Last Updated March 1, 2023.
Dante marvels at the reputation Florence has—even in the depths of Hell—and expresses admiration for his hometown, despite its failures and the chaos in which it is currently embroiled.
As he considers the faults of his hometown, he mulls over his own faults and realizes that he must begin to control his impulsive nature, as he is otherwise wasting his talents. The thought is ironic, as he almost falls to his death shortly thereafter because he was preoccupied with his thoughts and moving without caution. Only Virgil’s presence saves him from certain death. In the distance, they spy the fires of the Eighth Bolgia, which emanate from the body of a thief lying far below.
In a tall, fiery spiral just ahead, Dante catches a glimpse of a shadowy figure; he inquires about its identity, and Virgil explains that he has seen Eteocles and his brother, who fought and killed each other in battle. As they encounter more familiar shades, Virgil further identifies Ulysses and Diomedes.
Seeing these heroes of old excites Dante, who wishes to speak to them. However, Virgil advises Dante against speaking to the spirits they encounter, suggesting that he ask the questions instead, as he can read Dante's mind and communicate effectively with the Greeks, who may not understand Dante's language.
They approach Ulysses, who describes his unquenchable love for travel, which was so strong that not even his wife, son, or father could dissuade it. He recounts a sea voyage he once took and the incredible sights he saw, such as the “other pole,” where he watched its glorious lights kindle and wane. However, the beauty of the voyage was short-lived, as a severe storm hit the ship, and it was swallowed by the sea.