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Perseus Project index

Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Alpheus

   The chief river of the Peloponnesus, rising in the southeastern part of Arcadia, flowing through Arcadia and Elis, not far from Olympia, and falling into the Ionian Sea. In some parts of its course the river flows underground; and this subterranean descent gave rise to the story about the river-god Alpheus and the nymph Arethusa. The latter, pursued by Alpheus, was changed by Artemis into the fountain of Arethusa in the island of Ortygia at Syracuse; but the god continued to pursue her under the sea, and attempted to mingle his stream with the fountain in Ortygia.

This text is cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)

Alpheius

  Alpheius (Alpheios: Rufea, Rufia or Rofia, and River of Karitena), the chief river of Peloponnesus, rises in the SE. of Arcadia on the frontiers of Laconia, flows in a westerly direction through Arcadia and Elis, and after passing Olympia falls into the Ionian Sea. The Alpheius, like several other rivers and lakes in Arcadia, disappears more than once in the limestone mountains of the country, and then emerges again, after flowing some distance underground. Pausanias (viii. 54. § 1, seq., 44. § 4) relates that the source of the Alpheius is at Phylae, on the frontiers of Arcadia and Laconia; and that, after receiving a stream rising from many small fountains, at a place called Symbola, it flows into the territory of Tegea, where it sinks underground. It rises again at the distance of 5 stadia from Asea, close to the fountain of the Eurotas. The two rivers then mix their waters, and after flowing in a common channel for the distance of nearly 20 stadia, they again sink underground, and reappear,- the Eurotas in Laconia, the Alpheius at Pegae, the Fountains, in the territory of Megalopolis in Arcadia. Strabo (p. 343) also states that the Alpheius and Eurotas rise from two fountains near Asea, and that, after flowing several stadia underground, the Eurotas reappears in the Bleminatis in Laconia, and the Alpheius in Arcadia. In another passage (p. 275) Strabo relates, that it was a common belief that if two chaplets dedicated to the Alpheius and the Eurotas were thrown into the stream near Asea, each would reappear at the sources of the river to which it was destined. This story accords with the statement of Pausanias as to the union of the waters from the two fountains, and their course in a common channel. The account of Pausanias is confirmed in many particulars by the observations of Colonel Leake and others. The river, in the first part of its course, is now called the Saranda, which rises at Krya Vrysi, the ancient Phylace, and which receives, a little below Krya Vrysi, a stream formed of several small mountain torrents, by which the ancient Symbola is recognised. On entering the Tegeatic plain, the Saranda now flows to the NE.; but there are strong reasons for believing that it anciently flowed to the NW., and disappeared in the Katavothra of the marsh of Taki. (Leake, Peloponnesiaca, p. 112, seq.) The two reputed sources of the Alpheius and Eurotas are found near the remains of Asea, at the copious source of water called Franyovrysi; but whether the source of the Alpheius be really the vent of the lake of Taki, cannot be decided with certainty. These two fountains unite their waters, as Pausanias describes, and again sink into the earth. After passing under a mountain called Tzimbanu, the Alpheius reappears at Marmara, probably Pegae. (Leake, Morea, vol. iii. p. 37, seq.)
  Below Pegae, the Alpheius receives the Helisson (Elisson: River of Davia), on which Megalopolis was situated, 30 stadia from the confluence. Below this, and near the town of Brenthe (Karitena), the Alpheius flows through a defile in the mountains, called the pass of Lavdha. This pass is the only opening in the mountains, by which the waters of central Arcadia find their way to the western sea. It divides the upper plain of the Alpheius, of which Megalopolis was the chief place, from the lower plain, in which Heraea was situated. (Leake, Morea, vol. ii. p. 19, seq.) Below Heraea, the Alpheius receives the Ladon (Ladon), which rises near Cleitor, and is celebrated in mythology as the father of Daphne. The Ladon is now called Rufea, Reufia or Rofia, by which name the Alpheius is called below its junction with the Ladon. In the upper part of its course the Alpheius is usually called the River of Karitena. Below the Ladon, at the distance of 20 stadia, the Alpheius receives the Erymanthus (Erumanthos), rising in the mountain of the same name, and forming the boundary between Elis and the territories of Heraea in Arcadia. After entering Elis, it flows past Olympia, forming the boundary between Pisatis and Triphylia, and falls into the Cyparissian gulf in the Ionian sea. At the mouth of the river was a temple and grove of Artemis Alpheionia. From the pass of Lavdha to the sea, the Alpheius is wide and shallow: in summer it is divided into several torrents, flowing between islands or sandbanks over a wide gravelly bed, while in winter it is full, rapid, and turbid. Its banks produce a great number of large plane-trees. (Leake, Morea, vol. ii. p. 67, Peloponnesiaca, p. 8.)
  Alpheius appears as a celebrated river-god in mythology; and it was apparently the subterranean passage of the river in the upper part of its course which gave rise to the fable that the Alpheius flowed beneath the sea, and attempted to mingle its waters with the fountain of Arethusa in the island of Ortygia in Syracuse. (Dict. of Biogr. art. Alpheius.) Hence Ovid calls the nymph Arethusa, Alpheias. (Met. v. 487.) Virgil (Aen. x. 179) gives the epithet of Alpheae to the Etruscan city of Pisae because the latter was said to have been founded by colonists from Pisa in Elis, near which the Alpheius flowed.

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited September 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


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