Friars, an order which had acquired a reputation for not living up to its vows, and which was eventually suppressed by Pope Sixtus V. Caiaphas, the high priest responsible for ordering Jesus crucified, is also seen here, crucified to the ground and trampled.
Bolgia 7: Two cantos are devoted to the thieves, who are guarded by the centaur Cacus who has a fire-breathing dragon on his shoulders and snakes covering his equine. Back in Roman mythology, Cacus was not a centaur but a monstrous fire-breathing giant slain by Heracles. The thieves are pursued and bitten by snakes and lizards. The full horror of the thieves' punishment is revealed gradually just as they stole other people's substance in life, their very identity becomes subject to theft here, and the snake bites make them undergo various transformations. Vanni Fucci is turned to ashes and resurrected. Agnello is blended with the six-legged reptile that is Cianfa. Buoso exchanges shapes with the four-legged Francesco.
Bolgia 8: Two further cantos are devoted to the fraudulent advisers or evil counsellors, who are concealed within individual flames. These are not people who gave false advice, but people who used their position to advise others to engage in fraud. Ulysses and Diomedes are condemned here for the deception of the Trojan Horse. Ulysses also tells the tale of his fatal final voyage where he left his home and family to sail to the end of the Earth only to have his ship founder near Mount Purgatory. Ulysses also mentions of his encounter with Circe stating that she beguiled him. Guido da Montefeltro recounts how he advised Pope Boniface VIII to capture the fortress of Palestrina, by offering the Colonna family inside it a false amnesty, and then razing it to the ground after they surrendered. Guido became a Franciscan in 1296, and died two years later. Guido describes St. Francis as coming to take his soul to Heaven, only to have a demon assert prior claim.
Bolgia 9: In the ninth Bolgia, a sword-wielding demon hacks at the Sowers of Discord, dividing parts of their bodies as in life they divided others. As they make their rounds the wounds heal, only to have the demon tear apart their bodies again. Bertran de Born, who carries around his severed head like a lantern, a literal representation allowing himself to detach his intelligence from himself, as a punishment for fomenting the rebellion of Henry the Young King against his father Henry II.
Bolgia 10: In the final Bolgia, various sorts of falsifiers; alchemists, counterfeiters, perjurers, and impersonators, who are a disease on society, are themselves afflicted with different types of diseases. Potiphar's wife is briefly mentioned here for her false accusation of Joseph, as is Sinon, the Greek spy who tricked the Trojans into taking the Trojan Horse into their city. Sinon is here, rather than in Bolgia 8, because his advice was false as well as evil. The Spendthrift Club and Myrrha were here as well. In the notes on her translation, Sayers remarks that the descent through Malebolge began with the sale of the sexual relationship, and went on to the sale of Church and State; now, the very money is itself corrupted, every affirmation has become perjury, and every identity a lie; so that every aspect of social interaction has been progressively destroyed.
Treachery, the ninth and final circle of Hell. The ninth circle is ringed by classical and Biblical giants, who perhaps symbolize the pride and other spiritual flaws lying behind acts of treachery. The giants are standing on a ledge above the ninth circle of Hell, so that from the Malebolge they are visible from the waist up. They include Nimrod, as well as Ephialtes who with his brother Otus tried to storm Olympus during the Gigantomachy, Briareus, Tityos, and Typhon.
The traitors are distinguished from the merely fraudulent in that their acts involve betraying a special relationship of some kind. There are four concentric zones or rounds of traitors, corresponding, in order of seriousness, to betrayal of family ties, betrayal of community ties, betrayal of guests, and betrayal of liege lords. In contrast to the popular image of Hell as fiery, the traitors are frozen in a lake of ice known as Cocytus, with each group encased in ice to progressively greater depths.
Round 1 is named Caïna, after Cain, who killed his brother. Traitors to kindred are here immersed in the ice up to their faces, the place where shame can show itself. Mordred, who attacked his uncle/father, King Arthur, is one of the traitors here.
Round 2 is named Antenora, after Antenor of Troy, who according to medieval tradition, betrayed his city to the Greeks. Traitors to political entities, such as party, city, or country, are located here. Count Ugolino pauses from gnawing on the head of his former partner-in-crime Archbishop Ruggieri degli Ubaldini to describe how Ruggieri turned against him after an accidental death of Ruggieri's illegitimate son during a riot and had him imprisoned him along with his children condemning them to death by starvation. A number of correspondences, such as allusions to the same passage of the Aeneid, link this passage to the story of Paolo and Francesca in the second circle, indicating that this icy hell of betrayal is the final result of consent to sin.
Round 3 is named Ptolomaea, probably after Ptolemy, son of Abubus, who invited Simon Maccabaeus and his sons to a banquet and then killed them. Traitors to their guests are punished here, lying supine in the ice, which covers them, except for their faces. They are punished more severely than the previous traitors, since the relationship to guests is an entirely voluntary one. Fra Alberigo, who had armed soldiers kill his brother at a banquet, explains that sometimes a soul falls here before Atropos cuts the thread of life. Their bodies on Earth are immediately possessed by a demon, so what seems to be a walking man has reached the stage of being incapable of repentance.
Round 4 is named Judecca, after Judas Iscariot, Biblical betrayer of Christ. Here are the traitors to their lords and benefactors. All of the sinners punished within are completely encapsulated in ice, distorted in all conceivable positions.
Satan is trapped in the frozen central zone in the Ninth Circle of Hell. In the very centre of Hell, condemned for committing the ultimate sin, personal treachery against God, is Satan. Satan is described as a giant, terrifying beast with three faces, one red, one black, and one a pale yellow.
Satan is waist deep in ice, weeping tears from his six eyes, and beating his six wings as if trying to escape, although the icy wind that emanates only further ensures his imprisonment, as well as that of the others in the ring. Each face has a mouth that chews on a prominent traitor, with Brutus and Cassius feet-first in the left and right mouths respectively. These men were involved in the assassination of Julius Caesar, an act which, represented the destruction of a unified Italy and the killing of the man who was divinely appointed to govern the world. In the central, most vicious mouth is Judas Iscariot, the namesake of Judecca and the betrayer of Jesus. Judas is being administered the most horrifying torture of the three traitors, his head gnawed by Satan's mouth, and his back being forever skinned by Satan's claws. What is seen here is a perverted trinity, Satan is impotent, ignorant, and full of hate, in contrast to the all-powerful, all-knowing, and loving nature of God.