Atlas was forced by Zeus to hold up the sky.
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Atlas is the son of Iapetus and Clymene, two of the Titans. One day Zeus raged a war against Cronus for the right to be ruler of the gods. Atlas joined the side of the Titans and Cronus. Zeus defeated Cronus and punished Atlas by giving him the task of holding up the sky.
There are many different myths that include Atlas. 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. He returned and once again held up the heavens.
Today, the term atlas is used to describe a book of maps.
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