Layout of Hell according to The Divine Comedy


The Gate of Hell

Upper Hell

  • Vestibule
    • For:
      • The indecisive/opportunists/amoral, those who lived for themselves rather than good or evil
  • Charon
    • Ferryman of the damned
  • Acheron
    • Charon takes sinners to Hell Proper across this river
  • Minos, the Infernal Judge
    • Sinners are eager to tell Minos their sins
    • Minos then decides where in Hell they go
  • Circle 1 – Limbo
    • For:
      • Virtuous pagans
      • Unbaptized souls
  • Circle 2 – Lust
    • For:
      • Those who subjugate reason for desire
  • Circle 3 – Gluttony
    • For:
      • Those who overindulge in food, drink, or something else
  • Circle 4 – Greed
    • For:
      • A divine love of items (those obsessed with material goods)
  • Circle 5 – Wrath

Lower Hell – City of Dis

  • Gate to the City of Dis, guarded by fallen angels
  • Circle 6 – Heresy
    • For:
      • Those who believe the soul dies when the body dies
  • Circle 7 – Violence
    • Ring One – Violent against their neighbors
      • For:
        • Murderers
        • Tyrants
        • Those guilty of violent war crimes
    • Ring Two – Violent against themselves
      • For:
        • Suicides
        • Indirect suicide (those who neglect themselves in a way that leads to death)
    • Ring Three – Violent again God
      • For:
        • The violent against God
          • Blasphemers
        • The violent against art
          • Those guilty of usury
            • Usury is considered art
              • Art is the child of nature
              • Nature is the child of God
              • Therefore, art is the grandchild of God
              • Usurers are guilty of exploiting the poor
            • In Dante’s interpretation as well as much medieval sentiment, usury is not necessarily charging unusually high interest, but any interest at all
        • The violent against nature
          • Sodomites
            • In Dante’s sentiment, this would be any sexual immorality
  • Geryon is the demon here who brings Dante and Virgil into the 8th circle
  • Circle 8 – “Malebolge” – Fraudulent Counselors – Those who provided fraudulent advice or used fraud to bring about the downfall of others
    • Bolgia 1 – Panderers and seducers
      • Panderers are any form of pimp
      • Seducers are prostitutes
    • Bolgia 2 – Flatterers
      • Those guilty of false flattery to gain favor
    • Bolgia 3 – Simoniacs
      • Those involved in the selling of sacred or spiritual things
    • Bolgia 4 – Sorcerers (fortune tellers and diviners)
      • Fortune tellers
    • Bolgia 5 – Grafters
      • Unscrupulous politicians
      • Those who bribe public officials
    • Bolgia 6 – Hypocrites
      • Those who failed to live by the standards of their own supposed morality (in modern terms, those who did not practice what they preached)
    • Bolgia 7 – Thieves
    • Bolgia 8 – Evil counselors (deceivers)
      • Those who provided false or corrupted advice to others for personal gain
    • Bolgia 9 – Schismatics (sowers of discord)
      • Those who create a schism against the Christian church, such as the Muslim prophet Muhammad who founded Islam
    • Bolgia 10 – Falsifiers (evil impersonators, counterfeiters, and false witnesses)
      • Falsifiers of metal
        • Alchemists
      • Falsifiers of persons
        • Impersonators
      • Falsifiers of money
        • Counterfeiters
  • Circle 9 – “Cocytus” – Treachery – Compound Fraud – Fraud which goes against the bonds of love, blood, honor, or the bond of hospitality
    • “Caïna”
      • Betrayers of kin
    • “Antenora”
      • Betrayers of country
    • “Ptolomea”
      • Betrayers of guests
    • “Judecca”
      • Betrayers of benefactors
      • The treacherous to their masters
      • The very center of all of creation, the furthest one can be from God
      • Where Satan resides


  • Circle 1 includes noble pagans who died before the birth of Jesus. After Jesus resurrected, he returned here to collect some of the noble pagans like Moses and brought them to Heaven. In doing so, he broke the gate of Hell, which remains broken to this day. One possible allegory of a broken gate is that the damned remain in Hell by choice, but I don’t see how this is possible except for those in the vestibule, before the river of Acheron.
  • Circles 2-5 are for incontinence
    • Incontinence includes sins that have to do with a lack of self-control
    • The reason these sinners are in Upper Hell is because they had divine love for something, although that something was not the one true God.
    • The sinners here want to be remembered
  • Circle 6-9 are in the City of Dis
    • This area of Hell deals with perversions of the intellect
    • The reason these sinners are in Lower Hell is because they lacked any form of divine love.
    • The City of Dis has its own gate, guarded by rebellious angels, and the only part of Hell with demons
    • The sinners here want to be forgotten
  • Circle 8 is separated into ten bolgias. A bolgia in Italian can mean “ditch” or “pouch”. Dante likely intended both meanings, making each bolgia both a ditch of evil and a pouch full of it.
    • Seducers and panderers are both places in the first bolgia and suffer the same punishment, however seducers are on a side more inward, possibly implying their sin is greater (i.e., making the sin of prostitution slightly worse than the sin of pimping).
  • Circle 9 at its very center is where Satan resides. The ironic reason it stays frozen over is because Satan endlessly tries to escape by flying away, his wings causing the very frost that causes suffering.

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