The Greek Mythological Origin of the Name of Europe — Greek City Times

The name “Europe” has its origins in the Greek word Εὐρώπη (Eurṓpē) with εὐρύς, eurýs, meaning wide or wide and ὄψ, óps, meaning sight or face – or grouping together in English as Europe.

The Phoenician princess Εὐρώπη/Europa who was “taken” by Zeus in the disguise of a bull and the name can be translated as “clairvoyance” or “broad gaze”.

Europa is one of Zeus’ lovers in Greek mythology, and arguably the most famous of a long line of lovers. The love life of Zeus was a cornerstone of Greek mythology as it explained the existence of many other characters in ancient tales.

Europa’s story was important because the relationship between Zeus and Europa would produce three sons, who would become important kings in their own right, while establishing a royal line in Crete.

Europa however was not from Crete, as she was actually born a prince of Tyre, a region which is now in Lebanon, as she was the daughter of King Agenor, and his wife who was either Telephassa or Argiope.

Via Agenor, Europa was a great-great-granddaughter of Io, another famous lover of Zeus.

Being a daughter of Agenor also meant that Europa was a sister of Cadmus, Cilix and Phoenix.

As Europa matured, it soon became apparent that the Princess of Tire was extremely beautiful, and if there was one thing Zeus couldn’t resist, it was a beautiful mortal.

Zeus was of course married to Hera, but being married never stopped Zeus from trying to have what he wanted with whom he loved.

So Zeus descended from Mount Olympus to Tyre, then the supreme god turned into a magnificent white bull.

As Europa, with her servants, went to the shore of Tyre, and there Europa was picking flowers. Zeus, in the form of the bull, walked towards Europa and his servants, who were all greatly impressed by the seemingly tame white bull.

The Story of Zeus and Europa in Greek Mythology - Owlcation

Zeus would lie down at Europa’s feet, and finally Agenor’s daughter would lay her flowers and climb on the bull’s back.

This is of course what Zeus had planned all along, and as soon as Europa sat on his back, Zeus waded into the water, Europa was too scared to jump at first, then it was too late, for Europe and the bull were in deeper water.

Zeus swam many miles of the Mediterranean Sea, until Zeus and Europa found themselves on the coast of Crete.

Zeus then revealed himself, transforming into a bull in human form, and there, on the coast, under a cypress tree, Europa and Zeus consummated a brief relationship.

Zeus would return to Mount Olympus, while Europa would remain in Crete; Europa would prosper in Crete by marrying the regent, King Asterion.

Asterion will subsequently adopt the sons of Zeus and Europa as if they were his own.

Zeus might have left his lover in Crete, but the god had not abandoned Europa, and the new queen of Crete received a number of different gifts.

After marrying Asterion, Europa’s story comes to an end, for although it must be assumed that mortal Europa died, this is not recorded in ancient sources.

Of course, the name Europe would live on, as the continent of Europe would be named after the Queen of Crete, and of course, many stories related to Europe would continue.

In Crete, Minos would become king of Crete after Asterion, exiling Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon, who were both then ruling over their own cities (Ocaleia and Lydia).

Minos would create a dynasty of kings after his marriage to Pasiphae, and his line would rule in the form of Catreus and Idomeneus. Minos and Rhadamanthys would also become judges of the dead in the underworld.

Significant events were also underway in Tyre, as King Agenor had dispatched his sons, Cadmus, Cilix and Phoenix, in search of their lost sister.

Now the brothers soon realized the impossibility of their task, and so rather than return to Tyre, they also established new city-states, Cadmus founding Thebes, Cilix founding Cilicia, and Phoenix founding Phoenicia.

READ MORE: Archaeologists uncover parts of weapons, temple in ancient Greek city in Italy.

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