My blogging friend Rebecca Budd is currently participating in a #KaramazovReadalong, you can read about it here: https://ontheroadbookclub.com/2021/07/27/karamazovreadalong-day-1-who-is-fyodor/.
The reading group are reading one chapter a day of this book and it inspired me to tackle Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri in the same manner.
Canto 6 has Dante and Virgil passing into the third circle of Hell which is guarded by Cerberus. In Greek mythology, Cerberus is referred to as the hound of Hades and is depicted as a multi-headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld so that the spirits cannot escape. As the third circle is inhabited by gluttons, Cerberus with his multiple mouths and endless hunger is a suitable guardian.
The naked spirits lie on the ground rolling in the mud like pigs which a stinking slush falls from the sky. Cerberus stands over the howling spirits and barks furiously at them, clawing and biting those within his reach.
Cerberus requires a concession for each of his mouths to allow passersby passage through the third circle. Virgil satisfies this requirement by throwing the revolting slimy mud into his mouth.
As Dante and Virgil cross the swamp, one of the gluttons sits up and speaks to Dante. The spirit is Ciacco, the Hog, who claims to be from Florence and to know Dante. Dante is sympathetic to Ciacco’s fate and, knowing that the Damned can foresee the future, asks him why Florence is so divided and what the city’s fate is. Ciacco makes a prediction about a future war and defeat with one party being expelled. Dante asks about the location of certain famous Florentines and Ciacco tells him they are deeper in Hell.
Virgil tells Dante that Ciacco and the other gluttons will remain where they are until the Last Judgement afterwhich they will feel more pain as well as more pleasure having moved a little closer to perfection.
Here is an extract from Canto 6:
“Cerberus, cruel monster, fierce and strange,
Through his wide threefold throat barks as a dog
Over the multitude immers’d beneath.
His eyes glare crimson, black his unctuous beard,
His belly large, and claw’d the hands, with which
He tears the spirits, flays them, and their limbs
Piecemeal disparts. Howling there spread, as curs,
Under the rainy deluge, with one side
The other screening, oft they roll them round,
A wretched, godless crew. When that great worm
Descried us, savage Cerberus, he op’d
His jaws, and the fangs show’d us; not a limb
Of him but trembled.”