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Mythology/Zeus' Kidnapping of Europa in bass relief


QUESTION: Hello Maria,

May I first refer you to the following image link, being of a bass relief (Vatican Museum) of Zeus' Kidnapping of Europa:

Europa is said to have been wandering along the shore at the time and gathering flowers—so what is it she is holding (here) in her right hand? It looks like a torch; and she is not actually holding it, but is holding instead what appears to be a rope.

No pun intended, but can you throw any light on this discrepancy?

Regards, as always,

ANSWER: Hello,

sorry for the delay in replying, but I had hard time in finding the image link you sent me  as it is not working and then I could not see it, unfortunately.

I think however that this image is the same as the high relief of Europa and the bull,Vatican Museum, Rome, that I’ve found at:
or at: (last image)

Here in fact we see Europa on the back  of  the bull, i.e. Zeus, who had abducted her.
She has nothing in their hands, while the girl that precedes her is holding a torch in her right hand, but nothing in her left hand, since what you think to be a rope is actually the drapery  of her clothing.

Anyway, there is also an image link ( mosaic, Beirut National Museum) where Europa seems to hold just a rope in her right hand, as you can see at:

Lastly, there are other images where Europa is holding a garland  of flowers.
See Europa in a fresco at Pompeii:

Hope this can be helpful to you.
Best regards,

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello again Maria,

Thank you for your answer. I regret that my link did not work properly—but you have at any rate the correct image. You have also answered another of my questions, as to which figure was Europa. (It is fitting that the front figure would be a servant girl.)

As you can see in the attached enlarged image detail of my own photo, however, there is a clear distinction between the billows of the servant gir's clothes and, again, what appears to be a rope. (Do I take it we both agree it is a rope?)

I'm very curious, you see, about that rope, since (the various artists' works aside) there is no mention of one in the myth itself—no hint of Europe wanting to lead the bull away, but rather to mount it. Would you agree with me then, that in the inclusion of a rope the various artists took an unlicensed liberty?

(I wonder, btw; am I the only one who sees in the myth, Zeus seeming to do a close imitation of Posediôn?)

regards again,

Hello again,

I  agree with you in thinking that in the mosaic of  Beirut National Museum Europa is holding a rope in her right hand, while in the high relief of Europa and the bull,Vatican Museum, Rome, there is no rope, though  loose folds of the servant girl's clothes could deceive us.

Also, I agree with you, that  the inclusion of a rope could be a kind of poetic licence, considering that Greek myths have often several versions.

Best regards,


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