In Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician princess who was abducted by Zeus in bull form and taken to the island of Crete, where she gave birth to Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon. For Homer, Europe (Greek: Εὐρώπη Eurṓpē; see also List of traditional Greek place names) was a mythological queen of Crete, not a geographical designation. Later Europa stood for mainland Greece, and by 500 BC its meaning had been extended to lands to the north.
In etymology one theory suggests the name Europe is derived from the Greek words meaning broad (eurys) and face (ops) – broad having been an epithet of Earth itself in the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion; see Prithvi (Plataia). A minority, however, suggest this Greek popular etymology is really based on a Semitic word such as the Akkadian erebu meaning “sunset”, cognate to Arabic maghreb, Hebrew ma’ariv. (see also Erebus).
From the Middle Eastern vantage point, the sun does set over Europe, the lands to the west. Likewise, Asia is sometimes thought to have derived from a Semitic word such as the Akkadian asu, meaning “sunrise”, and is the land to the east from a Middle Eastern perspective. For centuries, the Turks used the term Frengistan (land of the Franks) in referring to Europe.
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