Malebolge

In Dante Alighieri's Inferno, part of the Divine Comedy, Malebolge () is the eighth circle of Hell. Roughly translated from Italian, Malebolge means "evil ditches". Malebolge is a large, funnel-shaped cavern, itself divided into ten concentric circular trenches or ditches. Each trench is called a bolgia (Italian for "pouch" or "ditch"). Long causeway bridges run from the outer circumference of Malebolge to its center, pictured as spokes on a wheel. At the center of Malebolge is the ninth and final circle of hell.

In Dante’s version of hell, categories of sin are punished in different circles, with the depth of the circle (and placement within that circle) symbolic of the amount of punishment to be inflicted. Sinners placed in the upper circles of hell are given relatively minor punishments, while sinners in the depths of hell endure far greater torments. As the eighth of nine circles, Malebolge is one of the worst places in hell to be. In it, sinners guilty of "simple" fraud are punished (that is, fraud that is committed without particularly malicious intent, whereas malicious or "compound" fraud—fraud which goes against bond of love, blood, honor, or the bond of hospitality—would be punished in the ninth circle). Sinners of this category include counterfeiters, hypocrites, grafters, seducers, sorcerers and simoniacs.

Dante and his guide, Virgil, make their way into Malebolge by riding on the back of the monster Geryon, the personification of fraud, who possesses the face of an honest man 'good of cheer,' but the tail of a scorpion, who flies them down through the yawning chasm that separates the eighth circle from the seventh circle, where the violent are punished. Dante and Virgil plan on crossing Malebolge by way of the system of bridges, but find their path disturbed by many broken ledges and collapsed bridges that were destroyed during the Harrowing of Hell. They must then cross some of the bolgias on foot and even rely on demons to guide them. Eventually, they make it to the inner ledge where after a brief look at the giants, the babbling Nimrod to the hostile Ephialtes and heavily chained Briareus, Virgil convinces the giant Antaeus to lower them down to the ninth circle's frozen lake, Cocytus.

The Malebranche threaten Virgil and Dante in the fifth Bolgia, portrayed by Gustave Doré.

Thirteen demons known as the Malebranche, "Evil Claws", guard the fifth bolgia of the Malebolge. Their leader is Malacoda ("evil tail"), while the others are Scarmiglione ("ruffle-haired"), Barbariccia ("curly beard"), Alichino (derived from Arlecchino, the harlequin), Calcabrina ("one who walks on the frost"), Cagnazzo ("bad dog"), Libicocco ("love notch" [1]), Draghignazzo (maybe from drago, "dragon", and sghignazzo, "guffaw"), Ciriatto (possibly "little pork"), Graffiacane ("scratch dog"), Farfarello ("butterfly"), Rubicante (possibly "red" or "rabid"), and a thirteenth Malebranche who was never named in the text. They try to trick Virgil and Dante by telling them of a path which does not really exist.

The ten ditches of the Malebolge, in descending order, are listed thus:

The lower edge of Malebolge is guarded by a ring of titans and earth giants, many of whom are chained in place as punishment for their rebellion against God. Beyond and below the giants lies Cocytus, hell's final depth.