Europe - What's in a Name?
Geography, Mythos, Arts

By Peter H. Gommers
December 2001
Leuven University Press
ISBN: 9058671496
224 Pages, Illustrated, 8.86 x 11.23"
$106.50 hardcover

Europe is a word that is almost daily on our lips. But how far do we have to go back in order to find the origins of its name? The first part of this beautiful illustrated book traces the geographical and mythological basis of Europe's name. Who came up with the idea to distinguish the world in continents with proper names? The search will bring the reader back to the early history of mankind.

How did the ancient Egyptians see the world and populations around them? Where did the Hebrews get the idea to split the world in three? And what was the world-picture in ancient Greece, laid down in geographic treatises and fragments? Where did the name 'Europe' originate from? Could it be from a person, either mortal or divine? In ancient Greek literature the name 'Europa' appears quite frequently for Greek goddesses and Greek women.

Strangely enough, the best known Europa myth concerns a Phoenician princess, loved by the Greek god Zeus. Many mythographs doubt the Asian descent of the Phoenician Europa. Is her real origin to be located on mainland Greece? How can the contradicting Greek myths be interpreted, and was the name universally accepted as the name for the continent? In the second part of this book, the author tells the amazing story of how the Arts have treated the Europa myths for almost three millennia.

He shows the extraordinary influence of the personification of the geographic continent Europe on literature, music, sculpture, painting, tapestry and other applied arts. All this clearly demonstrates the vivid interest in Europe for the subject throughout the ages and illustrates, according to Karel van Miert in its Foreword, our common European culture.

European History; Art History

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