In Greek mythology, Europa (/jʊəˈroʊpə, jə-/; Ancient Greek:
Εὐρώπη, Eurṓpē, Attic Greek
pronunciation: [eu̯.rɔ̌ː.pɛː]) was the mother of King Minos
of Crete, a woman with Phoenician origin of high lineage, and after
whom the continent
Europe was named. The story of her abduction by
Zeus in the form of a white bull was a Cretan story; as classicist
Károly Kerényi points out, "most of the love-stories concerning Zeus
originated from more ancient tales describing his marriages with
goddesses. This can especially be said of the story of Europa."
Europa's earliest literary reference is in the Iliad, which is
commonly dated to the 8th century BC. Another early reference to
her is in a fragment of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, discovered at
Oxyrhynchus. The earliest vase-painting securely identifiable as
Europa dates from mid-7th century BC.
Astarte and Europa
5 In art and literature
6 Adoptions of the name
6.1.1 Chemical element
6.2 Moon of Jupiter
8.1 Primary sources
8.2 Secondary sources
9 External links
Terracotta figurine from Athens, c. 460–480 BC
Europe § Name
Greek Εὐρώπη (Eurṓpē) contains the elements εὐρύς
(eurus), "wide, broad" and ὤψ/ὠπ-/ὀπτ- (ōps/ōp-/opt-)
"eye, face, countenance". Broad has been an epithet of Earth
herself in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion.
It is common in ancient
Greek mythology and geography to identify
lands or rivers with female figures. Thus, Europa is first used in a
geographic context in the
Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo, in reference
to the western shore of the Aegean Sea. As a name for a part of the
known world, it is first used in the 6th century BC by
Hecataeus. The weakness of an etymology with εὐρύς (eurus),
is 1. that the -u stem of εὐρύς disappears in Εὐρώπη
Europa and 2. the expected form εὐρυώπη euryopa that retains
the -u stem in fact exists.
An alternative suggestion due to
Ernest Klein and Giovanni Semerano
(1966) attempted to connect a Semitic term for "west",
meaning "to go down, set" (in reference to the sun), Phoenician 'ereb
"evening; west", which would parallel occident (the resemblance to
Erebus, from PIE *h1regʷos, "darkness", is accidental, however).
Barry (1999) adduces the word Ereb on an Assyrian stele with the
meaning of "night", "[the country of] sunset", in opposition to Asu
"[the country of] sunrise", i.e. Asia (Anatolia coming equally from
Ἀνατολή, "(sun)rise", "east"). This proposal is mostly
considered unlikely or untenable.
Astarte and Europa
In the territory of Phoenician Sidon,
Lucian of Samosata
Lucian of Samosata (2nd century
AD) was informed that the temple of Astarte, whom Lucian equated with
the moon goddess, was sacred to Europa:
There is likewise in Phœnicia a temple of great size owned by the
Sidonians. They call it the temple of Astarte. I hold this
be no other than the moon-goddess. But according to the story of one
of the priests this temple is sacred to Europa, the sister of Cadmus.
She was the daughter of Agenor, and on her disappearance from Earth
the Phœnicians honoured her with a temple and told a sacred legend
about her; how that
Zeus was enamoured of her for her beauty, and
changing his form into that of a bull carried her off into Crete. This
legend I heard from other Phœnicians as well; and the coinage current
among the Sidonians bears upon it the effigy of Europa sitting upon a
bull, none other than Zeus. Thus they do not agree that the temple in
question is sacred to Europa.
The paradox, as it seemed to Lucian, would be solved if Europa is
Astarte in her guise as the full, "broad-faced" moon.
