She was a beautiful girl who caught the eye of Zeus one day while on the shore at Sidon (Tyre). He transformed himself into a snow-white bull with crescent horns among the herds of Agenor and lay down at her feet as she gathered flowers in the meadows with her attendants.
Her initial fear being overcome, she stroked the animal and then climbed upon its back. Immediately the bull headed for the sea and plunged in, making for Crete. Zeus took Europa to Gortuna in central Crete and there made love to her beneath a tree.
This became part of the folklore of the area, even to the extent of a young girl in the branches of a tree being represented on the city's later coinage.
From Zeus, Europa received three presents: the bronze man Talos who guarded the shores of Crete; a hunting spear that could never miss; and a dog that always ran its quarry down.
Zeus then gave her in marriage to Asterion, king of Crete and, since the marriage was childless, he adopted Europa's three sons.
The subject of Europa and the Bull is a favourite one in classical and later European art. The bull subsequently became Taurus among the signs of the Zodiac and Europa gave her name to the continent of Europe.