Greek Philosophers in Dante's Inferno

The place of Greek philosophers in Dante's dark, poetic vision
Michelino, 'Dante and his Poem'
Dante and Virgil encounter the Greek philosophers in the First Circle of Hell, from The Divine Comedy:
So we went on in the direction of the light,
Talking of things of which it is well to say nothing,
Although it was well to talk of them at the time.

We came then to the foot of a great castle,
Encircled seven times by lofty walls,
And around which there flowed a pleasant stream;

We went over the stream as on dry land;
And I entered seven gates with those wise men:
We came into a meadow where the grass was cool.

And there were people whose eyes were slow and serious,
Of great authority in their appearance:
They were not talkative and their voices were gentle.

We moved away a little to one side,
To an open place, well-lit, upon high ground,
So that I could see the whole group easily.

There, straight in front of me, on a green background,
There were presented to me those great spirits,
Merely to have seen whom is an exhaltation.


And, when I raised my eyes a little higher,
I saw the master of knowledge, Aristotle,
Sitting there with a company of philosophers.

All looked to him, and they all did him honour:
I saw there Socrates, as well as Plato,
The two who stood out and were nearest to him;

Democritus, who thought the world came by chance,
Diogenes, Anaxagoras and Thales:
Empedocles, Heraclitus and Zeno;


I cannot give account of all of them,
For my main theme hurries me on,
So that I often have to tell less than I saw.

The company of six was cut to two:
My skilful guide led me another way,
Out of the quiet, to where the air trembled:

And I came to a part where nothing is luminous.

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Canto IV
Translated by C. H. Sisson.