The birthplace of Europa, Tyre, Lebanon
Sources differ in details regarding Europa's family, but agree that
she is Phoenician, and from a lineage that descended from Io, the
mythical nymph beloved of Zeus, who was transformed into a heifer. She
is generally said to be the daughter of Agenor, the Phoenician King of
Tyre; the Syracusan poet Moschus makes her mother Queen
Telephassa ("far-shining") but elsewhere her mother is Argiope
("white-faced"). Other sources, such as the Iliad, claim that she
is the daughter of Agenor's son, the "sun-red" Phoenix. It is
generally agreed that she had two brothers, Cadmus, who brought the
alphabet to mainland Greece, and
Cilix who gave his name to
Asia Minor, with the author of
Bibliotheke including Phoenix as a
third. So some interpret this as her brother Phoenix (when he is
assumed to be son of Agenor) gave his siblings' name to his three
children and this Europa (by this case, niece of former) is also loved
by Zeus, but because of the same name, gave some confusions to others.
After arriving in Crete, Europa had three sons fathered by Zeus:
Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon, the three of whom became the three
judges of the Underworld when they died. In
Crete she married
Asterion also rendered Asterius and became mother (or step-mother) of
his daughter Crete.
The Abduction of Europa by Rembrandt, 1632
There were two competing myths relating how Europa came into the
Hellenic world, but they agreed that she came to
Crete (Kríti), where
the sacred bull was paramount. In the more familiar telling she was
seduced by the god
Zeus in the form of a bull, who breathed from his
mouth a saffron crocus and carried her away to
Crete on his
back—to be welcomed by Asterion, but according to the more
literal, euhemerist version that begins the account of Persian-Hellene
confrontations of Herodotus, she was kidnapped by Cretans, who
likewise were said to have taken her to Crete. The mythical Europa
cannot be separated from the mythology of the sacred bull, which had
been worshipped in the Levant. In 2012, an archaeological mission of
British Museum led by Lebanese archaeologist, Claude Doumet
Serhal, discovered at the site of the old American school in Sidon,
Lebanon currency that depicts Europa riding the bull with her veil
flying all over like a bow, further proof of Europa's Phoenician
Europa does not seem to have been venerated directly in cult anywhere
in classical Greece, but at Lebadaea in Boeotia, Pausanias noted
in the 2nd century AD that Europa was the epithet of
Demeter whom they surname Europa and say was the nurse of
Trophonios"—among the Olympians who were addressed by seekers at the
cave sanctuary of
Trophonios of Orchomenus, to whom a chthonic cult
and oracle were dedicated: "the grove of
Trophonios by the river
Herkyna ... there is also a sanctuary of
Demeter Europa ...
the nurse of Trophonios."
Argive genealogy in Greek mythology
Statue of Europa representing
Europe at Palazzo Ferreria
The mythographers[who?] tell that
Zeus was enamored of Europa and
decided to seduce or ravish her, the two being near-equivalent in
Greek myth. He transformed himself into a tame white bull and mixed in
with her father's herds. While Europa and her helpers were gathering
flowers, she saw the bull, caressed his flanks, and eventually got
onto his back.
Zeus took that opportunity and ran to the sea and swam,
with her on his back, to the island of Crete. He then revealed his
true identity, and Europa became the first queen of Crete.
her a necklace made by Hephaestus and three additional gifts:
Talos, Laelaps and a javelin that never missed.
Zeus later re-created
the shape of the white bull in the stars, which is now known as the
constellation Taurus. Some readers interpret as manifestations of this
same bull the Cretan beast that was encountered by Heracles, the
Marathonian Bull slain by
Theseus (and that fathered the Minotaur).
Roman mythology adopted the tale of the Raptus, also known as "The
Abduction of Europa" and "The
Seduction of Europa", substituting the
Jupiter for Zeus.
The myth of Europa and
Zeus may have its origin in a sacred union
between the Phoenician deities `Aštar and `Aštart (Astarte), in
bovine form. Having given birth to three sons by Zeus, Europa married
a king Asterios, this being also the name of the
Minotaur and an
epithet of Zeus, likely derived from the name `Aštar.
