Absalom Bible. David's favorite son; killed after rebelling against his father: 2 Samuel 18.
Acheron the River of Sorrow.
Achilles Greek Mythology. Greek warrior and leader in the Trojan War who kills Hector and is killed by Paris with an arrow that strikes his only vulnerable spot, his heel; he is the hero of Homer's Iliad.
Aeneas hero of the Aeneid, written by Virgil.
Aesop real or legendary Greek author of fables; supposed to have lived in the sixth century b.c.
Alchemy an early form of chemistry, with magical associations. Its chief aims were to change base metals into gold and to discover the elixir of perpetual youth.
Alecto Greek and Roman Mythology. one of the three Furies.
Alexander Alexander the Great; 356-323 b.c.; king of Macedonia (336-323); military conqueror who helped spread Greek culture from Asia Minor and Egypt to India.
Ali c. 600-661 a.d.; fourth caliph of Islam (656-661), considered the first caliph by the Shiites; son-in-law of Mahomet.
ambush of the Horse the Trojan Horse.
Amphiareus one of the seven captains who fought against Thebes.
Anastasius in Inferno, the leader (whether pope or emperor) who led Photinus to deny the divine paternity of Christ.
Antenora second round of Circle IX.
Apostolate the office, duties, or peroid of activity of an apostle.
Arachne famous spinner who challenged Minerva to a spinning contest; Minerva became enraged at the result of the contest and turned Arachne into a spider.
Argive of ancient Argos or Argolis.
Arno river in Tuscany, central Italy, flowing west through Florence and into the Ligurian Sea.
Aruns a soothsayer from Etruria.
Atropos Greek and Roman Mythology. the one of the three Fates who cuts the thread of life.
Attila king of the Huns and called "Scourge of God" because of his cruelty.
Augustus (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus) 63 b.c.-14 a.d.; first Roman emperor (27 b.c.-14 a.d.); grandnephew of Julius Caesar.
Azzolinao cruel Ghibelline tyrant.
Bacchiglione river in Italy.
Bacchus Greek and Roman Mythology. the god of wine and revelry.
Baptist's image John the Baptist's image was stamped on gold florins.
Beatrice Dante's childhood and lifelong love and future guide through Paradise.
Beccheria abbot that plotted with the Ghibellines; the Guelphs cut off his head.
bestial like a beast in qualities or behavior; brutish or savage; brutal, coarse, vile, and so on.
Black Black Guelph.
Bocca a Florentine traitor.
Bolognese of Bologna, its people, or their dialect.
Bonturo politician of Lucca.
Borsiere courtier arranger of marriages and a peacemaker.
Branca D'Oria Ghibelline who killed his father-in-law at a banquet he hosted.
Bulicame a red-tinted stream in Viterbo where the prostitutes bathed.
Buoso da Duera accepted a political bribe.
Cahors a city in France known for its usurers.
Cain with his bush of thorns the moon.
Caina the first round in Circle IX; named after Cain.
Camicion de' Pazzi murdered a kinsman.
Cardinal of the Ubaldini a cardinal in Dante's time, said to be involved in money and politics.
Carlin traitor to his country, will go to the next circle.
Cato Cato of Utica; also a friend of Cicero.
Centaurs Greek Mythology. any of a race of monsters with a man's head, trunk, and arms, and a horse's body and legs.
Cerberus Greek and Roman Mythology. the three-headed dog guarding the gate of Hades; in Inferno, Cerberus flays and tortures the Gluttons.
Charles of Anjou seventh son of Louis VIII of France.
Charon the boatman who ferries souls of the dead across the river Styx to Hades; in Inferno, he ferries on the Acheron.
Charybdis old name of a whirlpool off the Northeast coast of Sicily, in the Strait of Messina (now called Galofalo).
chelidrids, jaculi , phareans, cenchriads, amphisbands various reptilian cretures that torture the sinners in the seventh pit.
Chiron Greek Mythology. the wisest of all Centaurs, famous for his knowledge of medicine; he is the teacher of Asclepius, Achilles, and Hercules.
Circe in Homer's Odyssey, an enchantress who turns men into swine.
Cleopatra c. 69-30 b.c.; queen of Egypt (51-49; 48-30); mistress of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
Cocytus the final circle of Hell.
Colchian Ram the Golden Fleece.
Constantine Constantine I (Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus) c. 280-337 a.d.; emperor of Rome (306-337); converted to Christianity; called the Great.
