The Syracusan Venus.
But probably the relic of old Syracuse best known to every classical schoolboy is the famous Fountain of Arethusa, which Cicero described in prose, and Ovid and Virgil pictured in mellifluous verse, before the advent of the Christian era. From some mysterious, unknown source it rises copiously through an opening in the natural rock, and forms a deep, clear pool, enclosed now by a semicircular marble wall, adorned with graceful vases. Within it many fish are swimming, just as when the first of Roman orators beheld it; and now as then a "wall of stone" protects its sacred contents from the sea. Unfortunately, however, one very important change has taken place here; for, whereas Cicero called its water "sweet," it is now slightly brackish, an earthquake shock having broken down some subterranean barrier and given entrance to the sea. The pretty legend of this fountain which, immortalized in painting and in poetry, has survived two thousand years, relates that Arethusa, a lovely Grecian nymph, while bathing in a sheltered forest stream, was seen by the Arcadian river-god, Alpheus, who, when she fled from his approach, pursued her to a place considered sacred to Diana. There, too exhausted to run further, the maiden prayed for assistance from the goddess, who at once transformed her into a. fountain, in the hope of baffling her pursuer. The river deity, however, recognized the change; and mingling his waters with her own, sank down with her into the earth, passed under the Ionian Sea to Sicily, and rose there, evermore united to her, in the island of Ortygia. Such is the charming myth which painters have portrayed on canvas and poets have described in graceful metaphor, from Virgil's day to that of Shelley.
The Fountain Of Arethusa.
The Arethusa Promenade, Syracuse.
Fortifications Of Ancient Syracuse.
In still another respect is this historic spring associated with the literature of the past, since in its waters grow some specimens of the old papyrus plant, from which was made, for centuries, the writing material of the ancient world. Strangely enough, the little river, Anapo, only a few miles south of Syracuse, is, with its tiny tributary, the Cyane, the only place in Europe where the papyrus now grows wild; and though it is occasionally found in Abyssinia and Nubia, in Egypt itself, - the land from which it was originally brought to Syracuse, - it has died out completely. We made an excursion to the Anapo, as to some sacred source of early light and literature. The little boat in which we stemmed the rapid current of the narrow stream required the services of two men, one of whom rowed when there was space enough to do so, while his colleague either pushed with a long pole, or thrust back the papyrus reeds, when they bent over us too closely. This plant, which was so long the faithful guardian and preserver of the literature of the world, consists of several light green stalks that grow-to a height of from twelve to fifteen feet, and spread out at the top into a tuft of threadlike fibres. The famous writing paper of antiquity was made by slicing the moist pith of its stem into thin layers. These, after being laid one upon another, were pressed together to form a sheet, which was eventually carefully dried, and polished smooth with ivory. A score or more of these sheets, pasted together in a series, formed a book, which for its better preservation was always rolled, and fastened at one end to a small, round stick. In writing on papyrus the Egyptians used two inks, of different colors. Most of the text was traced in black, while red (rubra) was used for marking the beginnings of paragraphs - a custom which originated not alone the mediaeval fashion of illuminating manuscripts, but also gave to us the expression "rubric." Indeed, since we are led thus to consider etymology, we may as well recall the fact that the first leaf of such a manuscript, serving as a kind of preface to the rest, was known as "Protocollon," from which our "protocol" is derived. Moreover, the Romans gave to a sheet of this papyrus the name of Charta, which now repeats itself in our word "card"; while papyrus and byblus being merely different forms of the same word, the first has given us "paper," and the second "Bible".