It is hard to place St. Augustine within just one of the levels of Dante’s hell for his sins were varied and not great. Today many of his sins are ordinary. For example, most people attempt to better their own lives without regard of others. They attempt to increase their standard of living and gain more worldly possessions. They are neither good nor evil but are just trying to make a living and keep up in today’s society.
Before Augustine’s conversion, this was his goal. He was continually searching for “honors, money, (and) marriage” (Confessions, 991). This allows Augustine to be placed in the first area of hell, the Vestibule. It is a place for opportunists such as Augustine was before his conversion. It is a place for the “nearly soulless. . . who were neither for God nor Satan, but only for themselves.” Augustine never intentionally hurt anyone, but his actions were led by his instincts to succeed and gain praise. These actions included kissing up to the Emperor, his study of law and the art of persuasion, and the mocking of newcomers to his profession. Since each of these sins also falls within a different realm of Dante’s hell, they will be discussed later in this paper.
The second level of Dante’s hell, Limbo, does not apply to Augustine because he was baptized and was blessed with the knowledge of Jesus Christ’s existence. Therefore, Augustine cannot be placed within this first circle of hell.
The second circle of hell, a realm for those who fell victim of their carnal desires, is another level at which to place Augustine’s soul for he was consumed by lust in his pre-conversion days. He was encouraged by his family to learn the art of persuasion and making of fine speech when he was only sixteen. He used these skills, which he developed very well, along with his good looks to seduce as many women as possible. It was “in that sixteenth year of my life in this world, when the madness of lust. . . took complete control of me, and I surrendered to it” (Confessions, 987). He was in love with being in love. Yet, he was unable to discern between love and lust.
His carnal desires overpowered his soul for the majority of his life. During his lifetime, he had a multitude of mistresses. One of these mistresses he took because he was unable to wait for a little over a year to have sex before being married to his promised wife. She had to reach the legal marrying age of twelve before they could consummate. “I was unable to bear the delay of two years which must pass before I was to get the girl I had asked for in marriage. In fact it was not really marriage that I wanted. I was simply a slave to lust. So I took another woman” (Confessions, 993).
Whether or not Augustine’s soul can be placed in the fourth circle of hell is a tough decision. Since he was an opportunist, part of his life was spent attempting to gain as many riches as possible in search of happiness. This would classify him as a hoarder, but seems insignificant among his other sins....