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In Canto III Dante begins his journey into hell, lead by Virgil. They enter the gates and Dante hears the screams inside. Virgil begins the journey by telling Dante that the screams he hears is the souls of those who did not choose between good or evil. These souls have been denied entry into both heaven and hell. These souls chase a banner and are bit by wasps and flies. This is where Dante sees Pope Celestine V. Because these souls did not choose a side in life, they cannot rest in death. The neutral angels, who did not choose between God or Satan in the war in Heaven are also in this area.
They reach the river Acheron, the border of Hell. A boat approaches to take the newly dead souls across the river. This boat is guided by Charon. Charon knows that Dante is a living soul and tells him to stay away from the dead. Virgil tells Charon that the journey is directed from the heavens. After this he says no more and brings the couple across the river. Virgil explains to Dante that only the souls meant to be in hell cross the river. As they are crossing an earthquake shakes the ground and Dante faints in terror.
An old man who ferries souls across the river Acheron. He only allows the dead who are buried or burned with the proper rights who carry a coin to cross. Those who cannot afford the passage must wander the bank of the river Styx for 100 years.
Gates of Hell
This picture is Auguste Rodin’s depiction of the Gates of Hell. There are scenes from the Inferno depicted on the doors.
The River Acheron
The River Acheron that runs through Greece. Other than being a river in the underworld, it was also considered to be the River of Pain.
In this Canto the sinners are those who did not choose between good and evil, Heaven and Hell.
The sinners who did not choose are punished by constantly running after a banner, while flies and wasps constantly bite them.
This is within the gates of hell but not considered a part of hell.
Right past this area is the beginning of the first circle where limbo begins.