Inferno -- Canto VI

Gluttons, Ciacco









14 Cerberus is the mythological watchdog of the underworld. With his three heads he guards the gluttons.

























52 Ciacco (his name means pig) remains unidentified. He reviews the struggle between the White and Black Guelphs whose parties, after defeating the Ghibellines in 1289, broke with one another. At first expelled from Florence in 1301, the Blacks returned to power in 1302 with the support of Boniface VIII.




64 Ciacco alludes to the 20 year old rivalry between the Cerchi and the Donati families that led to the defeat of the Donati in 1301, followed a year later by the defeat of the Whites, which in turn created a political situation hostile to Dante. Eventually the poet was exiled (1302).







79 Farinata degli Uberti, a Ghibelline, will appear in Canto X, Tegghiaio in Canto XVI, next to Jacopo Rusticucci. Arrigo will not be mentioned again, and Mosca is in Canto XXVIII. All of them were well-known citizens of Florence.





















115 Plutus is the mythological king of the Underworld.

          Returning to the consciousness I'd lost
          In the pathos of those kindred lovers
          Whose plight completely baffled me with grief,
          I see new sufferings and new suffering souls
5         Surrounding me no matter where I walk,
          No matter where I turn or where I look.
          I am in the third circle, a place of rain
          Accursed, freezing, heavy, and unending:
          Its density and direction never change.
10       Huge hailstones, mucky sleet and snow
          Keep pouring down through the gloom-filled air
          So that the soil that sucks it in is putrid.
          Cerberus, that weird and vicious beast,
15       Howls like a mad-dog out of all three throats,
          Baying above the people wallowing here.
          His eyes are red, his beard is greasy black,
          His belly bloated and talon-sharp his hands:
          He claws the spirits, skins and splits them up.
          The downpour forces them to howl like hounds.
20       Making a shield of one flank, then the other,
          The impious wretches flip and flop about.
          When the fat worm Cerberus had seen us,
          He opened up his mouths and showed his fangs.
          He stood there quivering in every muscle.
25       Then my guide, reaching down his hands,
          Scooped up the earth and hurtled two fistfuls
          Straight into those three rapacious jaws.
          Just as a dog that barks when he is hungry,
          Then quiets down while gnawing on his food,
30       Struggling and straining just to swallow it,
          Such was the change in the filth-spattered faces
          Of the demon Cerberus thundering loudly
          Against the souls who wish that they were deaf.
          We tread upon the shadows beaten down
35       By the heavy rain, and we set our feet
          On emptiness that seems like solid bodies.
          All of them were stretched out on the ground
          Except for one who sat up straight as soon
          As he perceived us passing on before him.
40       "Oh you who are led onward through this hell,"
          He said to me, "see if you can place me:
          For you were made before I was unmade."
          And I told him, "The distress that you endure
          Perhaps has wiped you from my memory
45       So it appears that I have never seen you.
          "But tell me who you are who in so sad
          A place are plunged to suffer such a torture
          That, though worse exists, none's more repulsive."
          And he told me, "Your city, so crammed full
50       Of envy that already the sack spills over,
          Held me in its walls in the tranquil life.
          "You citizens had nicknamed me Ciacco.
          For the damnable sin of gluttony,
          As you can see, I am drubbed by this rain.
55       "And I, unhappy soul, am not alone,
          For all these souls bear the same punishment
          For the same sin." With that he said no more.
          I answered him, "Ciacco, this anguish of yours
          So weighs on me it summons me to tears.
60       But tell me, if you know, what shall become
          "Of the citizens of that divided city?
          Is anyone there just? Tell me too the reason
          Why so much discord has assaulted it?"
          And he replied, "After long contention
65       They shall come to blood, and the rural party
          Shall push the other out with strong offense.
          "Then that party itself is doomed to fall
          Within three years: the other will prevail
          By the might of one now straddling the middle.
70       "This party shall hold its head up high
          While keeping the other under heavy burdens,
          However much it moans and feels ashamed.
          "Two men are just, but no one minds them there:
          Pride, spitefulness, and avarice
75       Are three sparks that have fired up their hearts."
          Here his mournful words came to a close.
          I said to him, "More I would have you tell me
          And make me a present of still further speech.
          "Farinata and Tegghiaio, once so worthy,
80       Jacopo Rusticucci, Arrigo, Mosca,
          And others who put their talents to good use,
          "Tell me where they are and how to know them,
          For keen desire drives me on to learn
          Whether heaven heals or hell poisons them."
85       And he: "They are among the blackest souls:
          Different sins sink them to different pits.
          If you go down that far, there you will see them.
          "But when you have returned to the sweet world,
          I pray you to recall me to men's minds.
90       No more I say here and no more I answer."
          His straight eyes then he twisted to a squint;
          He studied me a moment, bent his head,
          And sank down with the others who are blind.
          And my guide said to me, "He wakens no more
95       Until resounds the trumpet of the angel
          When the hostile power of their Judge shall come.
          "Each one shall see again his woeful tomb,
          Shall once again don his own flesh and frame,
          Shall hear what blasts out to eternity."
100      So we passed on through that polluted mess
          Of shades and rainfall, our steps pacing slow,
          And touched a moment on the future life.
          At that I asked, "Master, these tormentings,
          Will they increase after the final judgment
105      Or lessen or be just as burning hot?"
          And he said to me, "Go back to your learning
          Which holds that when a thing is the more perfect
          The more it feels the grief as well as good.
          "Although these same detestable people
110      Never can arrive at true perfection,
          They can look to get closer then than now."
          The two of us walked on around that road,
          Talking about much more than I repeat.
          We came to the spot where the grade falls off.
115      There we found Plutus, the great enemy.
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