The first inhabitants of the afterlife that Dante encounters are those souls who refused to take a stand one way or another for God while they were alive. They include angels who sided with neither God nor Satan, as well as people who would not commit to or deny God in their lifetimes.
In this canto we see the first example of how the poet Dante uses punishments that reflect the sin. Ultimately these sinners receive that which they sought in life. In this case, the punishment was that the sinners will spend eternity chasing after an endlessly moving banner while getting stung by hornets and wasps. The scene isn’t pretty.
Virgil instructs Dante to ignore them and move on. The two soon encounter a crowd of souls gathering at the shores of a wide river, where Dante begins to see the real despair of Hell.
Next – Ferrying into Hell