Dantes use of allusion in Canto V of the inferno
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Minos is a figure from Classical mythology: he was the son of Zeus and Europa. Hell is divided into seven circles, according to the seriousness of the sins. Thus the first, Limbo, is the least blame-worthy, and the second, where the lustful are tormented, is also relatively mild. This moral structure gives us insight into the relative gravity of different sins in Dante's mind. As we see here, carnal sins are relatively unimportant, and lust (which is so closely linked with love, to which Dante is not immune) is viewed with a great deal of compassion. One should note the relative abundance of female sinners here: in medieval Christian thought lust was often closely associated with women. A priest who felt himself tempted by the flesh might commonly associate the object of his desire with the desire itself: if men are tempted, women are seductresses. Dante's inclusion of many women in this circle is, however, a very mild form of this kind of prejudice.