The protagonist of this week's Women's Wednesday is Europa, the very woman after whom the continent of Europe was named. The legend goes that Europa, originally from Phoenicia, was brought to Crete by Zeus himself: the god, in fact, had become infatuated with her and kidnapped her, supposedly by turning into a white bull and carrying the girl on his back.
It seems that Europa and the figure of the bull just cannot be separated; once in Crete, in fact, Europa became queen of the island and had three sons. One of her sons was Minos, later king of Crete himself: it was him who eventually built the famous labyrinth in which the Minotaur (part man, part bull!) lived. According to some, however, bovines would be even more central in Europa's story: the girl, in fact, would have descended from Io, also beloved by Zeus, who had been turned into a heifer by the god. And again: Boccaccio himself, before discussing the myth according to which Zeus would have transformed into one, states that Europa traveled to Crete on a boat bearing a flag with a white bull on it.
(Please forgive us for the obligatory bad pun!)
“Europa”, illumination from the manuscript “De Mulieribus Claris”, decorated by Robinet Testard, ms. Français 599, f. 11v, 1488-1496, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Paris.
Historically and mythologically speaking, being in a powerful position (and perhaps also a…