The Myth Behind Ortigia’s Fonte Aretusa

image This sea-side fountain on the island of Ortigia–La Fonte Aretusa–is shrouded in myth. Firstly, it’s important to know that it is fed by an underground, fresh water spring. Here’s why: Greek folklore is that Aretusa (Arethusa in English) was a nymph who had sworn her allegiance and chastity to the goddess of the hunt, Artemis. One day while hunting in the forest in Greece, Aretusa decided to take a refreshing swim in a stream. While in the water, she felt something move beneath her. Turns out, it was the river god Alfeo (Alpheus in English). During the encounter, Alfeo became smitten with Aretusa. Aretusa, however, fled, shunning Alfeo, who proceeded to chase the nymph.

Being a river, Alfeo’s endurance outlasted Aretusa’s flight. Exhausted, Aretusa called to Artemis for help. Artemis responded by transforming Aretusa into a fresh-water spring–a spring that flowed via an underground channel from Greece under the Ionian Sea to Sicily, where she emerges here, in Ortigia. Well, Alfeo, being water too, seeking his love, merged with the spring Aretusa. So, the two are eternally intertwined. Legend is that if you throw flowers into the Alfeios River in Greece, they will eventually emerge here at the Fonte Aretusa in Sicily.

We’ll be in Ortigia and Siracusa on days 6 and 7 of September’s Enchanting Sicily tour. Visit Experience Sicily 2015 Tours for more details and to join us!

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