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19.19-21); and Virgil is equally emphatic that his native city, Mantua, was named after the prophetess Manto with no recourse to such dubious rituals as casting lots or interpreting signs (Inf. Political corruption (fifth ditch), the crime for which Dante himself was falsely charged when he was forced into exile, links back to similar abuses within the church (simony) and points ahead to the sin of hypocrisy.The longest single episode of the Inferno, launched when Virgil confidently believes the promise of the devils guarding the fifth ditch, concludes when the travelers make a narrow escape into the sixth ditch and Virgil learns from a hypocrite that he has been duped (Inf. Dante adorns the hypocrites in religious garb--hooded cloaks similar to the elegant ones worn by the Benedictine monks at Cluny (in France)--in accordance with the biblical condemnation of false piety: just as Jesus compares hypocritical scribes and Pharisees to tombs that appear clean and beautiful on the outside while containing bones of the dead (Matthew ), so the bright golden cloaks of Dante's hypocrites conceal heavy lead on the inside (Inf. back to top Jason, leader of the Argonauts (named for the Argos, the first ship) in their quest for the golden fleece of Colchis, stands out in the first ditch among the seducers--joined in the pit by the pimps and panderers moving in the opposite direction--as a large, regal figure enduring the torments of hell with no outward sign of suffering (Inf. Jason earned his place in this location through his habit of loving and leaving women: first Hypsipyle of Lemnos, whom Jason seduced and impregnated before abandoning; and then Medea (daughter of the King of Colchis), whose magic enabled Jason to obtain the fleece by yoking fire-breathing oxen to a plow and putting to sleep the dragon guarding the fleece (91-6).

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Images of degraded sexuality are even more prominent in the next canto (19).

Here Dante presents simony--the abuse of power within the church--as a form of spiritual prostitution, fornication, and rape (Inf.

Jason later left Medea (whom he had married) to wed Creusa. back to top Nicholas is the simonist pope who, because he is upside down in a hole, mistakenly believes Dante to be Pope Boniface VIII, somehow present in the third pit several years before his time (Inf. When the confusion is cleared up, Nicholas informs Dante that he foresees the damnation (for simony) of not only Boniface VIII but Pope Clement V as well.

Medea brutally avenged Jason's disaffection by murdering their two children and poisoning Jason's new wife. Born into the powerful Orsini family of Rome, Giovanni Gaetano was appointed head of the Inquisition (1262) before being elected pope--taking the name Nicholas--in 1277.

Nicholas expanded papal political control by adding parts of Romagna, as far north as Bologna and Ferrara, and he forged a compromise in the Franciscan movement between the moderates and the radical spiritualists.

He was known, on the one hand, for his high moral standards and care for the poor, and on the other for his shameless nepotism (derived from the Italian word--nipote--for nephew, niece, and grandchild): Nicholas himself states that he was guilty of favoring the "cubs" in his family (Orsini, the family name, translates to "little bears"; Inf. back to top Dante invents this name--"Evil Claws"--for the devils of the fifth ditch who bring to hell and torment the shades of corrupt political officials and employees (Inf. Like the velociraptors of Jurassic Park, these demonic creatures are agile, smart, and fierce.

19.1), is described in the Bible as a man from Samaria famous for his magical powers (magus means wizard or magician).

Recently converted and baptized, Simon is so impressed with the ability of the apostles Peter and John to confer the Holy Spirit (through the laying on of hands) that he offers them money to obtain and practice this power himself; Peter angrily denounces Simon for even thinking this gift could be bought (Acts 8:9-24).

An apocryphal book, Acts of Peter, tells of a magic contest between the apostle and Simon, now the magician of the emperor Nero in Rome.

When Simon--with the aid of a demon--proceeds to fly, Peter crosses himself and Simon crashes to the ground.

19.1-4; 55-7; 106-11), a perversion of the holy matrimony conventionally posited between Christ (groom) and the church (bride).

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