Archaeology & History
Mystery of deadly Roman 'Gate to Hell' solved
By T.K. Randall
February 19, 2018 · 3 comments
The cave was situated within the ancient city of Hierapolis. Image Credit: CC BY 3.0 Haluk Comertel
Scientists have determined what made the notorious Roman cave so deadly to those who ventured inside.
Rediscovered seven years ago by archaeologists from the University of Salento, the cave, which dates back 2,200 years, was situated in a city called Hierapolis in ancient Phrygia (modern day Turkey).
It was a place where priests would lead bulls and other animals to their deaths through Plutonium (or Pluto's Gate) as sacrifices for the God of the underworld.
People would watch from raised seats as the cave's noxious fumes made quick work of the animals.
Now scientists have revealed that the fumes, which continue to remain lethal even to this day, originate from a fissure emitting volcanic carbon dioxide from deep beneath the ground.
Within the arena connected to the cave, the gas, which is heavier than the air, would have formed a lethal 'lake' of fumes up to 40cm from the floor that would have proven particularly deadly.
This also explains why the animals died while the priests themselves seemed to survive.
"While the bull was standing within the gas lake with its mouth and nostrils at a height between 60 and 90 cm, the large grown priests (galli) always stood upright within the lake caring that their nose and mouth were way above the toxic level of the Hadean breath of death," the researchers wrote.
Source: Science Alert
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Gate to Hell, Roman
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