In Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician princess. Zeus, king of the gods, spied Europa gathering flowers near the sea shore. Smitten by her beauty, he wanted to seduce and ravish her. Being a god, he had a unique solution to the problem: he approached Europa disguised as a docile bull, and when Europa clambered upon the bull's back to adorn his horns with garlands, he plunged into the ocean and bore her off to Crete, where Zeus made her Queen of Crete. And that's how Europa gave her name to the continent that includes the Greek mainland.
Extant artworks depicting the myth of Europa and the bull predate the Christian era; by the seventeenth century, the subject was particularly well represented in European art.