The Oracle of the Dead at Baia



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Older than the Olympian Gods of ancient Greece

Dating from a time when the single earth Goddess Hera ruled the hearts and minds of the people.

The underworld of mythology… or underworld of frightening reality?

Can this be Hell – Hades – The Netherworld – or the Underworld? You decide. Whatever it was called, the tunnel system at Baia certainly exists and shows all the signs of being a ritual centre.

Ancient writers wrote about it; real & mythical persons entered it

For many centuries it operated, until it was deliberately put out of use. Did a senatorial decree from Rome outlaw the cult operating here, or was it closed on the orders of General Agrippa?

The site at Baia

Overview of the site

Let this website take you to a place tucked away in the North West corner of the bay of Naples, Italy. Here lies the Terme di Baia where a curious set of buildings is set against a volcanic cliff.

Hidden behind them, deep underground, there is a labyrinth of ancient tunnels and chambers dating back 2,500 years, carved out of solid volcanic rock.
Is this the way to hell discovered by Dr. Robert Ferrand Paget in 1962?

The site has never been officially explored by archaeologists. Much of it was deliberately filled with earth in Roman times.

This website is an attempt to pull together all the information that is currently known about this place, in the hope that one day the soil might be removed and an official investigation be made.

Those of involved with this website hope that you will use the top menu to read and enjoy what has been pieced together so far.

Descent into hell

The book cover of Netherworld by Robert Temple

This short video extract is from a 2001 documentary made by Robert Temple after the publication of his book ‘Netherworld‘, in which he describes the 20 years he spent trying to gain official access to the tunnels.

delusive

7 Responses to The Oracle of the Dead at Baia
  1. Anna Gann Reply

    Very interesting :-)

  2. Peter Price Reply

    I grew up partly in the Naples area. Read Paget’s book in the 1970s. It was much as has been described before, there was no trace of noxious gas and what struck me as I made the descent was firstly the large number of niches for lamps spaced at approx 6 foot intervals and secondly how much effort had gone in to not only digging it out (each basket of earth would have to be passed back along a line of workers somehow), but the fact that Agrippa had the whole thing filled up again to hide it. What was he afraid of? Why was it neccesary to go to the lengths that Paget describes? The amazing thing is to find the water at such a distance in. Although I had read about it, it was still a shock to finally come to it. It was there at the water that I turned back as the going from that point was a lot tougher and the air was very hot and muggy and relatively breathless.
    It was an experience that I will never forget.

  3. Venetia Bloomfield Reply

    My mother moved to Baia during WW2. She lived along the main road opposite what was then the ammunitions factory. During air raids they used to go into the hillside behind & hide in caves. Wonder if these were connected? Sadly she died last Novemeber at 86yrs old so we can’t ask her anything else about her experiences. I do know that she used to love swimming over the roman ruins in the sea.

  4. John Peiffer Reply

    I met Dr. Paget in the fall of 1970 when he had contacted one of the AFSouth SubAqua Club members to verify the location of some submerged pilae near Bacoli. He had some interesting theories.

    During my years as a volunteer diver with the amateur group G.A.N., we were once asked to assist the group in the exploration of a nearby tunnel system that was adjacent to the road in Lucrino since they lacked any breathing apparatus that would allow them to safely traverse the tunnels without suffering from the effects of any gases that were present. We cheerfully complied, but as a precautionary measure we each wore our scuba tank and regulator requiring only one removal to get through a tight restriction. A closed circuit oxygen rebreather would have certainly been a more comfortable choice than the heavy steel scuba tank, but we didn’t have any with us at the time.

