Ortigia: the legend of Arethusa
Ortigia, Syracuse’s island, is not to be missed if you are in Sicily!
Ortigia measures just 1km by 500 metres, but you can find over 2,500 years of history. Architectural styles vary widely, encompassing Greek and Roman remains, Mediaeval Norman buildings and a great deal of (relatively) understated Baroque.
The historical highlight of the western side is the fountain of Arethusa. The name of the fountain comes from a nymph. Arethusa, in Greek, in fact, means the waterer. Around the fountain, there is Greek myth that you can’t miss out.
The myth of her transformation begins in Arcadia when Arethusa came across a clear stream and began bathing, not knowing it was the river god Alpheus, who flowed down from Arcadia through Elis to the sea. He fell in love during their encounter, but she fled after discovering his presence and intentions, as she wished to remain a chaste attendant of Artemis.
After a long chase, she prayed to her goddess to ask for protection. Artemis hid her in a cloud, but Alpheus was persistent. She began to perspire profusely from fear, and soon transformed into a stream. fled underwater to Siracusa in an attempt to rid herself of the persistent amorous advances of the river God Alpheios.
The Goddess Artemis transformed her into the fresh water spring that we can see today. Alpheus, crazy for Arethusa, digged a channel under the Mediterranean, resurfacing few meters from the place where Arethusa was. Alpheios located his prey and mixed his own waters with hers. It arrives at a point where the waters are still today strangely gentle, and where the bubbles that rise to the surface. This show the point where Alpheus continues to enjoy the view of his great love.
In addition, in Ortigia, you can’t miss the visit of the Temple of Apollo and the Duomo square with is beautiful white Cathedral of “Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception”, erected on the Ancient Greek temple of Athena.