In Greek mythology, Arethusa was a nymph connected with a spring or fountain. And, not surprisingly, Arethusa’s legendary association with water is revealed in the myth in which she played a significant role. So let us now learn about the tale of how the nymph Arethusa was transformed into a spring.
According to one popular version of the legend, the lovely nymph Arethusa was a companion of the goddess Artemis. The nymph, like the goddess she followed, loved nothing more than to wander freely in forest and field, enjoying the beauty of nature. Arethusa noticed a shimmering river during the course of her adventures, and, beckoned by the promise of a refreshing bath, she decided to take a dip in the welcoming water. But as soon as she entered the river, she realized that she was not alone. For the god of this particular river (who was named Alpheius or Alpheus) was roused by the sight of Arethusa, and immediately fell in love with the nymph.
Arethusa, however, wanted nothing to do with the passionate river god. The nymph, you see, was a maiden, and like Artemis, she preferred to remain chaste. So Arethusa fled the advances of Alpheus. However, Alpheus was not so easily deterred – the god of the river simply assumed the form of a hunter and pursued his chosen prey. Some versions of the story say that Arethusa was chased over the sea, all the way to Sicily. Finally, she found refuge on the Island of Ortygia (which is near Syracuse), where she called upon the goddess Artemis to rescue her. Artemis responded by transforming the nymph into a spring or fountain.
And this is how the nymph Arethusa became identified with a now legendary spring.
Arethusa’s head was portrayed on many ancient Greek coins. Her image was always surrounded by dolphins.