The Greatest Sin of All

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.