Fire bursts from the rocks in places, and clouds of sulphurous gas snake out of vents that lead up from deep underground. The Phlegræan Fields (left) and Mount Vesuvius, after Scipione Breislak’s map of 1801. Watered by the streams of five rivers (Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon, and Lethe), the Underworld was divided into at least four regions: Tartarus (reserved for … As Paget and Jones dug this tunnel out, presumably the addition on this later plan is as a result of their work. Privacy Statement Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. As a lover of bathing in hotspring fed bodies of water in general, I just have to say…, Truly fascinating. I am recently reliably informed by an eye witness who went inside the oracle tunnels many times, with and without Paget, that Yegül’s plans confuse rather than enlighten. The volcano is still active, but, today, its most obvious feature is this barren, rubble-strewn plateau. There is a tunnel leading up to the sanctuary from the back end of the Styx, frogmen found it and it connects up with a tunnel that can be seen leading off the sanctuary. Ovid, in Metamorphoses, has her lament that “like a fool, I did not ask that all those years should come with ageless youth as well.” Instead, she aged but could not die. Whether Paget’s elaborate theories are correct remains a matter of debate. Doc Paget and Keith Jones were the first to enter 6 years or so later. The sibyl, so the story goes, was a woman named Amalthaea who lurked in a cave on the Phlegræan Fields. Paget, Discoverer of Hades. For this reason he took to calling the complex the “Antrum of Initiation.”. The existence of the Sibylline Books certainly suggests that Rome took the legend of the Cumæan sibyl seriously, and indeed the geographer Strabo, writing at about the time of Christ, clearly states that there actually was “an Oracle of the Dead” somewhere in the Phlegræan Fields – a statement that implies, in turn, that the Romans believed an entrance to the underworld existed somewhere on the plateau. So what was the “Great Antrum,” as Paget called it? So it is scarcely surprising that archaeologists and scholars of romantic bent have from time to time gone in search of a cave or tunnel that might be identified as the real home of a real sibyl–nor that some have hoped that they would discover an entrance, if not to Hades, then at least to some spectacular subterranean caverns. A general plan of the tunnel complex, drawn by Robert Paget. He and Jones pressed their way though the narrow opening and found themselves inside a cramped tunnel, about six feet [1.8m] tall but a mere 21 inches [53cm] wide. In favour of this argument, “Doc” supposed, was the careful planning of the tunnels. I thought the sibyl Amalthea mentioned more interesting than the cave. He was a metallurgical chemist (and nephew to Sidney Paget, the well-known illustrator of Sherlock Holmes) who had retired to the Bay of Naples, and excavated as a hobby. The central question may well be whether it is possible to see Paget’s channel of boiling water deep underground as anything other than a deliberate representation of one of the fabled rivers that girdled Hades–if not the Styx itself, then perhaps the Phlegethon, the mythic “river of fire” that, in Dante’s Inferno, boils the souls of the departed. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Hidden deep within the bowels of the earth and ruled by the god Hades and his wife Persephone, the Underworld was the kingdom of the dead in Greek mythology, the sunless place where the souls of those who died went after death. For one thing, the sheer amount of spoil that had been hauled into the depths suggested a considerable degree of organization–years later, when the excavation of the tunnel was complete, it would be estimated that 700 cubic yards of rubble, and 30,000 man-journeys, had been required to fill it. I have already lived Fording it and ascending a steep passageway on the far bank, the men next came upon what they thought had been an “inner sanctuary.” What this room was, or had been used for, remains a mystery; at some point in the tunnels’ history, it had been laboriously filled in, and it has never been excavated. Historians of the ancient world do not dispute that powerful priests were fully capable of mounting elaborate deceptions–and a recent geological report on the far better known Greek oracle site at Delphi demonstrated that fissures in the rocks nearby brought intoxicating and anaesthetic gases to the surface at that spot, suggesting that it may have been selected and used for a purpose much like the one Paget proposed at Baiæ.
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