Canto 3

The two poets enter the Vestibule of Hell after they pass under an arch inscribed with the phrase, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." This means that none who enter may ever reach salvation.

Before officially entering Hell, Dante and Vergil see the Opportunists, also known as the Uncommitted, in the Vestibule. They took no sides, and therefore they receive no place. Instead, they run about the hills of the Vestibule forever with no hope of escape. As they sought only their own advantage and wavered in making decisions, so they chase after a transient banner that they will never catch. While doing this, they are being repeatedly stung by hornets and wasps, and their tears, pus, and blood is feasted upon by the worms and maggots that coat the ground. This punishment represents the sting of their guilt and their moral filth.

Among the souls in the Vestibule are the angels who refused to take sides when Lucifer revolted against God in the Rebellion of Angels. The souls remain nameless because their lack of action has left them unworthy of mention. Heaven has condemned them, but Hell will not accept them.
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Dante and Vergil must cross the River Acheron in order to enter Hell proper. The water is wide and circles around the Vestibule. On the other side of Acheron lies Limbo. Anyone who contacts the River Acheron will be immobilized forever in its cold grasp. Therefore, Charon, a lanky old man with a long white beard, must ferry souls across Acheron to Hell proper. Dante faints with terror and is not revived until they reach the opposite shore.



Major Umbri:

Pope Celestine V: This is the only major umbri that Dante recognizes. He is placed in the Vestibule because of the cowardice he exhibited in his refusal to remain pope and his resignation that followed, which is known as the Great Refusal. Pope Boniface VIII succeeded him and had him imprisoned until his death. Dante considers Boniface VIII the root of all evil within the Church.
Pontius Pilate: Because of the ambiguous nature of the text, an alternative interpretation suggests that the umbri of Pope Celestine V may actually be Pontius Pilate. He joins the Opportunists because of his refusal to pass judgment on Jesus Christ at his trial. His refusal to choose a side condemns him to the Vestibule.