Ortygia (//; Italian: Ortigia; Greek: Ὀρτυγία) is a small island which is the historical centre of the city of Syracuse, Sicily. The island, also known as the Città Vecchia (Old City), contains many historical landmarks. The name originates from the ancient Greek ortyx (ὄρτυξ), which means "Quail".
The Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo has it that the goddess Leto stopped at Ortygia to give birth to Artemis, the firstborn of her twins. Artemis then helped Leto across the sea to the island of Delos, where Leto gave birth to Apollo. Other ancient sources state that the twins were born in the same place – which was either Delos or Ortygia – but Ortygia, according to Strabo was an old name of Delos. Further, there were perhaps a half-dozen other places called Ortygia, so that the identification is uncertain.
It was also said that Asteria, the sister of Leto, metamorphosed into a quail (Ortyx), threw herself into the sea, and was metamorphosed into the island of Ortygia. Another myth suggested that it was Delos, rather than Ortygia.
Ortygia was the mythological home of Arethusa, a chaste nymph who, while fleeing a river god, 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.
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 a popular location for tourists, shopping, entertainment and is also a residential area.
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- Levinson Travel Guides
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- Ortigia Island Website
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- Official Fan Page