Europe is one of the world's seven continents. the western part of Eurasia. It is separated from Asia by a traditional eastern boundary that includes the Ural Mountains in Russia and the Bosporus in Turkey, and from Africa by the Mediterranean Sea. The Atlantic Ocean is to the west of Europe. There are about 50 countries in Europe. The European Union is made up of some of the countries in Europe.
In ancient Greek mythology, Europa was a Phoenician princess whom Zeus abducted after assuming the form of a dazzling white bull. He took her to the island of Crete where she gave birth to Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon. For Homer, Europe was a mythological queen of Crete, not a geographical designation. Later, Europa stood for central-north Greece, and by 500 BC its meaning had been extended to the lands to the north.
The history of Europe means all the time when humans lived in the European continent up to the present day.
The first evidence of Homo sapiens in Europe dates back to 35,000 BC. Europe's antiquity (ancient time) dates from Homer's Iliad in Ancient Greece of around 700 BC. The Roman Republic was established in 509 BC, which was usurped by Octavian's new Roman Empire at its first century peak. The Christian religion was adopted in the fourth century, and in the sixth was organized, within the Empire, by Emperor Justinian I (527–565) with five most important cities: Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. The fall of the Western Roman Empire was followed by a decline of Western Europe. The Byzantine Empire kept civilization in the East. A schism within the church's authority in 1054 was added to the earlier division that had persisted since 451 and was followed by Crusades from west to rescue the east from Muslim invasion. Feudal society began to break down, as the Mongol invaders carried the Black Death with them. Constantinople fell in 1453, yet the new world was discovered in 1492. Europe awoke from the medieval period through rediscovery of classical learning. The Renaissance was followed by the Protestant Reformation, as German priest Martin Luther attacked Papal authority. The Thirty Years War, the Treaty of Westphalia and the Glorious Revolution laid the basis for a new era of expansion and enlightenment.
The Industrial Revolution, beginning in Great Britain, allowed people for the first time to break from material subsistence. The early British Empire split as its colonies in America revolted to establish a representative government. Political change in continental Europe was spurred by the French Revolution, as people cried out for liberté, egalité, fraternité. The French leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, conquered and reformed the social structure of the continent through war up to 1815. As more and more small property holders were granted the vote, in France and the UK, socialist and trade union activity developed and revolution gripped Europe in 1848. The last vestiges of serfdom were abolished in Austria-Hungary in 1848. Russian serfdom was abolished in 1861. The Balkan nations began to regain their independence from the Ottoman Empire. After the Franco-Prussian War, Italy and Germany were formed from the groups of principalities in 1870 and 1871. Conflict spread across the globe, in a chase for empires, until the search for a place in the sun ended with the outbreak of World War I. In the desperation of war, the Russian Revolution promised the people "peace, bread and land". The defeat of Germany came at the price of economic destruction, codified into the Treaty of Versailles, manifested in the Great Depression and the return to a Second World War. After this war Communism spread to Central and Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, North Vietnam and North Korea. This led to the Cold War, a forty-year argument between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies (mainly countries that were members of NATO or the Warsaw Pact). Each country wanted to promote their type of government. The Soviet Union wanted to spread communism, and the United States wanted to spread democracy. People across the world feared a nuclear war because of the tension.
Communism became less attractive when it became clear that it could promote economic growth less effectively than then Western states and that it was not suited for a reform that allowed freedom of speech for everybody. Therefore the Soviet Union forced in Hungary to give up its reform in 1956, it favoured the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and it stopped reform in Czechoslovakia in 1968. When in 1988/89 Gorbachev made clear that he would not force the countries of the East block to stick to Communism the Berlin Wall was torn down in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed (1991). Then the United States was the only superpower left. Europe signed a new treaty of union, which included 27 European countries in 2007.