This myth is about a beautiful girl that was abducted and then seduced by Zeus, the chief of the Gods. This concept is pretty usual in the Greek mythology. The remarkable thing is that this girl gave her name to the whole continent of Europe. Her story has been particularly popular since the ancient times and has been depicted in many ancient pieces of ceramics and coins. Moreover, it touched the painters of Renaissance, who created many impressive and inspired pictures having the myth as their theme.
Nowadays, this lovely fable is depicted in the 2-euro coin of the European Union to pay attribute to the Godmother of Europe. The story of Europa is interesting and the end is surprisingly good, in contrast to the usual tragic endings of the Greek myths.
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Discover the myth of Europa, the godmother of a continent
The abduction from Zeus
The name of Europa is mentioned in many contexts, most of which deal with the divine union between a young girl and Zeus. The most popular myth about Europa says that she was the daughter of Agenor, a Phoenician king, and later became a wife of Zeus, the King of Gods.
According to the legend, Europa was the epitome of feminine beauty on Earth. Zeus once saw her on the seashore of Phoenicia playing with her friends. He was so captivated by her beauty that he fell in love with her and developed a strong desire to possess her. Immediately, he took the form of a white bull and approached her. The bull looked wonderful with its snow-white body and gem-like horns. Europa looked at the extraordinary animal curiously and dared to touch and later hang him because he appeared so calm to her. Later, she was somehow motivated to climb on his back.
As soon as she did so, Zeus ran to the sea and carried her all the way from Phoenicia to the island of Crete. There he regained his human form and mated with her under an evergreen tree. This was the abduction of Europa, who later gave birth to three sons of Zeus, Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. These men were known for their fairness and became the three judges of the Underworld, when they died. In fact, Minos founded the town of Knossos and gave his name to an entire civilization, the Minoan civilization.
Zeus loved Europa so much that he showered her with three priceless gifts. The first one was a bronze man, Talos, who served as a guard to her. He was the bronze giant that the Argonauts met and killed in their attempt to shore on Crete. The second was a dog, Laelaps, which could hunt anything she wanted. The last one was a javelin that had the power to hit the target, whatever it was. Europa was later married to one of the kings of Crete, Asterius, who adopted her sons and made her the first queen of Crete.
Searching for Europa
In the meanwhile, her father, Agenor, had ordered her brothers to cross the whole world and not to return if they hadn't found his precious daughter. Europa had four brothers. Cilix, his eldest brother, was searching for a long time but with no success. He ended up in a region in Asia Minor, which he named Cicilia after him and became a king there. Thasus eventually landed on the island of Thassos, also gave it his name and reigned there. Phoenix went to Africa.
Cadmus, the youngest and most beloved brother of Europa, asked the Oracle of Delphi what to do. The priests of the Oracle told him not to worry about his sister because she was safe. They also told him to go to Boeotia, a region to the north of Athens, and found a town there, which would become rich and powerful in the years to come. Indeed, Cadmus founded a town in Boetia to which gave his name, Cadmia. Later on, this town changed its name and was called Thebes.
It is said that when Europa died, Zeus transformed her into a star complex and he himself took again the shape of the white bull to merge in the complex. The Taurus Constellation is believed to be the form of Zeus. Today the name Europa has been given to one of Jupiter's 16 moons and in fact this moon is very special, as it is believed to have water on its surface.