The Aeneid

The Exploration of Virgil and Dante’s Underworlds 12th Grade

While physical life is transient, the notion of the immortality of the soul is central to Christianity. Before Dante wrote the Divine Comedy, the residence of the soul’s afterlife was speculative and enigmatic. Dante filled this vacuum by creating a detailed and gruesome depiction of Hell where sinners are punished for the crimes they commit against the Christian God. Dante shapes his perception of Hell from Aeneas’ journey to Dis in Book VI of Virgil’s epic poem, The Aeneid. Although Dante derives his account from Virgil’s writings of the Underworld, it is only a base to which he adapts and develops. Both poems are populated by figures from ancient Greek and Roman mythology and share similar structure and imagery for the exploration of the Underworld by living protagonists. The poems differ in intention with The Inferno focusing on Dante’s voyage of self discovery, search for a Christian concept of the Underworld, while The Aeneid’s intent was to glorify and celebrate the history of Rome, and the importance of fate.

Although there are countless parallels in Dante and Aeneas’ journeys to the Underworld, they follow divergent trajectories that set the tone for the Underworlds created. Aeneas learns in a dream that he must travel...

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