A Brief History of Hell

Dante's inferno
Bettmann / CORBIS

The Inferno
In the 14th century, Florentine Dante Alighieri brought together biblical, mythological, historical, and contemporary figures in his Inferno, the cultural influence of which can hardly be overstated. The Inferno, the first part of his epic poem, La Divina Commedia, has Virgil (who described the underworld in the Aeneid) guiding Dante through nine circles of a Christian Hell. As he spirals down, he sees all sorts of those who have sinned — adulterers, murderers, traitors — and their awful corresponding torments.

Get the Latest Photos from Time.com
Get TIME photos and pictures of the week delivered directly to your inbox.