Nymphs and Dolphins: the city tells its myths

  • Nymphs and Dolphins: the city tells its myths


    Cyane Spring, Siracusa - Photo by Daniele Manzella Copyright

    The most famous myths in Syracuse are Arethusa and Cyane. They are linked to the history of our city, but many people who live here don’t know their stories. History and myth intertwine in the origins of Syracuse and water is the main element in common, the myths of Arethusa and Cyane are linked to water. Furthermore the strategic choice of the site by its founder, the Corinthian Archia, in 734-733 b.C, is also linked to water. The main purpose was to choose a good location so that a community could live well. The natural advantages were: the availability of fresh water, the availability of two secure ports, an agriculturally rich suburban territory near to the mouth of Anapo river which allowed control of and communication with the hinterland populations.


    Arethusa is one of the many characters in the Greek mythology. Cyane is a nymph of the Greek mythology who lived in Syracusae. They are related to Artemis (Diana), the Greek divinity of hunting, nature and woods. Nymphs were actually minor divinities, always described as young and beautiful women who animated the nature. The worship of Diana is very important in Sicily, especially in Syracuse where there was her temple near the one dedicated to Athena.




    There is a connection to the other temple, the one in Delphi, the omphalos, where Apollo, the Greek god of arts, music and prophecy, was venerated through his oracle because he could unveil human destiny. The origins of Apollo worship are ancient, but there are lots of connections to Apollo Delphinum. He could transform himself in every animal, also in a dolphin. From here, the worship began.



    The polis of Delphi and the worship of Apollo is linked to the origins of Syracusae and to the myth of Arethusa. In the “Decadramma”, which was the old currency in Syracusa, we can see, on one of the two sides of the coin, Arethusa’s face sorrounded by four dolphins, which are the symbols of Apollo.


    Arethusa Spring, Siracusa - Photo by Bruna Breschi Copyright

    The myths of Cyane and Arethusa are both linked to the water reserves in Syracusae. Cyane and Arethusa, in fact, were turned in springs, while their lovers, Anapo and Alpheus, were turned in rivers in order to join their waters for ever. From the story of Cyane and Anapo, we know that, according to the myth, she was trasformed by the god of hell, Ades in a fresh water spring. Anapo, a young boy in love with the nymph Cyane, decided to change himself into a river, in order to mingle himself with Cyane’s water.


    Authors: Valentina Burgio, Davide Maltese and Mattia Prestifilippo IV E Liceo scientifico