FACT CHECK: No, This Quote About The ‘Hottest Places In Hell’ Does Not Appear In Dante’s ‘Inferno’

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

A Facebook post claims medieval Italian poet Dante Alighieri once wrote, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”

Verdict: False

Though the quote may be an interpretation of an idea from Dante’s “Inferno,” it does not appear in any of his written works.

Fact Check:

Alighieri, simply referred to as Dante, wrote the epic poem “The Divine Comedy,” which details Dante’s journey through hell, purgatory and paradise. However, the quote does not appear in this work or any of his others. (RELATED: Did Plato Say, ‘Be Kind, Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Hard Battle’?)

The Daily Caller reached out to several experts, none of whom thought the expression was genuine.

“Dante does indeed have it in for those who remained neutral in life,” State University of New York at Geneseo professor Ronald Herzman told the Caller in an email, “but not in those words.”

“He placed the morally neutral souls in what has been called the ‘vestibule’ of Hell, and they are there in part, as Dante says, because they did not act, either for good or bad, and contributed nothing to society,” explained University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Christopher Kleinhenz in an email to the Caller. “In short, they are rejected even by Hell and by Heaven, where actions are either punished or rewarded.”

The website Quote Investigator traced a variation of the quote, attributed to Dante, back to Henry Powell Spring’s 1944 book of aphorisms, though it used “period” instead of “time.”

Former President John F. Kennedy also attributed a version of the quote to Dante in several of his speeches, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. (The library notes, however, that the quote was based on an interpretation of Dante’s “Inferno.”)

Several decades earlier, in 1917, a North Carolina newspaper quoted the religious speaker W. M. Vines as saying, “Dante, in his ‘Inferno,’ put those who are neutral in the everlasting fight between right and wrong in the lowest place in hell.”

This statement from Vines was the Christian speaker’s attempt at capturing, in his own words, an idea from Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.”

“In conclusion,” Quote Investigator writes, “this quotation did not appear in ‘Inferno’ by Dante Alighieri, and it does not accurately reflect the location of neutral beings in Dante’s elaborate eschatology. Nevertheless, QI conjectures that the statement evolved from a flawed re-interpretation of Dante’s work.”

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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