Stock Photo Hell
Circle Eight: Fraud
Bolgia Ten: Falsifiers
I was hit by an atonal choir of discordant wails
That pierced me like needles, their tips dipped in pity;
I covered my ears with my hands.
What you had here was just what you’d have
If all the sick in the contagion hospitals
Of Maremma, Valdichiana, and Sardinia,
During the malaria season from July to September,
Were crammed together in one ditch;
A gag-inducing stench of gangrene rose off the crowd.”
-Canto XXIX, Mary Jo Bang translation
The falsifiers seem to fall into several types: counterfeiters, i.e. people who made false money or goods; con artists, who convinced people that taking this wooden horse into the city was a really good idea and it wasn’t a sketch move by the Greeks or anything; and the type of con artist that disguise themselves as others for evil purposes. These purposes ranged from a man who impersonated a dead guy to gain his inheritance to a woman who impersonated a stranger to have sex with her father. I mean, I’m not saying this bolgia is directed by David Lynch, but maybe it is?! In general the people in this final bolgia of fraud seem to have done worse things than the false counselors earlier. Like, I’m not entirely convinced the makers of fake Prada handbags would end up in this bolgia, but who can know the ineffable will of God and/or Minos? Minos (who is the critter in charge of wrapping its tail around a number of times corresponding to how deep you’re getting sent) might be a real fan of authentic Prada handbags, who knows? Anyway, certainly counterfeiters of money and the Talented Mr. Ripley would end up here.
Speaking of “here,” this tenth and final bolgia of fraud is a pretty icky place. People are afflicted with a variety of hideous diseases, from fever to gangrene to edema. Some of them seem to be thematic to the type of counterfeiting or conning the person enacted in life–the “Master Adam” (possibly Adamo of Brescia) who was a counterfeiter of gold coins, is afflicted with dropsy, i.e. edema: his legs and body are so swollen that he cannot move. This is possibly a symptom, Mary Jo Bang suggests, “associated with gold toxicity.” The souls Dante talks to spend a lot of time bickering and being jerks to each other, arguing over who’s got it worse, etc. Satre says “Hell is other people?” Well, this canto certainly proves that.
My search terms: counterfeit, con artist, counterfeit woman
(PRO TIP: Never type “edema” into any kind of image searching site.)
Much of what I got back was more or less what you’d expect:
Pretty much all of the images of human scammers or con artists were white men.
As for other con archetypes, the doctor-in-handcuffs seemed to be pretty much always a woman, and when I typed in “counterfeit woman” I mostly got women in oddly elaborate hairdos investigating counterfeit money.
The best result I found does not really capture the freaky, diseasy aspect of this bolgia, but is sure does go full David Lynch and captures the surreal aspect of this bolgia:
That’s all I’ve got; frankly, I’m tired of Fraud and ready to move on to the final circle of this wacky adventure: Betrayal.
Next up: Betrayal.
Spoilers: Hell literally freezes over.