The gates of hell are various places on the surface of the world that have acquired a legendary reputation for being entrances to the underworld. Often they are found in regions of unusual geological activity, particularly volcanic areas, or sometimes at lakes, caves, or mountains.
Gates in the Greco-Roman world
Legends from both ancient Greece and Rome record stories of mortals who entered or were abducted into the netherworld through such gates. Aeneas visited the underworld, entering through a cave at the edge of Lake Avernus on the Bay of Naples. Hercules entered the Underworld from this same spot. In the middle of the Roman Forum is another entrance, Lacus Curtius, where according to legend, a Roman soldier named Curtius, bravely rode his horse into the entrance in a successful effort to close it, although both he and his horse perished in the deed.
Pluto's Gate, Ploutonion in Greek, Plutonium in Latin, in modern-day Turkey unearthed by Italian archaeologists is said to be the entry gate to the Underworld; it is linked to the Greco-Roman mythology and tradition.
The gates of hell were commonly depicted as jaws, forming the Hellmouth, which was simultaneously the entrance to hell and the mouth of a huge monster.
Auguste Rodin was commissioned to make a pair of bronze doors to symbolize the gates of hell. He received the commission on August 20, 1880, for a new art museum in Paris, to exhibit at the 1889 Exposition Universelle, which ultimately did not open; however in 1900, some of them were part of his first solo exhibition in Paris. Rodin spent seven years making the doors, with over 200 figures appearing on it. He was first inspired by Dante's Inferno but focused more on universal human emotions. During his lifetime the model was never cast and it was first cast in 1925. The Gates of Hell was described as one of the defining works of Rodin. Having hoped to exhibit his Gates at the 1889 Exposition Universelle, but probably too busy to finish them, the sculptor stopped working on them circa 1890.
Rodin's sculpture at Stanford University, California
Simon Marmion (Flemish, active 1450–1489) – The Gates of Hell and Lucifer – Google Art Project
- In China, Fengdu has a long history in the Taoist tradition of being a portal to hell.
- In Derweze, Turkmenistan, a burning natural gas fire in the middle of the Karakum Desert is known as the Door to Hell or Darvaza gas crater.
- According to Hawaiian folklore, Waipio Valley contains an entrance to the lower world, Lua-o-Milu, which is now concealed with sand.
- Hellam Township near York, Pennsylvania, is the subject of a modern urban legend claiming that it contains the Seven Gates of Hell.
- Mount Osore in northern Japan is said to be an entrance to hell.
- Murgo (lit. '"the gateway of darkness"' in Tibetan) was a caravan stop along Karakoram Pass during historical times. The valley to the east of Murgo is the furthest west in India, which the Chinese People's Liberation Army reached during the India Chinese war in 1962.
- Hell's Gate National Park is a National Park in Kenya which is named for the intense geothermal activity within its boundaries.
- Masaya Volcano located in Nicaragua is known as another gate of hell, it is part of the first national park in the country. According to local lore, the volcano was a deity unto itself. It is locally known to the indigenous as the "mouth of hell". In the park is a lava tube formed by lava flows; one can find bats and look inside and observe the glowing lava in the dark crater mouth of the volcano. It is an active volcano, constantly emitting gases. Daytime and nighttime visits are available at the park, it is a popular tourist attraction for locals and international tourists.
In 1878, Rev. Thomas De Witt Talmage delivered a widely reprinted sermon titled "The Gates of Hell" at the Brooklyn Tabernacle, based on the scripture Matthew 16:18, message by Jesus to Peter "...on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it." Talmage's gates were metaphorical, including "infamous literature," "dissolute dance," "indiscreet apparel," and "alcoholic beverage".
In ancient Indian Hindu tradition the Orion constellation where the vernal equinox is stated to occur, the Milky Way and the Canis were considered to form the border between Devaloka (heaven) and Yamaloka (hell); the Milky Way forming the dividing river between heaven and hell and the Canis Major and Canis Minor representing dogs that guarded the Gates of Hell.
