The Circles of Hell: RANKED

Let’s face facts, if you’re reading this you’re probably going to hell. I’d say sorry, but you know as well as I what the score is. The long short of the matter is it’s very difficult to get into heaven at the best of times, and the 21st century is quite simply not the best of times. When Dante Alighieri wrote the Divine Comedy he was mostly concerned with forcing himself into the literary canon by Any Means Necessary (and if that meant writing a self-insert fanfiction where he hangs out with his number one man crush, Virgil, who was he to say no?). But while writing the Divine Comedy, specifically Inferno, what we’ll be looking at today, Dante let his 14th century values seep in a tad, and so a lot of the very specific things that he personally took issue with will get you a one-way ticket to hell.

Mostly notably for you, the English literature student reading this to procrastinate, you can get sent to hell for being gay, hypocritical, intellectually dishonest, too depressed, or a pagan. So, let’s face it, as an English Literature student, you’re at least one of those things (but more likely all of them).

But it’s not all bad! While Dante was a real bitch about who he sent to hell, he was kind enough to categories the genres of “sin” one could commit and give them all their own little space, the nine circles of hell. Some circles are pretty wretched while others don’t even qualify as bad. That’s what this listicle is for, to help you figure out what brand of eternal damnation you vibe with the most.

9. The Eighth Circle: The Deceitful

The largest and most complicated of the nine circles of hell, circle number eight is reserved for all the nasty, nasty liars of the world, and it is easily the worst of the bunch. To get thrown in this particular circle you have to have committed one of the following sins: fraud, hypocrisy, simony, thievery, plagiarism, being a pimp, being a politician, or enjoying astrology a bit too much. You get the feeling that about 80% through writing Inferno Dante realised there are actually way more than nine types of sin, so he just sort of… lumped all the leftover sins he hadn’t covered into this circle and called it a day.

The issue with this circle is the punishments, which range from pretty bad to outrageously disproportionate and mean-spirited. Did you ever set your friend up on a date? Congratulations, you spend the rest of eternity pursued by angry demons who want to tear you apart. Have you downloaded that astrology app that does that “Your Day at a Glance” thing (Co-Star I want to say)? Well, if you have then get ready to spend the afterlife with your head twisted around backwards.  Are you a politician? Congratulations, you spend eternity in a river of boiling tar. Actually, this one feels fair.

There’s a tonne of other specific sins and punishments, way too many for me to cover in detail, just trust me when I say that if there’s a circle you don’t want to end up in, it’s this one.

8. The Fifth Circle: The Wrathful

This circle gains some points for originality, all the others are on land but this one is a river. Splash, splash, boat, boat, etc, etc. To be specific it’s the River Styx, which you’ll be familiar with if you, like me, googled Greek Mythology once in year ten and then called yourself an “expert”. You will also know then that the River Styx is meant to run around the perimeter of Hades, so Dante loses points for that particular mythological geographical no-no, but I digress.

Circle five is where you get sent if you were especially wrathful or sullen (a fancy word for being a My Chemical Romance fan). For these sins you get to spend the afterlife submerged in the river, forever drowning and fighting each other. It’s lame, it’s wet, it’s not fun, it’s not where you want to end up.

7. The Ninth Circle: The Treacherous

The innermost circle, the big boy’s room, the VIP-lounge, hell’s penthouse. This is where you get to go if you’re an ugly little traitor, a real stinker, the kind of person who walks around with a knife in your hand so you can stab your friends in the back.

Let’s talk positives: celebrity factor. In this circle you get to hang out with some of the biggest names of history (there’s celebrities in every circle, but most of them are Dante’s lame contemporaries or super specific historical figures who are Not Worth Mentioning). A few key figures include Julius Caesar’s “best friends” Brutus and Cassias, Judas Iscariot, and Satan himself!

Ok, now for the negatives: everything else. You see, the ninth circle of hell is made up of a (super off brand, for a book called Inferno) frozen lake. To be specific it’s Kokytos, which is actually meant to be in Hades, and also meant to be a river, but who cares about nuances like that, certainly not Dante! Anyway, if you’re in this circle your punishment is being buried in the ice which royally sucks and also doesn’t really track as a punishment for treachery but whatever. Satan himself is also buried up to his tits in ice, which is neither very evil nor very impressive. As if all that wasn’t bad enough the border of the ninth circle is patrolled by biblical giants. Now I’m not sure about you, but I get intimidated by boys who are taller than 6’3, so these giants are straight up Not Ok in my books. Overall, a pretty rough time.

6. The Fourth Circle: The Greedy

This one is just fucking weird. Dante is great poet who did a lot of cool things for literature, like inventing the terza rima rhyming structure, that was really neat of him. But not all of his ideas were winners, the fourth circle is such an idea. You see, Dante wanted every punishment to be a twisted inversion on the particular type of sin committed, and sometimes they’re really fitting like the hypocrites, who wear gilded cloaks for the rest of their lives. But this punishment… doesn’t really track. Dante’s idea of a punishment for greed is pushing around rocks for all eternity in a parody of jousting. This is weird, even by the standards of Inferno. I don’t get it, you don’t get it, let’s move on.

