Allusions abound in Dante Alighieri's Inferno, the third part of his fourteenth-century epic poem, The Divine Comedy. In Inferno, Dante uses allusions—references to historical or cultural persons, things, events, art, or literature outside the story itself—from the Bible, classical Greek and Roman literature and mythology, particularly Greek and Roman mythology, to tell the story of his journey through hell.
Some of the allusions in Inferno provide a historical and cultural frame of reference for Dante's story, such as the allusions to classical writers like Homer (canto 4, lines 83–90, 95–96, 100–102, 148), Aristotle (canto 4, line 131; canto 11, lines 79–84, 101–104), Ovid (canto 4, line 90; canto 25, lines 97–99), and Aesop (canto 23, lines 4–6).
Biblical allusions in Inferno include references to biblical figures, such as Adam (canto 3, lines 115–117; canto 4, line 55), Cain (canto 20, line 126; canto 32, line 58), Abel (canto 4, line 56), Abraham (canto 4, line 58), Isaac (canto 4, line 59), and Satan (Inf. canto 34, lines 28–67), frozen for eternity in the deepest (ninth) circle of hell at the center of the earth.
Many of Dante's allusions are references to politics, religion, and morality and represent Dante's criticism of behaviors and attitudes endemic to Italian society during his time. Dante was particularly scornful of Catholic popes, to whom he made allusions to represent particular sins for which they were suffering eternal damnation in hell. These include Pope Boniface VIII, avarice and deceit (canto 19, lines 52–57), Pope Anastasius II, heresy (canto 11, lines 4–111) Pope Silvester I, corruption and greed (canto 19, line 117), and Pope Clement V, simony—selling or buying church offices or ecclesiastical positions—(canto 19, lines 79–87).
The number of allusions to mythological characters in Inferno—ranging from Virgil's hero, Aeneas (canto 1, lines 74–75; canto 26, line 60), and Greek hero Ulysses (canto 26, lines 52–63), to Medusa (canto 9, lines 52–54), the Minotaur (canto 12, lines 12–25), and Chiron, the leader of the Centaurs (canto 12, 72)—is exceeded only by allusions to well-known historical figures, particularly those from Italian history, such as Francesca da Rimini (canto 5, lines 73–138) and Gianni Schicchi (canto 30, lines 43–45).
Dante also makes allusions to his contemporaries, people from his own time who represent and exemplify sinners in every circle of hell. These include fellow Florentines, the nobles Cianfa Donati, Agnolo Brunelleschi, Buoso degli Abati, Francesco Cavalcanti, and Puccio Sciancato (canto 25, lines 43, 67–69, 139–141, 148–151), with whom Dante had personal quarrels and whom Dante relegates to the Seventh Bolgia of the Eighth Circle of hell with hypocrites and common thieves.