Atlas was forced by Zeus to hold up the sky.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of the Nova Development and Corel Corporations
Atlas is the son of Iapetus and Clymene, two of the twelve Titans. One day Zeus raged a war against his father, Cronus, for the right to be ruler of the gods. Atlas joined the side of the Titans and Cronus. After ten years, Zeus defeated Cronus and imprisoned the Titans in Tartarus. He also punished Atlas by giving him the task of holding up the sky.
There are many different myths that include Atlas and his punishment. One in particular is the story of Heracles and the Twelve Labors. It is said that Heracles wanted to be immortal, and so he had to perform the Twelve Labors. In one labor, Heracles had to pick golden apples from a tree guarded by the Hesperides and the serpent Ladon.
Heracles, with the help of Athena, supported the sky while Atlas picked the apples. Atlas thought he would be free from his job, but Heracles tricked him.He returned and once again held up the heavens. The fruit represents immortality because it was picked from the Tree of Life.
Today, atlas symbolizes a book of maps.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
Amphitrite was one of the fifty Nereids, the attendants of the sea-god Poseidon. Poseidon (Neptune) had fallen in love with Amphitrite after seeing her dancing on the island of Naxos. Amphitrite rejected...more
For the ancient Greeks, the Hyades were daughters of Pleione and Atlas, a giant who carried the heavens on his shoulders. The Hyades were sisters of the Pleiades and the Hesperides. They were very attached...more
In Greek mythology, the Pleiades were seven sisters. Their names were Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Asterope, Celaeno, and Merope. Their parents were the Titan Atlas and the Oceanid, Pleione. One day...more
Ahsonnutli was the sky father and chief deity of the Navajo Indians. He created heaven, Earth, and the sky. Each of the four cardinal directions was supported by a giant. Each direction was also associated...more
Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She was known to the Romans as Venus. There were actually two different Aphrodites, one was the daughter of Uranus, the other the daughter of Zeus and...more
In Greek mythology, Apollo was the son of Jupiter(in Greek Zeus) and Leto (Letona). He was the god of the Sun, logic, and reason, and was also a fine musician and healer. Leto travelled all over Greece...more
According to an ancient Greek legend, the figure of a gigantic crab was placed in the nighttime sky by the goddess Hera to form the constellation Cancer. Hera was the jealous wife of the sky god, Zeus....more