All men may be created equal, but not all sins are created equal. In the Inferno, Dante describes the 9 circles of Hell that he passes through and the corresponding severity of the sins to which they are assigned. The first circle of Hell includes simply those who did not believe in Christ during their lives, and as the circles increase, the sins get progressively darker and more unforgivable. The 9th circle includes the most deadly of sins – betrayal. At the bottom of this circle lies the greatest sinners in history, condemned for their betrayal against God or a benefactor – Judas Iscariot, for his betrayal of Jesus, and Brutus and Cassius, for their betrayal of Julius Cesar. These three men are forever trapped in ice, destined to have their heads gnawed at by Satan for the rest of eternity. This gruesome emphasis on repercussions against betrayals highlights Dante’s most important virtues – loyalty, love, integrity and trust. The circles of hell are prioritized over the affront of these virtues and of a love of others and of God. For example, not believing in God is only a minor sin, but the more you push away from God, the worse the sin becomes. Blaspheming and speaking out against God is a sin worthy of 6 circles, and murder or violence against another of God’s beloved children is 7 circles. The 8th circle is for those who have committed “spiritual theft”, or have stolen away others from God’s love (seducers, hypocrites, falsifiers). And finally, the 9th circle is a direct betrayal of God or a benefactor’s trust and love. This method of prioritization shows that Dante believes that living a life dedicated to taking in God’s love allows for one to be an honorable and trustworthy person, for there is no greater pain than to be betrayed by the one you loved.
The Hindu gods in Ramayana are portrayed very differently from the Greek gods in the Odyssey. For starters, they are not as prideful – Rama is consistently praised as being a god and having god like beauty and strength, during the time he is perceived as a mortal. Such a display of pride in Greek mythology would have surely incurred the wrath of the Zeus, even if it was another god he was punishing. In addition, these gods are far more forgiving, kind and less judgmental, with the main instance being at the very end, when Rama berates his wife and allows her to burn herself to death. Such an act would have caused the Greek gods to curse, kill or bestow a horrible prophecy on Rama, who did not realize he was a god yet. Throughout Greek mythology, the gods inflict cruel fates upon those who treat others badly or offend other gods. Instead, in the Ramayana, the gods step forward and give Rama his wife back, saying that she has done no harm and that he should not judge her so quickly. They even reveal that they are immortal anyways. Even though his reasoning for her initial suicide had an ulterior motive, the gods of Olympus would have found his actions extremely unfavorable.
Justice and mercy in the Koran are two very interesting concepts. Mercy, the less complex of the two, appears to be a trait that defines God, and that God’s true colors are that He is merciful and forgiving. In the story of Joseph, Joseph says, “May God forgive you. Of all those who show mercy, He is the most merciful. (1451)” Notice how Joseph does not say that he forgive the brothers, but God does. This idea of God being the most merciful and forgiving carries on through the rest of the stories of the Koran; it is repeatedly mentioned that God knows all, hears all and sees all – every wrongdoing can only be judged by God. I found justice to be more complex, as it seems to only govern human relationships amongst each other. In particular, the story titled “Woman” offers powerful insight into what the Koran views as justice. For example, it states that if a woman was caught cheating, she should be judged by four witnesses – if guilty, she should be locked inside a house until death or until God decides otherwise. It also says if you cannot treat orphans with fairness, then marry 2, 3 or 4 good women and treat them all equally; if not, then marry only one or any slave girls you own so that you may treat them right. Justice seems to be based on a sense of equality and fairness rather than a moral sense of what is good or bad. It seems that morality is not justice but mercy, and only God is allowed to show mercy or leniency. In other words, justice is the human, objective way of looking at things, while mercy is God’s subjective way of dealing with things.
Describe how Plato, Sappho, and/or Catullus conceive of love (and/or friendship). You can choose to only discuss one of the three works or compare two or three of them. You can also choose to compare their views on love with The Odyssey, Oedipus Rex, or Lysistrata. You can also choose to focus more specifically on either the lover or the beloved if you like.
Sappho’s concept of love is extremely emotional and powerful. To Sappho, love is not a science, a weakness nor a triviality – love is the force that drives the human spirit; the sole emotion upon which all of life’s meaning is based upon. For example in Poem 16, Sappho (through Anne Carson’s translation), writes, ” Some men say an army of horse and some men say an army on foot…is the most beautiful thing…But i say it is what you love.” Although the words are simple, they are highly evocative of the high status she puts the emotion love upon. In the same poem, she later writes, “I would rather see her lovely step and the motion of light on her face than chariots of Lydius’ or ranks of footsoldiers in arms.” In those days, military might was highly prized in Greek society, which shows just how strongly Sappho believes in love. Her tone, her description, and her words all show that Sappho was a true romantic.