Athenian Hero


The Abduction of Europa by Jean François de Troy

The Abduction of Europa by Jean François de Troy (1716).

National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C., United States)Public Domain


Europa was a Phoenician princess, the daughter of either Phoenix or Agenor. Zeus fell in love with her and, in the form of a flying bull, carried her off to the island of Crete. There, Europa bore Zeus Minos and Rhadamanthys as well as (in later accounts) Sarpedon before marrying the Cretan king Asterius.

Europa was given marvelous gifts by Zeus: a bronze man called Talos to guard her, a hunting dog that always caught its quarry, and a javelin that never missed.

Europa’s father, meanwhile, sent his sons to find Europa, but when each of them failed in this quest they each settled down elsewhere, with Europa’s brother Cadmus, notably, founding Thebes.

Europa was worshiped in the Cretan city of Gortyn, where there was even an annual festival in her honor. She was also a popular figure of art, ancient as well as postclassical, and her myth remains one of the best-known tales of Zeus’ amorous adventures.[1]