The legend of the ancient Syracuse spring

Syracuse binds with the Greek land not only for commercial relations, even mythology seals this connection through the story of Arethusa and Alpheus, the nymph changed into a source by Diana symbol of the Sicilian city. The source Aretusa is located on the island of Ortigia, in the fountain of the “papere”, and every day leaves many tourists speechless.

But why is Aretusa right there?

Aretusa Fountain: the nymph changed into a source

The nymph Arethusa was a follower of Artemis, better known as Diana by the Romans. During one of the days spent in the woods below Mount Olympus, she decided to break away from the hunting group and arrived alone in front of the banks of the river Alpheus.

The sun beat the earth warm, the breath became increasingly labored and the beautiful sap decided to cool off in the river. He undressed while silence reigned supreme, broken only by the chirping of birds. He left his clothes on a log and, convinced that he was not seen by other souls, he immersed himself in the river. The water began to quiver and through the vortexes of dance appeared Alfeo, the god of the River, in front of her. Arethusa, frightened, returned to take back her white clothes and began to run away. Alfeo, struck by the extreme beauty of the nymph, pursued her to declare his love for her but she continued to run away through the woods.

This long pursuit exhausted Aretusa who settled on the ground and, hearing Alfeo arrive while the fear of being violated inside her increased, she begged her protector Diana. To protect her favorite nymph, the goddess wrapped her in a cloud that took her to a place very far from Greece, on the island of Ortigia in Syracuse, convinced that Alpheus would never have come this far, and turned her into a spring.

Alfeo, who had now reached Aretusa, saw only the beautiful nymph disappear. Taken by despair and the desire to be reunited at all costs with his beloved, he asked Zeus, or Jupiter for the Romans, a way to stay with her forever. The God of all gods dug a dungeon under the Ionian Sea that connected the Peloponnese to the great port of Syracuse, right where Aretusa was.

“….Io non cerco che dissonanze Alfeo,
qualcosa di più della perfezione.
…. Non un luogo dell’infanzia cerco,
e seguendo sottomare il fiume,
già prima della foce di Aretusa,
annodare la corda spezzata dell’arrivo”

Salvatore Quasimodo (Seguendo l’Alfeo)

Questo è il modo in cui gli antichi hanno spiegato come ci sia una sorgente di acqua dolce proprio dove c’è il mare. Le acque della fonte Aretusa sorgono nell’isola senza nessun tipo di canalizzazione con la terra ferma, ed ecco il mito che spiega la realtà. Nella fontana cresce rigogliosa la pianta del papiro ed è dimora della famiglia di papere che allietano le giornate di passanti e turisti.Negli anni la fonte cambiò la sua connotazione a causa di terremoti e altri disastri naturali, nel corso dei secoli diventò più salmastra e l’ultima ristrutturazione risale al 1843. Secondo gli ultimi studi geologici l’acqua risulta dolce a causa delle numerose caverne che si sono formate nel sottosuolo e che trovano sfogo proprio in quella fonte.

Molti autori hanno trovato Aretusa come musa ispiratrice come Virgilio, Cicerone, D’Annunzio e tanti altri. Per lasciarvi incantare anche voi dalla fonte Aretusa, raggiungetela dal nostro Hotel a piedi dirigendovi sull’isola verso il castello Maniace.