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262S11+Europe+defined+_Jordan+_02_ - Europe Defined Chapter...

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“Europe Defined”, Chapter 1 in Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov and Bella Bychkova Jordan. The European Cultural Area: A systematic Geography (4 th edition). Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2002: 1-28. The Continental Myth Most people would define Europe as a continent. You may recall from elementary school days reciting the names of the family of continents, in which Europe held a place of full membership. Support for the continental status of Europe appears in various dictionaries and in the writings of numerous geographers. For example, Webster’s New World Dictionary defines Europe as a "continent between Asia and the Atlantic Ocean," while the British geographer Lionel Lyde entitled his textbook The Continent of Europe. In this view, then, we are led to believe that Europe constitutes a distinct physical entity, because a continent is a sizable landmass standing more or less separate from other landmasses. North and South America, connected by the narrow Isthmus of Panama, form continents, as do Africa, linked to Asia only by the severed land bridge at Suez, and Australia, fully separated from other landmasses by surrounding seas. Europe, however, cannot meet the definition of a continent since it does not form a separate landmass. To be sure, the Mediterranean Sea provides a clear separation from Africa in the south, while the Atlantic and Arctic oceans well define Europe’s western and northern limits, but in the east, the notion of continentality founders. Only the beginning of a water separation appears in the southeastern fringe, where an arm of the sea reaches northward from the Mediterranean, through the Aegean, Dardanelles, and Bosporos to the Black Sea, and still beyond to the Sea of Azov. There the division ends, for to the north stretches the vast East European Plain. Instead of a narrow isthmus similar to Panama or Suez, the map reveals a wedge of land broadening steadily to the east, welding Europe and Asia into one large continent called Eurasia. Europe lacks a clear-cut oceanic border in the east and as a result is not a continent. In fact, a glance at a map of the Eastern Hemisphere reveals Europe as simply one rather small appendage of Eurasia, merely a westward-reaching peninsula. At most, Europe forms only about one- fifth of the area of Eurasia. The erroneous belief that Europe possesses the characteristics of a continent came down to the modern day from the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean, in particular from the Greeks and Romans (Figure 1.1). The Greco-Roman worldview in turn owed much to other, older cultures. One theory concerning the origin of the words Europe and Asia relates them to the Semitic Assyrian-Phoenician ereb ("sunset") and acu ("sunrise"). The "land of the sunset," Europe, may have first appeared as an entity among the peoples of the Fertile Crescent, meaning simply "the western land." Too, an ancient, mythological ruler of Sidon in Phoenicia reputedly had daughters named Europa and Asia. The legendary Europa married the Greek king of gods, Zeus, and accompanied him back to the Aegean, while her sister remained in the east.
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