Did Persephone's abduction take place in Ermioni?

John KarkalatosOctober 13, 2022

Apollodorus and Pausanias place the abduction of Persephone and the ascent from Hades of Hercules with Cerberus in Ermioni. Let's see what lies behind these myths.

Katafyki in Ermioni

Entering Katafyki gorge from the bridge over the ravine. Under the bridge you can barely see the cross so that the demons do not leave the gorge

Note: When I used to live in Kranidi, near Ermioni, I spent a lot of time studying and field researching in order to find some more evidence about these myths. As you will read below there are spots related to these myths that anyone can visit them.

The myth is pretty well known. Pluto, the god of Hades, wanted Demeter's daughter Persephone as his wife. One day when Persephone was gathering flowers in the Nysio Field, Pluto conspired with Earth to bring out in front of her a beautiful narcissus with a hundred fragrant flowers. As soon as Persephone bent down to cut them off the earth split in two and Pluto appeared on his chariot and grabbed her in his arms. Persephone began to cry but as soon as the chariot pulled away for the underworld she uttered a voice so loud that it was heard to the ends of the earth.

Her mother Demeter in vain searched for her day and night with torches until she reached Ermioni and the Ermiones informed her about the abduction since they saw and heard everything (Apollodorus).

In the city there was in ancient times a temple of Chthonia Demeter in which ceremonies of "Descent" into the Underworld similar to the Eleusinian Mysteries were held. For the needs of the ceremonies there was the stoa of Echoes, a chasm of land and a symbolic Acherousia lake. The ancient worship has survived to this day because the church of the Taxiarches has been built upon the temple because the Taxiarches Michael and Gabriel are the spiritual transmitters of Christianity.

Katafyki in Ermioni

The huge rock with the cave that the ancient Ermiones considered to be an entrance to Hades can be seen in the middle of the rock. The cliffs look wrinkled and the whole rock looks old

All this worship started because of a specific spot that is still considered a demonic place, Katafyki gorge. It is a narrow passage dominated by a huge and ugly vertical rock. Its height, as I saw it, must exceed 100 meters. In the middle of it you can see a cave that the ancient Ermiones considered the entrance to Hades. From there the ancient Ermiones believed that Hercules ascended the guardian of Hades Cerberus (Pausanias). Silence dominates the passage, only the wind, the rustling of leaves and the crowing of crows can be heard, and these sounds are magnified by the echo of the passage. The silence excites the senses and you feel that at any moment it will break.

Katafyki in Ermioni

Another vertical rock. The passage has a terrific echo

The echo of the gorge is something I have never encountered before, I even learned things I didn't know about echo. Three vertical rocks reproduce a loud sound three times. The two smaller ones echo the sound making a double echo with a difference of a fraction of a second. The huge rock because it is at a great distance takes time to reverberate. As soon as the two previous ones end, you hear it but bass and low and flickering and with an effect that I would describe as fade in and fade out. The fact that it is so huge contributes to all these sounds that it hugs the gorge like in an ancient theater the koilon hugs the orchestra. To me personally its reverberation seemed like a cry of despair like the one described in the myth of Persephone.

Katafyki in Ermioni

Katafyki during a storm

But I wasn't satisfied with that. The question that arose for me was how the echo would sound during a storm. So on a stormy day I rushed to the gorge and the huge rock was pulsating to the rhythm of lightning and thunder as if it was made for them and could talk with them. I got into my car and drove away to hear the phenomenon from afar. It was like a volcano that emitted sounds instead of lava. I heard the reverberation of lightning and thunder but more bass, I said that the huge rock echoes the sounds more bass.

Katafyki in Ermioni

A cross guards the entrance of the gorge so that the demons do not leave

Katafyki in Ermioni

The small church of Ai Nikolas guards the entrance to the gorge. On the back it says "Christ is Risen" and "Truly our Lord"

Thus I understood why the place was considered demonic even in the modern period. At the entrance of the gorge there is a small church of Ai Nikolas so that the demons cannot get out. The crosses and the "Christ is Risen" gave me chills on the first visit. At the other entrance of the gorge in the village of Fournoi there is a small church of Agioi Anargyri. People believed that demons came in and out of the cave when the wind blew furiously at night. They also believed that a nun called Bab - Gelina had demons inside her and when she had a seizure the demons took her up and down the cave. No one entered the canyon on a windy night because the reverberation multiplied the rustling of the leaves.

At the edge of Ermione's peninsula Bisti, the elderly were seeing a tall woman called Vitoriza who was living in a cave. Some were saying she was a fairy and others that she was waiting for her husband and son who had drowned. Even the word Katafyki in greek is supposed to come from the word "Katafygi" meaning I flee downwards, that is the Underworld.

Katafyki in Ermioni

Crows abound in the gorge. Their crowing is magnified by the echo

Katafyki in Ermioni

In addition to the above Katafyki is ideal for nature walks

The access to Katafyki is by various roads that start on the left of the Ermioni - Thermisia provincial road. The road leading to the gorge is a bad dirt road. There is also an entrance from the village of Fournoi which has a more passable road and is a more scenic route.