Narcissus

Inferno Canto XXX:91-129. The son of the naiad Liriope and the river-god Cephisus who fell in love with his own beautiful image in a still pool, and was loved by Echo in vain. He was changed to a flower, the narcissus, and she wasted away to become an echoing voice. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses III 407.

Paradiso Canto III:1-33. He is mentioned.

 

Nasidius

Lucan, in Pharsalia ix 763 and 790, tells of the two soldiers of Cato’s army who were stung by snakes while marching across Libya. Nasidius swelled so that his coat of mail gave way, while the other melted.

        Inferno Canto XXV:79-151. The story is mentioned.

 

Naso, =Ovid

The Roman poet, Publius Ovidius Naso, born at Sulmo in 43 BC. He was exiled from Augustan Rome in AD8 (for a poem, probably the Ars Amatoria, and an error, probably an indiscretion concerning Augustus’s wayward daughter Julia) and died at Tomis on the Black Sea in AD 17. His greatest work is the Metamorphoses, a retelling of Myths down to his own time, based on the theme of change. This, the ‘Ovidio Maggiore’ was the main source for Dante’s knowledge of Mythology, along with Virgil’s Aeneid.

Inferno Canto IV:64-105. He is among the great poets in Limbo.

Inferno Canto XXV:79-151. He is mentioned by name, his Metamorphoses providing stories of transformations.

Inferno Canto XXIX:37-72. The Plague at Aegina is retold in Ovid’s Metamorphoses VII 523-657. Jupiter restored the population after the plague sent by Juno, by transforming ants into men, called the Myrmidons from the Greek word for an ant. Valdichiano and Maremma in Tuscany, and the island of Sardinia, are also mentioned here for their unhealthiness in summer.

Purgatorio Canto XXII:115-154. Dante refers to the Golden Age, described by Ovid in the Metamorphoses I 103 et seq.

 

Nathan the Prophet

        He denounced David’s sins. See Second Samuel xii.

        Paradiso Canto XII:106-145. He is in the Fourth Sphere of the Sun.

 

Nebuchadnezzar

Paradiso Canto IV:1-63. Nebuchadnezzar I, King of the Babylonian Empire, (flourished 1137 BC) who liberated the country from Elamite rule. He besieged and took Jerusalem, and figures in the Book of Daniel.

 

Nella, wife of Forese Donati

        Purgatorio Canto XXIII:37-90. She is mentioned.

 

Neptune

The sea-god, the son of Saturn and brother of Jupiter and Pluto. He is the Greek Poseidon.

Paradiso Canto XXXIII:49-145. He is mentioned.

 

Nerli, of Florence

        Paradiso Canto XV:88-148. One of the ancient Guelph families.

 

Nessus

The Centaur, son of Ixion, killed by Hercules, with an arrow poisoned with the Hydra’s blood, for his attempt to steal and rape Deianira. He dipped his fatal shirt in his own, poisoned, blood, and gave it as a gift (a supposed love charm) to Deianira, who thereby, unwittingly, brought about Hercules’s death.

Inferno Canto XII:49-99. He displays his usual rashness in the seventh circle.

 

Niccolo, Salimbeni or Buonsignori

A member of the Brigata Spendereccia, the Spendthrift Brigade, a club founded by twelve wealthy Sienese, in the second half of the thirteenth century, who vied with each other in squandering their money on riotous living. He appears to have invented a costly dish using cloves.

Inferno Canto XXIX:121-139. He is in the tenth chasm.

 

Nicholas, Bishop and Saint

The fourth century Bishop of Myra in Lydia who saved the honour of three poor daughters of a fellow-townsman, by secretly throwing bags of gold through their window at night, enabling them to marry with a dowry. He is known as St Nicholas of Bari where his shrine is. (See Legenda Aurea)

Purgatorio Canto XX:1-42. He is mentioned.

 

Nicholas III, Pope

Inferno Canto XIX:31-87. Nicholas III, Giovanni Guatani Orsini, Pope from 1277 to 1280. The Orsini family emblem was a she-bear. He had to wait 23 years in Hell until the death of Boniface his successor in 1303, who would in turn wait only eleven years for the death of Clement V. (Benedict XI, in between them, Pope from 1303-1304 was not given to simony.)

 

Nimrod

The mighty hunter, son of Cush, grandson of Ham the son of Noah, and ruler of Babel (Babylon), see Genesis x 9, under whose rule Dante places the building of the tower of Babel, in the land of Shinar, which God frowned on, confounding their language, see Genesis xi 4. So Dante has Nimrod speak in an unintelligible mixture of tongues.

Inferno Canto XXXI:46-81. He is a Giant guarding the central pit.

Purgatorio Canto XII:1-63. He is depicted on the roadway.

Paradiso Canto XXVI:70-142 His people built the tower of Babel.

 

Nino, see Visconti

 

Ninus

Inferno Canto V:52-72. The Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad V, King of Assyria, whom his wife Semiramis (Sammuramat) was believed to have succeeded, as regent during the minority of her son from 810-805BC.

 

Niobe

The daughter of the Phrygian king Tantalus, and Dione, one of the Pleiades. The wife of Amphion, king of Thebes. She roused the wrath of Latona through boasting of her seven sons and seven daughters. They were slaughtered, and she was turned to stone on Mount Siphylus in Asia Minor where her statue weeps tears. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses Vi 172 et seq.

        Purgatorio Canto XII:1-63. She is depicted on the roadway.

 

Nisus

Inferno Canto I:100-111. The son of Hyrtacus, comrade of Euryalus in the Aeneid. He dies avenging the death of Euryalus in Aeneid IX.

 

Noah

The builder of the ark, by which mankind survived the great flood. See the Bible Genesis vi. The type of the pious man.

