Pluto's Gate To Hell
The Emperor Justinian closed the Gate to Hell as part
of his crackdown on freedom of religion.
A “Gate to Hell” has emerged from ruins in southwestern Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced a few months ago.
Known as Pluto's Gate -- Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin -- the cave was celebrated as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.
Historic sources located the site in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now called Pamukkale, and described the opening as filled with lethal mephitic vapors.
“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,” the Greek geographer Strabo (64/63 BC -- about 24 AD) wrote.
“I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell,” he added.
Announced this month at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, Turkey, the finding was made by a team led by Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento.
|The Gate to Hell
A digital reconstruction of the site in Southern Turkey that has
been discovered by a team of architects from Italy.
D'Andria has conducted extensive archaeological research at the World Heritage Site of Hierapolis. Two years ago he claimed to discover there the tomb of Saint Philip, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ.
Founded around 190 B.C. by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum (197 B.C.-159 B.C.), Hierapolis was given over to Rome in 133 B.C.
The Hellenistic city grew into a flourishing Roman city, with temples, a theater and popular sacred hot springs, believed to have healing properties.
God of the Underworld
“We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring. Indeed, Pamukkale' springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave,” D'Andria told Discovery News.
Featuring a vast array of abandoned broken ruins, possibly the result of earthquakes, the site revealed more ruins once it was excavated. The archaeologists found Ionic semi columns and, on top of them, an inscription with a dedication to the deities 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.
“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, there was a sort of touristic organization at the site. Small birds were given to pilgrims to test the deadly effects of the cave, while hallucinated priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto.
The ceremony included leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.
“We could see the cave's lethal properties during the excavation. Several birds died as they tried to get close to the warm opening, instantly killed by the carbon dioxide fumes,” D'Andria said.
Only the eunuchs of Cybele, an ancient fertility goddess, were able to enter the hell gate without any apparent damage.
“They hold their breath as much as they can,” Strabo wrote, adding that their immunity could have been due to their "menomation," “divine providence” or “certain physical powers that are antidotes against the vapor.”
According to D'Andria, the site was a famous destination for rites of incubation. Pilgrims took the waters in the pool near the temple, slept not too far from the cave and received visions and prophecies, in a sort of oracle of Delphi effect. Indeed, the fumes coming from the depths of Hierapoli's phreatic groundwater produced hallucinations.
“This is an exceptional discovery as it confirms and clarifies the information we have from the ancient literary and historic sources,” Alister Filippini, a researcher in Roman history at the Universities of Palermo, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, told Discovery News.
Fully functional until the 4th century AD, and occasionally visited during the following two centuries, the site represented “an important pilgrimage destination for the last pagan intellectuals of the Late Antiquity,” Filippini said.
During the 6th century AD, the Plutonium was obliterated by the Christians. Earthquakes may have then completed the destruction.
D'Andria and his team are now working on the digital reconstruction of the site.
Rome: Worship in Rome (HBO)
|Pluto and Religious Freedom
The Pagans were right about the Christians. Once in power the Christians of the Roman Empire did everything possible to prevent freedom of religion with persecutions of their fellow Christians, Jews and Pagans of all types.
Eastern Emperor Theodosius II enacted two anti-Pagan laws in the year 425. The first of these stipulated that all Pagan superstition was to be rooted out. The second law barred Pagans from pleading a case in court and also disqualified them from serving as soldiers. He also ordered that all Pagan shrines, temples and sanctuaries that still existed were to be destroyed by the magistrates. Magistrates who failed to carry out this order were ordered to be punished with death.
Emperor Marcian decreed, in the year 451, that those who continued to perform the Pagan rites would suffer the confiscation of their property and be condemned to death.
Under the Emperor Justinian the Pagan persecutions began with an inquisition at Constantinople. Many persons of the highest position were accused and condemned. Their property was confiscated. A large number of Senators, "with a crowd of grammarians, sophists, lawyers, and physicians," were denounced, not without the use of torture, and suffered whippings and imprisonment.
The Ecclesiastical History says that 70,000 Pagan souls were "converted" (by force naturally) in Western Asia Minor. The temples were destroyed; 96 churches and 12 monasteries were founded. This would have been the area where the Gate to Hell is located.
See our full article The Roman Suppression of Paganism
|Location of the Gate to Hell.
|During the rites, priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto.The ceremony included
leading the animals into the cave, and dragging them out dead.
|Spectators: The steps next to the temple from where people
were believed to watch the sacred rites.
|Just like in the historic texts, birds that flew to close to the opening
were killed by the carbon dioxide fumes.
|The network of thermal springs that led archaeologists to the site is
also responsible for the creation of the stunning White
Travertine Terraces of Pamukkale.
|The site, in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now Pamukkale in southwestern
Turkey, is said to closely match historical descriptions.
|Among the ruins the archaeologists discovered Ionic semi-columns with
inscription to gods of the underworld Pluto and Kore.
(Pluto - God of the Underworld) (UK Daily Mail)
(Fox News.com/science) (aworldofmyths.com - Roman Gods/Pluto)