Deadly Ancient Roman ‘Gate To Hell’ Able To Kill Instantly Still Exists Until Today

The enigma surrounding a deadly cave, thought by ancient Romans to be the gateway to hell, is being uncovered. The gruesome grotto in the city of Hierapolis was rumored to instantly cause death to any creature venturing into it, and experts may ultimately know how.
A 2018 research revealed that the poisonous gases discharged from the cave are thought to have suffocated the animals ritually offered there. The sacred site, dating back 2,200 years, was excavated by archaeologists from the University of Salento 10 years ago.

Source: University of Salento

Artist impression of the 'gateway to hell' (right) in the Roman city of Hierapolis

It includes a stone doorway leading to a cave-like grotto, constructed into one wall of a square arena with raised seating around its edges. The spot was used for grim religious ceremonies, where castrated priests led bulls to their deaths, according to historical documents.
Crowds would observe as noxious fumes pouring from the gate as a visible mist asphyxiated the otherwise healthy cattle. The priests who came along with them, however, would return unharmed – apparently spared by the Gods they served.

Source: University of Salento

Dating back 2,200 years, the sacred spot was unearthed by archaeologists in 2011

What made experts notice the cave was that they observed birds flying near the entrance quickly fell to death, which means that it’s just as lethal today. The underground volcanic activity accounted for the site’s toxic properties, according to a 2018 study by a team from University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.
Named after Plutonium, or Pluto, the god of the underworld, the gat is constructed right above a deep fissure running below Hierapolis, emitting enormous volumes of CO2. Researchers measured the amount of the harmful gas seeping out of the cave over time, only find that the chemical formed a “lake” risng 40 cm (15.75 inches) above the arena floor.

Source: University of Salento

Part of the stone doorway that led to the cave-like grotto

"In a grotto below the temple of Pluto, CO2 was found to be at deadly concentrations of up to 91 per cent," scientists described. "Astonishingly, these vapours are still emitted in concentrations that nowadays kill insects, birds, and mammals." The research revealed that the gas become most lethal at dawn, after a night of accumulating in the cave, and is dissipated by the Sun in the daytime.
The concentration was above 50% at the bottom of the lake, rising to 35% at 10 cm, deadly to a human. Above 40 cm, however, the gas level plummeted. Visitors would purchase small animals, such as birds, to sacrifice them by throwing them from the stands to the site. On feast days, priests, who were tall enough to steer clear from the deadly CO2, would offer big animals.

Source: Getty Images

"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," according to the research. "It is reported that they sometimes used stones to be larger."
The location was intially depicted by Greek historians Strabo and Plinius as a gate to the underworld. "This space is full of a vapour so misty and dense that one can scarcely see the ground," Strabo (64 BCE - 24 CE) wrote in one text. "Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell."
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