The Divine Comedy, Inferno "The Master Of Those Who Know"

Dante Alighieri

"The Master Of Those Who Know"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Dante, in Limbo, where the good people who died unbaptised dwell, sees the noble poets Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. They hail the newly returned Virgil and admit Dante to their company. The travelers then pass a seven-walled castle with seven gates, the castle probably symbolizing philosophy, the seven walls the liberal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding), and the seven gates the liberal arts (grammar, logic, rhetoric, music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy). There is a green inside the castle peopled with Trojans and great Romans. Dante then sees the great master of those who know, Aristotle. Surrounding him are the representatives of the major schools of philosophy, many of which stem from Aristotelian teaching. Aristotle is chosen by Dante as the grand master because his philosophy was dominant in medieval scholastic thought; Plato did not become popular until the Renaissance. The Spanish-Arabian philosopher Averroes (1126–1198) wrote a commentary on Aristotle.

When I had lifted up my brows a little,
The Master I beheld of those who know,
Sit with his philosophic family.
All gaze upon him, and all do him honor.
There I beheld both Socrates and Plato,
Who nearer him before the others stand;
Democritus, who puts the world on chance,
Diogenes, Anaxagoras, and Thales,
Zeno, Empedocles, and Heraclitus;
Of qualities I saw the good collector,
Hight Dioscorides; and Orpheus saw I,
Tully and Livy, and moral Seneca,
Euclid, geometrician, and Ptolemy,
Galen, Hippocrates, and Avicenna,
Averroes, who the great Comment made.