Syracuse, Arethusa


Syracuse: the ancient capital of Sicily.

Arethusa's well today, with papyrus

A monument that reminds a modern visitor of Syracuse's ancient history is the Fonte Aretusa, the well of the nymph Arethusa, which is now a pond in a terrace near the waterfront of the Great Harbor. According to Greek myth, the nymph had once lived in Elis, where the river god Alpheus had tried to seduce her. She jumped into the Ionian Sea, and reappeared on Sicily.

There is, indeed, a sweet spring inside the harbor. In the third century, one of the Ptolemaic kings sent papyrus to Syracuse, which still grows in this pond. The Syracusans appear to have been unaware of the economic value of this present; they never started to make papyrus scrolls, which would have made them very rich.