Corybantes any of the attendants who follow the Phrygian goddess Cybele with dancing and frenzied orgies.
Crete Greek island in the Mediterranean.
Cyprus country on an island at the east end of the Mediterranean, south of Turkey.
Daedalus Greek Mythology. the skillful artist and builder of the Labyrinth in Crete, from which, by means of wings he made, he and his son Icarus escaped.
David Bible. the second king of Israel and Judah, succeeding Saul; reputed to be the writer of many psalms.
Dejanira Hercules wife.
Dido Roman Mythology. founder and queen of Carthage: in Aeneid she falls in love with Aeneas and kills herself when he leaves her.
Diomede Greek Legend. a Greek warrior at the siege of Troy who helps Ulysses steal the statue of Athena.
Dionysius father and son, I and II, tyrants of Sicily.
Dis, Lucifer, and Beelzebub All meanings are the same: Satan.
Epicurus Greek philosopher. 341-270 b.c. founder of the Epicurean school, which held that the goal of man should be a life characterized by serenity of mind and the enjoyment of moderate pleasure.
Erichtho sorceress written about by Lucan.
Eteocles Greek Mythology. a son of Oedipus and Jocasta.
Ethiopia ancient kingdom (possibly dating to the tenth century b.c.) in Northeastern Africa, on the Red Sea, corresponding to modern Sudan and Northern Ethiopia (the country).
Eurypylus Greek augur.
Farinata Farinata degli Uberti; famous leader of the Ghibelline party of Florence.
father of Sylvius Aeneas.
Foccaccia murdered his cousin, causing a great feud between the Black and the White Guelphs.
Francesco d'Accorso Florentine scholar.
Frederick 1194-1250; emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1215-50).
Frederick's capes Frederick II executed people by placing them in a leaden shell which was then melted around them.
Friar Albergio Jovial Friar; killed his brother at a banquet he hosted; the code was "bring in the fruit."
Furies Greek and Roman Mythology. the three terrible female spirits with snaky hair (Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera) who punish the doers of unavenged crimes.
Ganelon infamous betrayer of his master Roland, Charlemagne's greatest warrior, in the French epic "Song of Roland."
Gaville refering to Francesco dei Cavalcanti, who was killed by the people of Gaville; many townspeople were then killed by his kinsmen avenging his death.
Gianni de' Soldanier Ghibelline deserter.
Gorgon Greek Mythology. any of three sisters with snakes for hair, so horrible that the beholder is turned to stone.
Great Priest Pope Boniface III.
Gualandi, Sismondi and Lanfranchi Ghibelline nobles.
Gualdrada legendary modest woman, used as a model of womanhood.
Guido Bonatti court astrologer and military adviser.
Guido Guerra a leader of the Guelphs; the last name means "war."
Guido Guido Cavalanti, poet and friend of Dante; also Farinata's son-in-law.
Guido, Alessandro the Counts of Guidi.
Hannibal 247c.-183 b.c.; Carthaginian general; crossed the Alps to invade Italy in 218 b.c.
Hecate Greek Mythology. a goddess of the moon, earth, and underground realm of the dead, later regarded as the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft.
Hecuba taken to Greece from Troy as a slave; written about by Ovid.
Helen Greek Legend. the beautiful wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta; the Trojan War is started because of her abduction by Paris to Troy.
High Olympus mountain in Northern Greece, between Thessaly and Macedonia; c. 9,580 ft. (2,920 m); in Greek mythology, the home of the gods.
holy hour dawn.
hydras water serpents.
Hypsipyle daughter of the king of Lemnos; seduced and deserted by Jason; saved her father when all the men of Lemnos were being killed.
Icarus Greek Mythology. the son of Daedalus; escaping from Crete by flying with wings made by Daedalus, Icarus flies so high that the sun's heat melts the wax by which his wings are fastened, and he falls to his death in the Aegean sea.
Infamy of Crete the Minotaur.
Jacopo Rusticucci respected Florentine knight.
Jason Greek Mythology. a prince who leads the Argonauts and with Medea's help, gets the Golden Fleece. He then deserts Meda and their two childen.
Jason of the Maccabees bought an office as High Priest of the Jews.
Jehosaphat valley outside Jerusalem where it is believed that the Last Judgement will take place.
Jove Roman Mythology. the chief deity; god of thunder and the skies.
Jovial Friars the nickname of the monks of the Glorious Virgin Mary from Bolongna.
Judaica the final pit of Hell; also, Judecca.
Judas Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus: Matt. 26:14, 48.
