Atlas is the Titan who is forced to hold the heavens on his shoulders as punishment for siding against Zeus and the other Olympians during their battle with the Titans.
Atlas was the son of Iapetus and Clymene, and the brother of Menoetius, Epimetheus, and Prometheus. Atlas and Menoetius fought against the Olympians Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Demeter, and Hestia. As punishment after the Titans’ defeat, Zeus placed Atlas at the western edge of the world where he was to hold the universe on his shoulders for eternity. Later, he was depicted as only holding the world on his shoulders.
Heracles encounters Atlas during his Eleventh Labor, which was to gather the Golden Apples of Hesperides. During his journey, he freed Atlas’ brother Prometheus from where Zeus had chained him to a rock for his liver to be pecked out each day by a giant eagle, only to regenerate overnight. Prometheus told Heracles to find Atlas, who would tell him where the Golden Apples were. Heracles found Atlas, who told him he would fetch the apples if Heracles could hold the heavens for him. Heracles did, but before Atlas could take off with the apples and leave him the burden of holding the heavens, Heracles asked him to hold them briefly while he made a cushion for himself. As soon as Atlas took the heavens back, Heracles took off with the apples.
Perseus encountered Atlas on his way to kill Medusa. He briefly danced and flirted with the three nymph daughters of Atlas before moving on. When he returned, he saw that Atlas could see his daughters dancing below with him and was becoming angry, stamping his foot and raining comets down onto the earth. Perseus took Medusa’s head from the sack, turning Atlas into a giant stone mountain, which became Mount Atlas.
Atlas Quick Reference
Iapetus and Clymene
Domain / Power
The western edge of the world
- Defeat of the Titans
- Twelve Labors of Heracles
Symbol / Attributes
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