The Gate to Hell … Discovered

A digital rendering of the Gate of Hell by
A digital rendering of the Gate to Hell, aka Pluto’s Gate. According to Discovery, “Pilgrims watched the sacred rites on the steps, took the waters in the pool, slept not too far from the cave and received visions and prophecies, in a sort of oracle of Delphi effect. During the 6th century AD, the Plutonium was obliterated by the Christians. Earthquakes may have then completed the demolition work.” (image courtesy Francesco D’Andria via Discovery)

Welcome to the gates of hell! Or at least the ancient world’s version of it. Pluto’s Gate — Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin — has recently been discovered and the digital rendering of it gives the site the mystique of a classical world video game.

Francesco D’Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento in Lecce, Italy, announced the finding at an archeology conference in Turkey last month. He spent years excavating at the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, which is today known by its Turkish name Pamukkale and is a World Heritage Site.

Pluto’s Gate was celebrated by ancient authors as the portal to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology. Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero (106 BCE–43 BCE) and Greek geographer Strabo (64 BCE–24 BCE) both mentioned the infamous gate in their writings. Strabo wrote, “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.” This, along with other stories, contributed to the myth of the site, and its discovery will certainly spur more tourists to a locale that already attracts 1.5 million visitors a year.

“We found the Plutonium by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring,” D’Andria told UPI. “Indeed, Pamukkale’ springs, which produce the famous white travertine terraces originate from this cave.”

After finding the spring, more excavations uncovered ionic columns and inscriptions to the deities of the underworld, Pluto and Kore. This was no ordinary site, though, as Discovery explains:

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.

An ancient site with a gate to hell, fumes that cause hallucinations, a pool, and fortune tellers? Sounds more like heaven to me.

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