Archaeologists say they have discovered the Greek and Roman mythical entry into the underworld, popularly known as the “Gates of Hell,” Discovery News reports.
Legends from both ancient Greece and Rome record stories of mortals who entered or were abducted into the netherworld through such gates. The god Hades kidnapped the Goddess Persephone led her to the underworld through a crack in the earth’s surface. The musician Orpheus traveled to the Greek underworld in search of Eurydice by entering a cave at Taenarum or Cape Tenaron on the southern tip of the Peloponnese. Hercules entered Hades at that same spot. Aeneas entered the region through a cave at the edge of Lake Avernus on the Bay of Naples, and Odysseus through Lake Acheron in northwest Greece.
The newly proposed site of Pluto’s Gate—Ploutonion in Greek, in the ancient city of Hierapolis, now Pamukkale, in southwestern Turkey, is reported to be a close match to historical descriptions of the Greek and Roman “gates.” Describing the site, the Greek geographer Strabo said 2000 years ago: ‘This space is full of a vapor so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground. Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”
Italian Archaeologist Francesco D’Andria from the University of Salento claims his team has discovered what they believe to be the ruins of the actual site.
Prof. D’Andria told a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul that he and his team had pinpointed the location by reconstructing the route of a thermal springs.
Among the ruins the archaeologists found a cave with Ionic semi columns with inscriptions of dedications to the gods of the underworld Pluto and Kore.
D’Andria also found the remains of a temple, a pool and a series of steps placed above the cave — all matching the descriptions of the site in ancient sources.
“We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring, Pamukkale’ springs, which … originate from this cave,” D’Andria told Discovery News.
“People could watch the sacred rites from these steps, but they could not get to the area near the opening. Only the priests could stand in front of the portal,” D’Andria said.
According to the archaeologist, the place was popular with the tourists of the ancient world, the pilgrims. Pilgrims took the waters in the pool near the temple, slept not too far from the cave. Small birds were given to visitors to test the deadly effect of the cave, while hallucinated priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto. The fumes coming from the depths of Hierapoli’s phreatic groundwater produced hallucinations, and the pilgrims would swear they received visions and prophecies..
The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.
About as entertaining as Sunday Football, but a tad more lethal.