The Story of Zeus and Europa in Greek Mythology

Updated on June 2, 2018
Colin Quartermain profile image

Having travelled through Italy, Greece and the Aegean in his youth, Colin quickly became interested in the ancient mythology of the region.

Religion in Ancient Greece was based around a large pantheon of deities, and in the later period of worship, the main gods were based on Mount Olympus. At this point, Zeus was the supreme deity.

Stories of Greek mythology from this period tell partially of the rule of Zeus and partially of the acts of heroes and demi-gods. Many of the stories of Ancient Greece though tell of the love affairs of the gods, and there were dozens of stories based on the love life of Zeus.

One of the most famous stories of Zeus’ relationships with female goddesses and mortals is that of Zeus and Europa. The tale of Europa and Zeus became the starting point for three other relatively important individuals in Greek mythology, with Europa giving birth to three of Zeus’ sons.

The Lineage of Europa

Europa, in most of the historic sources, is considered to be the beautiful daughter of Agenor, King of Tyre; with her mother normally named as Telephassa or Argiope. Through her father, Europa is a granddaughter of Poseidon, and also a descendant of the nymph Io.

The parentage of Europa also means that, in most cases, she is the sister to three brothers, Cadmus, Cilix and Phoenix.

The Abduction of Europa

Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder (1722–1789) PD-art-100
Johann Heinrich Tischbein the Elder (1722–1789) PD-art-100 | Source

Europa and the Bull

After Guido Reni (1575–1642) PD-art-100
After Guido Reni (1575–1642) PD-art-100 | Source

The Abduction of Europa

The beauty of any mortal would quickly become known to one or more deities in the Greek pantheon, and from his throne of Mount Olympus, it was Zeus who first spied the beautiful Europa.

Despite being married at that time to the goddess Hera, Zeus was overwhelmed with desire for the princess of Tyre. Acting on his desire, Zeus transformed himself into a magnificent white bull and transported himself to Tyre.

Europa and her attendants were down by the shore gathering flowers when the white bull wandered up to them. Zeus made sure that the bull appeared totally tame, and he laid down at the feet of Europa. Initially, a little bit scared, Europa would eventually start to place flowers upon the white bull, before eventually deciding that the bull was tame enough for her to sit upon.

That was of course just what Zeus wanted, and with Europa on his back he entered the water and swam off into the sea. Europa was too frightened to jump off, and eventually, Zeus and Europa arrive on the shores of Crete.

Zeus then reveals himself to Europa and transforms into human form. Europa then readily agrees to be his lover beneath a cypress tree, and from the coupling, three sons were born, Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Sarpedon.

Zeus then left Europa on Crete, rather than returning her to tyre. Europa though prospered on Crete and married the Cretan king, Asterion; Europa becoming the first Queen of Crete.

The Abduction of Europa

Jean François de Troy (1679–1752) PD-art-100
Jean François de Troy (1679–1752) PD-art-100 | Source

Gifts for Europa

While Zeus left Europa on Crete, he did not simply abandon her, as he provided her with several gifts.

The first of these gifts was a beautifully decorative necklace that had been crafted by Hephaestus. This necklace is often said to be the “necklace of Harmonia,” the cursed necklace of the rulers of Thebes, with Europa giving the necklace as a wedding gift to her future sister-in-law. In other stories, the “necklace of Harmonia” is a different necklace created by, and cursed by Hephaestus.

The other gifts provided by Zeus to Europa would be more useful.

Talos – Generally considered to be another creation of the metal-working god Hephaestus, Talos was a gigantic man made of bronze. Each day he would circle Crete three times to offer the island and Europa protection. It would remain a protector of Crete until the Argo anchored off of the island’s coast.

In alternate versions of the myth, Talos is a creation of Daedalus or is a remnant of the bronze age of man.

Laelaps – The second gift left with Europa was a dog named Laelaps. Laelaps was a dog that was always destined to catch what it was chasing.

In a subsequent generation, Laelaps was sent to chase the Teumessian Fox; the fox which could not be caught. Faced with the quandary of the uncatchable and the inescapable, Zeus turned both into stone, before placing both of their likenesses in the heavens.

Javelin – The final gift was a magical javelin, which when thrown at a target would always hit.


Hendrik Goltzius (1558–1617) PD-art-100
Hendrik Goltzius (1558–1617) PD-art-100 | Source

Interconnecting Stories

The abduction of Europa by Zeus as the bull was a starting point for other stories.

Zeus was said to have placed a depiction of the bull in the stars, as the constellation Taurus, in remembrance of his love affair. In Greek mythology, the bull would also become closely linked with Crete, as Pasiphae would fall in love with the Cretan Bull, and subsequently give birth to the Minotaur.

The abduction of Europa also ultimately caused the founding of other city-states in the ancient world.

King Agenor dispatched his three sons to recover his daughter, but there was no clue as to who had abducted her or where she had been taken. Each brother set out on their hopeless task and went their separate ways, never to return to Tyre.

Phoenix was said to have departed for Africa; Cadmus went to mainland Greece and founded Thebes, and Cilix went to Asia Minor and founded Cilicia. The son of Cilix, Thasus, accompanied his father and founded Thasos.

The stories of the sons of Europa also begin with Minos becoming king of Crete, Sarpedon became king of Lycia, and Rhadamanthys went to Ocaleia in Boeotia and became ruler there. In the afterlife, Minos and Rhadamanthys would become two of the three judges of the underworld.

The End of Europa

There is no real end to the story of Europa, as she simply stops being mentioned, and the stories of her sons, and in particular Minos, take over. Of course, presumably, Europa, as a mortal dies, but her name certainly lives on, with the continent of Europe named after the lover of Zeus.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)