Atlas





In Greek mythology, Atlas was a Titan, a son of the Titan Iapetus and the nymph Clymene. After the Titans lost a war against Zeus *, Atlas was condemned by Zeus to stand forever holding up the heavens. (A collection of maps has been called an atlas since the 1500s, when the mapmaker Mercator put a picture of Atlas holding up the world—not the heavens—on the title page of his book.) Because the place where Atlas stood to perform his task was the westernmost end of the world known to the ancient Greeks, the ocean near him was called Atlantic in his honor.

Titan one of a family of giants who ruled the earth until overthrown by the Greek gods of Olympus

nymph minor goddess of nature, usually represented as young and beautiful

Atlas belonged to an illustrious family. One of his brothers was Prometheus, god of fire and creator of mankind. His daughters included the Pleiades (the stars that announced good spring weather), the Hyades (the stars that announced the rainy season), and the nymph Calypso. In addition, he was either the father or the grandfather of the Hesperides, the maidens who guarded a tree bearing golden apples.

In Greek mythology, Atlas was usually responsible for holding up the heavens. This marble relief from a Greek temple shows Hercules holding up the world for Atlas so that Atlas can bring him the golden apples of the Hesperides.
In Greek mythology, Atlas was usually responsible for holding up the heavens. This marble relief from a Greek temple shows Hercules holding up the world for Atlas so that Atlas can bring him the golden apples of the Hesperides.

Many different stories are told about Atlas. One of them concerns Perseus, son of Zeus and slayer of the Gorgon Medusa. Because of a prophecy that a son of Zeus would one day steal the golden apples of the Hesperides, Atlas refused to offer Perseus hospitality when he came to visit. Insulted, Perseus showed him the severed head of Medusa, which had the power to turn all who looked at it into stone. Atlas turned into stone. The stone became the Atlas Mountains in what is now the country of Morocco.

Gorgon one of three ugly monsters who had snakes for hair, staring eyes, and huge wings

prophecy foretelling of what is to come; also something that is predicted

Another story concerns Hercules (Heracles)!, the grandson of Perseus. One of the labors of Hercules was to obtain some of the golden apples that were guarded by the Hesperides. Hercules asked Atlas to help him get the apples. Seeing an opportunity to escape from the burden of holding up the heavens, Atlas asked Hercules to take over the task while he obtained the apples. Hercules agreed. When Atlas returned with the apples, he told Hercules that he would deliver them for him. His intention was to leave Hercules to support the heavens. However, Hercules asked Atlas to take back the heavens for just a moment so that he could adjust his burden. When Atlas did this, Hercules walked away with the apples.

See also Hercules ; Medusa ; Prometheus ; Titans .



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