Europa and the bull, depicted by Jean-François de Troy (1716)
In Greek mythology Europa (/jʊˈroʊpə, jə-/; Greek: Εὐρώπη Eurṓpē; Doric Greek: Εὐρώπα Eurṓpā) was a Phoenician woman of high lineage, for 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 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 B.C. 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 B.C.
Europe is the world’s second-smallest continent by surface area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometres (3,930,000 sq mi) or 2% of the Earth’s surface and about 6.8% of its land area. Of Europe’s approximately 50 countries, Russia is by far the largest by both area and population, taking up 40% of the continent (although the country has territory in both Europe and Asia), while Vatican City is the smallest. Europe is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of 739–743 million or about 11% of the world’s population. The most commonly used currency is the euro.
Europe, in particular ancient Greece, is the birthplace of Western culture. It played a predominant role in global affairs from the 15th century onwards
The name of Europe as a geographical term came in use 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 Thracian province.
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).
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 of 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 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 and hologram.
USAGE: Greek Mythology (Latinized)
OTHER SCRIPTS: Ευρωπη (Ancient Greek)
Meaning & History
Latinized form of Greek Ευρωπη (Europe), which meant “wide face” from ευρυς (eurys) “wide” and ωψ (ops) “face, eye”. In Greek mythology Europa was a Phoenician princess who was abducted and taken to Crete by Zeus in the guise of a bull. The continent of Europe is named for her. This is also the name of a moon of Jupiter.
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Sources: Wikipedia & behindthename.com