Meanings: “Europe”

October 12, 2012

“Europa” is a figure in Greek mythology, but how does her name come to be associated with a large land mass mostly north and west of Greece?  That’s very unclear, perhaps a reference to the setting sun as the entry from explicates:

Europe Look up Europe at
from L. Europa “Europe,” from Gk. Europe, of uncertain origin; as a geographic name, first the Homeric hymn to Apollo (522 B.C.E. or earlier):

“Telphusa, here I am minded to make a glorious temple, an oracle for men, and hither they will always bring perfect hecatombs, both those who live in rich Peloponnesus and those of Europe and all the wave-washed isles, coming to seek oracles.”

Often explained as “broad face,” from eurys “wide” (see aneurysm) + ops “face.” But also traditionally linked with Europa, Phoenician princess in Greek mythology. Klein (citing Heinrich Lewy) suggests a possible Semitic origin in Akkad. erebu “to go down, set” (in reference to the sun) which would parallel orient. Another suggestion along those lines is Phoenician ‘ereb “evening,” hence “west.”

In last evening’s Vice Presidential debate there was a good deal of talk about foreign policy, but none of it about Europe. None, despite the plain fact that Europe is the site of our most important allies and is undoubtedly a key to the global financial crisis and the prospects for global economic recovery.  Europe didn’t come up in last week’s Presidential debate; we’ll see whether it is mentioned in the next two.

On the other hand, this morning we learn that the European Union — the promise of a united, or at least a coordinated and peaceful, Europe — has won the Nobel Peace Prize.  The judges noted that “The union and its forerunners have for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”

This juxtaposition between the affirmation of the Nobel Peace Prize, on the one hand, and the silence about Europe in this Presidential election, on the other, is striking.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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