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In Greek mythology, Atlas ( / ˈætləs /; Greek: Ἄτλας, Átlas) is a Titan condemned to hold up the heavens or sky for eternity after the Titanomachy. Atlas also plays a role in the myths of two of the greatest Greek heroes: Heracles ( Hercules in Roman mythology) and Perseus. According to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, Atlas stood at ...
- Name and Portrayal
- The Titanomachy and Atlas’ Punishment
- Meetings with Heroes
Atlas’ name is of unsure – probably pre-Greek – origin, but the Ancient Greeks and Romans seem to have thought it had been derived from a similar-sounding Greek root with the meaning of “very enduring.” This fully coincides with Atlas’ portrayal as an enormous, bearded man, always slightly bent and in pain under the weight of the heavens, usually represented as a globe sketched with the most famous constellations.
According to Hesiod, Atlas was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Clymene. However, some – disagreeing with him – say that his mother was another sea nymph named Asia. Either way, he had three brothers (Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Menoetius) and possibly as many wives. By Pleione, he had eight daughters: the goddess-nymph Calypso and the seven Pleiades (Alcyone, Asterope, Electra, Caleano, Taygete, Merope and Hermes’ mother, Maia). Another Oceanid, Aethra, bore him few more daughters, the Hyades, and his only son, Hyas. Finally, according to some, the Hesperideswere also Atlas’ daughters, out of his marriage with Hesperis.
Iapetus’ sons took the opposing sides during the Titanomachy: while Prometheus and Epimetheus decided to help Zeus, Atlas and his brother Menoetius sided with the Titans. In time, Atlas even managed to become the leader of the rebellion, but that didn’t end up too well for him in the long run, since it got him the most severe punishment after the defeat of the Titans. Namely, Atlas was condemned to hold up the heavens for all eternity, standing at the furthest west edges of the earth near the garden of his daughters, the Hesperides. Some say that the sky was placed directly on his shoulders. Others, however, are more merciful, claiming that Atlas actually holds the two pillars which keep the earth and the sky apart.
Since, obviously, Atlas wasn’t allowed to move one bit – and not many people knew where his dwelling place was – the only myths he’s in include two of Greek’s greatest heroesreaching him at the end of the earth.
There are few verses in Hesiod’s “Theogony” recounting the stories of Atlas and his brothers. Heracles’ encounter with Atlas is retold in the fifth chapter of the second book of Apollodorus’ “Library,” while his transformation into a mountain range is narrated by Ovid in the fourth book of his “Metamorphoses.” See Also: Twelve Labours of Heracles, Perseus, Iapetus, Clymene, Asia, Menoetius, Prometheus, Epimetheus
- The Titans
- Encounter with Heracles
- Cultural Influence
The etymology of the name Atlas is uncertain and still debated. Virgil (70 B.C.E. – 19 B.C.E.), took pleasure in translating etymologies of Greek names by combining them with adjectives that explained them: for Atlas his adjective is durus, "hard, enduring", which suggested to George Doig that Virgil was aware of the Greek τλήναι "to endure"; Doig offers the further possibility that Virgil was aware of Strabo's remark that the native North African name for this mountain was Douris. Some modern linguists derive it and its Greek root from the Proto-Indo-European root *tel, 'to uphold, support'; while others believe that it is a pre-Indo-European name. The Etruscan name for Atlas, aril,is etymologically independent.
Atlas was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Asiaor Klyménē (Κλυμένη): Hyginus emphasizes the primordial nature of Atlas by making him the son of Aether and Gaea. In contexts where a Titan and a Titaness are assigned each of the seven planetary powers, Atlas is paired with Phoebe and governs the moon. He had three brothers–Prometheus, Epimetheus and Menoetius.
There are twelve Titans from their first literary appearance, in Hesiod, Theogony; Pseudo-Apollodorus, in Bibliotheke, adds a thirteenth Titan Dione, a double of Theia. The six male Titans are known as the Titanes, and the females as the Titanides ("Titanesses"). The Titans were associated with various primal concepts, some of which are simply extrapolated from their names: ocean and fruitful earth, sun and moon, memory and natural law. The twelve first-generation Titans were ruled by the youngest, Kronos, who overthrew their father, Oranos ('Sky'), at the urgings of their mother, Gaia('Earth'). The Titans later gave birth to other Titans, notably the children of Hyperion (Helios, Eos, and Selene), the daughters of Coeus (Leto and Asteria), and the sons of Iapetus—Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas, and Menoetius; all of these descendants in the second generation are also known as "Titans."
