One of the Nereides,1 and the nymph of the famous well Arethusa in the island of Ortygia near Syracuse. According to Pausanias2 the hunter Alpheus fell in love with the Arethusa, but she fled from him to the island of Ortygia near Syracuse, and metamorphosed herself into a well, whereupon Alpheus became a river, which flowing from the Peloponnese under the sea to Ortygia, there united its waters with those of the well Arethusa.2

Virgil3 reckons her among the Sicilian nymphs, and as the divinity who inspired pastoral poetry.


On coins from Syracuse the head of Arethusa is frequently portrayed, both on the archaic tetra and deka drachmae (ca. 510 BCE) and on those from fifth century CE. Her hair is usually covered by a net and she is surrounded by dolphins.4



  1. Hyginus. Fabulae: Preface, 9 (ed. Staveren); Virgil. Georgics iv, 344.
  2. Description of Greece v, 7.2.
  3. Eclogues iv, 1; x, 1.
  4. Rasche. Lexicon Universae Rei Numariae i, 1, 107.


  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.