Atlas (which means ‘very enduring’), was one of the Titans. He was son of Iapetus (a Titan, son of Uranus and Gaia), and the Oceanid Clymene.
Atlas´ brothers were Prometheus (meaning ‘forethought’, the Titan who gave the human race the gift of fire and the skill of metalwork), Epimetheus (meaning ‘afterthought’. He was Pandora´s husband) and Menoetius (meaning “doomed might”).
Atlas was married to his sister, Phoebe (Titan and Goddess of Prophecy).
He had numerous children, including the Pleiades (the stars that announced good spring weather), the Hesperides (the maidens who guarded a tree bearing golden apples), the Hyades, (the stars that announced the rainy season), Hyas (Brother of the Hyades, and spirit of seasonal rains), the nymph Calypso, Dione (Goddess of the Oak and the personification of a more ancient Mother Goddess, and presumably, Aphrodite´s mother) and Maera.
During the Titanomachy, the War between the Titans and the Olympian gods for control of the heavens, Atlas and his brother Menoetius sided with the Titans, while Prometheus and Epimetheus helped the Olympian gods.
Homer describes Atlas in his “Odyssey” as ‘deadly-minded’ and as holding the pillars which hold the heavens and earth apart.
Hesiod in his “Theogony” also describes Atlas as holding up the heavens and locates him in the land of the Hesperides (female deities famed for their singing), which was far to the west, at the edge of the world.
Later tradition, including Herodotus, associates the god with the Atlas Mountains where the Titan was transformed from a shepherd into a huge rock mountain by Perseus (who had behead Medusa), using the head of the Gorgon Medusa with her deadly stare. (Note: the Gorgon Medusa was one of three ugly monsters who had snakes for hair, staring eyes, and huge wings).
Atlas was considered a source of great wisdom and founder of astronomy, and, according to Plato, in his dialogue “Critias”, he was the original king of Atlantis.
Atlas had been required to fetch the golden apples from the fabled gardens of the Hesperides which were sacred to Zeus´wife, Hera, and guarded by the fearsome hundred-headed dragon Ladon.
He was also requested to take the world onto his shoulders for a while, with the help of Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom.
But, Hercules tricked Atlas into taking the load back by asking Atlas to hold it while he shifted the load.
Hercules then took the apples and Atlas again shouldered the weight of the heavens.
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 the Atlantic, meaning the “Sea of Atlas” in his honor.
Atlas’ best-known cultural association is in cartography / maps. The first publisher to associate the Titan Atlas with a group of maps was Antonio Lafreri, on an engraved title-page in 1572. However, he did not use the word “atlas” in the title of his work. The mapmaker Gerardus Mercator was the first to put a picture of Atlas holding up the world – not the heavens – on the title page of his book.
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I want to be your Atlas, so I can
chisel away at “alas,” and grant you
relief from worries of the past.
I want to create a globe out
of those woes
to carry on my shoulders—
just for a moment.
Just so you can exhale the words:
© 2015 – Eva PoeteX
Originally published on Eva PoeteX.-
About Eva Xanthopoulos: She is a Greco-American Artist and Mystic Poet. She is also a Supporter of various causes and Promoter of artists worldwide.
Learn More about Eva here
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