Atlas was forced by Zeus to hold up the sky.
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Courtesy of the Nova Development and Corel Corporations
In Greek mythology, the giant Atlas was the leader of the Titans who fought against
the gods of the Mount Olympus.
The head of the Olympian gods was Zeus
who was fighting against his father, the Titan Cronos
, to gain control of the world.
After a ten year struggle, Zeus
defeated his despotic father, and assumed control of the
world. Zeus imposed severe punishments on the Titans. Atlas, as the Titans'
leader, received the exemplary punishment of carrying the vault of the sky
on his shoulders.
Atlas had a wife, the nymph Pleione, who bore the
Pleiades and the Hyades.
He also was the father of the Hesperides, who were born from a liaison
between Atlas with Hesperis. The Hesperides were the guardians of a tree
of golden apples that the earth goddess Gaea gave
Hera, Zeus' wife, as
a wedding present. The tree had a secret location.
Atlas was told by an
oracle that a son of Zeus would one day steal the golden apples guarded by
his daughters, the Hesperides. For this reason, he refused hospitality to
Because of Atlas' inhospitality, Perseus showed him the Gorgon
Medusa's head, which turned Atlas to stone. This myth was considered the
origin of the formation of the Atlas mountains in Morocco.
In a different version of the story, Heracles was ordered to fetch the golden apples as
one of his twelve labors. Heracles persuaded Atlas to take them on his
behalf, while Heracles would support the sky instead of him. Atlas accepted thinking
to leave Heracles supporting the heavens forever. When he returned with the
apples, Atlas told Heracles that he himself would deliver the apples to the
king Eurystheus. However, pretending to adjust the weight on his
shoulders, Heracles tricked Atlas, who was left without the apples and with his duty resumed.
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