In part 1 one of Dante's Inferno, "The Dark Wood", the narrator is introduced to a figure:
At sight of him in that friendless waste I cried:
"Have pity on me, whatever thing you are,
whether shade or living man." And it replied:
"Not man, though man I once was, and my blood
was Lombard, both my parents Mantuan.
I was born, though late, sub julio, and bred
in Rome under Augustus in the noon
of the false and lying gods. I was a poet
and sang of old Anchises' noble son
who came to Rome after the burning of Troy.
But you—why do you return to these distresses
instead of climbing that shining Mount of Joy
which is the seat and first cause of man's bliss?"
"And are you then that Virgil and that fountain
of purest speech?" My voice grew tremulous:
(translation by John Ciardi, 1954)
I'm a little confused what all the terms that this poet uses mean. What does he mean by "my blood was Lombard, both my parents Mantuan"? What are either of those things? "sub julio" apparently means in the reign of Julius Caesar, but why is it left untranslated?
What are we supposed to understand about this ghost from his introduction of himself?