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.