Ancient Hierapolis was well-known for its hot springs, but it was also famous for being the site of a “Gate of Hell,” an opening to the underworld where the toxic breath of the Cerebrus, Pluto’s hell-hound, came out of the earth to kill his victims. The Plutonion, a shrine to Pluto, was constructed at Hierapolis, and people traveled across the ancient world to offer sacrifices to the Roman god. Ancient writers record how the priests would lead a bull or lamb into the shrine and the animal would instantly drop dead. A volcanic biologist from Germany's University of Duisburg-Essen who specializes in geogenic gases, recently tested the air near the vent using a portable gas analyzer and discovered the concentration of carbon dioxide was 80% (normal air has a mere 0.04% CO2). These toxic levels were created by the tectonic fault where Hierapolis is located, which allow the mineral-rich hot springs and the toxic fumes to come to the surface. In the New Testament, Hierapolis is mentioned as one of three cities (along with Colossae and Laodicea) which Epaphras was working hard on behalf of (Col. 4:13), and was likely being alluded to in the letter to Laodicea with the reference to being hot (Rev. 3:15-16).
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