Juno Roman Mythhology. the sister and wife of Jupiter, queen of the gods, and goddess of marriage.
King Athamas Semele's brother-in-law.
King of Time Christ.
Lady in Heaven Virgin Mary.
Lancelot Arthurian Legend. the most celebrated of the Knights of the Round Table and the lover of Guinevere.
Lemnos Greek island in the North Aegean Sea.
Limbo in some Christian theologies, the eternal abode or state, neither Heaven nor Hell, of the souls of infants or others dying in original sin but free of grievous personal sin; or, before the coming of Christ.
Livy (Latin name Titus Livius) 59 b.c.-17 a.d.; Roman historian.
Lombard a native or inhabitant of Lombardy.
Lucia St. Lucia, messenger of the Virgin Mary, patron saint of eyesight; here, represents Divine Light.
Lucifer Satan; specifically, in Christian theology, Satan is the leader of the fallen angels. He was an angel of light until he revolted against God and with the others, was cast into hell.
Luni an ancient Etruscan city.
Mahomet c. 570-632 a.d.; Arab prophet; founder of Islam.
Majorca island of Spain, largest of the Balearic Islands.
making figs an obscene gesture, still used in Italy today.
Manto sorceress after whom Mantua is named.
Mantua commune in Lombardy, Northern Italy; birthplace of Virgil.
Mantuan from Mantua.
Maremma low, unhealthful, but fertile marshy land near the sea, especially in Italy.
Mars Roman Mythology. the god of war.
Medea Greek Mythology. a sorceress who helps Jason get the Golden Fleece and later, when deserted by him, kills their children and his new lover.
Medusa Greek Mythology. one of the three Gorgons, slain by Perseus, who turns mortal humans to stone if they look at her.
Megaera Greek and Roman Mythology. one of the three Furies.
Michael Bible. one of the archangels.
Michael Scot Irish scholar; dealt with the occult.
Michael Zanche father-in-law to Branca D'Oria; can be found in the sticky pitch of Canto XXII.
middle tierce seven thirty.
Mighty One Christ.
Minos Greek Mythology. a king of Crete, son of Zeus by Europa; after he dies he becomes one of the three judges of the dead in the lower world. In mythology, Minos is a compassionate judge. He refused to judge his wife Paesaphe when she had an affair with a bull, producing the Minotaur, because he had never been exposed to such violent passions. Dante ignores this and makes Minos into a stern and horribly bestial judge.
Minotaur Greek Mythology. a monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull (in some versions, with the body of a bull and the head of a man), confined by Minos in a labyrinth built by Daedalus, and annually fed seven youths and seven maidens from Athens, until killed by Theseus.
Mongibello Mount Edna, where Vulcan had his forge.
Muses the nine goddesses who preside over literature and the arts and sciences.
Narcissus' mirror Greek Myth. a beautiful youth who, after Echo's death, is made to pine away for love of his own reflection in a spring and changes into the narcissus.
Neptune Roman Mythology. the god of the sea; the same as the Greek Poseidon.
Nessus Centaur who tried to abduct Hercules' wife and was killed for doing so.
Ninus husband of Semiramis.
Opizzo da Esti cruel Ghibelline tyrant.
our first parent Adam.
Paris Greek Legend. a son of Priam, king of Troy; his kidnapping of Helen, wife of Menelaus, causes the Trojan War.
Paul St. Paul; (original name Saul) died c. 67 a.d.; a Jew of Tarsus who became the Apostle of Christianity to the Gentiles; author of several letters in the New Testament.
Penelope Ulysses' wife who waits faithfully for his return from the Trojan War.
Permutations any radical alteration; total transformation.
Peter's Gate here, the gate to Purgatory.
Phaeton Son of Apollo who drove the chariot of the sun and lost control of the horses, so Zeus struck him down so that the world would not catch fire; the track of the horses is the Milky Way.
Pharisees a member of an ancient Jewish party or fellowship that carefully observed the written law but also accepted the oral (or traditional) law; advocated democratization of religious practices; mainly they hated Jesus for questioning their authority.
Phlegra the battle at Phlegra for which Vulcan was the forge.
Phlegyas mythological king of Boeotia; son of Mars; thrown into Hell for setting fire to Apollo's temple because Apollo seduced his daughter.
Pholus mentioned by a number of classical poets, but not much detail is known about him.
Photinus deacon of Thessolonica who commited heresy by denying the divine paternity of Christ.
Pisa commune in Tuscany, Western Italy, on the Arno River.
