To burn thyself to ashes and so perish, Since in ill-doing thou thy seed excellest? Through all the sombre circles of this Hell, Spirit I saw not against God so proud, Not he who fell at Thebes down from the walls! He fled away, and spake no further word; And I beheld a Centaur full of rage Come crying out: "Where is, where is the scoffer?" I do not think Maremma has so many Serpents as he had all along his back, As far as where our countenance begins. Upon the shoulders, just behind the nape, With wings wide open was a dragon lying, And he sets fire to all that he encounters. My Master said: "That one is Cacus, who Beneath the rock upon Mount Aventine Created oftentimes a lake of blood. He goes not on the same road with his brothers, By reason of the fraudulent theft he made Of the great herd, which he had near to him; Whereat his tortuous actions ceased beneath The mace of Hercules, who peradventure Gave him a hundred, and he felt not ten." While he was speaking thus, he had passed by, And spirits three had underneath us come, Of which nor I aware was, nor my Leader, Until what time they shouted: "Who are you?" On which account our story made a halt, And then we were intent on them alone. I did not know them; but it came to pass, As it is wont to happen by some chance, That one to name the other was compelled, Exclaiming: "Where can Cianfa have remained?" Whence I, so that the Leader might attend, Upward from chin to nose my finger laid. If thou art, Reader, slow now to believe What I shall say, it will no marvel be, For I who saw it hardly can admit it.
Based on Dante, Divina Comedia, Inferno, Canto XXV, 12-33. Vanni Fucci was the illegitimate son of Fuccio de' Lazzari. That the mythological monster Cacus was a centaur is Dantes invention.
- In the Inferno poem of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Cacus is depicted as a centaur with a fire-breathing dragon on his shoulders and snakes covering his equine back. He guards over the thieves in the Thieves section of Hell's Circle of Fraud.
- In Letter to a Friend Sir Thomas Browne compares the reluctance with which old people go to the grave with the backwards movements of Cacus' oxen.
- Cacus is described as a deformed outcast from an Italian village, able only to say "Cacus".
Cacus is the angry Centaur who seeks to punish Vanni Fucci in the pit of the thieves. Dante presents this horse-man as an elaborate monster, with snakes covering his equine back and a dragon--shooting fire at anyone in the way--astride Cacus' human shoulders (Inf. 25.16-24). Virgil explains that Cacus is not with the other Centaurspatrolling the river of blood in the circle of violence (Inferno 12) because he fraudulently stole from a herd of cattle belonging to Hercules, who brutally clubbed Cacus to death (28-33). In the Aeneid Virgil portrays Cacus as a half-human, fire-breathing monster who inhabits a cavern--under the Aventine hill (near the future site of Rome)--filled with gore and the corpses of Cacus' victims. Cacus steals Hercules' cattle--four bulls and four heifers--by dragging them backwards into his cavern (in order to conceal evidence of his crime). When Hercules hears the cries of one of his stolen cows, he tears the top off the hill and, to the delight of the native population, strangles Cacus to death (Aen. 8.193-267). The account of Hercules using his massive club to kill Cacus--instead of strangulation--appears in Livy's History of Rome (1.7.7) and Ovid's Fasti (1.575-8).
Pistoria (in Latin other possible spellings are Pistorium or Pistoriae) was a centre of Gallic, Ligurian and Etruscan settlements before becoming a Roman colony in the 6th century BC, along the important road Via Cassia: in 62 BC the demagogue Catiline and his fellow conspirators were slain nearby. From the 5th century the city was a bishopric, and during the Lombardic kingdom it was a royal city and had several privileges. Pistoia's most splendid age began in 1177 when it proclaimed itself a free commune: in the following years it became an important political centre, erecting walls and several public and religious buildings.
In 1254 the taking of Ghibelline Pistoia by Guelph Florence, was among the origins of the division of the Florentine Guelphs into "Black" and "White" factions. Pistoia remained a Florentine holding except for a brief period in the 14th century, when Castruccio Castracani captured it for Lucca, and was officially annexed to Florence in 1530. During the 14th century Ormanno Tedici was one of the Lords of the city. Dante mentioned in his Divina Commedia the free town of Pistoia as the home town of Vanni Fucci, who is encountered in Inferno tangled up in a knot of snakes while cursing God.