Divine Comedy

Who is Ulysses in Dante's Inferno?


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Ulysses is the crafty hero of Homer's epic Greek poem, the Odyssey. Ulysses is the son of Laertes, King of Ithaca, and father of Telemachus. Homer's poem tells the tale of his wandering for twenty years after the Trojan War and of his return to Ithaca. Dante created the events he tells about Ulysses and his crew and places him in hell with his Greek warrior companion, Diomede (Inferno 26). There he has the proud Ulysses tell of how he disobeyed Hercules' instructions and convinced his men to sail beyond the Pillars of Hercules and the bounds of the known world. He explains how they sailed into the southern hemisphere, where they saw Dante's Mount of Purgatory just before their ship was pulled beneath the waves where they all perished. Dante uses the story as a contrast to his own, which was divinely sanctioned.