The Gates of Hell are various locations on the surface of Earth 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.

Ancient gatesEdit

Legends from both ancient Greece and Rome record stories of mortals who entered or were abducted into the netherworld through such gates. The god Hades kidnapped Persephone from a field in Sicily and led her to the underworld through a cleft in the earth. Orpheus traveled to Hades in search of Eurydice by entering a cave at Taenarum or Cape Tenaron on the southern tip of the Peloponnese. Hercules entered Hades from this same spot. Both Aeneas and Odysseus also visited the underworld. The former entered the region through a cave at the edge of Lake Avernus on the Bay of Naples; the latter through Lake Acheron in northwest Greece.

Medieval gatesEdit

Located in the middle of the Roman Forum is another entrance, Lacus Curtius, where according to a medieval legend, a Roman soldier, named Curtius, bravely rode his horse into the lake in a successful effort to close it, although both he and his horse perished in the deed.[1] Into the medieval period Mount Etna on Sicily was considered to be an entryway to hell, and during is period Icelanders believed their own Mount Hecla was also a gateway. The most famous of medieval gateways, however, was St Patrick's Purgatory in Lough Derg, County Donegal, Ireland.[2]

Other gatesEdit

In China, Fengdu has a long history in the Taoist tradition of being a portal to hell. In Nicuragua there are two sites with this reputation. Hellam township near York, Pennsylvania, has the problematic reputation of being the home of the Seven Gates of Hell.

The gates in popular cultureEdit

In August 2010, the History Channel premiered a show entitled "The Gates of Hell," which visited caves and volcanoes in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Greece, Iceland, Ireland and Ethiopia, to examine the origins of these myths. It featured archaeologists, scholars, explorers and others working in this field.

See alsoEdit



  1. The Marvels of Rome (NewYork: Italica Press, 1986).
  2. Eileen Gardiner, The Pilgrim's Way to St. Patrick's Purgatory (New York: Italica Press, 2010).

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