The Acheron Nekromanteion


Text: Ioulia Katsadima (Monuments and Museums of Greece, MCS, ARF)

The ancient nekromanteion or nekyomanteion (oracle of the dead) is in the nomos (county) of Preveza, on the north bank of the river Acheron. […]

The main sanctuary is surrounded by a rectangular polygonal enclosure wall with an entrance on the north side. It is square in plan and is divided by two parallel walls into a large main hall and six store-rooms. Beneath the main hall is a basement room of the same size,  the ceiling of which is formed by fifteen poros arches. This is the sacred room itself, the palace of Hades and Persephone, where the ghosts of the dead appeared to communicate with those consulting the oracle.

Smaller rooms and corridors have been located to the north, south and east of the main sanctuary, which were used to prepare visitors psychologically and physically, since contact between the living and the dead was not unattended by danger.


Many objects have been found… attesting to the prosperity of the sanctuary. The most important of them comes from the basement room, the sacred crypt. This is the remain of a device, a kind of crane, used to make the figures of the deceased appear to the pilgrims. This may also have been the reason why the walls in the main sanctuary were so thick (3,30 m), making it possible to create secret passageways 1,50 or 2,40 m wide, along which the priests could move unobserved. This device, combined with the side-effects of the special diet of beans and lupins to which the pilgrims were subjected, created the necessary preconditions for communicating with the souls of the dead. Visitors departed from the sanctuary by a different road, and were required to keep silent about all they had seen and heard, to avoid being guilty of impiety towards the gods of the Underworld.

[…] In the 18th c., the monastery of St. John the Baptist was built on the ancient ruins.


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