According to Herodotus' rationalizing approach, Europa was kidnapped
by Greeks (probably Cretans) who were seeking to avenge the kidnapping
of Io, a princess from Argos. His variant story may have been an
attempt to rationalize the earlier myth; or the present myth may be a
garbled version of facts—the abduction of a Phoenician
aristocrat—later enunciated without gloss by Herodotus.
The rape of Europa (El rapto de Europa), 1772, Francisco José de Goya
The Rape of Europa by
Europa in a fresco at Pompeii, contemporary with Ovid.
Europa velificans, "her fluttering tunic… in the breeze" (mosaic,
Zeugma Mosaic Museum)
The Rape of Europa by
Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre
Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre (1750)
The Rape of Europa by
Joan Tuset Suau
Joan Tuset Suau (1999)
In art and literature
Europa and bull on a Greek vase. Tarquinia Museum, circa 480 BCE
Europa provided the substance of a brief
Hellenistic epic written in
the mid-2nd century BCE by Moschus, a bucolic poet and friend of the
Alexandrian grammarian Aristarchus of Samothrace, born at
In Metamorphoses, the poet
Ovid wrote the following depiction of
And gradually she lost her fear, and he
Offered his breast for her virgin caresses,
His horns for her to wind with chains of flowers
Until the princess dared to mount his back
Her pet bull's back, unwitting whom she rode.
Then—slowly, slowly down the broad, dry beach—
First in the shallow waves the great god set
His spurious hooves, then sauntered further out
'til in the open sea he bore his prize
Fear filled her heart as, gazing back, she saw
The fast receding sands. Her right hand grasped
A horn, the other lent upon his back
Her fluttering tunic floated in the breeze.
His picturesque details belong to anecdote and fable: in all the
depictions, whether she straddles the bull, as in archaic
vase-paintings or the ruined metope fragment from Sikyon, or sits
gracefully sidesaddle as in a mosaic from North Africa, there is no
trace of fear. Often Europa steadies herself by touching one of the
bull's horns, acquiescing.
Her tale is also mentioned in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales.
Though his story titled "Dragon's teeth" is largely about Cadmus, it
begins with an elaborate albeit toned down version of Europa's
abduction by the beautiful bull.
Adoptions of the name
Europa and the bull, depicted as the continent's personification in
Nova et accurata totius Europæ descriptio by Fredericus de Wit (1700)
Further information: European symbols § Europa
The name Europe, as a geographical term, was used by Ancient Greek
geographers such as
Strabo to refer to part of
Thrace below the Balkan
mountains. Later, under the Roman Empire the name was given to a
It is derived from the Greek word Eurōpē (Εὐρώπη) in all
Romance languages, Germanic languages, Slavic languages, Baltic
languages, Celtic languages, Iranian languages, Uralic languages
(Hungarian Európa, Finnish Eurooppa, Estonian Euroopa).
Europa seen on the 2013 Europa Series of euro banknotes
Jürgen Fischer, in Oriens-Occidens-Europa summarized how the name
came into use, supplanting the oriens–occidens dichotomy of the
later Roman Empire, which was expressive of a divided empire, Latin in
the West, Greek in the East.
In the 8th century, ecclesiastical uses of "Europa" for the imperium
Charlemagne provide the source for the modern geographical term.
The first use of the term Europenses, to describe peoples of the
Christian, western portion of the continent, appeared in the Hispanic
Latin Chronicle of 754, sometimes attributed to an author called
Isidore Pacensis in reference to the
Battle of Tours
Battle of Tours fought
against Muslim forces.
The European Union has also used Europa as a symbol of
pan-Europeanism, notably by naming its web portal after her and
depicting her on the Greek €2 coin and on several gold and silver
commemorative coins (e.g. the Belgian €10 European Expansion coin).
