Since Nathan didn't have time to attend this meeting, ferry me back to the boondocks, return to work, then return home, we had a couple of hours to explore some nearby sites. Without prior planning, the two places we visited were both once considered entrances to Hades. How on earth we managed this coincidence, I don't know. First up was Vulcano Solfatara, an eery, volcanic crater with fumaroles (smoke) escaping all over the place.
|Tour Guide in the Fire Swamp|
|Bubbling Mud Pit, OR...Pit of Despair|
And finally, Sibyl's Grotto is also located on the shore of Lago d'Averno (although other locations have also been suggested). Sibyl's were legendary ancient prophetesses, and this one, the Cumaean Sibyl, was the most famous among Romans. She first appears in writings from 500 BC. She is later featured in Virgil's Aenid, and also makes an appearance on the Sistine Chapel, painted in among Old Testament Prophets. This is due to the Middle Age belief that one of her prophecies foretold the coming of a saviour, perhaps because Emporer Constantine interpreted one of the written Syballine Oracles as holding an acrostic in which initials from verses spelled out "Jesus Christ Son of God Saviour Cross." The Cumaean Sybil lived 1000 years due to a deal with Apollo, but because she refused to sleep with him, he granted her only a long life, not youth. Sybil aged the entire time, so by the end, only her voice remained. Or so goes the legend. My favorite reference is in Virgil's poem - Sybil is a guide to the Underworld, which is entered through Lago d'Averno (Avernus):
Trojan, Anchises' son, the descent of Avernus is easy.
All night long, all day, the doors of Hades stand open.
But to retrace the path, to come up to the sweet air of heaven,
That is labor indeed. (Aeneid 6.10.)
We did not get to view Sibyl's Grotto. At the mouth of the path up to it were still smoking, fire remains. We passed those and continued up the path, to find the same thing. At the third fire, we turned a corner and glimpsed a man with a loose dog hanging about. Considering we were heading into a tunnel with a man who seemed to like to enjoy lighting fires within 10 feet from one another (creeeeeepy!), we elected to turn on our heels and quickly exit back to the lake path. The lake is a nice walk from our house, and will be a good place to walk Scully, so we'll save it for another day.