Cultural Syncretism In Dante's Inferno

1041 Words 4 Pages
2) How does Dante use material from classical mythology and classical literature? Charon, the Furies, and Virgil’s discourse on Fortune egregious examples of Dante’s cultural syncretism. Dante uses the various fantastic and hellish beasts that populate Roman, Greek, Latin, and other classical mythologies to illustrate the guardians of the afterlife that he is attempting to portray to the audience. Charon, the navigator of the River Styx, is called back to do an encore of the job he had done for Inais and bring yet another living soul into the world of the dead, though in this case it is the hellish Inferno of Dante’s Christianity dominated creation and not the Underworld of Greek and Roman lore. Further, each circle of hell Dante describes …show more content…
“three offenses committed by Ulysses and Diomedes”1 are described as giving birth to the plan that eventually created the Trojan Horse, tricking Achilles to go off on a journey, and stealing a statue of Athena, all of which brought down the great city of Troy. Ulysses then shortly mulls over the story of how his crew voyaged in order to find the boundary of the seas before being struck down by a storm, allegedly landing them into the eighth circle. After departing from Troy, the crew had travelled far passing by lands such as Caeita, with the witch Circe and past a strait that Hercules has warned all future travelers to not go past. Yet still the group traveled, until they saw a mountain shortly before being assailed by the aforementioned storm. Interestingly, Dante’s recounting of Ulysses final journey varies greatly from the original story as told by Homer where Ulysses actually returns back to his home of Ithaca intact and only dies years later by the hands of his son by the witch Circe. Dante likely uses this reimagined ending for Ulysses to take another stab at the “antiquity”, demonstrating that even great heroes fall to hell, just as philosophers like Virgil and Statius do not belong in Purgatory or Paradise. This positioning of Ulysses is curious for many reasons. This encounter is the only time Virgil takes a more active role in interacting with the damned, citing Dante’s Italian and therefore Roman heritage might prove disadvantageous when conversing with the heroic Greek. Because Dante is also a lover of Rome, he likely sees Ulysses “heroics” as the very sins he is being punished for when he assisted in the destruction of Troy, or more importantly part of Ancient Rome. Still Dante does recognize Ulysses extraordinary feats that he

Related Documents