Inferno Canto IV:1-63. Christ takes his spirit from Limbo into Paradise.

Paradiso Canto XII:1-36. God’s covenant with him, Genesis ix 8.

 

Novello, Alessandro

Bishop of Feltre, who in 1314 surrendered certain gentlemen of Ferrara, in his protection, to Pino della Tosa who then governed Ferrara as vicar of King Robert, by whom they were killed. Malta was a tower near Padua where Ezzelino held his prisoners, or a Papal prison for criminal priests either at Viterbo, or on the Lake of Bolsena.

Paradiso Canto IX:1-66. He is mentioned.

 

Obizzo, see Este

 

Oderigi (Oderisi) of Gubbio

An illuminator and painter of miniatures. Vasari says he was at Rome in 1295, to illuminate manuscripts, in the Vatican Library, for Pope Boniface VIII, and the work was shared with Franco of Bologna.

Purgatorio Canto XI:73-117. He is among the proud.

 

Oedipus

The son of Laius, and Jocasta who killed his father laius and married his mother. See Sophocles Theban Trilogy. Themis was the goddess of Justice, daughter of Heaven and Earth, with oracular powers, and the Sphinx was her oracular priestess, who set Oedipus the famous riddle ‘ What goes on four legs in the morning, two at midday, and three in the evening?’ which he answered correctly with ‘Mankind’. Themis in anger at the riddle being solved sent a wild beast to ravage the countryside. Dante says Naiades, instead of Laiades for Oedipus the son of Laius, following a textual corruption of Ovid’s Metamorphoses VII 759 et al where the story is referred to.

Purgatorio Canto XXXIII:1-57. She is mentioned.

 

Omberto, see Aldobrandesco

 

Ordelaffi, Sinibaldo degli

Inferno Canto XXVII:31-57. Sinibaldo held Forlì in 1300, which had endured a long siege by the French soldiers of Pope Martin IV, who were finally routed with great slaughter by Guido da Montefeltro himself. The family arms were a lion rampant vert on a field or.

 

Orestes and Pylades

The son of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra, and brother of Electra, and Iphigenia, who killed the usurper Aegisthus, and his mother Clytaemnestra to avenge his father’s murder at their hands. His friendship with Pylades, the son of Strophius was proverbial. Pylades offered to take his place when he was condemned to death, see Cicero De Amicitia 7.

Purgatorio Canto XIII:1-45. His is the second voice.

 

Orlando, Roland

Charlemagne’s nephew, and the hero of the battle of Roncesvalles, who, went down to defeat with his Franks, fighting against the Saracens, while attempting to hold the valley in 778AD. He blew his horn in desperation, to alert his uncle eight miles away, but Charlemagne was misled by the advice of the traitor Ganelon, and did not provide aid. The epic is told in the Old French Chanson de Roland, the ‘Song of Roland’, where the intensity of his blast on the horn shattered it. The defeat allowed Arab incursions into Narbonne in 793.

Inferno Canto XXXI:1-45. He is mentioned.

Paradiso Canto XVIII:1-57. He is in the Fifth Sphere of Mars.

 

Ormanni, of Florence

        An ancient Florentine family. See the note to Paradiso Canto XVI.

        Paradiso Canto XVI:88-154. Mentioned.

 

Orosius, Paolus

An early fifth century writer, whose Historia adversus Paganos was an apologetic treatise written at the suggestion of Augustine to show that Christianity had not ruined the Empire, as Pagans contended.

Paradiso Canto X:100-129. He is in the fourth sphere of Prudence.

 

Orpheus

The mythical son of the Thracian King Oeagrus and the Muse Calliope (of epic poetry). He was both poet and musician. He attempted to rescue his wife Eurydice from Hades but lost her when he broke the injunction not to look back. He taught the sacred mysteries of the Goddess in defiance of Dionysus and was torn to pieces by the Maenads. His head floated down the river Hebrus and was carried to the island of Lesbos. The Muses buried his limbs at Leibethra at the foot of Olympus where the nightingales sing more sweetly than anywhere else on earth.

Inferno Canto IV:130-151. He is among the group of wise men in Limbo.

 

Orsini, of Rome

Inferno Canto XIX:31-87. The family emblem was a she-bear. The Pope Nicholas III was of the family.

 

Orso, see Alberti

 

Ostiense, Henry of Susa

Henry of Susa became Cardinal Bishop of Ostia in 1261, and was a commentator on the Decretals. He died in 1271. Studied by those seeking professional standing.

Paradiso Canto XII:37-105. He is mentioned.

 

Ottaviano, see Ubaldini

 

Ottocar, King of Bohemia

King of Bohemia (1253-1278), but forced to serve under Rudolph I who asserted his supremacy, when elected Emperor. Ottakar paid homage, but refused to return Imperial lands, and died at the battle of the Marchfeld near Vienna in 1278. Ottocar’s son Wenceslas II (1278-1305)(not the earlier king and Saint) was allowed to retain Bohemia and Moravia, but had to give up Austria and Styria (Rudolph’s sons Albert and Rudolph were invested with these), Carinthia and Carniola.

Purgatorio Canto VII:64-136. He is one of the negligent rulers.

 

Ovid, see Naso

 

Pagani, Maghinardo de’

Inferno Canto XXVII:31-57. Mainardo Pagano, or Maghinardo Pagano da Susinana, lord of Faenza on the River Lamone; Imola, near the Santerno; and Forlì. His arms were a lion azure on a field argent. He was a Ghibelline in the north (‘state’) and a Guelph in Florence (‘verno’). He died in 1302.

Purgatorio Canto XIV:67-123. He is mentioned. He was called ‘the devil’ because of his cunning.

 

Palazzo, Corrado da

A Ghelph of Brescia, Vicar for Charles of Anjou in Florence (1276), Podestà of Siena (1279) and of Piacenza (1288).

