Betsy wrote, “If Latini didn’t hurt anyone with his sodomy, like the other party involved, then I don’t think Hell is the place for him.” I think this is an interesting point, but I would argue that Dante has placed Latini in Hell because he has sinned against Nature, and in effect, himself. The rules of contrapasso dictate the necessity of his placement there. Although Dante has made it evident that he greatly admires Latini’s work, Dante has no choice but to place him in Hell, if he intends to maintain any sense of justice at all. After all, we have to remember that Hell is ruled by contrapasso, or a fixed symbolic retribution. Because of this, Dante’s personal likes and dislikes are completely irrelevant. The fact that he prefaces Latini’s placement with open admiration seems to highlight this.
According to Dante, Latini committed sodomy(and this very well could be slander), which is considered by Dante as a violent act against Nature. Regardless of Dante’s personal preferences, Latini must suffer an unnatural punishment for the “unnatural” acts he committed during his lifetime. The sodomites, in the seventh circle of Hell, are forced to run in circles endlessly, symbolic of the purposelessness of their sodomy on Earth. Dante views sex as a means to an end, namely, procreation. Because sodomy does not result in sexual reproduction, it is viewed as unnatural and selfish.
But sodomy is ultimately classified as an act of violence against Nature. It could be argued that by committing sodomy, one is literally committing an act of violence against their body. The act of sodomy, indeed, can be anatomically destructive. In the words of my high school Health teacher, “the body wasn’t built for that, too much ripping and tearing.” Thanks for that, Teach. But some definitions of sodomy include oral and anal sex and bestiality. On this count, as Professor Anderson mentioned in class, the “Sodomites” are not exclusively homosexual men.
From a strictly Biblical perspective, however, it seems clear that to mistreat one’s body is to sin against God. 1 Corinthians 6:19 reads, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”(NASB). Along these lines, one could easily argue that besides sodomy, there exist a host of other lifestyle choices that could be classified as maltreatment of one’s body. So would Dante place those who use drugs, drink alcohol, never exercise, or eat complex carbohydrates in Hell too?