Perhaps the greatest mystery of the tunnels was to be found deep in the lower levels, where temperatures reached 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the air was so choked with noxious, sulfurous fumes as to be nearly un-breathable. It was here in these hellish conditions that Paget and company found a sharp bend at the end of a particularly steep passage that seemed somehow designed to prevent anyone who approached from seeing what was to be found at the end until they turned the corner. When Paget and Jones rounded that sharp bend, they were confronted with an underground stream of boiling water that they would later call The River Styx. Projecting into this super heated stream was a landing, the purpose of which could not be discerned. On the other side of the stream, another passage ascended up into an antechamber that Paget called “The Hidden Sanctuary,” and continued on until a hidden staircase led up to the surface and exited at the ruins of water tanks that had once fed the Roman spas.
In the end, Paget and his team would spend nearly a decade clearing and exploring this vast tunnel system. During this time, Paget and Jones studied the mysteries they had uncovered and became convinced that the tunnel system and its boiling river were meant to be a representation of the entrance to the Greek underworld of Hades itself. After years of searching and obsessing, Paget had finally found his legendary cave of the Sybil, or at least the cave he believed the legend was based on.
To support his theory, Paget pointed to the Aeniad, and argued that Aeneas’ and the Sybil’s trip to the underworld bore a striking resemblance to the layout of the Great Antrum. Paget believed the course that the tunnel system took closely followed Aeneas’ journey and indeed faithfully mimicked similar trips to Hades throughout Greek legend. The estimated date of the complex, around 550 B.C., is also consistent with the time the Sybil was said to have existed. Paget and Jones surmised that the intricate tunnels of the complex were meant to recreate a similar journey through the underworld and that the boiling river represented the River Styx, at which it was speculated a boatman would have once waited at the landing to take visitors across, just as in Greek legend. It was theorized that this impressively realistic depiction of Hell would be enough for the priests of the temple to convince anyone foolhardy enough to venture through its tunnels that the underworld was very real. In short, this vast, elaborate tunnel system was thought to be more or less very convincing deception to convert followers, and may have even showcased a person playing the role of the Cumæan sibyl.
The above linked is a rather long article — and the rest of the illustrations and photos are alone worth the read.
But, as contrived as it all now looks, it strikes me…
Isn’t this a lot of what we tolerate in our governments and do when we play church?
Here is an ancient religion and culture. That culture probably invested millions of man hours into the process of carving out or at least expanding an existing set of tunnels. Man hours dedicated to nothing more then the creation of a fiction whereby people could be kept in constant fear.
Oh, the priests obviously knew they were just facing boiling water and sulphur fumes and that their system of control stood on absolutely nothing. But, they went ahead and created a fiction such that the iron grip of control their class held over the population could be, at least in one area, substantiated as legitimate.
Sorta what happens when the government trots out some hapless fanatical looser who just roasted his own testicles in an attempt to blow up a plane and justifies stripping the civil liberties of most of the developed world in the name of terrorism.
Sorta what happens when a reverend, in an equal attempt to control, threatens the judgment of God.
The politician is one thing — it’s just what the species does until properly disciplined.
The Reverend is quite another…
On the one side stands religion and political power wielding FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Despair).
On the other side stands the person of Christ (whom the Reverend claims to represent) who fundamentally came to end ALL religion and spent his entire life telling the truth about the machinations of his people’s religious ruling class.
But, we’re far quicker to discipline the politicians…