Monday, April 15, 2013

The Gates of Hell

I’ve always been fascinated by the way the ancient world worked.  The juxtaposition of  the innovations of the Greeks and Romans when laid against the sometimes very backward ritualistic beliefs that relied solely on the divine is at least ironic.  So when Discovery News reported last week that the “Gates of Hell” had been discovered, I dove right in.
Also known as Pluto’s Gate, the discovery was made by Francesco D’Andria, professor of archaeology at the University of Salento, in Lecce, Italy.  Using ancient myths and history as a guide, the location in Turkey matches ancient accounts that describe the city of Ploutonion/Plutonium.
Back in the day, a small Temple of Pluto stood next to a wall, with steps leading downward, to a cave filled with deadly noxious fumes. Greek geographer Strabo described it thusly: “This space is full of vapor and so misty and dense that one can barely see the ground.  Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”
Nothing much has changed over the years, as reports that birds have fallen dead as they near the opening at the excavation site proliferate.  So what used to happen there, in ancient times?

According to D'Andria, "People could watch the sacred rites from these steps,l but they could not get to the area near the opening.  Only the priests could stand in front of the portal."  Pilgrims journeyed to the site and were given small birds to test the deadly fumes produced by the cave.  Nearby, priests sacrificed bulls to Pluto, all the while hallucinating from the toxic fumes.  It's easy to imagine the frenzied activities surrounding a site like this, and the lure that would pull superstitious people on a journey of what they hoped would be discovery.

And the wheels of my imagination turn on and on...

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