| Quote #7
[Dante to Pope Nicholas III]: "I’d utter words much heavier than these,
In condemning the simonists, Dante paints their practices as highly perverted and unnatural. Here, "she who was born with seven heads" is pagan Rome, blessed by seven heads (representing the seven sacraments) and supported by "ten horns" (the ten commandments). Dante’s message: the Catholic Church (represented by the female Rome) only has power as long as her rich husbands, the "kings" with whom she "fornicates," decide to remain virtuous. When they disagree with the Church, they withdraw their financial support and the Church loses influence. To emphasize the Church’s corruption, Dante pictures her as a hideous monster with a writhing gaggle of seven heads, ten horns, and the rampant lust to "fornicate" with any rich man who comes her way. Not only does this undermine the spiritual purity for which the Church stands, degrading God to a material idol of "gold and silver," but also usurps the natural order of good over evil. As Dante puts it, such simony – the selling of the Divine Word for gold and silver – "tramples on the good" and "lifts up the wicked."
| Quote #8
As I inclined my head still more, I saw
For claiming the superhuman (and thus unnatural) power of seeing the future, the magicians, diviners, and astrologers are subjected to an inversion of their natural form. Their faces, instead of gazing forward, are reversed on their shoulders so that they must face and walk backwards. Their sight has literally been reversed so that their sense of direction (and, possibly, time) is backwards.
| Quote #9
[Ulysses]: "And I and my companions were already
Ulysses’ words, however inspiring, urge men to reach further and achieve more than mankind, by nature, can accomplish. By bypassing the Pillars of Hercules, Ulysses’ crew transgresses the boundaries of the known world and passes into the unknown realm where mortal realms end. As if this did not exceed man’s natural boundaries and violate God’s will enough, Ulysses spurs his men to "experience…that which lies beyond the sun" in the name of "worth and knowledge." But like Nimrod’s tower of Babel and Icarus’ flight, Ulysses’ pioneering arrogantly assumes that man can reach God’s level and is thus sinful. For exceeding his nature, God punishes Ulysses by killing him and his whole crew.