5. The Sixth Circle: The Heretics

Are you a city slicker? A cool person fond of that chic urban aesthetic? Well then this is the circle for you because it’s all one big city, the City of Dis. Well, technically all circles from six onwards are part of the city, but this is the only one where you can really feel it. Think about it this way, circle six is the suburbs of hell, while circles seven, eight, and nine are like one big park in the middle of all that suburbia.

The major upshot of this circle is that it’s the only one that comes with personalised spaces, very introvert friendly. That space does happen to be a flaming coffin, but sinners can’t be choosers. The neighbours are nothing to write home about, just a bunch of popes that Dante didn’t like. But look at it this way, Catholics score a 4 or 5 out of 10 on the bad neighbour scale, you could be living next to an old couple who doesn’t like parties, which is way worse*. One thing that should be noted is that “heretics” encompasses everyone who’s not Christian. So, if you’re not a Christian, and this circle doesn’t sound 100% your deal, then you might want to pick a particular skill tree of sin to level up before you kick the bucket.

*I hear you say “But Josh, Catholics are all old couples, so wouldn’t they hate parties too?” Any other religion, yes, you would be right. But Catholicism bases its entire belief system around drinking wine, those pious lads practically live on the tap. Also, have you ever heard a whole congregation get down to “Shine Jesus Shine”? Party central, I’m telling you.

4. The Seventh Circle: The Violent

I should say at the top that the relatively high placement of this circle comes with a caveat, namely, that your enjoyment of this circle really comes down to what kind of violence you committed in your lifetime.

If you committed violence against other people, you’re in for a bad time. Sorry to, uh, all the murderers? You get thrown into a boiling river of blood with Atilla the Hun, Alexander the Great, and O.J Simpson (probably). If you get out, then a centaur shoots you with an arrow. Not fun. There’s also the (deeply yikes) sin of violence committed against yourself which sees you turned into a tree. Again, not fun (and not cool of Dante to call this a sin, period)

If, however, you commit violence against nature (which Dante classifies as people who litter, blaspheme, or are gay) then you’re working with a much more palatable set of circumstances. See, you’re in a desert where it’s raining fire and brimstone 24/7. At first this may not seem like a great situation, but the way I see it, if you dig a hole then you’ll be fine. Very manageable compared to some of the other forms of damnation we’ve encountered.

3. The First Circle: Limbo

Ah, Limbo, diet hell. Neither here nor there. This is where you get sent if you’re too sinful to make it into heaven, but not sinful enough to be sent down into Proper Hell. If you were born before Christ, not baptised, a particularly virtuous pagan, or a particularly un-virtuous Christian tough luck, you’re here. I’m not entirely certain what the criteria for an un-virtuous Christian is, but I’m willing to assume it includes your aunt who goes to church for Christmas and Easter but nothing else.

So, let’s see what we’re working with here. There’s not a lot in the way of interesting landmarks, it’s pretty bland really. What makes Limbo a relatively good place to end up in is the company. In Inferno Dante lets us know that the people in Limbo includes, but are not limited to Camilla, Orpheus, Penthesilea, and Julius Caesar (who endorses this blog, by the by). Also stuck here are the poets Homer, Horus, Ovid, Lucan, and Virgil, which if you’ve ever met a poet, you’ll know is a real gamble as far as company goes. If there’s any issue with Limbo, it’s overcrowding. A lot of people end up here and even more damned souls have to pass through it. While hardly terrible, anyone who’s lived near a highway will understand that it’s nothing to brag about either.

2. The Third Circle: The Gluttonous

The England of hell. This place is raining all the bloody time. However, if you’ve been to England which (humble brag) I have, then you’ll know that this is punishment is so tame it’s practically laughable. The only thing you really need to worry about is Cerberus, who patrols this circle eating sinners, but again, that’s nothing compared to some of the other circles.

It is worth noting that Cerberus does prefer the more gluttonous of gluttons. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re an “Influencer” who sold out and did a million promos so you could get sent free gear. If that’s you then you’re getting exactly what you deserve capitalist stooge.

1. The Second Circle: The Lustful

Here we are, circle number two, the best circle of hell to end up in by a country mile.

The punishment is that it’s windy, which, if you live in Wollongong, you’ll know is annoying but very manageable.

In exchange for dealing with a small amount of wind you get to hang out with a bunch of famous historical figures. I’m talking Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Paris, Tristan, and gay icon Achilles. Cleopatra was renowned for being an excellent conversationalist, and Paris and Achilles have a whole feud business, so the entertainment is 10/10. On top of that, everyone in this circle is Extremely Horny which is an absolute win in my books. Honestly, this particular circle of hell is a lot better than most of the various places you can end up in if you go to heaven (or as Dante calls it, Paradise). I mean, when you die, do you want to go to heaven and hang out with Mother Teresa who is perfectly nice but also, let’s face it, a little bit of a goody two-shoes. OR would you rather go and hang out with Cleopatra, the bad bitch who seduced multiple roman leaders? Cleopatra, no question. I guess what I’m saying is do the right thing: be horny, get sent to circle two, have a rockin’ afterlife.

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