Because the proximity of the Crypta Romana to the Antro della Sibilla, and the possibility that Vergil alludes to it in his description of the entrance to the Underworld (he mentions a tunnel before the sacrafice scene that opens up the underworld; it could be interpreted as though Aeneas and the Sibyl anachronistically descended to Lake Avernus through the Crypta Romana, or at any rate make one think of it), I went to Lake Avernus in the hope of getting a closer look at the tunnel (you can only see the entrance from above on the Cumae site). I knew I wouldn’t be able to get into the tunnel; it collapsed during WWII fighting, unfortunately. I just wanted to get a look at it so I could see if anything about it matched up with the text, and to take some photographs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get near the actual Crypta Romana. Some locals from the vineyards around the lake explained that the cave was on the private property behind a dilapidated mansion on the shoreline, and that it was closed because it was very dangerous. No one was around the mansion (my Blue Guide confirmed that the tunnel should be back there), so I couldn’t ask if I could see the cave, but the fenced-off area behind it looked inhabited, so I didn’t really want to risk scaling the walls and getting shot. I suppose that’s what makes me an aspiring philologist, not an archaeologist.

Luckily, the tunnel to Lake Lucrinus was approachable, although it was of course locked. Since it was part of the same defensive system, I believe it is representative of what the Crypta Romana must have been like inside: big and creepy.

For the rest of my pictures from Lake Avernus, (the relevant ones have fairly useful captions) you can take a look at the album here.


3 Responses to “Research in Cumae: Part 3 (24 hours remain)”

  1. stan gibbons on April 30th, 2010 7:41 am

    I would very much like to exchange info as I went to Avernus and Cumae in 1970 while living in Bagnoli and working in the U.S. Nato h.q complex nearby. I remember finding the so called Sbyill Grotto by the shore of the lake purely by accident and on entering the tunnel saw a wavering pin point white light which was getting bigger as I stood rooted to the spot. It turned out to be a calcium carbide lamp held by an old bent man who was the ‘guide’ and who proceeded to show me around . Let me finish the story if I am getting throufgh to you and in return perhaps you can send me some up to date info! regards Stan

  2. andromeda on April 30th, 2010 5:02 pm

    What I wouldn’t give to go inside the Crypta Romana!! You’re quite lucky to have chanced into such a great opportunity! These days, it’s barred shut. The stretch that you entered connected Avernus and Lucrinus, and had a long history of use after the Roman period. Is there much graffiti? I’d absolutely love to hear about your visit there.
    Currently, the area around Avernus is quite charming. The crater is occupied by small vineyards and bed-and-breakfasts, and there’s a somewhat dilapidated restaurant in front of the lake (its name, appropriately, is Charon). A lot of the land is private property, and the biggest disappointment was not getting near the Crypta Romana’s other segment, which connects Cumae with Avernus; it’s behind an old mansion on a hill.
    I unfortunately didn’t take any pictures of Bagnoli; from what I’ve read, it’s changed a lot since you were there! I was surprised when I found out that it had been an industrial center. I’ve only passed through there on the train line, but it has the feel of a small rural town.
    Let me know if there’s anything specific you would like to know about my experiences in Cumae and Avernus. My main focus was to weigh the archaeological evidence for the existence of a sibyl at Cumae, so the task was largely to test the plausibility of current scholarship by exploring the area myself. The on-site experiences ended up being critical to the archaeological portion of my thesis; it was a great experience.
    Thank you for posting, and I’d be happy to hear more about your time near Avernus and Cumae!

  3. Tom Edmonds on May 27th, 2010 9:17 pm

    Strangely, an archaeologist I spoke to today told me that his interest came from being an Army brat in the early 60’s and crawling around (and under!)these ruins as a child, even scaring some English archaeologists when he popped out of the ground from some sarcophagus. Piqued my interest and so I started searching and found this site! Great reading, links to photos don’t work anymore. Love to know what other “class”ical pursuits you have undertaken in the past year or so!