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Panoramic view

Ortygia (/ɔːrˈtɪiə/; Italian: Ortigia; Greek: Ὀρτυγία) is a small island which is the historical centre of the city of Syracuse, Sicily. The island, also known as Città Vecchia (Old City), contains many historical landmarks, the name originates from the Ancient Greek ortyx (ὄρτυξ), which means "Quail".


Arethusa on a coin of Syracuse, Sicily, 415-400 BC

The Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo has it that the goddess Leto stopped at Ortygia to give birth to Artemis,[1] the firstborn of her twins. Artemis then helped Leto across the sea to the island of Delos, where Leto gave birth to Apollo.[2] Other ancient sources state that the twins were born in the same place—which was either Delos or Ortygia[3]— but Ortygia, according to Stravo (Book 14, 1.20) was an old name of Delos. Further, there were perhaps a half-dozen other places called Ortygia, so that the identification is uncertain.[4]

It was also said that Asteria, the sister of Leto metamorphosed into a quail (Ortux), threw herself into the sea, and was metamorphosed into the island Ortygia. Another myth suggested that it was Delos instead of Ortygia.[5]

Ortygia was the mythological 'home' of Arethusa, a chaste nymph fleeing a river god who was transformed by Artemis into a spring, traversed underground and appeared here, thus providing water for the city. Arethusa and her pursuer, the river god Alpheus, came from Arcadia in Greece, and coincidentally the colony of Syracuse was founded by Greeks from Corinth.


See main article: Syracuse, Sicily

Ortygia, being an island just off the coast, was easily transformed into a natural fortress with harbors and was big enough that it could hold a significant population in ancient times. Therefore, the history of Ortygia is synonymous with the early history of Syracuse.


Ortygia is located at the eastern end of Syracuse and is separated from it by a narrow channel. Two bridges connect the island to mainland Sicily, the island is an extremely popular place for tourism, shopping, entertainment and also a residential area.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Children of the Gods by Kenneth McLeish, pages 33 and 34.
  2. ^ Homeric Hymn 3 to Delian Apollo
  3. ^ theoi.com
  4. ^ Hammond and Scullard (editors). The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 760.
  5. ^ ASTERIA on Theoi.com

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°03′34″N 15°17′35″E / 37.05944°N 15.29306°E / 37.05944; 15.29306