Dante's Inferno was published in 1314, during the Renaissance. As such, it is a masterpiece of Christian humanism, merging Christian theology with classical literature and thought.
Dante wrote the Divine Comedy, of which the Inferno is a part, while in political exile from Florence, one of the largest and most important cities in Europe at the time, a center of the intellectual flowering of Renaissance thought and art. The poem reflects the political arguments and divisions within the city at the time. Dante largely composed this first part of the Divine Comedy during his political exile in 1308 and the year 1314, though he may have begun it earlier.
The poem illustrates how Renaissance writers of the period fused the classical with the Christian. A poem centrally about redeeming a Christian soul that has fallen away from God and seeks to reclaim the narrow path of salvation, it nevertheless borrows heavily from Greek and Roman sources. For example, Dante's depiction of hell is influenced by the Hades described in both Homer's Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid. Further, the pagan Virgil himself is Dante's guide through his tour of the underworld.
The Inferno, therefore, is both a celebration of the earthly wisdom exemplified in classical figures like Virgil and an exploration of the punishments of the damned by a Christian God.
The Inferno is also one of the first significant works of Italian literature written in the vernacular (the Florentine Italian of Dante's region) rather than Latin.