I really enjoyed my week trip in Sicily a few weeks ago. It was a powerful and cool experience to travel to the locations we’ve been talking about all semester in my Magna Graecia class. Talking about the sites in class is a completely different experience than talking about them in person on-site and having the chance to explore them. Although the trip seemed to be jam-packed with so much to do, I still enjoyed all the travelling. I found all the visits to the museums and monuments enriching.
Initially, I was nervous about my presentation. I didn’t feel confident in the material because 1) it was challenging to find relevant and recent research about the Theatre at Taormina and 2) I lack a large understanding and context of ancient history. But in the end, I was satisfied with my presentation and I really enjoyed presenting at a public site.
Another presentation I really appreciated that I wanted to reflect on was one of my classmates’s presentation about the Spring of Arethusa. I really liked the island of Ortygia and it was one of my favorite moment on my whole Sicily trip during fall break. The island reminded me of Borgo Marinari and San Ferdinando in Naples because of the big walls and castle-like military blockades right up against the sea.
The Spring of Arethua itself was a gorgeous site. It was interesting to see the spring so close to the sea yet still apart from it. The mythology behind the site was also interesting and I’m a huge fan of learning about mythological narratives and meanings. If I remember correctly, Arethusa, meaning water, is believed to be the female spirit of sea waters. She was a daughter of Nereus and Doris who fled from Arcadia and became a freshwater spring.
She was originally from Arcadia and she was bathing in a clear stream when Alpheus, the river god was watching and fell in love. She began to run away but she couldn’t get rid of Alpheus. When she started sweating she turned into a stream. Artemis who had been trying to help her lose Alpheus broke the ground for Arethusa to escape. It isn’t known when exactly the myth began but Arethusa is presented on coins in Sicily around 415 BC.
The spring is gorgeous with all the freshwater koi fish and ducks. The foliage and wildlife created a real sense of calmness. It’s really interesting to see a spring of water so close to the sea. There’s only a bridge wall holding the two apart. The history of the spring is also an interesting story. I don’t understand why Alpheus couldn’t understand that Arethusa didn’t want his attention.
I like the myth of the spring of Arethusa because I think it provides great social commentary on today’s world. I think it’s ridiculous that Arethusa had to turn into a spring of water just so Alpheus would leave her alone. These myths are important because I think it helps to provide context for 1) a timeline of the ancient Greek world and 2) easy descriptors to use to identify the land with.
I wish we had more time on the island of Ortygia as I would’ve liked to explore more to see what other mythological sites and important monuments there were on the island, even so, I’m so grateful I got to go on such an enriching and fulfilling experience. It is a trip that I will never forget.