Alpheus and Arethusa

In the city of Syracuse in Sicily there is a spring called Arethusa that has an interesting story. Once, Arethusa was not a spring but a beautiful young Greek huntress and a follower of Artemis. Like the goddess, she would have nothing to do with men. She loved running and hunting in the forest. One day after an exhausting hunt, she came to a crystal clear stream shaded by silvery willows. She decided to take a swim, and slipped into the water and swam about in utter peace for a while. Then she seemed to feel something beneath her in the water. Frightened, she scampered out of the water, and heard a voice that seemed to come from the water. "Why are you leaving, fair maiden?"

Now terrified, she ran into the forest as fast as she could. She was pursued by one stronger, if not swifter than she. The voice of the unknown told her that he was Alpheus, the god of the river, and that he was only following because he loved her. She ran on, but she could never escape; a river, after all, can run longer than any mortal. Finally, completely exhausted, Arethusa called out to Artemis, and the goddess answered by changing her into a spring, but not an ordinary spring. Aretmis cut the earth so that an underground channel was made from Greece all the way to Sicily. Arethusa plunged down and emerged near Syracuse where the spring bubbles forth today, on land sacred to Artemis. Alpheus, being a river god, turned himself back into a river, and plunged down the same channel. Arethusa was not free of Alpheus. Their waters mingled. Even today, you can believe it or not, that Greek flowers are sometimes seen in the Sicilian spring, and if you throw a wooden cup in the Alpheus river in Greece, it will reappear in Arethusa's spring.