David Bruce: Dante’s PARADISE: A Discussion Guide — “Canto 18: Jupiter — Lovers of Justice”

“Canto 18: Jupiter — Lovers of Justice”

  • Who are some of the famous soldier-souls whom Cacciaguida identifies to Dante?

The cross in the sky has eight holy warriors whom Cacciaguida identifies:

Joshua

Joshua was the successor of Moses and the conqueror of the Holy Land. Moses himself never made it to the Holy Land.

Judas Maccabaeus

Judas Maccabaeus was a Jewish general. He fought the Syrians in the 2nd century B.C.E. He restored and purified the temple at Jerusalem, but later the Syrians defeated and killed him.

Charlemagne

Charlemagne was the restorer of the Western Empire; he was what we call the Holy Roman Emperor, but he called himself the Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire is the successor to the Roman Empire. It consisted of territory in Western and Central Europe and lasted from the early Middle Ages until 1906.

Roland

Roland, Charlemagne’s nephew, fought the Saracens in Spain. (The Saracens are the Muslims; Saracens was a popular term for Muslims during the Crusades.)

William of Orange

William of Orange fought the Saracens (Arabs and Muslims) in southern France.

Renouard

Renouard was a Saracen who converted to Christianity and fought with William of Orange. He was also William’s brother-in-law.

Duke Godfrey

Duke Godfrey was the leader of the First Crusade. He fought the Saracens in the Holy Land, and became the first Christian King of Jerusalem.

Robert Guiscard

The 11th-century Robert Guiscard fought the Saracens in Sicily and in southern Italy, and he founded the Norman dynasty there.

  • Which kind of souls are found on Jupiter?

The virtue that is associated with Jupiter is justice, and the souls found here are the souls of the just.

Dante is interested in many things, including justice.

No one should be surprised to discover that justice is discussed here. The justice discussed will be justice that is found on Earth and justice that is found in Paradise. The two are not contradictory, although we cannot fully understand the justice that is found in Paradise. We are looking at two parts of one reality.

  • Which message do the souls on Jupiter spell out?

The souls spells out this message: DILIGITE IUSTITIAM QUI IUDICATIS TERRAM (Musa 18.92-93).

Translated, the message means “LOVE JUSTICE, YOU WHO RULE THE EARTH” (Musa 220).

This is the beginning of chapter one of the book called “Wisdom of Solomon”; in the King James Version, verse one of chapter one is this:

1: Love righteousness, ye that be judges of the earth: think of the Lord with a good (heart,) and in simplicity of heart seek him.

The “Wisdom of Solomon” is an apocryphal book. It is part of the Apocrypha. The Free Online Dictionary defines Apocrypha is this way:

The biblical books included in the Vulgate and accepted in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox canon but considered noncanonical by Protestants because they are not part of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Source: <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Apocrypha>; accessed 13 September 2012.

The Apocrypha consists of books that are not accepted as revelations by all Christian denominations.

  • Into what does the letter M transmorph?

The letter M transmorphs (transforms) into an eagle.

The Eagle is a symbol of empire. It is interesting that the Eagle is the symbol of justice here. Why is that? It is because of the great respect that Dante had for Roman law.

We can think of the eagle are being like a mosaic. The souls are like lights, which are like tesserae. Tesserae are the pieces that make up a mosaic.

Dante lived at Ravenna. In fact, he died there on 14 September1321. Ravenna is famous for its mosaics, which existed when Dante lived there.

  • How does Dante criticize the Popes of his time?

As you may expect, we will meet many rulers and emperors on Jupiter; these, of course, will be wise rulers and emperors.

First, however, Dante criticizes some rulers who are not wise:

“O Heaven’s army to whom my mind returns,

pray for those souls on earth who are misled

by bad example and have gone astray.”

(Musa 18.124-126)

Who are the bad rulers whom Dante condemns? They are bad Popes:

“Once ’twas the custom to make war with swords;

But now ’tis made by taking here and there

The bread the pitying Father shuts from none.”

(Longfellow 18.127-129)

Here Dante is referring to — and condemning — the use of excommunication for political ends. If a King would not do what a Pope told him to do, the Pope could excommunicate him until the King bent his will to the Pope’s will.

Pope Gregory VIII (died 1085) excommunicated Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV twice.

Centuries after the death of Dante, Popes were still excommunicating Kings. Pope Clement VII excommunicated King Henry VIII of England.

Excommunication can be used ethically, but to use it for political purposes is to misuse it.

Canto 18 ends in this way:

But you will answer: “I, who have my heart

so set on him who chose to live alone

and for a martyr’s crown was danced away,

know nothing of your Fisherman or Paul.”

(Musa 18.133-136)

The “you” (Musa 18.133) refers to the bad Popes of Dante’s day. “[Y]our Fisherman” (Musa 18.136) refers to Peter.

In this image, Dante is saying that the current Pope has set his heart on John the Baptist. This sounds good at first, but it is really an insult. The image of John the Baptist was stamped on gold coins. Pope John XXII (1316-1334) is more concerned with collecting gold coins than on doing the will of God. Pope John XXII knows a lot more about John the Baptist (or rather, John the Baptist’s image on gold coins) than he does about Peter or Paul.

We are in Paradise, but we are talking about injustice. Why? For one thing, it is in Paradise that you really understand injustice because in Paradise you really understand justice.

In addition, we should be aware that Pope Boniface VIII also misused excommunication in addition to his other bad deeds.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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