The story of Europa from The Metamorphosesby Ovid recounts one of Jove’s many trysts. Much like Zeus in Greek mythology, Jove is a philanderer who chases women down and has sex with them, by either rape, trickery, or charm. In the case of Europa, Jove chooses to use deception.
The story of Europa from The Metamorphoses by Ovid recounts one of Jove’s many trysts. Much like Zeus in Greek mythology, Jove is a philanderer who chases women down and has sex with them, by either rape, trickery, or charm. In the case of Europa, Jove chooses to use deception.
At the start of the myth, Jove tells Mercury to drive the royal cattle down to the shore. This is Jove setting up for the trickery. The coast of Sidon is where the princess and other maidens come to spend time. Jove plans to turn himself into a beautiful white bull and get the princess to climb on his back because
Majestic power and erotic love
Do not get on together very well,
Nor do they linger long in the same place ... (Book 2)
Jove understands that most women will be afraid of him, so he turns himself into a bull to make it easier to seduce Europa. This is one of Jove’s oldest tricks—transfiguration allows him to get close to human maidens, and once they are close, he can seduce them. While the seduction plays into the trope of Jove’s romances, it isn’t the main point of the story.
Once Europa is on Jove’s back, he speeds off with her across the sea to his island, Crete. Crete is where, traditionally, Jove was put to save him from his Titan father. Europa is put on Crete because it is safe for her there; she is unharmed by Juno. The story in book 2 illustrates the lengths to which Jove will go to fulfill his lust, taking Europa far from her homeland to satisfy his passion.
Europa’s story is important as a myth because it explains the founding of the Minoan civilization, the birth of King Minos, and the establishment of many cities by the brothers of Europa who are sent out to find her. It is because she traveled from Asia Minor to Europe in the myth that the continent takes its name from Europa.