There are many myths and legends that interest Sicily.
The most famous is certainly the so-called “myth of Arethusa”.
Arethusa was a nymph in the wake of Artemis. One day, running in the forests of the Peloponnese, the young Alpheus saw her and fell in love with her. But Aretusa did not return the feeling, and for this reason, tired of the close courtship, he decided to ask the goddess Artemis for help. The Goddess thus decided to wrap the nymph in a thick cloud, which she then dissolved in a spring, on the shore of Ortigia. Alfeo therefore asked for help from the Gods, so that he could join the beloved in the same form. The gods transformed it into a river, which from Greece and along the entire Ionian Sea, joined the beloved in the form of a spring.
Fonte Aretusa is still one of the major tourist attractions on the island of Ortigia. The legend of Alpheus originates from the river of the Peloponnese, and from a source of fresh water (called Occhio della Zillica) that flows into the Great Harbor of Syracuse, a short distance from the Source of the legend of Arethusa.
Another legend that is particularly loved and known is the one that sees Persefone involved. Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, was intent on picking flowers at the shores of Lake Pergusa (near Enna). Suddenly, from his underground kingdom sprang Hades, who, in love with the girl, decided to kidnap her, so as not to have to ask for his hand from Zeus. But Persephone was not alone, with her was also a group of nymphs; and it was indeed a nymph, Ciane, who opposed the abduction by holding onto Hades’ chariot, who, annoyed, struck the nymph with her scepter, transforming it into a double spring of turquoise water (‘cyanos’ in Greek means turquoise) .
The young Anapo, in love with the nymph, had himself transformed into a river. Today, at the end of its journey, the river of the same name unites its waters with those of the Ciane river, before flowing into the Porto Grande of Syracuse.
The Aci river, called by the Greeks Akis, was a stream that ran through eastern Sicily; it seems to have given its name to the municipalities that today occupy the area (including Acireale), and was an inspiration for the creation of a myth. Aci is a shepherd, son of Faunus and Simetis. According to the myth, he fell in love with the nymph Galatea reciprocated. But the nymph was also loved by Polyphemus who, blinded by jealousy, took a rock and killed the young man. The blood of Acis was transformed from a beloved into a river, and Galatea itself transformed into sea foam, to rejoin with the beloved and be with him forever.
Probably the myth was inspired by the way the river gushed from its source; today, it is difficult to reconstruct the course, because it was probably wiped out by the 1169 eruption. Some believe instead that Aci, or what remains of Aci, may be the Lavinaio stream, which passes precisely between Acireale and Aci Catena.
We end, with the perhaps best known myth, even outside Sicily: that of Charybdis.
Known sea monster, Charybdis was actually a naiad, a freshwater nymph. Daughter of Poseidon and Gea, one day he stole Gerione’s oxen from Heracles and ate some. Zeus shot her, making her fall into the sea. The legend places it near one of the two sides of the Strait of Messina, in front of the cave of the Scilla monster, near Capo Peloro. In that stretch of sea, in fact, the meeting of sea currents causes whirlwinds of an important size, which may have given rise to the legend that under the sea lived a monster with a voracious mouth, Charybdis.
Our excursus among the most famous Sicilian myths and legends ends here.
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