Purgatorio Canto XVI:97-145. He is mentioned.

 

Pallas, son of Evander

An Arcadian prince, the son of Evander, who ruled a city on the site of Rome, formed an alliance with Aeneas and was killed by Turnus. See Virgil’s Aeneid viii-x.

Paradiso Canto VI:1-111. Mentioned in the summary of Imperial history.

 

Pannocchiesci, Paganello de’

Purgatorio Canto V:130-136.The husband of Pia de Tolomei, who caused her death. See La Pia.

 

Parcitati, Montagna de’

Inferno Canto XXVII:31-57. He was the Ghibelline leader in Rimini, imprisoned by Malatesta da Verrucchio in 1295, and murdered by his son Malatestino.

 

Paris, son of Priam

The Trojan Prince whose abduction of Helen from Sparta initiated the Trojan War. (See Homer’s Iliad.) The son of Priam and Hecuba. Paris was involved in judging the merits of the three goddesses Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite, choosing Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, as supreme. (The Judgement of Paris). To Dante and the Middle Ages the type of the great (pagan) lover.

Inferno Canto V:52-72. He is a carnal sinner in Limbo.

 

Parmenides

The Greek philosopher, considered by Aristotle an example of the powers of false-reasoning.

Paradiso Canto XIII:91-142. He is mentioned.

 

Pasiphaë

The wife of Minos of Crete, and mother of the Minotaur, Asterion, whom she conceived by coupling, concealed in a wooden framework made to look like a heifer, with a white bull from the sea. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses VIII 132 and IX 736.

Inferno Canto XII:1-27. Mentioned indirectly.

Purgatorio Canto XXVI:1-66. Mentioned as an example of lust.

 

Paul, Saint

Saul of Tarsus, born about 10AD, Jewish by birth but a Roman citizen. He underwent conversion on the road to Damascus. Acts ix 1-9. He preached at Paphos, Philippi, Athens, Ephesus etc., and was martyred in Rome with Saint Peter on the same day.

Inferno Canto II:1-42. In the medieval Vision of St Paul he enters Hell. He is called the Chosen Vessel in Acts ix 15.

Purgatorio Canto XXIX:133-154. He appears in the Divine Pageant carrying a sword (of the spirit, and of his martyrdom)

Paradiso Canto XVIII:100-136. He is alive in the living religion.

Paradiso Canto XXI:52-142. He was a ‘Chosen Vessel’. See Acts ix 15.

Paradiso Canto XXIV:52-87. Faith is an intellectual virtue to the Catholic Church, and Dante here quotes Saint Paul’s definition in Hebrews xi:1 ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’

Paradiso Canto XXVIII:94-139. He was supposed to have revealed the Angelic Hierarchies to Dionysius the Aeropagite.

 

Pazzi, Carlino and Camiccione

Camicion, one of the Pazzi of Valdarno, killed his kinsman, Ubertino. Carlino, still living at the time of the Vision, held the castle of Piantravigne for the Whites of Florence against the Blacks of Florence and Lucca, but was bribed to surrender it treacherously to the enemy, causing the deaths of many of the Bianchi.

Inferno Canto XXXII:40-69. He has a place reserved for him in the Antenora, in the Ninth Circle, as a traitor against his country.

 

Pazzo, Rinieri

        A notorious highwayman of Dante’s time.

        Inferno Canto XII:100-139 He is in the seventh circle.

 

Peleus

        The son of Aeacus, and father of Achilles by Thetis the sea-goddess.

Inferno Canto XXXI:1-45. Peleus’s spear was given to him by Chiron the Centaur. It was cut from an ash on Mount Pelion. Hephaestus forged its blade, and Athene polished the shaft. At Troy Achilles wounded Telephus with it. He was a king of Mysia and the son of Hercules and the nymph Auge. Rust from the spear, rubbed on the wound, cured it. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses XII 112 and XIII 171.

 

Penelope

        The wife of Ulysses.

        Inferno Canto XXVI:85-142. She is mentioned.

 

Penthesilea

The Amazon queen, the daughter of Otrere and Ares, killed by Achilles when she fought for the Trojans during the Trojan War. The type of a noble woman. She had sought refuge at Troy from the Furies after accidentally killing her sister Hippolyte.

Inferno Canto IV:106-129. She is among the heroes and heroines in Limbo.

 

Pera, della of Florence

        An ancient Florentine family. See the note to Paradiso Canto XVI.

        Paradiso Canto XVI:88-154. Mentioned.

 

Perillus

He made the bronze bull for Phalaris, the tyrant of Sicily. Heated by fire victims were roasted inside it, Perillus himself being the first victim.

Inferno Canto XXVII:1-30. He is mentioned, indirectly.

 

Persius

        Persius Flaccus, the Roman satirist (34-62AD)

Purgatorio Canto XXII:94-114. He is in Limbo.

 

Peter, Saint, the Apostle

Inferno Canto I:112-136. Christ entrusted the keys of the Church to Peter, as the ‘rock’ on which the Church would be built (Matthew xvi,18). The Angel at the Gate of Purgatory holds the keys. Peter died at Rome as a martyr in the persecutions under Nero. His memorial monument at the cemetery on the Vatican Hill was built about AD160-170. The Bishops of Rome (from Stephen onwards, bishop AD 254-256), and the Popes, were his successors.

Inferno Canto XIX:88-133. Dante refers to Christ’s injunction to Peter, ‘Follow me’, see Matthew iv 19, and John xxi 19.

Purgatorio Canto IX:106-145. Purgatorio Canto XXI:34-75. The Angel at the Gate of Purgatory hold his two keys to Confession on Peter’s behalf, with instructions to err on the side of leniency with the truly contrite.

Purgatorio Canto XIII:46-84. The shades repeat the Litany of the Saints.

