People and legends


The myth of Europe has very ancient origins. The earlier written traces of this legendary story seem to date back even to the VIII century BC.

It is told that Europe, Phoenician princess, King Tirus’ daughter was raped by Zeus, disguised as a white bull. The god, who loved disguising, falls in love with the young girl while she was picking up flowers in a lawn and was ornating herself together with the nimphs. He turned himself into a bull and distracetd the girl with the scent of flowers and took her to Crete, riding the Mediterranean waves. The whole Phoenician descent was originated of their union, as well as Minasse, king of Crete, Sarpedon, king of Lycia, Radamanthes, the Judge of Hades.


Helissa alias Dido

Elissa, sister of Pygmalion, Tyrus king, was married to Acherbas (or Sicharbas, but also Sycheus or Sychaeus in Virgil, her uncle and high Priest of Melqart. But Pygmalion orders to kill his uncle-brother in law to get hold of his wealth. Helissa left Tyrus with a large retinue opposed to Pygmalion and she reached Cyprus, where the high Priest of the Astante goddess accepted to join her only if his family was granted by inheritance the office of Priest of the divinity in the new colony they were going to found. Eighty virgins doomed to the holy prostitution added to the group to ensure the colony continuity.

After a long peregrination, leading the group also to Malta, in 814 B.C. they landed in Africa, where Helissa was given permission by the king Iarba, to settle there, taking possession of as much land “as a bull skin was able to contain”. Helissa chose a peninsula , cut the bull skin into little stripes and she arrayed them top ut borders to the future land of Carthage city. Elissa then killed herself to avoid marrying a native chief, possibile metaphor of the Carthaginian tradition to get married among members of the original Phoenician branch.

Various versions of Helissa’s story existed until Virgil eliminated all of them with his narration of the Aeneas’s love for Dido, name of very likely Greek origin but connected to the namen of Helissa. Virgil, probably on the trails of a more ancient poet, Nevius), set his story several centuries earlier than the decisive traditional date, in order to be able to introduce it in the Aeneas’s saga, fugitive from Troy and on his way to found Rome. The founders of the 2 cities, later in competition for the power over the Mediterranean, were instead incredibly got closer to each other.