Cape Tainaron: The Gate to Hades

Cape Tainaron separates the eastern Laconian Gulf from the Messenian Gulf in the west. It is believed that it took its name from the mythical son of Zeus, Taenarus, who built a town named Taenarum after himself. At this region, a cave network was believed to be an entrance to Hades; the gate to the Underworld.

This gate was guarded by Cerberus, a vicious beast that prevented the dead from escaping and the living from entering the world of the dead. According to Apollodorus, Cerberus had three heads of wild dogs, a dragon or serpent for a tail, and the heads of all sorts of snakes all over his back.

In his twelfth labour, assigned to him by King Eurystheus, Heracles (Hercules) was ordered to descend to the Underworld, kidnap and bring Cerberus to the surface. He asked Hades’ permission to capture the beast. The lord of the Underworld replied that Heracles could take Cerberus with him as long as he used no weapons and didn’t hurt him.

Heracles used his bare hands and was able to overpower the beast. He dragged it out of the Underworld and brought it to Eurystheus.

Orpheus also traveled down to Hades to bring back to life his beloved wife, Eurydice, through this cave. Hades himself told Orpheus that he could take Eurydice with him but under one condition; he should not look at her before coming out of the cave, because he would lose her.

Unfortunately, only a few feet away from the exit, Orpheus lost his faith as he could not hear his wife’s steps, so he turned to see… Eurydice was immediately sent back to the Underworld forever.