Lucifer: Circle 9, Inferno 34
Lucifer, Satan, Dis, Beelzebub--Dante throws every name in the book at the Devil, once the most beautiful angel (Lucifer means "light-bearer") then--following his rebellion against God--the source of evil and sorrow in the world, beginning with his corruption of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Dante's Lucifer is a parodic composite of his wickedness and the divine powers that punish him in hell. As ugly as he once was beautiful, Lucifer is the wretched emperor of hell, whose tremendous size (he dwarfs even the Giants) stands in contrast with his limited powers: his flapping wings generate the wind that keeps the lake frozen and his three mouths chew on the shade-bodies of three arch-traitors, the gore mixing with tears gushing from Lucifer's three sets of eyes (Inf. 34.53-7). Lucifer's three faces--each a different color (red, whitish-yellow, black)--parody the doctrine of the Trinity: three complete persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in one divine nature--the Divine Power, Highest Wisdom, and Primal Love that created the Gate of Hell and, by extension, the entire realm of eternal damnation. With the top half of his body towering over the ice, Lucifer resembles the Giants and other half-visible figures; after Dante and Virgil have passed through the center of the earth, their perspective changes and Lucifer appears upside-down, with his legs sticking up in the air. Consider the implications of visual parallels between Lucifer and other inhabitants of hell.
Eternally eaten by Lucifer's three mouths are--from left to right-- Brutus, Judas, and Cassius (Inf. 34.61-7). Brutus and Cassius, stuffed feet first in the jaws of Lucifer's black and whitish-yellow faces respectively, are punished in this lowest region for their assassination of Julius Caesar (44 B.C.E.), the founder of the Roman Empire that Dante viewed as an essential part of God's plan for human happiness. Both Brutus and Cassius fought on the side of Pompey in the civil war. However, following Pompey's defeat at Pharsalia in 48 B.C.E., Caesar pardoned them and invested them with high civic offices. Still, Cassius continued to harbor resentment against Caesar's dictatorship and enlisted the aid of Brutus in a conspiracy to kill Caesar and re-establish the republic. They succeeded in assassinating Caesar but their political-military ambitions were soon thwarted by Octavian (later Augustus) and Antony at Philippi (42 B.C.E.): Cassius, defeated by Antony and thinking (wrongly) that Brutus had been defeated by Octavian, had himself killed by a servant; Brutus indeed lost a subsequent battle and took his life as well. For Dante, Brutus and Cassius' betrayal of Julius Caesar, their benefactor and the world's supreme secular ruler, complements Judas Iscariot's betrayal of Jesus, the Christian man-god, in the Bible. Judas, one of the twelve apostles, strikes a deal to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver; he fulfills his treacherous role--foreseen by Jesus at the Last Supper--when he later identifies Jesus to the authorities with a kiss; regretting this betrayal that will lead to Jesus' death, Judas returns the silver and hangs himself (Matthew 26:14-16; 26:21-5; 26:47-9; 27:3-5). Suffering even more than Brutus and Cassius, Dante's Judas is placed head-first inside Lucifer's central mouth, with his back skinned by the devil's claws (Inf. 34.58-63).