Princess Europa of Phoenicia woke up early one morning, took her basket and went to the meadows near the seashore, to pick flowers with her friends.
It was springtime and the meadows were adorned with various types of pretty blossoms. Meanwhile, high up in Olympus Zeus decided to gaze down upon the mortals of the earth.
In doing so he caught a glimpse of Princess Europa and her companions collecting flowers in the meadows.
All the maidens were fair of beauty however; Europa was even more beautiful than the others. Taken by her great beauty he looked even more closely at her.
Aphrodite came by and saw Zeus looking intently at Europa so being her mischievous self, she decided to tell her son Cupid to shoot one of her arrows of love at Zeus's heart with his bow.
Zeus being distracted by the spectacle below didn't pay attention to Aphrodite and Cupid quietly plotting in the corner.
Though Cupid was afraid of Zeus, he loved his mother too dearly to disobey her.
He hesitated at first however, his mother kept on whispering in his ear, compelling him to shoot Zeus that he finally gave in.
When the arrow of love, struck Zeus's heart, he fell deeply in love with Europa.
Craving to win her love and in fear of being caught by his wife Hera, he turned himself into a strong, handsome bull with long golden horns and shiny white fur.
He then blended in a herd of cattle owned by Europa's father, king Ageron and told his son Hermes to pretend to be the cattle driver and drive the cattle on the seashore near the busy maidens.
While Europa was picking flowers and putting them into her basket she heard someone driving a herd of cattle on the seashore.
Out of curiosity, she stopped to look at the sight and the handsome bull with golden horns among the cattle herd grabbed her attention.
She called out to the cattle driver to stop and as he and the cattle came to a halt she carried her basket of flowers and ran with her friends down to the seashore to get a closer look at
the magnificent bull. The bull looked so gentle that the girls were not frightened to go near it and touch it. They put a crown of flowers on its head and caressed it.
The bull moved closer to Europa and as she touched it, it lay down on the sand before her as if beckoning her to sit on it.
She playfully sat on its back and the bull gently stood up and with her on its back and walked towards the sea.
Unaware of what the bull will do later, Europa calmly sat on its back as it approached the sea. Once it immersed itself in the sea, the bull swam swiftly in one direction.
Europa bewildered by the bull's action held on tightly to one of its horns with one hand and held up the hem of her dress with the other so as not to let her long dress get wet.
As the bull swam in the ocean, the waves grew smooth around it and a few sea nymphs called Nereids surfaced from the depths of the ocean,
singing sweet songs as they escorted the bull on its journey. Europa in seeing the sea nymphs and the state of the waves realized that the bull was not really a bull but a god.
She pleaded to the bull to keep her from harm and not abandon her at some deserted island.
The bull revealed its identity to her and told her not to worry for they are going to Crete where Zeus's mother had concealed him from Cronus after his birth.
In the meantime, in Olympus, Aphrodite was beside herself with glee as she drank wine from a golden goblet and watched Zeus make a fool out of himself on earth.
Cupid sat beside his mother looking half guilty and half scared to death for he is afraid of what Zeus might do to him if the word got out that he shot him.
Aphrodite assured her son that no one will ever find out about their little trick on Zeus to which Cupid let out a sigh of relief and calm down.
As Zeus took Europa ashore on Crete, the Nereids returned into the depths of the sea and Zeus changed into his human form and took Europa to king Asterius's castle.
He asked the king to give a room in the castle to the princess and the king agreed since he wanted the favor of the gods upon him.
However, instead of giving Europa a room in his castle, the king suggested in giving a small, beautiful cottage to Europa with respect to Zeus and Europa's privacy.
Zeus willingly agreed and thanked the king, then he returned to Olympus. That night Zeus morphed into a mighty eagle to deceive his wife Hera and went to Crete to visit the princess.
He changed back into his human form when he entered her room in the cottage and seduced the princess into giving into him.
Europa in accepting her fate surrendered to his affections and later bore him a son, Minos. She later gave birth to two more sons-Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon(Aeacus), to Zeus.
Europa was a wonderful lover to Zeus and gave him three strong, healthy sons, therefore, in his gratitude,
the god presented his lover with three gifts; the bronze guardian of Crete called Talos, a spear that never missed its mark and a hunting dog called Laelaps, that always finds its prey.
A few years after Sarpedon's birth, Zeus's visits gradually decreased.
On his last visit to Europa, Zeus having suspected that Hera knew of his secret lover, stated that the princess moves on and forget about him for her own protection.
Hera had found out about his secret lover afterward and forbade him from visiting Europa. To keep poor Europa safe from Hera's wrath, Zeus gave up seeing her completely.
Moreover, a while after Hera's discovery, the power of Cupid's bow and Aphrodite's arrow over Zeus's heart disintegrated and eventually terminated altogether.
When king Asterius found out that Europa was no longer Zeus' lover, he seized the opportunity to pursue Europa, for he too had fallen for her great beauty and grace.
Europa, knowing that the king is good and kind, let him court her for a few years and then consented to his hand in marriage.
The king welcomed his new wife and her three sons into his palace and raised the boys as his own.
King Asterius had no children with Europa thus his eldest stepson Minos ultimately inherited the throne.
Europa lived lovingly and peacefully with her husband until her death. When she passed away, the inhabitants of Crete sanctified her as a goddess.
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E.M.Berens. (2009). The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome. Amsterdam: MetaLibri.
Hamilton, E. (1942). Mythology. New York: Back Bay Books / Little Brown and Company.
Luke Roman, M. R. (2010). Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology. New York: Facts on File.