Of Circles, Terraces, and Spheres

By Steve Moyer | HUMANITIES, July/August 2011 | Volume 32, Number 4

A little rusty on the Dante you read as an undergraduate? Like to brush up a bit on some points in the Inferno, like that “mal” something? (Ah, yes, Malebolge.) What was that about Antepurgatory, Purgatory Proper, and the Earthly Paradise? And, oh, let’s just go over that place again where, if memory—and imagination—serve, God may dwell, or indwell, in Paradise, beyond the ninth sphere there—what was it again, the Empyrean? An NEH-funded website helps sort it all out, all the places and structures, as well as all the souls, creatures, and deities populating Dante Alighieri’s fourteenth-century epic and sacred poem, the Commedia.

The site,, is equipped, too, with a bilingual text (the English translation used is Allen Mandelbaum’s highly readable version) with rolling margins that display the many search options. You may remember that Ulysses shows up in the work—but where? And that nice tutor of Dante’s—Brunetto Latini?—what was his fate? What about that god-bearing image herself, Beatrice—how often does she show up in the work and in what contexts? Seek this site and ye shall find.