Purgatorio Canto XXII:55-93. He is Simon Peter, called the Fisherman. See Mark i 16. (‘I will make you to become fishers of men’)

Purgatorio Canto XXIX:133-154. He appears in the Divine Pageant.

Purgatorio Canto XXXII:64-99. He was present at the Transfiguration, see Matthew xviii 1-8 when Christ shone like the sun in white raiment, and Moses and Elias appeared talking with him, and after they were overcome Christ said ‘Arise, and be not afraid’. Christ is the apple-tree, in accord with the Song of Solomon ii 3, ‘As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.’

Paradiso Canto XI:118-139. The Church and Papacy is Peter’s ‘boat’.

Paradiso Canto XVIII:100-136. He is alive in the living religion.

Paradiso Canto XXI:52-142. He was Simon Peter the son of Jona, called Cephas, ‘a stone’ by Christ. See John i 42.

Paradiso Canto XXII:1-99. He is mentioned.

Paradiso Canto XXIII:88-139. He holds the keys of the Faith.

Paradiso Canto XXIV:115-154. See John xx 3-6. Though the other disciple runs more quickly to the tomb of Christ, it is Peter, according to John, who enters it before him.

Paradiso Canto XXXII:115-151. He sits at the right hand of the Virgin.

 

Peter Damian, Saint

Saint Peter Damian, of Ravenna, some time Abbot of the monastery of Santa Croce di Fonte Avellana in the Apennines, beneath Monte Catria, near Gubbio. (Dante is said to have found refuge there after the death of Henry VII.) His parents’ poverty lead to him being exposed as an infant, but he was rescued and educated by his brother Damian, taking the name Damiani, ‘Damian’s Peter’, He was made Cardinal Bishop of Ostia in 1058, against his will, by Pope Stephen IX. He styled himself Peter the Sinner, Petrus peccator, and visited the monastery of Pomposa on an island at the mouth of the Po, near Commachio. He was an ardent reformer of Church discipline and one of the chief ecclesiastical writers of the eleventh century. He was a friend and ally of Hildebrand afterwards Saint Gregory VII. He died at Faenza in 1072.

Paradiso Canto XXI:52-142. He is in the seventh sphere.

 

Peter of Spain, see Pope John XXI

 

Peter the Lombard

Peter (c1100-1160) an Augustinian, known as ‘the Master of the Sentences’ wrote his four books on God, the Creation, Redemption, and the Sacraments and Last Things, as the chief summary of medieval theology before Aquinas, who commented on it. In the prologue he speaks of himself as ‘desiring with the poor widow (Luke xxi 1-4) to cast something out of our poverty into the treasury of the Lord.’

Paradiso Canto X:100-129. He is in the fourth sphere of Prudence.

 

Peter III, King of Aragon

Pere III (1276-1285), took Sicily from Charles I of Anjou after the Sicilian Vespers in 1282. He had married Manfred’s daughter Costanze. He and Charles both died in 1285. He was succeeded by his son Alfonso III who died in 1291. Aragon and Sicily were ruled by his younger sons, James and Frederick at the time of the Vision. Dante regards them as degenerates, but Manfred calls them the honour of Aragon and Sicily in Purgatorio III.

Purgatorio Canto VII:64-136. He is one of the negligent rulers.

 

Pettignano, Piero

A Franciscan friar (and comb-seller) from Chianti who settled in Siena, where he died in 1289. He was renowned for his piety, and venerated as a saint, being recognised officially in 1328.

Purgatorio Canto XIII:85-154. He prayed for Sapia.

 

Phaedra

The daughter of Pasiphae and Minos, sister of Ariadne. She married Theseus, but loved Hippolytus her stepson. Repulsed by him she accused him to his father, and so brought about his death. See Racine’s Phaedra. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses XV 500 et seq.

Paradiso Canto XVII:1-99. She is mentioned as being one who accused another of a crime, which they themselves were guilty of.

 

Phaëton, Phaëthon

Inferno Canto XVII:79-136. The son of Phoebus Apollo and Clymene, the wife of the Ethiopian king Merops, and the grandson of Tethys. He asked Phoebus for proof of his paternity, and, being granted a wish, requested to drive the chariot of the sun. He could not control it, and was killed by Jupiter’s thunderbolt to prevent the earth being destroyed. He was buried, by the Naiads, on the banks of the River Po. The Milky Way was supposed by the Pythagoreans to be the sign of his journey, still visible in the heavens. (See Dante’s Convivio ii) See Ovid’s Metamorphoses I 751, and II passim.

Purgatorio Canto IV:52-87. He is mentioned.

Purgatorio Canto XXIX:106-132. His death is mentioned, when Jupiter for the good of all destroyed the one.

Paradiso Canto XVII:1-99.He asked his mother to tell him the truth about his paternity.

Paradiso Canto XXXI:94-142. He is mentioned.

 

Philip III, King of France

Philip the Bold (1270-1285) attempted to seize the throne of Peter III of Aragon on behalf of his son Charles de Valois, with the connivance of Pope Martin IV. He was defeated by Roger di Loria, Peter’s admiral at Gerona, and died at Perpignan. His son was Philip IV.

Purgatorio Canto VII:64-136. He is one of the negligent rulers.

 

Philip IV, the Fair, King of France

King of France (1285-1314), son of Philip III, he strengthened the monarchy, and dissolved the Knights Templars in 1307. He supported the Avignon Papacy, and won Champagne, Flanders and other territories for the Crown. He married Joan, the daughter of Henry I of Navarre, ‘the Fat’.

See Ciacco’s prophecy and Inferno Canto VI:64-93 for an indirect reference.

Inferno Canto XIX:31-87He reputedly accepted a bribe from Bertrand de Goth, to make him Pope (as Clement V).

