A Holiday in Sicily ~ Arethusa Transformation by Artemis ~ Ortygia Sicily

309In Greek mythology, the water nymph Arethusa was converted into a fresh water stream by the Goddess Artemis. Arethusa was being pursued by Alpheus, a River God, and begged Artemis to aid in the preservation of her chastity. Arethusa plunged under the earth and emerged as a fresh water spring on the shore of Ortygia. Travelers can see this spring, The Fountain of Arethusa, on the island of Ortygia.

Ortygia is an antiquated city founded by the Greeks in 734 BC. It is the birthplace of Artemis and connected to Siracusa by two bridges. There is a large fountain depicting the actual transformation of Arethusa by Artemis. These photos were taken at Ortygia in May 2015. The statuary is stunning to behold and well worth taking a long look.

ARETHUSA by Percy Bysshe Shelley 1820

From her couch of snows
In the Acroceraunian mountains,–
From cloud and from crag,
With many a jag,
Shepherding her bright fountains.
She leapt down the rocks,
With her rainbow locks
Streaming among the streams;–
Her steps paved with green
The downward ravine
Which slopes to the western gleams;
And gliding and springing
She went, ever singing,
In murmurs as soft as sleep;
The earth seemed to love her,
And Heaven smiled above her,
As she lingered towards the deep.

Then Alpheus bold,
On his glacier cold,
310With his trident the mountains strook;
And opened a chasm
In the rocks–with the spasm
All Erymanthus shook.
And the black south wind
It unsealed behind
The urns of the silent snow,
And earthquake and thunder
Did rend in sunder
The bars of the springs below.
And the beard and the hair
Of the River-god were
Seen through the torrent’s sweep,
As he followed the light
Of the fleet nymph’s flight
To the brink of the Dorian deep.

‘Oh, save me! Oh, guide me!
And bid the deep hide me,
For he grasps me now by the hair!’
The loud Ocean heard,
To its blue depth stirred,
And divided at her prayer;
And under the water
The Earth’s white daughter
307Fled like a sunny beam;
Behind her descended
Her billows, unblended
With the brackish Dorian stream:–
Like a gloomy stain
On the emerald main
Alpheus rushed behind,–
As an eagle pursuing
A dove to its ruin
Down the streams of the cloudy wind.

Under the bowers
Where the Ocean Powers
Sit on their pearlèd thrones;
Through the coral woods
Of the weltering floods,
Over heaps of unvalued stones;
Through the dim beams
Which amid the streams
Weave a network of coloured light;
And under the caves,
Where the shadowy waves
Are as green as the forest’s night:–
Outspeeding the shark,
And the sword-fish dark,
Under the Ocean’s foam,
And up through the rifts
Of the mountain clifts
They passed to their Dorian home.

318And now from their fountains
In Enna’s mountains,
Down on vale where the morning basks,
Like friends once parted
Grown single-hearted,
They ply their watery tasks.
At sunrise they leap
From their cradles steep
In the cave of the shelving hill;
At noontide they flow
Through the woods below
And the meadows of asphodel;
And at night they sleep
In the rocking deep
Beneath the Ortygian shore;
Like spirits that lie
In the azure sky
When they love but live no more.


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