Archaeologists uncover ancient 'gate to hell' in Turkey

An ancient cave known as the 'gate to hell' in Greco-Roman mythology has reportedly been discovered in southwestern Turkey.

The ruins of the "gate to hell," an ancient cave to the underworld in Greco-Roman mythology, have been discovered in Turkey, Italian archaeologists have announced.

The cave, also known as Pluto's Gate, was uncovered in the ancient Phrygian city of Hierapolis, now known as the city of Pamukkale, in southwestern Turkey.

The find, announced in March at a conference on Italian archaeology in Istanbul, was made by a team led by Francesco D'Andria, professor of classic archaeology at the University of Salento, according to Discovery News.

Pluto's Gate was once believed to be, quite literally, one of the gates into the depths of hell.

"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," wrote Greek philosopher, geographer and historian Strabo, who lived between about 64 B.C. and  24 A.D.

“I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell,” he added.

In ancient times, the cave was said to be filled with hallucinogenic, noxious fumes — a site where animals were led to sacrifice by priests of the gods, according to Science World Report.

Amid the ruins, D'Andria's team 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, according to 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 was quoted as saying.

Only the eunuchs of Cybele, an ancient fertility goddess, were able to enter the "gate to hell" unscathed, according to mythology.

Hierapolis was founded around 190 B.C. by Eumenes II, king of Pergamum, and given over to Rome in 133 B.C. Around the 6th century A.D., Christians obliterated much of the site, and earthquakes may have helped complete the destruction several years later, according to Discovery News.

The city was known for its baths fed by hot springs. D'Andria said he stumbled upon the portal by reconstructing the route of a thermal spring to the cave.

The archaeologists are now working to digitally reconstruct the site.

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