It is odd to name a continent after a rape victim, even when you consider all the brutality four millennia of European history can muster. More prosaic sources might separate the name’s real root from the myth of Zeus and Europa, but the Phoenician origin of Europa reflects the impact that seafaring culture has had on the continent. Different tellings disagree on whether the girl was bullied or eloping, but what matters for posterity is that she left behind the two dominant continents at that time, Africa and Asia, to mother the Minoan dynasty at her new home in Crete.

Heimskringla, the 13th century sagas of the Norwegian kings, states that “the western [part of the world] is called by some Europa, by some Enea.”, but Virgil’s Roman re-creation myth evidently lost out for the Middle-Eastern princess. You will not find many self-styled Aeneans around anymore.

Neither will you find any New Europeans. I wouldn’t blame Donald Rumsfeld for coining the phrase, it served his purpose, but I was surprised to see it take up a life of its own for a while, even in ostensibly European countries like Britain. I take it as evidence that there are journalists that might live in Europe, but who have never been there.

In another sense Europeans are the result of successive waves of immigration and invasion, which ended with the spectacular European radiation when Europeans colonized every other continent in the course of a few centuries. The Eurasian conveyor belt has now reversed back to Asia as the source of migration, conflict, change, and power, giving present Europe a respite from that role, and once again the New Europeans are African and Asian.


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