"The foremost circle that surrounds the abyss"

(Canto 4, line 24)

Dante imagines Hell as a circular, funnel-shaped structure in the Northern hemisphere of the earth. His Inferno is divided into nine "circles", which are then variously subdivided according to different circumstances or specific sins. Like the steps of a Greek amphitheatre, each circle is situated below the preceding, all the way down to the centre of the earth, where Lucifer, king of Hell, is placed. This Canto describes the first circle, the so-called "Limbo", the "edge" of Hell the furthest from its centre. Here dwell virtuous souls who lived before the age of Christ and unbaptized children, who need not be punished but for these reasons still cannot enter Paradise.