Front matter - Volume 10 (1993) The Epic Circle


  • Zdenko Zlatar


In Canto IV of his Inferno Dante, guided by Virgil, enters the first, the outermost circle of Hell where those who had been born before Christ are condemned for eternity simply because they did not know Christian faith. In this first circle Dante and Virgil are met by a small group of poets, including Homer, Horace, Ovid, and Lucan. Dante calls this small group "the noble school of the master singer of sublimest vierse" 1 (Ia bella scola di quel segnor del altissimo canto). Commentators, such as Mark Musa, are divided on whether by the phrase "the master singer'' Dante meant Homer, whom he had already referred to as "leading the three as if he were their, master" and as "sovereign poet", or Virgil, whom Dante called in Canto I "light and honor of the other poets". It was from Virgil that Dante took "the noble style that was to bring me honor''. In Canto II Dante addressed Virgil thus: ''You are my guide, you are my lord and teacher" (Tu duca, tu signore, e tu maestro). Regardless of whether Dante meant Homer or Virgil, according to another commentator, that of the translator of the so-called California Dante, Allen Mandelbaum, "Dante considered epic poetry, 'the song incomprable', to be the noblest genre". 2 Dante is accpeted as the sixth of the group, and thus joins the epic circle

Author Biography

Zdenko Zlatar