Sunday, 30 September 2012


The story as told by Moschus, a Greek bucolic poet who lived in Syracuse (Sicily) in the 2nd century BC: 
Zeus was enamored of Europa and decided to seduce her. He transformed himself into a tame white bull and mixed in with her father's herds.
 While Europa and her female attendants 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. Zeus gave her a necklace made by Hephaestus and three additional gifts: Talos (the sun, also the name of a man made of bronze), Laelaps (a dog who never failed to catch what he was hunting) 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.

It was hardly an abduction...

Even in folk tale versions of Europa's story, such as The Brown Bull of Norrowa (by Mrs Molesworth), the girl simply climbs up onto the broad, warm back of the ferocious bull and rides away.

And the bull is ferocious, don't be fooled.

Like Gugulanna, the Mesopotamian Bull of Heaven- this bull is a creature of earth-quake and lightning bolts.

In Europa's story the bull is Zeus, Deus, Tiwaz...the god of the gods.

Like Ereshkigal stolen by The Kur.
Or Persephone dragged down by the Lord of the Dead.

Deus is a force that may not be denied.

Europa's earliest literary reference is in the Iliad, which is commonly dated to the 8th century BCE.
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 BCE.
Europa's name, if we follow the Mesopotamian link, means the quenching of light.

If Europa's name originates in Mesopotamia, it may come to us via the Akkadian word that gave us one of many words for the Greek underworld: erebus. From Akkadian " Erebu " meaning, sunset, evening" (hence, "darkness").

 Paris psalterNyx on the left is represented
 according to hellenistic conventions. AD 1000.
It is preserved in Hebrew as erebh and transferred to Greek via Homer as Erebus, the dark and gloomy space under the earth, through which the shades pass into Hades.

Its connection with Persephone is via the name Erishkigal.

e-ri-iš -Queen.
ki-gal -Great Earth.

If Hesiod took inspiration from stories he heard in the eighth or ninth century Greek trading colonies such as Al Mina in North Syria. It is reasonable to guess that in his theogeny Ereshkigal loses her name, becoming Nyx (night) the Queen of Darkness, and Persephone.

Linguistically there is no connection between the story of Europa and  darkness in Hesiod's Theogeny. But the Queen of darkness theme is too good for a story teller to throw away, as is that other part of Erishkigal's story- the abduction.

Hesiod wrote in 'Epic Greek', but probably spoke in his native local Boeotian dialect. The name Europa name may come from: eurus meaning broad or wide.

Note:-the letter that looks like a P is pronounced as an R.
Is it possible that the name Hesiod heard spoken by story-tellers: Erishkigal sounded to him like 'broad' something or other? and so Hesiod made Europa into a wide daughter of Terthys and Ocean?

If this is the case, Hesiod's Europa is a nymph, living in a river, or stream:
For there are three thousand neat-ankled daughters of Ocean who are dispersed far and wide, and in every place alike serve the earth and the deep waters, children who are glorious among goddesses. And as many other rivers are there, babbling as they flow, sons of Ocean, whom queenly Tethys bare, but their names it is hard for a mortal man to tell, but people know those by which they severally dwell.

Hesiod splits Erishkigal's story.
He tells her story through Nyx (Night, daughter of The Void) and Persephone.

The dread, terrifying aspect is given to the name Echidna :
 ...the goddess fierce Echidna who is half a nymph with glancing eyes and fair cheeks, and half again a huge snake, great and awful, with speckled skin, eating raw flesh beneath the secret parts of the holy earth. And there she has a cave deep down under a hollow rock far from the deathless gods and mortal men. There, then, did the gods appoint her a glorious house to dwell in: and she keeps guard in Arima beneath the earth, grim Echidna, a nymph who dies not nor grows old all her days.
Hesiod mentions Europa in passing; she is one nymph among many in a list, not a story. And yet she, like Persephone (another name among many in Hesiod, and only mentioned briefly) assumed a much greater importance in other people's work.

Persephone, regardless of Hesiod's lack of details about her, was an integral part of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Likewise Europa was recognised as an element of 'Phoenician' culture, and was linked to at least one religious site.

Herodotus mentions Europa three times in his Histories (written between 450 to the 420 BC).

Right at the beginning of book one, Herodotus tells us that the abduction of women: Io, Europa, Medea and Helen, is the precursor to all the conflicts between the 'East' and the 'West'.

Between 'Persia' and 'Europe'.

He never doubts that Europa was a real woman, and that myth records *real* events.

Herodotus tells us that, the Phoenicians traded goods from Egypt and Assyria. They landed at many places on the coast, including Argos, which was then a very important Greek city. A group of women, including, Io, king Inachus's daughter went on board the Phoenician ships to see what they could buy, but the Phoenicians tried to seize the women; most escaped, but Io was among the captives.

The Phoenicians  set sail for Egypt.
"Thus did Io pass into Egypt, according to the Persian story, which differs widely from the Phoenician: and thus commenced, according to their authors, the series of outrages". 
"At a later period", Herodotus says:
"certain Greeks, with whose name they are unacquainted, but who would probably be Cretans, made a landing at Tyre, on the Phoenician coast, and bore off the king's daughter, Europa".
Europa was the daughter of  Agenor, the Phoenician king of Tyre, and after she has been taken, her brother, Cadmus leads the search. Cadmus searches on the island of Thera (Santorini) and leaves a number of Phoenicians there who latter settle, and raise families on the island.

Herodotus also tells us that Europa gave birth to two sons: Sarpedon and Minos who fought continually for possession of the throne of Crete.

Lucian of Samosata.
Meanwhile an eye witness account of a 'Phoenician' (Mesopotamian) origin of the abducted goddess story, and its conflation with Europa, comes from Lucian of Samosata (2nd century AD).

Lucian was an Assyrian who wrote satire and was fond of sarcasm (rather like Aristophanes), so it is difficult to know how to read him.

Lucian of Samosata was informed that the temple of Astarte in Phoenician Sidon, 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 Astarte to 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..."

Notes to follow:

+The Goddess and the Bull- Çatalhöyük.

+ What was carried out in absolute secrecy in Eleusis was also done in Crete.

Silver stator. Gortyna, Crete, 4th Century B.C.