The Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy is an epic poem by Dante Alighieri, written between 1308 and 1321, and it's considered one of the greatest works of world literature. It contains the Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise: the three levels which Dante must undergo on his way to meet God.
The Inferno, the first of these allegorical poems, stands out as the most
lasting and popular. Why? Because everyone loves a bit
of fire and brimstone in the morning. In it Dante
travels through the 9 circles of hell inside the earth. He's
guided by the Roman poet Virgil, and is shown each group of sinners who is suffering in agony according to his
various crimes against God. If the Divine Comedy is Dante's Let's Go Travel Guide for the afterlife, let's face it: The Inferno is the real hotspot.
Purgatory is the second part, and it tells of Dante's climb up the Mount of Purgatory, again guided by the Virgil. The mountain is in the Southern Hemisphere, and it's divided into two: (Ante-Purgatory), which contains seven levels of suffering and spiritual growth (equivalent to the seven deadly sins), and at the top is Earthly Paradise. This part of the epic represents Christian life in terms of the nature of sin, vice and virtue, and morality issues within the Church.
Though it sounds like a seedy nightclub, Dante's Paradise is the third and final part of the Divine Comedy. It details Dante's journey through the rings of heaven. His tour guide is Beatrice, who was a childhood friend and unrequited love of Dante's in 14th century Florence. Virgil, who led the author through the rings of Hell and Purgatory, couldn't come along on this trip because he was a pagan. Dante travels through the nine spheres on his way to Empyrean, which is where God lives. The spheres are represented by the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and various stars, and roughly correlate to what was known of astronomy at the time - plus a healthy dash of astrology. Minus Satan and all the molten souls, Empyrean (Heaven) seems remarkably like Hell. In Greek empypreus means "in or on the fire," and it has the same origins as words which mean the "characteristic smell of burning or charring vegetable or animal matter." So, according to Dante, either way you go you're cooked. Personally I'm shooting for Purgatory.
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