So what is this all about?
This website considers the purpose and use of a set of enigmatic tunnels which are located within a Roman archaeological site at Baia, in the north west of the Bay of Naples. A number of respectable academics have suggested they represent a ritual version of the Greek underworld and an Oracle of the Dead, historically said to be in this region. Yet others, who seem to be unaware of the extent of these tunnels, cling to the idea that the tunnels are no more than a steam channel for some small Roman baths at the surface.
This website sets out to establish the facts and see what conclusions might be drawn from them. If the true answer is mundane, then so be it. If, on the other hand, this complex turns out really to be the site of the Oracle of the Dead, then it is surely a lost wonder of the world. The tunnels certainly exist.
Baia is situated on the northwest shore of the Gulf of Naples. The hillside hides the remnants of an ancient Roman town. It was a fashionable spa resort for centuries in antiquity, when it was reckoned to be superior to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Capri by the super-rich who built their luxurious villas here from about 100 BC, until the fall of the Roman Empire.
The larger and lower part of the Roman town of Baia later became submerged under the sea due to the local ‘bradyseismic’ activity, which is a gradual raising or lowering of the Earth’s crust caused by the filling or emptying of an underground magma chamber or hydrothermal activity, particularly in volcanic calderas such as the Phlegraean Fields (Campi Flegrei).
Behind a set of a very modest set of Roman baths, acknowledged to be the oldest buildings at the archaeological site, are a set of extensive tunnels going deep into the hillside.
At first glance the assumption must surely be that a simple tunnel was dug to supply steam to heat the Roman baths above, fed from a hot spring. However, this apparently simple tunnel reveals itself to be a complex of tunnels whose design is far from obvious. The small baths at the surface – Le Piccole Terme – are not in the least bit grand, yet the tunnels behind them certainly are.
Please read on…
When this website’s name was first registered, it was not known that there was any controversy about the tunnel’s prior use as an oracular site. A number of authors had published books that stated it was the site of an oracle of the dead.
The tunnels just seemed like a forgotten wonder of the world, so it was with the intention of piecing together what information was available about them that this website’s journey began. There were no other websites and scant references to consult.
It was that feeling when you get a tingle down the back of your neck and spine. Somehow it seemed necessary to get to the bottom of all this. Some background reading was a good start.
Robert Temple’s classics don From Magdalen College, Oxford, Colin Hardie, died in 1998. Colin Hardie had explored these tunnels with their discoverer, Dr Robert Ferrand Paget, back in the 1960s. Colin had urged Robert Temple with the following words:
“Robert, whatever you do, whatever it takes, you must enter the Oracle. Going in there was the most amazing experience in my life. It is quite frankly the most incredible place on earth.”
Robert claims it had taken him 20 years to obtain his permission to enter the tunnels and Robert Temple’s book Netherworld features his own version of the descent.
The Jesus Papers
Robert Temple had asked Michael Baigent to be his photographer, after permission had been granted to Robert Temple by the superintendent in charge of the archaeological site.
So it was that Robert and Michael entered in May, 2001. Michael was no stranger to photographing in confined underground spaces, he’d been part of a Qumran research team working in the Dead Sea caves, and in the underground tunnels where people had hid during the Jewish revolts.
In the Footsteps of Orpheus
Both ‘Netherworld’ and ‘The Jesus Papers’ draw on the original work of Dr Robert Ferrand Paget’s book called ‘In the Footsteps of Orpheus – The discovery of the Ancient Greek Underworld’, published in 1967.
‘Doc’, as he was known to his friends, was the first to recognise that these tunnels seemed to have a ritual purpose and were certainly far more complex than previously suspected. When first excavated in the late 1950s by Amedeo Maiuri, workmen had been forbidden to explore on the grounds that there might be toxic gases present.
At least two editions of this book were published. The original by Robert Hale, London and later reprinted in a Scientific Book Club edition.
This website began back in 2012 and research continues at Baia.