Dante and Greek Mythology

How and why does Dante choose to combine allusions to Classical mythology and Ancient Greece and Rome with Christian theology?

Dante’s Commedia is laced with references to classical mythology and Christian theology. As a devout Catholic, one might think that Dante would base his vision of hell on strictly Christian beliefs, but this is not so. As an example, in Canto VI, Dante and Virgil come across Cerberus, a three-headed dog with beastly attributes. In Greek and Roman mythology, Cerberus is Pluto’s pet that sits at the gates of Tartarus, the mythological underworld, and guards against souls trying to escape death. Cerberus is just one example, but there are many other references to Greek and Roman mythology throughout the work. Some other references include Minos, the Styx, and Plutus. Dante most likely writes of Cerberus and characters like it because he wants to imitate and incorporate the works of the great classical poets. It is clear that Dante has great admiration for these men and it is possible that he wanted to be considered among their ranks.

2 thoughts on “Dante and Greek Mythology

  1. It is made evident that Dante was influenced by several other religious and mythological sources. Dante certainly wanted to be one among his revered poets and writers. The fact that he made the first level of hell a non-tortuous zone for his ideal dead poets society shows his admiration. Considering the ending, he might even have considered himself somewhat superior to them, as he gained true enlightenment where as they did not.

  2. It is very interesting that when Dante mentions all these little and small fine details. He is actually assimilating the ancient Greek and Roman mythologies into the Catholic’s theory. By putting the characters into different levels of hell might actually be a good way to preserve the ancient mythologies. To prevent them being perish away by time.

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