Purgatorio Canto VII:64-136. He is mentioned, adversely.

Purgatorio Canto XX:43-96. Dante calls him the new Pilate, because he delivered Boniface to his enemies the Colonnesi, as Pilate delivered Christ to the Council of the Jews. He caused the Templars to be persecuted from 1307, greedy, it was said, for their immense wealth.

Paradiso Canto XIX:91-148. He debased the coinage by two-thirds in 1302 to defray the cost of his Flemish campaign. He is held as an example of poor kingship.

 

Phlegyas

Avenged his daughter Coronis, raped by Apollo, by burning down the god’s temple at Delphi for which he was condemned to Tartarus.

In the Aeneid vi 618-620 he issues a warning against scorning the gods.

Inferno Canto VIII:1-30. He is the ferryman of the marsh in the Fifth Circle.

 

Pholus

A centaur who entertained Hercules and was accidentally killed by one of his arrows. He was present at the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs.

Inferno Canto XII:49-99. He is in the seventh circle.

 

Photinus

        Inferno Canto XI:1-66. Deacon of Thessalonica. See Anastasius.

 

Phyllis

The daughter of the Thracian King Sithon (living near Mount Rhodope in Thrace) who was loved by Demophoön, King of Melos,the son of Theseus and Phaedra. He failed to keep his promise to return to her, and when he did eventually return to find her she had committed suicide, but had been transformed into an almond tree by Athene. (See Burne-Jones painting ‘The Tree of Forgiveness’, Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight, Merseyside, England) See Ovid’s Heroides.

        Paradiso Canto IX:67-126. She is mentioned.

 

Pia, de’ Tolomei

The traditional story is that La Pia belonged to the Tolomei of Siena, and married Nello d’Inghiramo dei Pannocchiesci, the Podestà of Volterra in 1277, and Lucca in 1314, the captain of the Tuscan Guelphs in 1284 and still alive in 1322. He put her to death at the Castello della Pietra, in the marshes of the Sienese Maremma, in 1295, throwing her from a window, or alternatively she died of disease in that unhealthy place. He was said to be jealous, or to want rid of her in order to marry the Countess Margherita degli Aldobrandeschi, the widow of Guy de Montfort. The identification of La Pia may well be wrong, but the story survives.

Purgatorio Canto V:130-136. She is with the late repentants who died of violence.

(See D. G. Rossetti’s Oil painting – La Pia de’ Tolomei – University of Kansas.) In La Pia’s words to Dante there is an echo of the lines on Virgil’s tomb, at Naples, ‘MANTUA ME GENUIT, CALABRI RAPUERE, TENET NUNC PARTHENOPE : CECINI PASCUA, RURA, DUCES.’

 

Piccarda, see Donati

 

Pigli, of Florence

        An ancient Florentine family. See the note to Paradiso Canto XVI.

Paradiso Canto XVI:88-154. Mentioned. Their arms barred with ermine=vair.

 

Pilate

Pontius Pilate the Governor of Judea, before whom Christ was arraigned. See Matthew xxvii 11.

Purgatorio Canto XX:43-96. He is mentioned.

 

Pinamonte, see Buonaccorsi

 

Pisistratus

Purgatorio Canto XV:82-145. The lord of Athens, who gave this answer, when urged by his wife to put to death a young man, who had kissed their daughter in public. ‘Si eos, qui nos amant, interficimus, quid his faciemus, quibus odio sumus?’ (Valerius Maximus) The right to name the city of Athens was disputed by Pallas Athene (Minerva) and Poseidon (Neptune). See Ovid’s Metamorphoses VI 70.

 

Pius I, Saint and Pope

        Saint Pius I, Pope (140-155AD).

        Paradiso Canto XXVII:1-66. He died for the faith.

 

Plato

The Greek Philosopher, 428/7?-348/7BC, born at Athens of a distinguished family. His father was named Ariston, his mother Perictione was the sister of Charmides and niece of Critias who both figured in the Oligarchy of 404/3. He was a follower of Socrates, and developed the search for universals with his concept of the Ideas, or the Doctrine of Forms. He made massive contributions to the theory of knowledge, moral theory and politics (The Republic).

Inferno Canto IV:130-151. He is among the philosophers in Limbo.

Purgatorio Canto III:1-45. The pagan philosophers cannot hope to understand the ‘why’ of God’s works, and are condemned to an unsatisfied desire for supreme knowledge. (Aquinas: ‘the one demonstrates by means of the cause and is called propter quid.... the other by means of the effect and is called the demonstration quia.)

Purgatorio Canto IV:1-18. Dante gives a refutation of the doctrine of the multiplicity of souls, ascribed to Plato by Thomas Aquinas. If souls were plural, we would not become so absorbed as to neglect the passage of time.

Paradiso Canto IV:1-63. Dante refers to Plato’s Timaeus, available to him in Chalcidius’s Latin paraphrase. The doctrine he repeats, as understood by Dante, gives excessive power to the stars, fatal to freewill.

 

Plautus

The Roman playwright and poet (254-184BC). His plays were adapted from Menander and other Greek writers.

Purgatorio Canto XXII:94-114. He is in Limbo.

 

Plutus, Pluto, Dis

Pluto was the son of Saturn and the brother of Jupiter and Neptune, and was assigned the rule of the Underworld. Dante merges him with Plutus, god of the riches dug from the ground, and therefore the source of the sin of avarice, and the ‘great enemy’.

Inferno Canto VI:94-115. Dante and Virgil find him at the start of the descent to the Fourth Circle of Hell.

Inferno Canto VII:1-39. He mutter words in an unknown language, that Virgil understands, and collapses at Virgil’s reply.

