Sunrises and Sunsets

Christian Moevs

in The Metaphysics of Dante's Comedy

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780195174618
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835430 | DOI:

Series: AAR Reflection and Theory in the Study of Religion Series

 Sunrises and Sunsets

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The first twelve verses of Paradiso 29 are set off from the textual narrative and mark the center of the pilgrim's sojourn in the Primo Mobile. At least by one way of counting, they mark its exact center: they are preceded by 187 lines (from Dante's arrival in the Primo Mobile at Paradiso 27.100), and followed by 187 lines (to the narrative end of Dante's ascent to the Empyrean, at Paradiso 30.54). If Dante structured this intentionally, it may not be a coincidence that the digits of 187 numerologically add up to seven, a number Dante conjures by evoking two and five just after the pilgrim's entry into the Primo Mobile. As seen in “Time” section of the preceding chapter, seven for Macrobius represents the Neoplatonic world soul, the nexus between the One and the Many, as for the patristic tradition it represents the Holy Spirit; seven also denotes the completion of the work of creation. Seven is the number of man, the bridge or knot (like the Primo Mobile itself) between Creator and creation, between the self-subsistent and the contingent, between intellect (a three) and matter (a four). It is argued that those opening four tercets, which make a seven bracketed by sevens, mark a turning point or bridge, perhaps parallel to the “pivot”of conversion between earthly cupidity and selfless love that Singleton traced — as another pivotal seven framed by sevens — at the center of the entire Comedy. There may also be a link to proud Niobe (Pg 12.37-39), standing between seven and seven children killed by Apollo (in an acrostic spelling uom [“man”]), after having scorned Apollo's mother Latona for having only two children (Apollo and Diana). It is shown that pride, the downfall of man, is not to know both Latona's children as oneself, not to know oneself as both Apollo and Diana.

Keywords: Paradiso; Laton's children; Dante; Apollo; Diana; seven

Chapter.  11589 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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