Saturday, December 15, 2012

Which way to Hades?

I've blogged a bit before about Greek and Roman views of the Underworld, and the archaeological remains of sanctuaries associated with it. And increasingly it seems to be a trend to "discover" The Entrance To The Underworld and issue a press release about it ...

Last month it was the turn (again) of the Alepotrypa Cave in the Mani, see: Killer Cave May Have Inspired Myth of Hades - Live Science ...

I say "again" because Alepotrypa is of course another name for the Dirou Caves, which I've marked with the red arrow off the west coast of the upper Mani.

Yes, there was an entrance to Hades in The Mani according to the ancients, but it was at Cape Teneron aka Capa Matapan, at the very tip of  the peninsula (bigger, lower red arrow) - ie they are a long way out ....

I've been to The Mani and my friend excavates there. I mention this as a lot of people think they know the area, but I discovered at a recent conference in Copenhagen that many of the people enthusiastically discussing it had not been there ...

Teneron or Tainaron is not easily accessed by sea, so pilgrims had to travel to it overland - the distances might no look great, but the terrain is steep so it's far harder going that in sounds in a textbook.

If you're interested in Cults of the Dead and read German then I highly recommend the work of Wiebke Friese - she spoke at the conference, was fascinating, and has produced a quite astoundingly brilliant book about Greek cults based on her dissertation: Den Gottern So Nah: Architektur Und Topographie Griechischer Orakelheiligtumer: Architektur und Topographie griechischer OrakelheiligtÞmer

Michaelis Lefantzis also spoke at the conference, about his work in The Mani. I don't want to give away too much about his research before he publishes it, but he's mapped a whole series of strange cults throughout the peninsula linked to cults of the dead, all in the form of stone staircases leading down into the earth. He has also been able to reconstruct a small Hellenistic temple whose members he identified built into a Byzantine church.

The Entrance to Hades, like the Amazons, was always just beyond the boundaries of civilisation, amidst the barbarians. A perfect example of this is Odysseus' visit to Hades which in Homer (Odyssey 11) takes place in the land of the Cimmerians, but by Claudian (Rufinum 1) had moved to the edges of Gaul.

And yes, the new issue of Archaeology does have an article about the Egyptian Netherworld sanctuary at Abydos ...

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