Europa Project: Tradition as Transformation

This project aims to engage undergraduate and graduate students in Italian with the study of the classical myth of Europa in its history of adaptations across languages, media and genres, highlighting and questioning its three main narratives of migration, gender, and ethnicity.

According to the classical myth, Europa was the name of a young princess from Phoenicia (the modern-day coastal regions of Lebanon and Syria) who was seduced by the god Zeus, in disguise as a white bull, and abducted to the island of Crete. Classical commentators explained that the bull into which the Greek god transformed himself is a metaphor for a ship, and this myth elaborates on a history of migrations and forced marriages across the Mediterranean Sea. The myth is constructed with strong narratives of erotic seduction as cultural and political conquest, which have significant implications in terms of the representation of gender (the male god) and ethnicity (the white bull). 

 The study of the Europa myth will be carried out with particular attention to cultural and social aspects of identity formation, so that the process of interpreting the myth in its diverse traditions becomes itself a journey of transformation, enhancing the sense of belonging and becoming in the construction of transnational European identities. 

 Running over the academic year 2017-18, this project wants to be a forward-looking contribution to current debates about the future of Europe, the University’s part in it and the role of a community of engaged learners in the formation, transmission, and transformation of a sense of European citizenship. The guiding ethos of this project is that myths of origins must be constantly re-interpreted in a collective, critical, and creative effort to generate more inclusive and progressive narratives, nurturing an imaginative, open, and transformative relationship to cultural traditions.

Project coordinator: Dr Davide Messina (

Award from the Italian Embassy

We are delighted to announce that the Europa Project has been awarded £1000 from the Italian Embassy in London, via the good offices of the Italian Cultural Institute, Edinburgh.

Award from the Italian Embassy

Past events

The Italian Play 2018

© Photo by Jacopo Di Cera, Viaggio #4

Title: Europa a Lampedusa

Date: 8 to 9 March 2018

Venue: Lecture Theatre G.03, 50 George Square

Collaborators: Animation at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA); the Modern Dance Society; Edinburgh Studio Opera; Europa Project

Europa's Long Renaissance: Myth, Metamorphoses, Migrations

The rape of Europa by Francesco Albani

Date: 12 October 2017

Venue: Project Room 1.06, 50 George Square

Organiser: Dr Davide Messina; Dr Carlo Pirozzi

Events series: Europa Project

In brief: This open seminar in Italian Studies at connected and celebrated three important anniversaries: the European Treaty of Rome (1957), Ovid’s bimillennium, and the first translation in print of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Renaissance Italy (1497).  It was part of the Europa Project: Tradition as Transformation, which engaged students with the study of the classical myth of Europa.