Lighthouse Tenaro

Anatoliki Mani, Greece | C.1882

Photo Credit: André Sand

Atop a cavernous cape, from the rocky, barren vista of the Lighthouse Tenaro, overlooking the deep blue hellenic waters, you might be tempted to say you’re standing at the edge of the world. Since you’re standing at the southern tip of continental Greece, nearly 300 miles from the northern tip of Libya, no one could fault your short-sightedness. If you’re an Ancient Greek, though, you’d give this abyss a more… creative description: the gate to the Underworld. 

Though built in 1882, the Lighthouse Tenaro derives its name from the mythical hero, Taenarus. Son of either Zeus or Poseidon – this “fact” is debated – Tenaro founded the city and established the city’s temple of Poseidon. Remnants from this temple can be seen today, around the corner from the site of the lighthouse. It was in this temple that the Lacedaemonians ruthlessly executed the Helots, supplicants of Poseidon, seeking shelter and asylum. A hellish act of violence, no doubt.

Unsurprisingly, a whole lot more history took place at the door to Hades’s home. Heracles dragged Cerberus, the three-headed, serpent-tailed hound through the cave-gateway to complete the 12th and final act of his heroic Ten (Plus Two) Labors. In the realm of tragedies, Orpheus negotiated with Hades for his wife Eurydice’s return to the living, only to do the one thing Hades told him he couldn’t do: look at his wife before exiting the Taenarian gate. Harpalus, the friend-turned-foe who stole Alexander the Great’s treasure, used the gate (a cave) to hide. 

A lot of this “history” is still being … fact-checked, including the exact location of the cave that opened into the Underworld. Even if this site was considered Ancient Greece’s Hell, after a 45-minute hike in the Greek summer sun from town to the lighthouse’s rocky cape, the sea-breeze and the panoramic views just might make you call it Heaven.

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