The Fountain of Arethusa

  • Europe
  • Italy
  • Syracuse
A mythical story of passion, deeply rooted in the greek tradition of Syracuse.

<p>Alpheus and Arethusa, painting by John Martin (1789 &#8211; 1854)</p>

On the warm shores of Sicily lies the charming Syracuse, originally a Greek colony called “Syrakusai”.

It is said that the Greek colonists first landed on a small island near the coastline, and it is precisely on this rocky ground (today called Ortigia) that one of the most emblematic and tangible figures of Greek mythology still stands today: the spring Arethusa.

The Legend of Arethusa and Alpheus

According to the myth, Arethusa was a young nymph who, during a hot summer day, bathed in the river Alpheus – located in the Peloponnese, in Greece – thus making the divine figure of its waters fall in love with her.

(Antonie Waterloo, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

However, Arethusa rejected Alpheus’ love, but because of the latter’s persistence, she asked the help of the goddess Artemis, who wrapped the nymph in a thick cloud. Then, after carrying her far away, she transformed her, through rain, into a spring on the shore of Ortigia.

However, the sadness of Alpheus moved the Olympians, and Zeus, out of pity for this despair, allowed him to deviate its course by passing under the waters of the Ionian Sea. Alpheus could then reach the distant island of Ortigia, where he could meet his beautiful beloved.

Only after transforming into water was she able to understand and return his love.

Today the avenue that runs alongside the Arethusa Fountain is called “Lungomare Alfeo”. The spring creates shining waters with fishes, birds, and the unique presence of wild Papyrus plants, possibly the only ones in Europe.

Aretusa waters (El Chez, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)



All our content is conceived and written by our editorial team, consisting of students and recent graduates in Cultural Heritage, Ancient and Medieval History, and Arts.
Last updated on November 17, 2022