Arethusa was a nymph who lived in Arcadia, a region of Greece. She was really wonderful and famous among other nymphs. Despite the fact that she used to be well known for her beauty, she wasn’t so pleased by her appearance.

    One day, while she was returning from the Stymphalian wood, she came across a river, which was so clear that she could count with ease every pebble inside it. She was very tired, so she took her clothes off and plunged into the water to relax.  


    Suddenly the river (Alpheus) started to make some waves and tried to talk with Arethusa, since he was attracted by her beautiful appearance; the nymph, which was frightened by Alpheus, left immediately without her clothes. Alpheus, who acquired human aspect, followed Arethusa, running as fast as he could: they went through several places in Greece, such as Orchomenus and Sophis, but  Alpheus was never able to catch the nymph, because he was slower.


    Arethusa was exhausted because of this unending pursuit, she felt that Alpheus was reaching her, so she desperately asked Diana to save her: the Goddess, moved by Aretusa’s feelings, turned her into a spring. The nymph was carried through dark caverns to Ortygia: this is the reason why today we can admire this beautiful spring in the isle of Ortygia, in Syracuse.


    from FABLE VI “Arethusa” from Book V in The Metamorphoses of OVID.

    Literally Translated into English Prose, with Copious Notes and Explanations,
    BY HENRY T. RILEY, B.A. of Clare Hall, Cambridge.
    London: George Bell & Sons, York St., Covent Garden, and New York. 1893.
    ‘I was,’ says she, ‘one of the Nymphs which exist in Achaia, nor did any one more eagerly skim along the glades than myself, nor with more industry set the nets. But though the reputation for beauty was never sought by me, although, too, I was of robust make, still I had the name of being beautiful. But my appearance, when so much commended, did not please me; and I, like a country lass, blushed at those endowments of person in which other females are wont to take a pride, and I deemed it a crime to please.
     I remember, I was returning weary from the Stymphalian72 wood; the weather was hot, and my toil had redoubled the intense heat. I found a stream gliding on without any eddies, without any noise, and clear to the bottom; through which every pebble, at so great a depth, might be counted, and which you could hardly suppose to be in motion. The hoary willows73 and poplars, nourished by the water, furnished a shade, spontaneously produced, along the shelving banks. I approached, and, at first, I dipped the soles of my feet, and then, as far as the knee. Not content with that, I undressed, and I laid my soft garments upon a bending willow; and, naked, I plunged into the waters.
    ‘While I was striking them, and drawing them towards me, moving in a thousand ways, and was sending forth my extended arms, I perceived a most unusual murmuring noise beneath the middle of the stream; and, alarmed, I stood on the edge of the nearer bank. ‘Whither dost thou hasten, Arethusa?’ said Alpheus from his waves. ‘Whither dost thou hasten?’ again he said to me, in a hollow tone. “Just as I was, I fled without my clothes; for the other side had my garments. So much the more swiftly did he pursue, and become inflamed; and, because I was naked, the more tempting to him did I appear.


    Thus was I running; thus unrelentingly was he pursuing me; as the doves are wont to fly from the hawk with trembling wings, and as the hawk is wont to pursue the trembling doves, I held out in my course even as far as Orchomenus,74 and Psophis,75 and Cyllene, and the Mænalian valleys, and cold Erymanthus and Elis. Nor was he swifter than I, but unequal to him in strength, I was unable, any longer, to keep up the chase; for he was able to endure prolonged fatigue. However, I ran over fields and over mountains covered with trees, rocks too, and crags, and where there was no path. The sun was upon my back; I saw a long shadow advancing before my feet, unless, perhaps, it was my fear that saw it. But, at all events, I was alarmed at the sound of his feet, and his increased hardness of breathing was now fanning the fillets of my hair.


    Wearied with the exertion of my flight, I said, ‘Give aid, Dictynna, to thy armor-bearer, or I am overtaken; I, to whom thou hast so often given thy bow to carry, and thy darts enclosed in a quiver.’ The Goddess was moved, and, taking one of the dense clouds, she threw it over me. The river looked about for me, concealed in the darkness, and, in his ignorance sought about the encircling cloud and twice, unconsciously did he go around the place where the Goddess had concealed me, and twice did he cry, ‘Ho, Arethusa!76 Ho, Arethusa!’


    What, then, were my feelings in my wretchedness? Were they not just those of the lamb, as it hears the wolves howling around the high sheep-folds? Or of the hare, which, lurking in the bush, beholds the hostile noses of the dogs, and dares not make a single movement with her body? Yet he does not depart; for no furtherdoes he trace any prints of my feet. He watches the cloud and the spot. A cold perspiration takes possession of my limbs thus besieged, and azure colored drops distil from all my body.


    Wherever I move my foot, there flows a lake; drops trickle from my hair, and, in less time than I take in acquainting thee with my fate, I was changed into a stream. But still the river recognized the waters, the objects of his love; and, having laid aside the shape of a mortal, which he had assumed, he was changed into his own waters, that he might mingle with me. Thereupon, the Delian Goddess cleaved the ground. Sinking, I was carried through dark caverns to Ortygia,77 which, being dear to me, from the surname of my own Goddess, was the first to introduce me to the upper air.’”

    71. Stream of Elis.]—Ver. 576. The Alpheus really rose in Arcadia; but, as it ran through the territory of the Eleans, and discharged itself into the sea, near Cyllene, the seaport of that people, they worshipped it with divine honors.

    72. Stymphalian.]—Ver. 585. Stymphalus was the name of a city, mountain, and river of Arcadia, near the territory of Elis.

    73. Hoary willows.]—Ver. 590. The leaf of the willow has a whitish hue, especially on one side of it.

    74. Orchomenus.]—Ver. 607. This was a city of Arcadia, in a marshy district, near to Mantinea. There was another place of the same name, in Bœotia, between Elatea and Coronea, famous for a splendid temple to the Graces, there erected.

    75. Psophis.]—Ver. 607. This was a city of Arcadia also, adjoining to the Elean territory, which received its name from Psophis, the daughter of Lycaon, or of Eryx, according to some writers. There were several other towns of the same name. The other places here mentioned, with the exception of Elis, were mountains of Arcadia.

    76. Ho, Arethusa!]—Ver. 625-6. Clarke thus translates these lines:—‘And twice called out Soho, Arethusa! Soho, Arethusa! What thought had I then, poor soul!’

    77. To Ortygia.]—Ver. 640. From the similarity of its name to that of the Goddess Diana, who was called Ortygia, from the Isle of Delos, where she was born.



    Author: Alberto De Benedictis - Videomaker: Marco Andriani IVE Liceo scientifico