Where did Europe get its name from a story that surprised us

(ORDO NEWS) — This region got its name a long time ago, but why is Europe called that way? And who named her that?

The origin of the name “Europe” can be associated with several different peoples at once. The truth may lie somewhere in between.

Europe existed as a conceptual construct long before geographers began to argue whether there were seven continents on the planet or six (the latter model treats Europe and Asia as a single continent).

The ancient Greeks divided the world into three main parts: Europe, Asia and Libya, the last of which was in the well-known northern part of Africa.

This was the division used by Ptolemy when he compiled his map of the world in the Handbook of Geography (geōgraphikē hyphēgēsis) in the 2nd century AD. So, the concept of Europe is very old, but where did this name come from?

Why is Europe so called?

There are a number of theories. Using a linguistic approach, some scholars believe that the name Europa has a descriptive origin.

Those who look to ancient Greek to decipher its roots combine eurys, meaning “broad,” and ops, meaning “face” or “eye.”

The result is a name that can literally be translated as “broad looking” – and this fits the description of Europe’s wide coastline quite well. Proponents of this theory believe that the phrase eurys ops means “mainland”.

Other scholars argue that the origin of the name Europa can be found in the Semitic Akkadian language spoken in ancient Mesopotamia.

They point to the Akkadian word erebu, meaning “sunset,” and argue that, from a Mesopotamian point of view, the sun setting in the west was setting in Europe.

As a corollary they give the Akkadian word for sunrise, asu, from which they believe the name Asia is derived. From the point of view of the Mesopotamians, the rising Sun in the east would have risen from Asia.

A competing theory finds the eponym of Europa in mythology, especially in the many versions of stories about the goddess Europa, some of which date back millennia.

One of the oldest versions identifies Europa as one of the Oceanids, 3,000 sea nymphs who occupied a lower level in the hierarchy of Greek mythology. Europa was one of 41 of these minor deities. Although it is not clear why her name was chosen as the name.

Other versions link Europe to Demeter, goddess of the earth and agriculture. Although it is not known which name appeared first, it has been suggested that Europe was the local name for the earth goddess before the Greeks, while Demeter is the Greek name for a more regional deity.

In the most famous version of the Europa myth, this goddess was the daughter of Phoenix or Agenor, king of Phoenicia. She was kidnapped by Zeus, who disguised himself as a white bull. Zeus kidnapped her from Phoenicia to Crete, where she bore him three sons: Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon.


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