In the past few weeks, I wrote a few blog posts on Dante’s Inferno, the great medieval Italian depiction of hell. As it happened, I was in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts the other day, and I stumbled upon this wonderful sculpture of Dante and Virgil. I had not been previously aware of this 1862 sculpture by Baron Henri de Triqueti. (For more information on this work, click here.).
I was, though, aware of the serious “man-crush” Dante Alighieri had on Publius Vergilius Maro, more commonly known as Virgil. Virgil was a Roman poet who lived from 70 – 19 B.C., while Dante was a Florentine who lived from 1265-1321 A.D, Obviously, then, they never met. This sculpture is a product of Triqueti’s imagination.
Virgil was most famous for epic poem The Aeneid, which was in many ways a rewriting of Homer’s The Odyssey and The Iliad, but from the point of view of the Trojans who eventually became the Romans who, at the time of Aeneid’s writing, were a powerful empire controlling a good chunk of the world.
Dante thought Virgil was awesome, the bees knees, the greatest thing since sliced bread, the top of the charts, quite simply the best. Dante thought Virgil was so cool, in fact, that he put him in his poem. Virgil in The Inferno symbolizes the epitome of human reason, the best that humans are capable of without the light of God. (Virgil was a pagan.) Unfortunately, Virgil lives in hell because he was pre-Christian. However, he lives in the best section of it, along with the other virtuous pagans. Nothing really bad happens to the virtuous pagans. They are simply without hope of heaven.
Having quite a bit of spare time on his hands, Virgil agrees to guide Dante through hell. He explains who is who, what is what, and why they sinners are punished the way they are. Without Virgil, Dante would not have been able to make it through hell and come out on the other end. Without Virgil as his poetic guide, he would not have been able to write the masterpiece of The Divine Comedy, either.
What about you? If you were writing an epic poem in which you were featured as the hero or heroine, who would you choose as your guide? Do you have a man-crush or woman-crush on an author, dead or alive?