King Agenor ruled over the Phoenician city of Tyre, where he lived happily with his lovely daughter Europa. One morning after waking from a bad dream, Europa roused her companions from their slumber and suggested they all join together and walk to a large meadow by the sea.
With baskets in hand, the girls enjoyed the soft touch of the morning breeze as they happily wandered through the blooms of hyacinths and wild roses.
When Zeus, who was quietly monitoring the girls’ activities from his palace window caught sight of the graceful Europa, he immediately fell in love with her.
In order to avoid the watchful eye of his wife Hera, the god changed himself into a white bull before quickly making his descent to the earth.
As the maidens stood and watched him slowly stroll through the tall grass, they found themselves to be instantly captivated by his beauty. So calm and serene was his demeanor, that without hesitation they fearlessly ran over to greet the wondrous beast.
His scent was more fragrant than all the surrounding flowers combined and his movements delicately filled the air with soft melodic sounds. As Europa approached, the bull laid down at her feet as if to invite her to climb upon his back.
This she did, but before any of her friends could follow suit, the lustful god sprang up and quickly ran towards the sea. As he nimbly leapt high above the waves, Europa noticed that the water below had suddenly become full of magical sea gods and nereids.
Realising this could be no ordinary bull, the tearful maiden pleaded with the creature not to abandon her in some strange land. In an effort to calm Europa’s fears, Zeus promptly restored his true likeness and promised to deliver her to the isle of Crete, where she could live in comfort and provide him with many sons.
As the two arrived upon the shores of Crete, they were met by the four seasons, who gleefully sang songs of welcome and adorned Europa’s long hair with flowers.
Zeus made sure the island was well protected by providing his new lover with a watchdog named Laelaps and the bronze giant Talos, whose job it was to patrol the shoreline.
Europa went on to bear Zeus three sons; Minos, Rhadymanthys and Sarpedon. For reasons unknown, the god later chose to relinquish his pledge to Europa and gave her away to King Asterius as his wife.
She then bore her new husband a daughter whom she named Crete after her new homeland. Because Asterius himself had no sons, he chose to adopt Europa’s boys and raise them as his own.
Minos later became King of Crete and is best known for building the famous labyrinth that housed the half man, half bull creature known as the Minotaur. He also went on to be one of the three judges of the underworld, presiding over the fate of all those of Greek descent.