by Dante Alighieri
Paradiso Politics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
[Justinian]: "Now you can judge those I condemned above,
and judge how such men have offended, have
become the origin of all your evils.
For some oppose the universal emblem
with yellow lilies; others claim that emblem
for party: it is hard to see who is worse.
Let Ghibellines pursue their undertakings
beneath another sign, for those who sever
this sign and justice are bad followers." (Par. VI, 97-105)
Political glory can hold the seeds of its own destruction. Here, Justinian points out how the dueling factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines came into existence. Perhaps even worse, the Ghibellines tried to claim the Roman empire's "universal emblem [of the Eagle]" as their own, when their interests really ran opposite to those of the Empire's.
[Justinian]: "This little planet is adorned with spirits,
whose acts were righteous, but who acted for
the honor and the fame that they would gain;
and when desires tend toward earthly ends,
then, so deflected, rays of the true love
mount toward the life above with lesser force." (Par. VI, 112-118)
One of the faults of society is that it puts a premium on glory and fame. For those with such petty motivations as glory of fame, the best they can hope for is to end up in the Second heaven of Mercury. They cannot ascend any higher.
He [Charles Martel] added: "Tell me, would a man on earth
be worse if he were not a citizen?"
"Yes," I replied, "and here I need no proof."
"Can there be citizens if men below
are not diverse, with diverse duties? No,
if what your master writes is accurate." (Par. VIII, 115-120)
Charles Martel delineates one of the founding tenets of Paradiso here. First of all, society is good for man, who is by nature, a social animal. Naturally, large groups of people tend to diversify, having special interests and skills in a variety of things. This holds true in heaven just as on earth; each of the planets caters to a specific type of skill (studying theology, fighting for God, and ruling justly – to name just a few). Even more importantly, the blessed souls’ identity is based on a concept of sameness-but-difference. They are all similar in that they’ve learned to align their wills with God, yet they don’t all become one mindless mass of humanity; instead, God allows them to maintain their individualism, as citizens of heaven; they therefore maintain their own unique identities.