Tracing the Fall of Simon Magus to Ariccia, Rome | Ancient Origins Members Site


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Dispute of Saint Peter with Simon Mago in front of the emperor, from the frescoes in the Brancacci chapel by Filippino Lippi (1481-1482) (Public Domain)

Tracing the Fall of Simon Magus to Ariccia, Rome

"O Simon the magician, o wretched followers
That the things of God, that of goodness
Do not be brides, and you birds of prey
for gold and for silver, which are turned upside down,
Now it's time for you to play the trumpet,
But that the third bedlam is..."

In the 19th canto of the Inferno in the Third Bolonia of Circle VIII, Dante Alighieri admonishes the simonians – followers of Simon the Magus, including Pope Niccola de li Orsini of Rome - to be forever stuck upside down with their heads in the bare ground, with flames burning their feet. He is echoing Simon Peter, the Prince of the Apostles and his irrevocable condemnation: "May your silver perish with you, because you thought of buying with money the free gift of God," (Acts of the Apostles, VIII, 20) referring to the incident where his contemporary and nemesis, Simon Magus, tried to bribe Saint Peter the apostle to receive the thaumaturgical faculties granted by the Holy Spirit, in order to perform miracles.

The bolonia of the simoniacs, as in Dante’s Inferno, illustration by Gustave Doré (Public Domain)

The bolonia of the simoniacs, as in Dante’s Inferno, illustration by Gustave Doré (Public Domain)


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