Her name appeared on postage stamps celebrating the Council of Europe,
which were first issued in 1956. The second series of euro banknotes
is known as the Europa Series and bears her likeness in the watermark
The metal europium, a rare-earth element, was named in 1901 after the
Moon of Jupiter
Europa, a moon of Jupiter
Further information: Europa (moon)
The invention of the telescope revealed that the planet Jupiter,
clearly visible to the naked eye and known to humanity since
prehistoric times, has an attendant family of moons. These were named
for male and female lovers of the god and other mythological persons
associated with him. The smallest of Jupiter's Galilean moons was
named after Europa.
^ Kerenyi 1951, p. 108
^ Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Le monde d'Homère, Perrin 2000:19; M.I.
Finley, The World of Odysseus, (1954) 1978:16 gives "the years between
750 and 700 BC, or a bit later".
^ The papyrus fragment itself dates from the third century AD: see
Hesiodic fragments 19 and 19A.
^ Walter Burkert, Greek Religion (1985) I.3.2, note 20, referring to
Schefold, plate 11B. References in myth and art have been assembled by
W. Bühler, Europa: eine Sammlung der Zeugnisse des Mythos in der
antiken Litteratur und Kunst (1967).
^ εὐρύς, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English
Lexicon, on Perseus
^ ὤψ, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon,
^ M. L. West (2007). Indo-European poetry and myth. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. pp. 178–179. ISBN 0-19-928075-4. .
Compare also glaukōpis (γλαυκῶπις 'grey-eyed') Athena or
boōpis (βοὠπις 'ox-eyed') Hera).
^ Τελφοῦσ᾽, ἐνθάδε δὴ φρονέω
περικαλλέα νηὸν / ἀνθρώπων τεῦξαι
χρηστήριον, οἵτε μοι αἰεὶ ἐνθάδ᾽
ἀγινήσουσι τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας, /
ἠμὲν ὅσοι Πελοπόννησον πίειραν
ἔχουσιν / ἠδ᾽ ὅσοι Εὐρώπην τε καὶ
ἀμφιρύτας κατὰ νήσους "Telphusa, here I am minded
to make a glorious temple, an oracle for men, and hither they will
always bring perfect hecatombs, both those who live in rich
Peloponnesus and those of
Europe and all the wave-washed isles, coming
to seek oracles." (verses 247–251, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White).
^ Histories 4.38. C.f. James Rennell, The geographical system of
Herodotus examined and explained, Volume 1, Rivington 1830, p. 244
^ M.A. Barry (1999): « L’
Europe et son mythe : à la
poursuite du couchant ». Revue des deux Mondes. p. 110.
Martin Litchfield West
Martin Litchfield West states that "phonologically, the match
between Europa's name and any form of the Semitic word is very poor".
M. L. West (1997). The east face of Helicon: west Asiatic elements in
Greek poetry and myth. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 451.
ISBN 0-19-815221-3. .
^ Klein, Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (Barking:
Elsevier) vol. I A-K, 1966; Klein's etymology of Europa is singled out
among his "optimistic" conclusions by G. W. S. Friedrichsen reviewing
the Dictionary in The Review of English Studies New Series, 18.71
^ Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905).
New International Encyclopedia
New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd,
De Dea Syria
De Dea Syria 4 (On-line text).
^ a b "Europa (mythology)". Encarta. Microsoft Corporation.
^ Moschus, Europa (on-line text at Theoi Project).
^ Kerenyi points out that these names are attributes of the moon, as
is Europa's broad countenance.
^ Hesiodic fragment 19, a scholium on
Iliad XII.292 (which does not
^ According to the scholium on
Iliad XII.292, noted in Karl Kerenyi,
Dionysus: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life p105. Pausanias
rendered the name
Asterion (2.31.1); in
Bibliotheke (3.1.4) it is
^ Herodotus, Histories I.1; the act is made out to be a revenge for
the previous "kidnapping" of Io.
^ "The Designer: And if
Europe was Sidonian?". Lorientjour.com.
