Ulysses in Dante’s The Inferno
Dante places many figures of Greek mythology, Roman antiquity, and some political enemies in Hell. For some of these people his reasoning suits their punishment, for others it doesn’t, and for some we don’t know enough about them to verify their placement. Ulysses is placed in the eighth circle of Hell and in the eighth bolgia with the evil counselors for his acts in the Trojan War. Dante’s reasoning behind his placement was unjust and Ulysses does not deserve the punishment he eternally receives.
According to Dante, Ulysses was placed in Hell for the use of deception and underhanded war tactics such as the Trojan horse (Alighieri 212-213). This is in no way evil counseling as Dante was working to win a war, and it was just a strategy, strategy is not sinful when fighting a war for the right reasons. To defend your land and the beliefs of your people from possible threats is in all truth a protection of religion and a virtuous pursuit, and should not be considered sinful. Evil counseling, according to John Ciardi’s interpretation, was the use of God’s virtues for low purposes (Ciardi 210). Dante did not slander God’s teachings, or give bad advice; he didn’t trick his men into fighting a war nor did he make false promises as the strategy did lead to a military success. With the military victory and the justifying that war stratagems are not sinful, Dante has no evidence to place Ulysses into the eight pouch of the eight circle of Hell. Dante took an event from Ulysses life that, under certain context, could be considered sin and immediately made his punishment fit to this, but did it for personal gain rather than justly. Since Ulysses was an enemy of Aeneas, the founder of Rome, he was also an enemy to Rome in Dante’s eyes (Spark notes, 16). Being an enemy of Rome, Dante had to attack the hero Ulysses and shows his spiritual defeat well reminding the Greeks that the Romans defeated them on earth. Rather than choosing the...
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