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When Greek God Zeus Turned into a Bull to Abduct the Girl he Loved

europa
“Rape of Europa,” Credit: Public Domain

Zeus, the king of the Olympian Gods, turned into a white bull to abduct Europa, the girl he loved, according to Greek mythology.

The story of Zeus and Europa is one of the most famous tales of love and lust between the gods.

Zeus was not only known for being the most prominent deity in the ancient Greek pantheon. He also had a reputation for his endless affairs. His many children, not all of them from the same mother, had the most extraordinary origins one could imagine.

Europa, a Greek Phoenician princess was the only daughter of the King of Tyre Agenor. The Greek historian, Herodotus, estimated that Agenor lived either 1000 or 1,600 years prior to his visit to Tyre in 450 BC.

Zeus was smitten by Europa, the beautiful Phoenician princess

As the tale goes, Zeus was so smitten by the beautiful Phoenician princess that he transformed himself into a bull to abduct the girl.

When Zeus was close enough to Europa and her friends, he immediately leaned down at Europa’s feet and appeared wholly submitted to her. Encouraged by her friends, Europa climbed on the animal’s back. Zeus got up and slowly started walking around.

Soon, however, he accelerated his pace and eventually broke into a gallop, with Europa clinging on for her life.

Before long, Zeus and the frightened Europa reached the seaside. Zeus dived into the sea with Europa.

Zeus Europa abduction
Drawing depicting the abduction of Europa. Public Domain

Zeus carried Europa to Crete from Phoenicia

Europa’s parents were beyond themselves, and Agenor sent out his sons to look for her but in vain, as they never found her and were eventually forced to abandon their search for their sister.

Zeus had carried Europa to the island of Crete from Phoenicia. Once they got to Crete, Zeus reclaimed his human shape and finally materialized his lust by mating with her under an evergreen tree. This is how Europa was abducted.

This whole time, Zeus was married to the goddess Hera, but he could not overcome his desire for the princess of Tyre.

Europa bore three sons with Zeus. These three sons born from the union of Zeus and the Phoenician princess were known for their fairmindedness and justice.

Zeus Europa statue
A modern statue at Agios Nikolaos, Crete depicts the abduction of Europa. Credit: Neil Howard/Flickr

Gifts to Europa

Zeus loved Europa unconditionally. His love knew no bounds, so he gave her three special and invaluable gifts.

The three gifts included Talos, a giant bronze man who was her guard. He was mighty and strong and didn’t back down from a fight.

The second priceless gift was Laelaps, a dog. This dog was precious because it could chase and hunt down whatever Europa desired.

The final gift was a javelin. This weapon was unique because it had the power to hit the target regardless of what the target was.

Zeus also gifted her a beautiful ornamental necklace that Hephaestus had created.

The End to Europa’s Story

None of the ancient sources clarify what became of Europa in the end. In Greek mythology, she disappeared once she fulfilled her purpose.

According to another tale, Zeus metamorphosed her into a star complex.

 

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