In popular culture
- In August 2010, the History Channel premiered a show entitled "The Gates of Hell" (History Specials: Gates of Hell (Season 1, Episode 105), which visited caves and volcanoes in Nicaragua, Belize, Greece, Iceland, Ireland and Ethiopia, to examine the origins of these myths. It featured archaeologists, scholars, explorers and others working in this field.
- The September 2012 edition of Weird NJ magazine describes a large tunnel, referred to by urban legends as "The Gates of Hell". It is a storm drain in Clifton, New Jersey.
- The February 2016 edition of Weird Ohio magazine describes a similar sewer system referred to as "The Gates of Hell" or the "Blood Bowl" in the High Street area of Columbus, Ohio.
- Batagaika crater, a thermokarst depression growing in the East Siberian taiga
- Darvaza gas crater, also known as the "Door to Hell"
- Seven Gates of Hell, a modern urban legend concerning the myth
- Stull, Kansas and the legend of Stull Cemetery
- St Patrick's Purgatory in Ireland
- The Well to Hell hoax
- "The Gates of Hell", a song performed in 2008 by Italian rappers Noyz Narcos and Duke Montana
- Classen, Albrecht (August 31, 2015). Handbook of Medieval Culture. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 664. ISBN 978-3-11-026730-3.
- The Marvels of Rome (New York: Italica Press, 1986).
- "Lerna". www.greekmythology.com. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- "Trump and the Many Headed Monsters". The Huffington Post. March 25, 2016. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- Wexler, Philip (May 22, 2014). History of Toxicology and Environmental Health: Toxicology in Antiquity. Academic Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-12-800463-0.
- "Archeologists Discover 'Gates of Hell' in Turkey". JEWSNEWS. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- "Pluto's 'Gate to Hell' uncovered in Turkey". NBC News. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- "Homework Page Eight". mythmaniacs.com. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- Museum, Rodin. "Rodin Museum : The Collection". www.rodinmuseum.org. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- Albert Alhadeff, "Rodin: A Self-Portrait in the Gates of Hell" Art Bulletin 48(3/4)(September–December 1966): 393–395. doi: 10.2307/3048395
- "Rebuilding a Ghost Town". www.eeo.com.cn. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
- Bland, Stephen (April 8, 2014). "Turkmenistan Has Its Very Own 'Gate to Hell'". Vice.com. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
- Thrum, Thomas (1907). Hawaiian Folk Tales. A. C. McClurg. p. 12.
- "The Seven Gates of Hell". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
- "Mount Osore: The Dark Side of the River". Japan Talk. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- Fackler, Martin (August 20, 2009). "As Japan's Mediums Die, Ancient Tradition Fades". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
- Kapadia, Harish (March 2002). High Himalaya Unknown Valleys. Indus Publishing. p. 307. ISBN 978-81-7387-117-7.
'Gateway of darkness or hell' (Murgo, Mur: hell, go: gate).
- "Lessons from the Gate of Hell". The Hindu. March 21, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
- "Hells Gate National Park - Kenya Wildlife Service". Retrieved August 12, 2020.
- "Where are the gates of Hell? - The Washington Post". The Washington Post.
- Masaya Volcano National Parkvianica.com
- "The Gates of Hell; Talmage on Both Sides of Them" The Times (October 28, 1878): 1. via Newspapers.com
- Gordon Severance; Diana Severance (October 22, 2012). Against the Gates of Hell: The Life & Times of Henry Perry, A Christian Missionary in a Moslem World. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 2–. ISBN 978-1-62032-525-4.
- Joydeep Sen (July 22, 2015). Astronomy in India, 1784–1876. Routledge. pp. 160–. ISBN 978-1-317-31843-9.
- "Tuesday's TV Highlights: 'Gates of Hell' the History Channel". LA Times Blogs – Show Tracker. August 16, 2010. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
- "The Gates of Hell". Weird NJ. September 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
- "The Gates of Hell". Weird OH. February 2016. Retrieved February 21, 2016.