Study Guide

Paradiso Paradise Canto XV: (Fifth Heaven: Sphere of Mars)

By Dante Alighieri

Paradise Canto XV: (Fifth Heaven: Sphere of Mars)

  • God's will brings all singing to a sudden halt.
  • Just like a shooting star, a soul comes out from the starry cross.
  • In Latin, he calls Dante, "O blood of mine… unto whom… was Heaven's gate twice open." Say what? This soul is part of Dante's family? Yes, and Dante compares his greeting to that of Anchises to Aeneas in his all-time favorite book, the Aeneid (written in Latin, by the way).
  • Dante is dumbfounded.
  • For a while, the soul is so overjoyed to see Dante that his speech is so high and lofty that Dante, as a mortal, cannot understand him. Eventually, though, he speaks to Dante in a language he can understand.
  • He tells Dante that he had read about Dante's coming in the "great volume" of God's Providence and he thanks Beatrice for fulfilling the prophecy.
  • Like many of the previous souls, this one correctly anticipates what Dante wants to ask. He comes straight out and explains why Dante is so quiet: Dante knows that this soul can read his thoughts, so he doesn't feel the need to speak.
  • The soul confirms that Dante's train of thought is correct because all souls in Heaven can perform the miracle of looking into God's mirror of providence, reading mortals' thoughts before they are spoken.
  • Out of sheer love for his kin, though, this soul wants to hear Dante speak of what he wants to learn.
  • Dante looks to Beatrice for permission to speak, which she grants with her smile even before he asks.
  • Dante thanks the soul for his "paternal" (fatherly) greeting. He shows how much he values this soul by calling him a "living topaz" and asking for the soul's name.
  • The soul replies, "I am your root," avoiding giving his actual name. He calls Dante's attention to "the man who gave [his] family its name," telling Dante that this ancestor is on the threshold of Purgatory; Dante should pray for him so that he may soon enter Heaven.
  • He then starts talking about Florence. But his focus is on the ancient Florence of his time, which was "sober and chaste" and "lived in tranquility."
  • In the days of good-Florence, everything was balanced. Daughters' marriages were causes for celebration. All families bore children. There was no improper lust or lechery. Florence even rivaled Rome. Women came into public with unpainted faces. Men were men, wearing "suits of unlined skins," and women were women, happy in their places "at spindle and at spool." Men and women weren't afraid to speak to their infants and wives would tell stories from Classical times over their spinning.
  • Into this good Florence, the souls says, I was born. He identifies himself as "both Christian and Cacciaguida."
  • Cacciaguida, (which we take to be his name), tells us how he served Emperor Conrad, fighting for him in the Crusades and gaining his favor so much that the Emperor knighted him. It was there in the Crusades that Cacciaguida met his glorious death, at the hands of the Saracens (Muslims).
  • "From martyrdom I came unto this peace," he says. In other words, Cacciaguida's good work fighting for Christianity in the Crusades earned him a spot in Heaven.