- Published: 25 November 2009
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Richard Dittrich, age 12, of Spokane, Washington, for his question:
How did Europe get its name?
The ancestor of our word Europe has been traced ways way back to the Assyrians of ancient Mesopotamia. The early civilizations of this fertile valley thought of their land as the center of the world. They had no idea of the five great land masses we called continents. They called the unexplored regions to the west of them Ereb, meaning Land of the Sunset or Land of Darkness. They called the land to the east of Mesopotamia Asu, meaning Land of the Morning Sun. These words, Ereb and Asu are preserved on ancient Assyrian monuments.
The Phoenicians, those early traders whose ships traveled all over the ancient world, learned of Freb and Asu from the Assyrians. The Greeks learned them from the Phoenicians and handed them on with a few changes. Finally, Ereb became Europe and the name of a continent. Asu became Asian also a continent.