Dante enters the fourth circle of Hell: Greed. He says to Virgil (his Pagan guide: the great Latin poet of the Aeneid) that he doesn’t recognise anyone here, but Virgil rebukes him by telling him to stop being so vain and look deeper. The reason he cannot recognise them is not because he doesn’t know them, but because they have been dulled by their greed. They are no longer even flesh, but gold and silver boiled down and burned into the bones, forming marrow of greed. Their greed is not merely a habit, but a physical part of their makeup and body which removes their actual looks and personality, and forces them to wear and be their sin.
Among them most are followers of corrupt priests who offered atonement for gold: while the priests themselves who used atonement and campaigns in order to gain gold occupy the lowest circle of hell: Treachery.
The section of the poem:
And I: “My Master, among such as these
I ought forsooth to recognise some few,
Who were infected with these maladies.”
And he to me: “Vain thought thou entertainest;
The undiscerning life which made them sordid
Now makes them unto all discernment dim.
Forever shall they come to these two buttings;
These from the sepulchre shall rise again
With the fist closed, and these with tresses shorn.
Ill giving and ill keeping the fair world
Have ta’en from them, and placed them in this scuffle;
Whate’er it be, no words adorn I for it.
Now canst thou, Son, behold the transient farce
Of goods that are committed unto Fortune,
For which the human race each other buffet;
For all the gold that is beneath the moon,
Or ever has been, of these weary souls
Could never make a single one repose.”