Ploutonion at Hierapolis

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Pluto's Gate
Πλουτωνειον (in Ancient Greek)
Plutonium (in Latin)
Plutonium (Pluto's Gate) in Hierapolis 01.jpg
The ruins of the Ploutonion at Hierapolis
Ploutonion at Hierapolis is located in Turkey
Ploutonion at Hierapolis
Shown within Turkey
LocationPamukkale, Denizli Province, Turkey
Coordinates37°55′36.48″N 29°07′36.53″E / 37.9268000°N 29.1268139°E / 37.9268000; 29.1268139Coordinates: 37°55′36.48″N 29°07′36.53″E / 37.9268000°N 29.1268139°E / 37.9268000; 29.1268139
TypeSanctuary of Pluto
Part ofHierapolis
Founded2nd century BC
Abandoned6th century AD
CulturesAncient Greek, Ancient Roman
Site notes
Excavation dates? - March 2013
ArchaeologistsFrancesco D'Andria

The Ploutonion at Hierapolis (Ancient Greek: Πλουτώνειον Ploutōneion,[1] lit "Place of Pluto"; Latin: Plutonium) or Pluto's Gate[2] was a ploutonion (a religious site dedicated to the god Pluto) in the ancient city of Hierapolis near Pamukkale in modern Turkey's Denizli Province. The site was discovered in 1965 by Italian archaeologists, who published reports on their excavations throughout the decade.[3] In 2013, it was further explored by Italian archaeologists led by Francesco D'Andria, a professor of archaeology at the University of Salento.[4] As part of a restoration project, a replica of the marble statue of Hades and Cerberus has been restored to its original place. The statue is known to have been there in ancient times.[5]


Though the exact age of the site is currently unknown, the nearby city of Hierapolis was founded around the year 190 BC by the King of Pergamum, Eumenes II.[4]

The site is built on top of a cave which emits toxic gases, hence its use as a ritual passage to the underworld. Ritual animal sacrifices were common at the site. Animals would be thrown into the cave and pulled back out with ropes that had been tied to them. Archaeologists noted that the fumes emitted from the cavern still maintain their deadly properties as they recorded passing birds, attracted by the warm air, suffocated after breathing the toxic fumes.[4]

The Ploutonion was described by several ancient writers including Strabo,[6] Cassius Dio and Damascius[citation needed]. It is a small cave, just large enough for one person to enter through a fenced entrance, beyond which stairs go down, and from which emerges suffocating carbon dioxide gas caused by underground geologic activity. Behind the 3 square metres (32 sq ft) roofed chamber is a deep cleft in the rock, through which fast-flowing hot water passes, releasing a sharp-smelling gas.[4][7] Because the gas was lethal, it was thought that the gas was sent by Pluto, god of the underworld.[citation needed]

During the early years of the town, the castrated priests of Cybele known as the Galli descended into the Ploutonion, crawled over the floor to pockets of oxygen or held their breath. Carbon dioxide is heavier than air and so tends to settle in hollows. They then came up to show that they were immune to the gas. People believed a miracle had happened and that therefore the priests were infused with superior powers and had divine protection.[citation needed][6][8]

An enclosed area of 2,000 square metres (22,000 sq ft) stood in front of the entrance.[citation needed] It was covered by a thick layer of suffocating gas, killing everyone who dared to enter this area. The priests sold birds and other animals to the visitors, so that they could try out how deadly this enclosed area was. Visitors could (for a fee) ask questions of the oracle of Pluto. This provided a considerable source of income for the temple. The entrance to the Ploutonion was closed off during the Christian times.[4]

The ancient historian Strabo described the gate as follows:

Any animal that passes inside meets instant death. I threw in sparrows and they immediately breathed their last and fell.[6]


Archaeological evidence suggests that the site was fully functional until the 4th century AD, but remained a place of sporadic visitation by visitors for the next two centuries. The temple was destroyed in the 6th century AD by earthquakes.


  1. ^ Alternative spelling: Πλουτώνιον Ploutōnion.
  2. ^ D'Andria, Francesco. "Gate to Hell Found in Turkey Archived 2015-11-28 at the Wayback Machine". Discovery News 29 March 2013. Accessed 1 June 2013.
  3. ^ Piccardi, Luigi (2007). "The AD 60 Denizli Basin earthquake and the apparition of Archangel Michael at Colossae (Aegean Turkey)". In Piccardi, L.; Masse, W. B. (eds.). Myth and Geology. Special Publication. Vol. 273. Geological Society of London. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-86239-216-8.
  4. ^ a b c d e Lorenzi, Rossella (29 March 2013). "Pluto's Gate Uncovered in Turkey". Discovery News. Archived from the original on 1 April 2013. Retrieved 2 April 2013.
  5. ^ Hades and his dog return to Gate of Hell
  6. ^ a b c Strabo, Geographica 13.4.14 Archived 2016-03-15 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Bean, G. E. (1976). "Hierapolis (Pamukkale) Turkey". In Stillwell, Richard; MacDonald, William L.; McAlister, Marian Holland (eds.). The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Archived from the original on 2016-03-12.
  8. ^ Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historiae 2.95 Archived 2018-07-08 at the Wayback Machine

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