 

Polenta, see Francesca Malatesta da

 

Polenta, Guido Vecchio

The lord of Ravenna, father of Francesca da Rimini, and grandfather of Guido Novello, who employed Dante on various missions (See Dante: Epistolae viii) and may have assisted him to find a last refuge in Ravenna, where Dante’s tomb is sited. The family arms were an eagle, half argent, on an azure field, half gules on field or.

Inferno Canto XXVII:31-57. He ruled Ravenna, and Cervia, twelve miles south, in 1300.

 

Polycletus

The Greek sculptor (c452-412BC), mentioned by Aristotle and others, and of the same generation as Pheidias. He made the gold and ivory statue of Hera, in the Heraion near Mycenae, famous for its grandeur and beauty, and it was engraved in miniature on the coins of Argos. See Pausanias II xvii 3.

Purgatorio Canto X:1-45. He is mentioned.

 

Polydorus

Inferno Canto XXX:1-48. The son of Priam and Hecuba, sent by Priam to the court of Polymestor of Thrace, and done to death by Polymestor, Priam’s son-in-law. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses XIII 432 et seq. and Virgil’s Aseneid iii 49.

Purgatorio Canto XX:97-151. He is mentioned.

 

Polymnestor

Inferno Canto XXX:1-48. The son-in law of Priam and Hecuba, who sent their son Polydorus to his court in Thrace. He murdered Polydorus and threw his body into the sea to be found subsequently by Hecuba. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses XIII 430 et seq.

Purgatorio Canto XX:97-151. He is mentioned.

 

Polynices

The son of Oedipus and Jocasta, and brother of Eteocles. They fought over the succession, in the war of the Seven against Thebes. Both brothers were killed and, according to Statius in the Thebaid xii 429 et seq. the flames of their funeral pyre itself were divided.

Inferno Canto XXVI:43-84. They are mentioned.

Purgatorio Canto XXII:55-93. They are indirectly mentioned.

 

Polyxena

Inferno Canto V:52-72. The Trojan princess, daughter of Priam and Hecuba. According to Ovid (Metamorphoses XIII 448) she is slaughtered at Achilles’s tomb after the fall of Troy, but according to later versions of the myths his love for her brought about his death, when he was killed by Paris in a temple where he had gone to marry her, after being promised her hand if he would join forces with the Trojans.

Inferno Canto XXX:1-48. She is mentioned.

 

Pompeius Magnus, Cneius, Pompey the Great

Consul, General, Julius Caesar’s son-in-law having married Julia. Defeated by Caesar in the Civil War, ended by the battle of Pharsalus in Thessaly. Fled to Alexandria. Murdered by Ptolemy XIII.

Paradiso Canto VI:1-111. Mentioned in the summary of Imperial history.

 

Pompeius, Sextus

The son of Pompey the Great (died 35BC). He was defeated by Julius Caesar at Munda in 45BC and by Octavian’s (Augustus’s) admiral Agrippa at Mylae and Naulochus off Sicily in 36BC. Lucan gives him a very bad press.

Inferno Canto XII:100-139. He is in the seventh circle.

 

Prata, Guido da

        A native of Ravenna. He died c1245.

        Purgatorio Canto XIV:67-123. He is mentioned.

 

Prato, cardinal Niccolo of

Cardinal Nicholas of Prato was sent to Florence by Pope Benedict XI in early 1304 to attempt a reconciliation between the warring factions. He failed, and laid the city under an interdict, excommunicating several citizens. Several local disasters at the time, such as a fire caused by a factional fight, destroying many houses, and a bridge collapse during a May day festival (the wooden Ponte Carraia) were attributed to divine disapproval.

Inferno Canto XXVI:1-42. He is mentioned.

 

Pressa, della of Florence

        An ancient Florentine family. See the note to Paradiso Canto XVI.

        Paradiso Canto XVI:88-154. Mentioned.

 

Priam

Inferno Canto XXX:1-48. King of Troy, during the Trojan War. The son of Laomedon, and husband of Hecuba. He was killed by Pyrrhus, at the fall of Troy.

 

Priscian

        A Latin grammarian of the early sixth century AD.

        Inferno Canto XV:100-124. He is in Hell for sodomy.

 

Procne and Philomela

The daughter of Pandion, wife of Tereus, mother of Itys, and sister of Philomela. Her sister is raped and mutilated by Tereus, and the two sisters together conspire to kill the son, Itys, and serve his flesh to Tereus at a banquet. In Latin sources (Virgil’s Georgics etc) she is changed into the swallow, Philomela into the nightingale, and Tereus into the hoopoe. See also Ovid’s Metamorphoses VI 428 et seq. In Greek sources of the myth, Procne is the nightingale and Philomela the swallow. Ovid does not clarify the point. Dante hints at the Greek sources, Procne being the more impious of the two sisters.

Purgatorio Canto IX:1-33. The swallow sings its sad songs in memory of the pain.

Purgatorio Canto XVII:1-39. The nightingale is mentioned in the context of impiety, suggesting Procne. Procne killed Itys, though Philomela immediately slit his throat, so that both committed an impiety, but Procne more so, since it was her own child.

 

Proserpine, Persephone, Kore

The daughter of Demeter(Ceres), seized by Pluto(Dis) on the plain of Enna in Sicily. Ceres-Demeter searched for her. Because Persephone had eaten food in Hades, pomegranate seeds, she was allowed to return to earth for only six months of the year, and spent the other six in Hell. The vegetation rituals of Ceres-Demeter and Persephone formed the essence of the secret mysteries at Eleusis. Persephone is one of the incarnations of the triple moon-goddess. (See Skelton: ‘Diana in the leaves green, Luna who so bright doth sheen, Persephone in Hell.’) See Ovid’s Metamorphoses V 376-564.

Inferno Canto X:73-93. Farinata mentions her moon-incarnation.

Purgatorio Canto XXVIII:1-51. Dante, seeing Matilda, recalls her.