Pisan a person from the city of Pisa of Pisa.
Plutus Greek Mythology. the blind god of wealth.
Po river in northern Italy, flowing from the Cottian Alps east into the Adriatic.
Polynices Greek Mythology. a son of Oedipus and Jocasta.
Prato Cardianal Niccolo da Prato.
Prince of the New Pharisees Pope Boniface III.
Pyrrhus either the son of Achilles or the king of Epirus; both were bloodthirsty warriors.
Rachel an Old Testament figure; here, she is said to represent Contemplative Life.
Red Sea sea between Northeastern Africa and Western Arabia; connected with the Mediterranean Sea by the Suez Canal and with the Indian Ocean by the Gulf of Aden.
Rhea Greek Mythology. daughter of Uranus and Gaea, wife of Cronus, and mother of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, Hera, and Hestia; identified with the Roman Ops and the Phrygian Cybele.
Rubicon small river in northern Italy that formed the boundary between Cisalpine Gaul and the Roman Republic; when Caesar crossed it (49 b.c.) at the head of his army to march on Rome, he began the civil war with Pompey.
San Benedetto dell'Alpe a monastery close to Florence.
San Giovianni church that Dante attended.
Santa Zita the Patron Saint of Lucca.
Sardinia Italian island in the Mediterranean, south of Corsica; or the region of Italy comprising this island and small nearby islands.
Sassol Macheroni appointed as guardian of his nephew and murdered him to get the inheritance.
the second death a soul's damnation.
The Second Frederick The Emperor Frederick II.
Semele daughter of King Cadmus of Thebes.
Semiramis Babalonian Legend. a queen of Assyria noted for her beauty, wisdom, and sexual exploits; reputed founder of Babylon; based on a historical queen of the ninth century b.c.
Seraphim any of the highest order of angels, above the cherubim.
Servent of Servents Boniface VII, Dante's enemy.
Sextus the younger son of Pompeii the Great.
shade the word Dante uses for spirits in Hell.
Sichaeus husband of Dido.
Sicillian bull an instrument of torture in which a person is placed inside a brass bull that is then placed over a fire; holes cut in the bull emit the tortured's cries, sounding like a bull.
Silvestro Pope who took refuge from Constantine during the persecutions of the Christians; later, he is said to have cured Constantine of leprosy.
Simon Magus a magician from whom the word "simony" is derived; tried to buy the rights and power to administer the Holy Ghost.
Simonists persons involved in the buying or selling of sacred or spiritual things, as sacraments or benefices.
Slides of Mark near Trent on the left bank of the river Adige about two miles from Roverto.
Sodom Bible. a city destroyed by fire together with a neighboring city, Gomorrah, because of the sinfulness of the people: Genesis 18 and 19.
spleen malice; spite; bad temper.
Strophades the island where the Harpies live.
Styx The River of Hate; in Inferno, a terrible marsh where the Wrathful and Sullen reside.
sub Julio during the reign of Julius Caesar.
sweet season of commemoration Easter.
sycophants persons who seek favor by flattering people of wealth or influence.
Tartar or Turk Tartars and Turks were the great weavers of Dante's time.
Tegghiaio Aldobrandi a knight and a Guelph noble.
That one before God's Altar pierced a heart Guy de Montfort, leader of a rebellion against Henry III.
Thebans citizens of Thebes, one of the chief cities of ancient Greece.
Theseus Greek legend. the principal hero of Attica, son of Aegeus, and king of Athens; famed especially for his killing of the Minotaur; tried to kidnap Hecate.
Tiresias Greek Mythology. a blind soothsayer of Thebes.
Tisiphone Greek and Roman Mythology. one of the three Furies.
Toppo a river near Arezzo in Italy.
Tristan Arthurian Legend. a knight sent to Ireland by King Mark of Cornwall to bring back the princess Isolde to be the king's bride. Isolde and Tristan fall in love and tragically die together.
Troy ancient Phrygian city in Troas, NW Asia Minor; scene of the Trojan War.
True Way the way of God.
Ulysses the hero of Homer's Odyssey; a king of Ithaca and one of the Greek leaders in the Trojan War.
Venus' curse made the women of Lemnos smell bad so that their men would not come near them; the women eventually killed their men for refusing to come near them.
Verrucchio the castle of Malatesta.
Vulcan Roman Mythology. the god of fire and of metalworking; later identified with the Greek Hephaestus.
wherries in this canto, the term suggests fast movement.
White White Guelph.