In Cretan and Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician woman of high birth who was abducted by Zeus and carried off to the northwest of Crete. The continent of Europe, therefore, was the place traditionally associated with the myth of Europa.
The first known reference to Europa in print appears in Homer's "The Illiad." In the poem, Europa is identified only as a member of Cretan royalty with no particular geographical associations. The first occurrence of the name being used to refer to the continent of Europe appears in the works of Anaximander and Hecataeus from the 6th Century B.C. In the following century, both Herodotus and the Romans are known to have made references to the term.