'Gate To Hell' In Turkey Is One Of Many Hellish Portals

By Pierre Dumont , Apr 03, 2013 11:55 AM EDT

On Monday April 1 it was revealed that Italian archaeologists had discovered "Pluto's Gate," the so-called mythological "gate to hell" in Turkey. But the Turkish cave is far from the only hellish entrance believed to exist on Earth.

The idea of an Earthly entranceway to hell goes all the way back to Greek and Roman mythology. The portal in Turkey was referenced by Cicero and the Greek geographer Strabo as emitting deadly vapors that caused any animal that entered it to die. But it is far from the only hellish cave portrayed by the Greeks and Romans.

In the "Rape of Persephone," Hades abducts the spring-goddess Persephone into the underworld through a cleft in a Sicilian field. Aeneas also makes a trip to the underworld through a cave near Lake Avernus on the Bay of Naples and Odysseus makes a visit through Lake Acheron, located in northwest Greece. Orpheus travels to the underworld to retrieve Eurydice through a cave entrance at Taenarum or Cape Tenaron, located in the southern Peloponnese.

Portals to hell were also believed to exist during the medieval period. Mount Etna was thought to be an entrance to hell during this time, as was Iceland's Mount Hekla, called the "Gateway to Hell," which has recently shown signs of an impending eruption. Lacus Curtius was an entranceway in the Roman Forum where, according to legend, a soldier rode into the entrance to close it, never returning again. St. Patrick's Purgatory in Ireland, considered an entrance to hell, was a famous pilgrimage site.

Supposed gates to hell abound in other portions of the globe as well, from Nicaragua to Fengdu in China.

The discovery of Pluto's Gate in Turkey may seem striking but it is far from the first such portal to be found. In the fall of 2008, archaeologists discovered a labyrinth composed of pyramids and stone temples in 14 caves in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, which they believe may have been known as a fabled Mayan portal to hell. In April 2012, researchers found evidence of pagan rituals in the Twin Cave near Jerusalem, indicating that the cave may have been considered an entrance to hell.

In August 2010 the History Channel launched a show named "The Gates of Hell," in which experts explored volcanoes and caves in Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Belize, Nicaragua and Ethiopia to investigate the legends.

While the discovery of Pluto's Gate in Turkey is certainly remarkable, it is not unique, but rather part of a much larger phenomenon.

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