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The birth of Europe

In a flowery meadow in Sidon, a town on the Levantine Mediterranean coast in the land of Phoenicia, a princess is playing happily with her friends. An unusual musky-smelling, colourful bull approaches the maidens. The princess looks at him curiously. He kneels in front of her so that she can look him in the eye. Exuberantly, she climbs onto his back. The bull leaps up and plunges into the sea along with his rider.

It is Zeus in the form of a bull who kidnaps the princess and swims with her to Crete. He emerges from the sea in the harbour of Kommós (which translates as *to beat one’s chest*) and immediately transforms himself into an eagle. He lifts the princess into the fork of a large tree and impregnates her. After nine months, she gives birth to three sons: Minos, Rhadamanthys and Sarpedon. Her name is Ευρώπη, which means Europe. The Greek name consists of two words, ευρύς meaning broad, wide, and όψις ( root 0π ), meaning the eye, i.e. the wide eye. This is a synonym for the moon. Europa, the moon. So much for the myth that nobody denies. But what is behind it?

In the first 200 years of the 1st century AD eastern seafarers from the trading harbours of the central Levant dominated maritime trade around the coasts of the Mediterranean. It was mainly the towns of Sidon, Sarepta and Tyre that made large profits from maritime trade and thus developed into principalities themselves. Their children pretended to be princes and princesses. We can read an impression of this in the Old Testament in Isaiah, chapter 23: “The merchants of Sidon, who travelled by sea, filled themselves. And the fruit of Sihor and the grain of the waters were brought in to them by great waters. Who would have thought that Tyre, the crown, would be so prosperous, for her merchants are princes, and her traders the most honourable in the land?” They did not need the god that Isaiah prophesied, they had their gods.

Astarte was one of the three goddesses they worshipped. When it comes to goddesses in ancient times, we often find three goddesses. Why? In the earliest times of human evolution there was an apparition in the sky that women felt in their bodies, the moon – an apparition that grew out of nothing, then appeared in full, only to disappear again in the same way as it came; three phases that constantly repeated themselves. We can therefore assume that women were the first to experience something metaphysical, which they celebrated in rituals.

Astarte is named Athartu in Phoenician and Αστάρτη in Greek. She is the goddess of erotic love and fertility. She is a moon goddess and thus a symbol of femininity. As a sign of her importance, she wore a crescent moon in her crown. She was the most important goddess in Tyre and probably also in other places in the Levant. And now comes something astonishing: Astarte was also the goddess of sailors.

The sailors of the time travelled close to the coast wherever possible for orientation. The Lavantine sailors used a course along the island of Cyprus on the northern side of the Mediterranean and then the southern side of Crete, where they liked to take a break or shelter in the harbour of Kommós during storms.

In recent times Greek archaeologists have been searching for this harbour. It was clear to them that it must be located near Kokinos Pirgos at the northern end of the long beach of Kommós. They found nothing there.  In the early seventies, Friedhelm Will, a German hippy and amateur archaeologist, noticed irregularities in the ground from his tree house near Matala. He dug there and found ancient walls. He visited the Greek authorized archaeologists responsible, who had him imprisoned for four years for unauthorised digging. They realised that this place must be the harbour of Kommós. They announced to the whole world that they had finally found the site of the harbour of Festos, gr. Φαιστός. As usual, the excavation was offered to all kinds of archaeological institutes. Working from 1976 until today, Canadian archaeologists have uncovered the site and the harbour buildings of Kommós. The significance for our topic is that they found a large room with three simple, rectangular pillars on a large stone block next to a round building. The excavators assume that Phoenician traders and sailors erected a temple to their gods here on one of their trade routes. Yes, that is correct. But not for their gods, but for the goddess of seafarers, ASTARTE.

Around 1500 BCE, Oriental and Phoenician seafarers competed for trading posts on the coasts of the Mediterranean. The excavations of Kommós under the direction of the Canadian archaeologist Joseph Shaw, who described the room with the three pillars as a temple, indicate that Kommós was not a harbour of Festos, but a trading settlement of the Phoenicians. Perhaps there is a connection with the with Agia Triada, Greek Άγια τριάδα, which translates as the holy trinity. Archaeologists have long been searching for the meaning of this “palace”, as it is called. It is also known as the treasury of Festós. Among other things, an extensive archive of “Linear A” texts was found there. In Crete and in the harbours they controlled, the sailors placed themselves under the protection of their own soldiers. In the now excavated harbour of Kommós, there would be enough space for soldiers in the northern part of the excavation – also for a princess from Sidon named Ευρόπη who had travelled with them.

How her name spread like wildfire to the north and became a godparent in ever larger areas remains an unsolved mystery for the author. What is certain is that – starting in Crete – the lunar name of a Phoenician princess, Ευρόπη, gradually favoured an entire continent: EUROPE.

Translated May, 2024 by W. Hörz

Sources: see Bibliographie

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