 

Provenzano Salvani

 

Ptolemy, the astronomer

Claudius Ptolemaeus, fl.127-51 AD, codified astronomical knowledge in his work the Almagest. He was the authority throughout the Middle Ages. His earth-centred theory was subsequently overturned by the heliocentric theory of Copernicus.

Inferno Canto IV:130-151. He is among the group of wise men in Limbo.

 

Ptolemy, King of Egypt

        Ptolemy XII of Egypt, overthrown by Caesar in 47BC.

Paradiso Canto VI:1-111. Mentioned in the summary of Imperial history.

 

Pygmalion

King of Tyre, brother of Dido, who murdered her husband, their uncle, Sychaeus, out of greed for gold. See Virgil’s Aeneid i 350.

Purgatorio Canto XX:97-151. He is mentioned.

 

Pyramus

A Babylonian, who in Ovid’s story (Metamorphoses IV 55-166) believes that a lion has killed his lover Thisbe when he reaches their meeting place, He kills himself, and then Thisbe, finding him, kills herself also. The mulberry tree under which they were to meet has red fruit thereafter, its leaves and roots being soaked with his blood. The story is one of true love, and Shakespeare used it as a basis for the ending of Romeo and Juliet, despite his unfortunate ridiculing of the story in The Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Purgatorio Canto XXVII:1-45. The story is mentioned.

Purgatorio Canto XXXIII:58-102. He is mentioned.

 

Pyrrhus, King of Epirus

King of Epirus (318-272BC) who campaigned against the Carthaginians in Sicily, and against the Romans (his costly victory at Asculum led to the expression ‘a Pyrrhic victory’) was defeated by the Romans under Curius Dentatus at Beneventum in 275BC.

Inferno Canto XII:100-139. He is in the seventh circle, unless Pyrrhus the son of Achilles is intended.

Paradiso Canto VI:1-111. Mentioned in the summary of Imperial history.

 

Pyrrhus, son of Achilles

Neoptolemus, called Pyrrhus, who killed Priam and sacrificed Polyxena on Achilles’s grave. Virgil stresses his cruelty in Aeneid ii 469.

Inferno Canto XII:100-139. He is placed in the seventh circle unless the reference is to Pyrrhus, King of Epirus.

 

Rabanus Maurus

Bishop of Mayence (c766-856) compiled a cyclopaedia De Universo in twenty-two books, and was in favour of orthodoxy to the point of unwitting heresy. He was a Benedictine and pupil of Alcuin. He wrote voluminously, summarising ninth century learning.

        Paradiso Canto XII:106-145. He is in the Fourth Sphere of the Sun.

 

Rachel

The wife of Jacob in the Bible (Genesis 29), for whom he served Laban her father seven years, and the sister of Leah. She is for Dante the type of Contemplation. See Genesis xxix and xxx. Her New Testament equivalent is Mary the sister of Martha. See Luke x 38-42.

Inferno Canto II:94-120. Beatrice is sitting with her. (Divine Philosophy sits with Contemplation)

Inferno Canto IV:1-63. Christ takes her spirit from Limbo into Paradise.

Purgatorio Canto XXVII:94-114. She is mentioned in Dante’s dream.

Paradiso Canto XXXII:1-36. She sits with Beatrice in Heaven, below the Virgin, in the third rank. See above.

 

Rahab

The prostitute of Jericho who helped Joshua’s spies. They in turn swore to save her and her family (‘our life for yours’). She was told to fasten a scarlet thread to her window so that she and her family could be identified at the taking of the city. She was converted to the Israelite cause, and became a symbol of the Church, the scarlet cord signifying the blood of Christ, and the two spies the two Testaments. See Joshua ii and vi 23-25.

Paradiso Canto IX:67-126. She is in the third sphere, of Venus.

 

Raphael, the Archangel

Paradiso Canto IV:1-63. He is shown with human form though beyond the human. He helped Tobias to cure his father Tobit’s blindness. See Apocrypha, Book of Tobit. His name means ‘God heals’. He is traditionally identified with the Angel who stirred the waters of the pool of Bethesda, John v 1-15.

 

Ravignani, of Florence, see Bellincion and Gualdrada

        An ancient Florentine family. See the note to Paradiso Canto XVI.

        Paradiso Canto XVI:88-154. Mentioned.

 

Rebecca

        The wife of Isaac. An ancestress of Christ. See Genesis.

Paradiso Canto XXXII:1-36. She is seated in Heaven, below the Virgin.

Paradiso Canto XXXII:37-84. Dante refers to Genesis xxv 22-27 where Jacob and Esau struggle in her womb, representing ‘two nations, and two manner of people’. Jacob was a tent-dweller and Esau a hunter, a man of the field, representing the ancient struggle between the raw and the cooked, civilisation and the wild, and ‘the elder shall serve the younger’, the wild shall serve the civilised, at the foundation of Jewish and Christian culture.

 

Rehoboam

The ten tribes revolted against Rehoboam, king of Israel, because he refused to lighten their taxes. He fled to Jerusalem. See First Kings xii 1-18.

        Purgatorio Canto XII:1-63. He is depicted on the roadway.

 

Renard or Renouard

A converted Saracen, the mythical brother-in-law of William of Orange and his companion in battle, retiring with him to become a monk.

Paradiso Canto XVIII:1-57. He is in the Fifth Sphere of Mars.

 

Rhea

The sister of Saturn (Cronus) whom he married.

Inferno Canto XIV:73-120. He swallowed his children to avoid them dethroning him. Enraged she bore Jupiter at night in Arcadia and he was carried to Crete and hidden in the cave of Dicte. The armed Curetes (Corybantes) stood round his golden cradle clashing weapons to hide his cries. She gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes which he swallowed thinking it was Jupiter (Zeus).