^ No public statue of Europa is mentioned by Pausanias or any other
Classical writer, but a headless statuette, closely draped in a cloak
over a peplos, of the type called "Amelung's Goddess", but inscribed
"Europa", at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, seems to be a Roman copy
of a lost Greek original, of c. 460 BC; an uninscribed statuette of
the same type, from Hama, Syria, is in the Damascus Museum, and a
full-size copy has been found in
Baiae (Martin Robertson, "Europa"
Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 20.1/2 (1957:1-3, figs
b, c); I. E. S. Edwards, ed. The Cambridge Ancient History, plates to
vols. V and VI 1970:illus. fig. 24.
^ Pausanias, Guide to Greece 9.39.2–5.
^ Hesiodic fragment.
^ M. L. West (23 October 1997). The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic
Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth. Oxford University Press.
pp. 452–. ISBN 978-0-19-159104-4.
^ The poem was published with voluminous notes and critical apparatus:
Winfried Bühler, Die Europa des Moschos (Wiesbaden: Steiner) 1960.
^ Strabo, Geography 8.1.1.
^ Jürgen Fischer, Oriens–Occidens–Europa (Wiesbaden: Steiner)
^ David Levering Lewis, God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of
Europe, 570 to 1215, New York: W. W. Norton, 2008.
^ "Periodic Table: Europium". Royal Society of Chemistry.
Missing or empty url= (help)
Isidore, Etymologiae xiv.4.1
Herodotus, The Histories, Book 1.2
Eusebius, Chronicon, 47.7–10, 25, 53.16–17, 55.4–5
Ovid, Metamorphoses, 862, translation by A.D. Melville (1986),
Metamorphoses, ii.833-iii.2, vi.103–107
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke, III, i, 1–2
Apollodorus, The Library of Greek Mythology (Oxford World's Classics),
translated by Robin Hard, Oxford University Press, 1999.
Kerenyi, Karl, 1951. The Gods of the Greeks (Thames and Hudson)
Graves, Robert, (1955) 1960. The Greek Myths
Europe à l'Europe, I. Le mythe d'
Europe dans l'art et la culture de
l'antiquité au XVIIIe s. (colloque de Paris, ENS – Ulm,
24-26.04.1997), éd. R. Poignault et O. Wattel — de Croizant,
coll. Caesarodunum, n° XXXI bis, 1998.
Europe à l'Europe, II. Mythe et identité du XIXe s. à nos jours
(colloque de Caen, 30.09-02.10.1999), éd. R. Poignault, F. Lecocq et
O. Wattel – de Croizant, coll. Caesarodunum, n° XXXIII bis,
Europe à l’Europe, III. La dimension politique et religieuse du
Europe de l‘Antiquité à nos jours (colloque de Paris,
ENS-Ulm, 29-30.11.2001), éd. O. Wattel — De Croizant, coll.
Caesarodunum, n° hors-série, 2002.
Europe à l’Europe, IV. Entre
Orient et Occident, du mythe à la
géopolitique (colloque de Paris, ENS-Ulm, 18-20.05.2006), dir. O.
Wattel — de Croizant & G. de Montifroy, Editions de l’Age
d’Homme, Lausanne – Paris, 2007.
Europe à l’Europe, V. État des connaissances (colloque de
Bruxelles, 21-22.10.2010), dir. O. Wattel - de Croizant & A. Roba,
Bruxelles, éd. Métamorphoses d’
Europe asbl, 2011.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Europa (mythology).
Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia
A metope from Sicily, carved with Europa, c. 550 – 540 BCE: the
bull's face, turned head-on, clearly reveals his Near Eastern iconic
Europa on the
Greek euro coin
Greek euro coin of €2
www.europesname.eu A study describing the origin and artistic use of
the name EUROPE in its mythical, geographic and political sense by
Drs. Peter H. Gommers
Warburg Institute Iconographic Database (ca 250 images of Europa)
Symbols of Europe
Bosnia and Herzegovina
States with limited
Isle of Man
Sovereign Military Order of Malta