Eternal love exists and Alpheus and Arethusa demonstrate it to us, transformed by the gods and united forever on the island of Ortigia in Syracuse

Greek, Roman and Sicilian myths are intertwined in time and tell us fantastic stories in which heroes, warriors, gods and common people meet and, at times, clash, in stories that are still passed down over the centuries. Many of these stories tell us about love and its strength. What happens when mythological and legendary creatures fall in love? How long can this feeling last? How many, men or gods, have lost their mind after falling in love? Questions that can be answered by the legend to which the Arethusa Spring is linked, the circular-shaped body of fresh water mirror found on the island of Ortigia, in Syracuse, a few steps from the sea.

Once upon a time there was Arethusa, a nymph (minor deity of classical mythology) handmaid of Artemis, Greek goddess of hunting, daughter of Zeus and twin sister of Apollo. The Romans identified this goddess with the name Diana.

But back to Arethusa… one day the nymph, during a hunting trip, moved away from the group and found herself on the banks of a river in the Peloponnese, Greece, where, given the sultry day and the clear waters, she decided to take a bath. At that moment the young shepherd Alpheus saw her and was struck by her beauty and fell madly in love with her. A feeling that drove him to madness and that made him chase Arethusa day and night. The nymph, tired of fleeing, finally reached the goddess Artemis, asked her to save her. Artemis initially wrapped her in a cloud to hide her from Alpheus who, however, did not give up and continued to look for her. The goddess the, transformed Arethusa into water and made her disappear into a crack in the ground, where she traveled underground, under the seas, even crossing the underworld, before resurfacing as a spring in Syracuse.

Alpheus’ love, however, did not give him peace. His desperate tears moved the gods who decided to turn him into an underground river that goes from Greece to Sicily to join his beloved. A proof of love and sincerity of feelings that managed to convince even Arethusa herself, who finally agreed to the union with Alpheus: their waters are now united for eternity.

Legend has it that if you throw a cup into the waters of the Alpheus River in Greece, it will travel underground to reappear in the Fonte Arethusa of Syracuse, proving the continuity between Greece and the Sicilian city.

Today it is possible to admire a statue depicting the two lovers finally united. The Arethusa Spring has become a place where eternal love is celebrated: it is said that it brings good luck to lovers who touch the waters of the source together. At sunset, then, the view of the port offers a fantastic and romantic panorama, of those that fill the eyes with a thousand shades of red and orange and that can make the heartbeats of lovers accelerate.

Inside the body of water live mullet, fish sacred to the goddess Artemis, whose presence is documented by the writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero more than 2300 years ago. Even the ducks have made the spring their favorite home and dive among the Egyptian papyrus plants which in all of Europe are present only in Syracuse and at the springs of Fiumefreddo in Catania. A very fragile ecosystem given the proximity to the sea: if the fresh waters are mixed with the salty ones, the fish and papyrus plants could die. Over the centuries, several earthquakes have threatened to interrupt the flow of water. Continuous maintenance work has allowed the source to resist and survive to this day. We like to think that the fresh water source cannot be interrupted by any natural or artificial event, because eternal love exists and Alpheus and Arethusa tell us about it every day thanks to the source dedicated to the nymph.

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