 

Richard of St Victor

The Augustinian mystic (died 1173), and friend of Saint Bernard who wrote a treatise called De Contemplatione.

Paradiso Canto X:130-148. He is in the fourth sphere of Prudence.

 

Rimini, see Malatesta

 

Rinieri, see Calboli, Corneto, Pazzo

 

Ripheus

A Trojan, who was killed at the fall of Troy. Virgil in Aeneid ii 426 et seq. says ‘he the most just of the Trojans, who never wavered from right, though the gods did not recognise his righteousness.’

Dante connects this incident with Acts x 34 ‘God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him.’

Paradiso Canto XX:1-72. He is in the sixth sphere of Jupiter.

Paradiso Canto XX:73-148. Aquinas suggests that the good unbeliever will receive inspiration, or a teacher, from God to achieve his conversion. This opens the door to the virtuous Pagans, but note Paul’s weeping over Virgil’s tomb (traditionally), which suggests Virgil could not be saved in this way. Dante struggled with the whole concept, regarding its natural justice.

 

Robert, see Guiscard

 

Robert, Duke of Calabria, afterwards King of Naples

The son of Charles II of Naples, and brother of Charles Martel. After Charles Martel’s early death, Robert ousted the son Caroberto from the throne of Naples, in 1309 after the date of the Vision. Robert and his brothers Louis and John were hostages in Spain after the release of their father Charles in 1288 (see the entry for Charles II) until 1295. Robert was accompanied back to Italy by certain greedy Catalonian adventurers, whom he gave office to, when he succeeded to the throne of Naples, and their greed made them and him detested in Apulia. He was shipwrecked in 1301.

Paradiso Canto VIII:31-84.

 

Robert, King of France

        Robert I, the son of Hugh Capet, whom he succeeded in 996.

        Purgatorio Canto XX:43-96. He is mentioned.

 

Roland, see Orlando

 

Romano, Cunizza da

The sister of Ezzolino the tyrant. She was born in the castle of Romano between Venice and the sources of the Brenta and Piave. She was famous for her love affairs, had four husbands and many paramours, of whom Sordello was one. In 1265 (when she was about 67 years old) and the last survivor of her father’s family, in the house of Cavalcante de’ Cavalcanti, she executed a deed of manumission liberating her father’s serfs. She died in Florence in 1279 or 1280. Dante suggests she was a penitent.

Paradiso Canto IX:1-66. She is in the third Heaven of those who yielded to earthly love.

 

Romano, Ezzolino da

        See Azzolino.

 

Romeo

Romeo of Villeneuve (1170-1250) was the seneschal, or chamberlain of Count Raymond Berenger IV of Provence, who died in 1245 leaving his lands to his youngest daughter Beatrice, whom he had made heiress under Romeo’s guardianship. According to the legend Romeo (which simply means pilgrim) came to Raymond’s court, managed his business, and arranged the marriages of Raymond’s four daughters. The Provençal Barons persuaded Raymond to demand account of Romeo, at which he asked for his mule, staff and scrip, and vanished, as poor as he had come. The story is probably fable.

The eldest daughter Margaret married Louis IX of France, Eleanor married Henry III of England, Sancha married Richard of Cornwall, titular King of the Romans, and Beatrice, who inherited, married Charles of Anjou, King of Naples and Sicily, and, through her inheritance, King of Provence, in Dante’s view a fitting revenge on the Provençal barons!

Paradiso Canto VI:112-142. He is in the second sphere, of Mercury, and of those who were ambitious for honour.

 

Romualdus

A member of the Onesti family of Ravenna. He was a monk of Camaldoli in the Casentino district, who saw a vision of the heavenly ladder, and founded the Camaldolese Order, a white-robed stricter branch of the Benedictines. He died in 1027.

Paradiso Canto XXII:1-99. He is in the seventh sphere.

 

Romulus, or Quirinus

The founder and first king of Rome (the city was traditionally founded on 21st April 753BC, Roman dates were recorded from the founding of the city, ab urbe condita). He was the brother of Remus, and the son of Mars and Ilia, called genitor, father, of the Roman people. The two brothers were reared by a she-wolf. Romulus united the Latins and Sabines (‘The Rape of the Sabine Women’) He was received into the company of the gods, as Quirinus and worshipped by the Romans. The name Rome derives from the Etruscan gens ruma.

Paradiso Canto VIII:85-148. The type of a great man born from obscure origins.

 

Rubicante

Inferno Canto XXI:97-139. A demon guarding the eighth circle, the fifth chasm, of the barrators.

Inferno Canto XXII:31-75. The other demons urge him on.

 

Rudolph of Hapsburg, Emperor

The Emperor (1273-1291) who served under Ottocar II, King of Bohemia (1253-1278), but asserted his supremacy, when elected Emperor. Ottakar paid homage, but refused to return Imperial lands, and died at the battle of the Marchfeld near Vienna in 1278. Ottocar’s son Wenceslas II (1278-1305) (not the earlier king and Saint) was allowed to retain Bohemia and Moravia, but had to give up Austria and Styria (Rudolph’s sons Albert and Rudolph were invested with these), Carinthia and Carniola.

Purgatorio Canto VII:64-136. He is one of the negligent rulers.

Paradiso Canto VIII:31-84. His daughter Clemenz married Charles Martel.

 

Ruggieri, see Ubaldini

 

Rusticucci, Jacopo

A Florentine who was driven to immoral practices by an unhappy marriage.

Inferno Canto VI:64-93. Dante asks after him.

Inferno Canto XVI:1-45. He is in the seventh circle for sodomy.

 

Ruth

A Moabite woman, the wife of Boaz, and great grandmother of David. See the Book of Ruth.

Paradiso Canto XXXII:1-36. She is seated in Heaven, below the Virgin.