After invoking a muse, Dante describes his first action: a display of cowardice, though couched in humility. He reminds Virgil that he's no Aeneas or Paul, who both harrowed Hell. One founded Rome, the other Christianity; by extension, the Comedy is just as important! Virgil bucks Dante up by telling him that Beatrice appointed him to guide Dante thru the Inferno. Beatrice is luminous, a heavenly emanation fixed in a hierarchy of holy women (Mary Herself sent a virgin martyr to point Dante's crisis out to Bea), too refined to descend into Hell.