"Love, which permits no loved one not to love,
took me so strongly with delight in him
that we are one in Hell, as we were above."

-Inferno Canto V ll. 100-102


The Second Circle of Hell is the very first level we see reserved for true sinners. In this case, it is what Dante refers to as "Carnal Malefactors" or those souls who denied the reason of the human mind for their own passions and indulgences. The important detail about this level of Hell is referenced in the weather going on as they enter, that of a violent storm. The souls of The Second Circle are thrown about continuously and eternally in the violent gales of their own passions, symbolic of how they lived their lives enslaved to their own reckless abandon.

Several historic figures occupy this level, some of them, again, we'll recognize. Here in Lust are the souls of Achilles, who is here for loving Polyxena, whom he betrayed the Greeks for to return to Troy and be with, at which point he was shot by Paris. It's worth mentioning Paris is also among the souls condemned to be thrown endlessly about The Circle of Lust, alsong with Dido the Queen of Carthage. Whom you'll recall of The Aenied as the woman who killed herself when Aeneas left her, even though she swore to remain faithful to her husband.

This level of Hell shows us also a very compassionate Dante towards the plight of the two lovers of Paolo & Francesca, an actual historic account of two adulterers who were killed sometime between 1283-1286 by Francesca's husband. Their story is very sad, a sentiment Dante also seems to share. The point of their sin is breaking of the sacred vow of marriage and the collapse of reason before their passion. It's important to note that in Dante's Inferno, sins are categorized and placed closer & further from God in Heaven depending on severity. It is no mistake that Limbo is the first level, full of those who who indifferent or unable to ascend to Heaven, and Lust as the second level for those who gave into their emotions rather than reason. Can this suggest that overriding passion isn't among the most insulting of sins to God, but still dire enough to warrant a specific circle for eternal punishment?

It is certainly something to consider as we follow Dante & Virgil deeper into The Inferno. One can give into the appetites of longing, and be subject to nothing more than being kicked about in a vicious whirlwind of desire for eternity. The punishment we'll come to find out is much darker and terrible if that appetite changes to consumption of food & drink. This is what awaits those condemned as Gluttons...