Europa was the daughter of the Phoenician king Agenor and his wife Telephassa. Her main claim to fame, of course, is that she gave her name to Europe. So what does her name mean? A popular theory is that it means either 'broad-browed', from eurys, 'broad' and ophrys, 'brow', or 'broad face', from eurys and ops, 'face'.

It could also mean 'she of the wide eyes', from eurys and ops, 'eye' or even, at a pinch, 'well watered' or 'fair-flowing', from eu-, 'good', 'well' and rheo, 'to flow'. Maybe the name of her mother (which means 'far-shining') is somehow significant. The actual name of the continent is generally held to mean 'west' (as opposed to Asia which is 'east').

The nineteenth-century French traveller and geographer Jean-Jacques Elisée Reclus wrote: 'Herodotus naively claims that not a single mortal has ever succeeded in discovering the true meaning of this word.' Europa is famous for her ride on the white bull (really Zeus) to Crete, where Zeus made love to her. She bore him three sons: Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon.