The entrance to Dante's underworld is situated somewhere in a dark forest:

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.

Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh --
the very thought of it renews my fear!

It is so bitter death is hardly more so.
But to set forth the good I found
I will recount the other things I saw

Canto I, Divina Commedia, edited by Giorgio Petrocchi and published by Mondadori

Dante often references classical works, and I wonder if this imagery was inspired by a Greco-Roman tale. A forest entrance to Hades, for example.


1 Answer 1


The metaphor was (probably) inspired partly by Medieval literature (courtly or theological) and partly by Virgil's works, for example the "Georgics" that, in part, discusses the myth of Orpheus, who attempted to rescue his dead lover Eurydice from the Underworld.

Besides this, as was already said in a comment, Dante could be influenced by the Italian landscape; contact with forests was routine for people in the Medieval age, as it often reached the limits of Italy's communes (city-states).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.