The Hierapolis Ploutonion – The Gateway to Hell

The Hierapolis Ploutonion is a sacred sanctuary in the ancient Greco-Roman-Byzantine city of Hierapolis, located in classical Phrygia in the present-day province of Denizli, Turkey.

Hierapolis was founded as a thermal spa in the 2nd century BC by the Attalid kings of Pergamom. The city became a religious centre of healing, where the physicians believed that the nearby calcite-laden thermal springs had curative medicinal properties to heal the sick and chronic ailments.

- Advertisement -

With the death of the last Attalid king (Attalus III) of Pergamon in 133 BC, the city was bequeathed to the Roman Republic, and became part of the Roman province of Asia (also called Asiana).

The Hierapolis Ploutonion was constructed in dedication to Hades-Pluto and his wife Kore-Persephone during the early Imperial period between 100 BC to AD 100.

Replicated with kind permission from Andrew Weale

The sanctuary was positioned above a natural cave that emitted thermal waters and poisonous volcanic carbon dioxide (CO2), which pours forth as a suffocating invisible mist thought to be sent by Pluto, god of the underworld.

The cave was used for rituals by the Galli, eunuch priests of the goddess Cybele, who would descend through the “gateway to hell” into the chamber to demonstrate their divine protection and perform sacrifices.

- Advertisement -

The gateway was built into a wall of an open-aired arena, surrounded by raised seating for spectators called a theatron. Gas released from the cave formed on the arena floor, which during the night increased in concentration to form an asphyxiating CO2 “lake”. Scholars believe that the arena was used for animal sacrifices, which would be performed at dawn before the heat of the sun dissipated the CO2 concentration.

Hiérapolis – Image Credit : Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

The Ploutonion was described by several ancient writers including Strabo, Pliny the Elder, Cassius Dio and Damascius, in which Strabo described: “Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.”

After the gateway was closed off by Christians as part of the purge of pagan ritualism, the ploutonion was abandoned in the 6th century until its rediscovery by archaeologists in 1965.

Header Image Credit : Carole Raddato – CC BY-SA 2.0

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Archaeologists uncover 4,200-year-old “zombie grave”

Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered a "zombie grave" during excavations near Oppin, Germany.

Archaeologists uncover 2,000-year-old clay token used by pilgrims

A clay token unearthed by the Temple Mount Sifting Project, is believed to have served pilgrims exchanging offerings during the Passover festival 2,000-years-ago.

Moon may have influenced Stonehenge construction

A study by a team of archaeoastronomers are investigating the possible connection of the moon in influencing the Stonehenge builders.

Archaeologists explore the resettlement history of the Iron-Age metropolis of Tel Hazor

Archaeologists are conducting a study of the Iron-Age metropolis of Tel Hazor to understand how one of the largest “megacities” of the Bronze Age was abandoned and then resettled.

Excavation uncovers possible traces of Villa Augustus at Somma Vesuviana

Archaeologists from the University of Tokyo have uncovered further evidence of the Villa of Augustus during excavations at Somma Vesuviana.

Study reveals new insights into wreck of royal flagship Gribshunden

Underwater archaeologists from Södertörn University, in collaboration with the CEMAS/Institute for Archaeology and Ancient Culture at Stockholm University, have conducted an investigation of the wreck of the royal flagship Gribshunden.

Microbe X-32 – Is the Plasticene Era coming to an end?

Breaking, a new venture in collaboration with Harvard and the Wyss Institute, is claiming that a new discovery, Microbe X-32, can naturally break down polyolefins, polyesters, and polyamides in just 22 months.

Stone sphere among artefacts repatriated to Costa Rica

395 pre-Columbian artefacts have been repatriated to Costa Rica thanks to a grant by the United States Embassy to the Cultural Agreements Fund.