Atlas was forced by Zeus to hold up the sky.
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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.
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