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Atlas (mythology) facts for kids

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A term of Ovid, stories from the Metamorphoses for study and sight reading (1920) (14779934812)
Atlas holds up the celestial sphere, in Naples

Atlas is a Titan in Greek mythology. The Atlantic ocean (which translates as "Sea of Atlas") is named after him.

Atlas is the son of Iapetos. He has seven daughters with the Oceanid Pleione. They are called the Pleiades.

After the war between the Titans and the Olympians, Atlas was punished. Zeus forced him to hold the heaven on the western edge of the world. Later, the story about him changed and it was said that he held the whole world on his shoulders. Mostly in modern times, he is shown holding a globe of the world.

Heracles came to Atlas and asked him to for help with one of his Labours. He wanted Atlas to get the "Golden Apples" for him as only an immortal could take them. Atlas agreed, but only if Heracles would hold up the sky. Atlas was pleased to be free from its weight but Heracles tricked him into holding it again.

Perseus also came to Atlas for help after killing Medusa. He asked for food, and Atlas said he could not help. Perseus was angry and showed him the Medusa's head (which was able to turn people to stone). Atlas then became the Atlas Mountains. The name Atlas means "Hard and Enduring."

King of Mauretania

Atlas was also a legendary king of Mauretania, the land of the Mauri in antiquity roughly corresponding with modern Northern Morocco and western Algeria. In the 16th century, Gerardus Mercator put together the first collection of maps to be called an "Atlas" and devoted his book to the "King of Mauretania".

Atlas became associated with Northwest Africa over time. He had been connected with the Hesperides, or "Nymphs", which guarded the golden apples, and Gorgons both of which were said to live beyond Ocean in the extreme west of the world since Hesiod's Theogony. Diodorus and Palaephatus mention that the Gorgons lived in the Gorgades, islands in the Aethiopian Sea. The main island was called Cerna, and modern-day arguments have been advanced that these islands may correspond to Cape Verde due to Phoenician exploration. The Northwest Africa region emerged as the canonical home of the King via separate sources. In particular, according to Ovid, after Perseus turns Atlas into a mountain range, he flies over Aethiopia, the blood of Medusa's head giving rise to Libyan snakes. By the time of the Roman Empire, the habit of associating Atlas's home to a chain of mountains, the Atlas Mountains, which were near Mauretania and Numidia, was firmly entrenched.

Cultural influence

Atlas' best-known cultural association is in cartography. The first publisher to associate the Titan Atlas with a group of maps was the print-seller Antonio Lafreri, on the engraved title-page he applied to his ad hoc assemblages of maps, Tavole Moderne Di Geografia De La Maggior Parte Del Mondo Di Diversi Autori (1572); however, he did not use the word "Atlas" in the title of his work, an innovation of Gerardus Mercator, who dedicated his "atlas" specifically to honour the Titan, Atlas, King of Mauretania, a learned philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. In psychology, Atlas is used metaphorically to describe the personality of someone whose childhood was characterized by excessive responsibilities. Ayn Rand's political dystopian novel Atlas Shrugged (1957) references the popular misconception of Atlas holding up the entire world on his back by comparing the capitalist and intellectual class as being "modern Atlases" which hold the modern world up at great expense to themselves.

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