    On one wall near the entrance, there was an inscription attributing the construction of the tunnel to the emperor Hadrian. Most of the inscription was crumbling which required repeated attempts with different lighting angles to properly photograph. There were heavy deposits of sulphur crystals that obscured much of the inscription chiseled into the stone wall. A subsequent excursion was made by the team using aluminum foil to make a non-destructive “cast” of sorts to fully decipher the text. Half way down the tunnel we encountered a short section of aqueduct specus (mix of flat red tile for the pointed arch and walls of opus reticulatum only 1 meter in height) that is found in acqueduct structures but it seemed odd to find it embedded in this dry section of carved rock.

    Beyond this restriction the tunnel ceiling extended ahead while the floor sloped downward with deep sifted dirt on the floor that ended in a flooded section approximately 5 meters across. The water was less than a meter in depth and almost a bright yellow in color. There was a strong hydrogen sulfide odor that encouraged us to keep using our regulators. We wedged ourselves between the narrow walls to cross to the opposite side without getting our feet wet. There the floor rose again at a steep angle coming back up to the top of the ceiling where the walking height section of the tunnel ended abruptly with a left turn. It only extended another 3 meters or so with visible traces of the last stone cutting tools’ marks in the dead end wall of the tunnel. We didn’t take accurate measurements on that exploratory trip, but I believe the section of tunnel that we were in was only about 60 meters long. The high level of humidity in the tunnel fogged the filters and lenses of our cameras, including the underwater Nikonos I had brought with me so that we were unable to get any footage of the most interesting portions of the tunnel.

    The only pictures we were able to get were those of the inscription near the entrance which had plenty of outside air and normal humidity levels. In my return visits to the area in 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2012, I was unable to locate the entrance to this tunnel but I have often wondered what this incomplete project was intended for.Some of the residential properties in the surrounding hills that I have been in were built upon older ruins which have tunnels underneath them, some of which now are used as wine cellars or storage. It would be interesting to explore and map them all to gain a comprehensive view of the complete underground network in this area.

  5. Don Frew Reply

    I visited the site in 1998 and attempted to enter, but couldn’t climb down. Later, I met a man who participated in the original exploration. He said it was a good thing I didn’t go in, since the original method of circulating air in the cave no longer works and there had been a build-up of sulfuric gas, i.e. I probably would have died without breathing gear.

    • antrum Reply

      Robert Temple, Michael Baigent, their two wives, two official minders and at least one district archaeologist went down there in 2001 and were quite able to breath unaided, deep down at the River Styx. It is not pleasant, but quite breathable.

      The story of noxious gas in the tunnels has persisted since it was first opened, probably coming originally from Amedeo Maiuri, who forbade his workmen to venture into the tunnel very far on the grounds of noxious gases. When first opened the general temperature, certainly down at the River Styx, was a lot hotter than it is today. When Paget entered in the 1960s he could see where the excavators’ footprints ended, a short way in. Noxious gas still remains as the official excuse for discouraging people from entering. If you had written for official permission to enter it would probably have been denied for this reason.

      It could well be dangerous down there for other reasons, such as burial by the soil that now fills parts of the tunnels, deliberately put there by the Romans to seal the place off. Temple and Baigent have been any denied further official access, in spite of repeated requests. The powers that be don’t want anyone going in there.

      Any miner will tell you that it is not possible to ventilate an underground system unless you have one entrance for new air to come in and one for the old air to go out of. Yet this place has just one that we know about, worked by sucking cool new air in along the floor while stale hot air went overhead. There was an inner circulation system that worked before the Romans blocked off the passage to the sanctuary. The hottest air is at the lowest point of the complex. This rose up to sanctuary level, and then further up into a tunnel that met at the 400′ point. From here it went out along the ceiling of the main entrance tunnel. The Romans blocked off the sanctuary tunnel and it remains blocked today. In spite of this it is possible to breathe in there. The tunnels have a lot less height today, through crystalline deposits settling on the floor to the depth of about 2′ 6″, 0.75 metres.

  6. Larry Dreher Reply

    Went down into the oracle in 1970. Was scary. There were three of us. I was the only one who went through the gate as it was. The river was off to the left of the gate.

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