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The third ring--inside the first two--is a barren plain of sand ignited by flakes of fire that torment three separate groups of violent offenders against God: those who offend God directly (blasphemers: Inferno 14); those who violate nature, God's offspring (sodomites: Inferno 15-16); and those who harm industry and the economy, offspring of nature and therefore grandchild of God (usurers: Inferno 17).
Usury was similarly condemned, particularly after it was equated with heresy (and therefore punishable by the Inquisition) at the Council of Vienne in 1311. Based on biblical passages--fallen man must live "by the sweat of his brow" (Genesis 3:19), Jesus' appeal to his followers to "lend, expecting nothing in return" (Luke 6:35)--medieval theologians considered the lending of money at interest to be sinful. Thomas Aquinas, based on Aristotle, considered usury--like sodomy--to be contrary to nature because "it is in accordance with nature that money should increase from natural goods and not from money itself." Forese Donati, a Florentine friend of Dante who appears in Purgatory 23-4, insinuated--in an exchange of insulting sonnets with the poet--that Dante's father was himself a usurer or moneychanger.