The Geological Features That Inspired Hell In Dante’s Divine Comedy

forbes-2016-geology-of-dante

“For a long time, the inner earth was a mysterious place – supposedly the reign of demons, home to ancient gods (like Pluto) and place of eternal damnation. Italian poet Dante Alighieri imagined an especially elaborate version of Hell in his Divine Comedy. He included in his description the nine circles of Hell, with Lucifer residing in the lowest, real landscapes and geological features. According to author Marco Romano, in the description of Dante’s Inferno we find earthquakes, rivers, mountains, landslides, a desert of scorching sand and even some types of rocks (like the famous marble of Carrara).

“Dante imagined Hell like an inverted cone, with its circles gradually becoming smaller nearer to Earth’s core. Each circle was dedicated to a sin and the sin’s related punishment. This image is based on calculations of Greek philosophers, like Eratosthenes of Cyrene or Claudius Ptolemy, who argued that Earth is a sphere. Hell, as part of earth, would have to be cone-shaped. Dante even gives an exact value of Earth’s radius of 3,250 miles (it’s actually 3,959 miles).” — David Bressan, Forbes, July 16, 2016

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Dante’s Inferno Science

“How can a knowledge of physics, earth science and astronomy enrich a reader’s understanding and experience of this classic work of Western Literature? How can reading classic Western Literature enrich a student’s understanding and experience of science? In this lesson I aim to bring science to the reader of poetry – and poetry to the student of science…  Dante travels through the centre of the Earth in the Inferno, and comments on the resulting change in the direction of gravity in Canto XXXIV (lines 76–120).” […]  —KaiserScience

Contributed by Madisen Pool (University of Kansas, 2019)

Robot Dante’s Voyage

“Following in the fictional footsteps of the poet Dante, who descended into hell in his Divine Comedy, a robot also named Dante will later this month descend into the inferno of Mount Erebus, an active volcano in Antarctica. The eight-legged, spider-like robot, developed by two American universities and NASA, will gather data and samples from the hostile environment inside the volcano’s crater. At the same time, robotics researchers hope to gain valuable experience about how to build robots to explore the surfaces of other planets.” — Jonathan Beard, New Scientist, December 12, 1992

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