A few days ago a friend wrote us to have some information about a Robert Temple's book: "Netherworld: Discovering the Oracle of the Dead and Other Ancient Methods of Divination".
In particular he wanted a floorplan of a labyrinth described in this way by Temple:"I start by a visit to hell. The ancient Greek 'hell', known as Hades, actually existed as a huge artificial replica deep underground near the earliest Greek colony in western Italy, at Baia. It even had an artificial River Styx hundreds of feet underground across which people were rowed in a small boat, to consult the spirits of the dead. In May 2001 I became the first person living to re-enter this eerie ancient underground site, known as the Oracle of the Dead. Netherworld reproduces many colour photos of this amazing and intact site deep below the surface of the earth. The subterranean corridors run for more than a fifth of a mile, cut out of the solid rock. It is estimated that the Romans devoted 30,000 man-hours carrying soil into the site in an attempt to block up this terrifying Oracle, already hundreds of years old in their time, but now at last it has been possible to explore and report this underground complex which was sealed 2000 years ago. The account of the Oracle of the Dead is an archaeological revelation."
It seems this site was visited by Robert Paget and his friend Keith Jones that wrote the book "In the footsteps of Orpheus" in 1967. They were passionate readers of Virgil's story so they decided
to discover the real Sibilla Antrum or Oracle of the Dead. We read on a web-site: “In the 1950s, two colleagues working for the NATO base in Naples, Robert Paget and Keith Jones, began searching for the Aornos cave. They began their search near Cumae, then Lake Avernus. They discovered dozens of man-made, enhanced or natural caves, but none fitted the description. They finally ended up in Baia, where Paget lived, where the director of excavations of the Roman Baths told them that there was a tunnel under one of the temples that no-one had yet explored. The archaeologists believed that the passage was unsafe, emanating poisonous fumes that did not allow further investigation.
Paget went boldly where few – and none in the last 2000 years – had gone before. What he found, was spectacular: he found another antrum, labelled the Antrum of Initiation, or the Great Antrum, which is a complex of artificial tunnels excavated into the volcanic rock. The Roman Baths are notorious for a famous dome, which is larger than the Roman Pantheon. But on the other side of the complex, high upon the steep hill, which sits on the coastline of the Bay of Naples and some miles southeast of Cumae, a small, virtually impossible to see narrow tunnel leads into one of the most archaeological sites on this planet.
Since its rediscovery in the early 1960s, the Antrum of Initiation has remained closed to the public. Only in recent years has the author Robert Temple been allowed access to it, though the Antrum still does not feature on any of the explanatory panels on the site. Furthermore, scientific controversy continues to surround the site, with some archaeologists arguing that it was only used as a mechanism through which to bring hot air towards the pools – a theory that completely disintegrates when one reads Paget’s excavation report, reads Temple’s account or watches the documentary that he filmed there.”
Well, after a search on the web about this argument I have found a forum that discusses about Temple's book which described the discovery( www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A1035127
), in particular a reply to this post struck me ( www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/F122634?thread=6125348
In the thermal site of Baia there are no temples. The structures defined as “Temples” are in reality big thermal baths. Therefore it seems there are no parallels with Eneide.
If the discovery at the thermal site, those subterranean corridors could have been built to convey warm spring to thermal baths or are they aqueducts. (the cover of Temple's book uses an illustration of a tunnel that resembles countless aqueducts in the area )
However the argument is very interesting and I'll revisit the archeological park to investigate and will post my findings.
Sometimes the wish to see our dreams can play tricks but findings can also be not seriously considered because one is not a recognized “expert”...
However we have mapped Naples underground, but our speleological surveys have not been extended to other sites... so this could be the first time!
Thanks to Hans for starting this thread of discussion...