|Max. depth||60 m (200 ft)|
|Surface elevation||1 m (3 ft 3 in)|
Lake Avernus (or Lago d'Averno in Italian) is a volcanic crater lake located in the Avernus crater in the Campania region of southern Italy, around 4 km (2.5 mi) northwest of Pozzuoli. It is near the volcanic field known as the Campi Flegrei and comprises part of the wider Campanian volcanic arc. The lake is roughly circular, measuring 2 km (1.2 mi) in circumference and 60 m (213 ft) deep.
Avernus was of major importance to the Romans, who considered it to be the entrance to Hades. It gained its name from the Greek word αορνος (originally αϝορνος) meaning "birdless", referring to the belief that birds flying over the lake would drop dead from the poisonous fumes that it emitted. The name Avernus was often used by Roman writers as a synonym for the underworld. In Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas descends to the underworld through a cave near the lake. In Hyginus' Fabulae, Odysseus also goes to the lower world from this spot where he meets Elpenor, his comrade who went missing at Circe's place.
It is unclear whether the lake actually was as deadly as its reputation held it to be – it certainly holds no fears for birds today – but it is possible that volcanic activity could have produced deadly fumes. Volcanically active crater lakes can be extremely dangerous places, as illustrated by the tragic example of Lake Nyos in Cameroon.
Despite the alleged dangers of the lake, the Romans were happy to settle its shores, on which villas and vineyards were established. The lake's personification, the deus Avernus, was worshiped in lakeside temples, and a large bathhouse was built on the eastern shore of the lake.
In 37 BC, the Roman general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa converted the lake into a naval base named the Portus Julius after Julius Caesar. It was linked by a canal to a nearby lake (Lucrinus Lacus) and from there to the sea. The lake shore was also connected to the Greek colony of Cumae by an underground passage known as Cocceio's Cave (Grotta di Cocceio) which was 1 km (0.62 mi) long and wide enough to be used by chariots. This was the world's first major road tunnel; it remained usable until as recently as the 1940s.
In 2010 a tract of land, including the volcanic lake, was seized by the police after the owner was accused of being a mafia frontman.
This lake was called by Italian geographers, Lago di Tripergola.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Avernus.|
- The Guardian (11 July 2010). "Italian police seize land around Lake Avernus on suspicion of mafia links"
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "Averni". Cyclopaedia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.