Atlas, along with his brother Menoetius, sided with the Titans in their war against the Olympians, the Titanomachy. His brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus weighed the odds and betrayed the other Titans by forming an alliance with the Olympians. When the Titans were defeated, many of them (including Menoetius) were confined to Tartarus, but Zeus condemned Atlas to stand at the western edge of Gaia, the Earth and hold up Ouranos, the Sky on his shoulders, to prevent the two from resuming their primordial embrace. Thus he was Atlas Telamon,"enduring Atlas." A common misconception is that Atlas was forced to hold the Earth on his shoulders, but this is incorrect. Classical art shows Atlas holding a Celestial Sphere, not a Globe.
One of the hero Heracles' Twelve Labors involved the acquisition of some of the golden apples which grow in Hera's garden, tended by the Hesperides and guarded by the dragon Ladon. Heracles went to Atlas, the father of the Hesperides, and offered to hold the heavens for a little while in exchange for the apples, to which Atlas agreed. This would be an easy task for Atlas since he is related to the Hesperides who tend the apples in Hera's garden. Upon his return with the apples, however, Atlas attempted to trick Heracles into carrying the sky permanently by offering to deliver the apples himself. Heracles, suspecting Atlas did not intend to return, pretended to agree to Atlas' offer, asking only that Atlas take the sky again for a few minutes so Heracles could rearrange his cloak as padding on his shoulders. When Atlas set down the apples and took the heavens upon his shoulders again, Heracles took the apples and ran away. In some versions, Heracles instead built the two great Pillar...
Atlas' best-known cultural association is in cartography. The first publisher to associate the Titan Atlas with a group of maps was Antonio Lafreri, on the title-page to Tavole Moderne Di Geografia De La Maggior Parte Del Mondo Di Diversi Autori; however, he did not use the word "atlas" in the title of his work, an innovation of Mercator who dedicated his "atlas" specifically "to honour the Titan, Atlas, King of Mauritania, a learned philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer." Since the middle of the sixteenth century, any collection of cartographic maps has come to be called an atlas. Gerardus Mercator was the first to use the word in this way, and he actually depicted the astronomer king. Atlas continues to be a commonly used icon in western culture (and advertising), as a symbol of strength or stoic endurance. He is often shown kneeling on one knee while supporting an enormous round globe on his back and shoulders. The globe originally represented the celestial sphereof ancient...
Sources describe Atlas as the father, by different goddesses, of numerous children, mostly daughters. Some of these are assigned conflicting or overlapping identities or parentage in different sources. 1. by Hesperis, the Hesperides; 2. by Pleione (or Aithra) 1. 1.1. the Hyades, 1.2. a son, Hyas, 1.3. the Pleiades; 1. and by one or more unspecified goddesses 1. 1.1. Calypso, 1.2. Dione, 1.3. Maera.Burkert, Walter. The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age. Harvard University Press, 1992. ISBN 978-0674643635Graves, Robert. The Greek Myths. London: Penguin, 1955. ISBN 0140010262Hesoid. Theogony; Works and days; Shield. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. ISBN 978-0801829994
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Jul 28, 2021 · As a Titan of Greek mythology, Atlas was part of a powerful first race of gods who descended from the primordial universe. His father was Titan Iapetus and his mother was the Oceanid Clymene.
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In Greek Mythology, Atlas was a Titan who was responsible for bearing the weight of the heavens on his shoulders, a punishment bestowed on him by Zeus. Atlas was given this task in retribution for him leading the Titans into battle, or Titanomachy, against the Olympian Gods for control of the heavens. Atlas was the son of the Titans Iapetus and Clymene, and his siblings were Epimetheus, Menoetius and Prometheus.
Aug 05, 2021 · Atlas, in Greek mythology, son of the Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid Clymene (or Asia) and brother of Prometheus (creator of humankind). In Homer’s Odyssey, Book I, Atlas seems to have been a marine creature who supported the pillars that held heaven and earth apart. These were thought to rest in the sea immediately beyond the most western horizon, but later the name of Atlas was transferred to a range of mountains in northwestern Africa.