Atlas (mythology)

Atlas (Greek Ἄτλας, carrier ) is in Greek mythology, a Titan who supported the heavens at the westernmost point of the known world. It is therefore also the personification of the Atlas Mountains.



Atlas was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the Oceanid ( sea nymph ) Asia, also called Clymene. Hyginus Mythographus, who wanted to emphasize the primordial shape, Atlas made ​​the son of Aether and Gaia. He had three brothers, namely Menoitios, Prometheus and Epimetheus.


Depending on the source, that overlap or sometimes contradict, Atlas had several wives and fathered many children with them, mostly daughters:

  • With Hesperis: the Hesperides
  • The Hyades
  • Son of Hyas
  • The Pleiades
  • Kalypso
  • Daughter of Dione
  • Daughter Maera


Atlas and his brother Menoitios looked after the titanic struggle against the Olympians on the losing side and were punished for their loyalty to Kronos by Zeus. Unlike most other Titans Atlas was not banished to Tartarus, but was given the arduous task of Gaia (personifying the Earth ) to stand western edge and there to lift the Uranus ( personification of the sky), so as to prevent that aufnähmen those both their primordial embrace again. ( In ancient times it was Gaia namely tired of being constantly raped by Uranus ). So Atlas became the Atlas Telamon ( = anchored Atlas ) and received with Coeus, the world axis around which the heavens rotate, personalized, a counterpart.

Meeting with Perseus

In a late announcement caused Zeus ' vengeance on Atlas indirect nature; Ovid tells about this: Having had Perseus the Gorgon Medusa, whose terrible sight made instantly to stone in the land of the Hyperboreans each, beheaded, he got on his onward journey to the palace of the atlas. The Titan but refused him hospitably received, because the oracle had once prophesied, a son of Zeus ' would appear and the apples of his daughter rob (→ Hesperides ). The angry Perseus holding out then captured the head of Medusa contrary, after which the titanium to a giant rock, the Atlas Mountains, petrified.

Meeting with Heracles

In his eleventh labor for Eurystheus, Heracles should obtain the golden apples of the Hesperides. This progressed to a tree that was a wedding gift from the earth goddess Gaia to Hera. The latter entrusted the apple tree the Hesperides, the daughters of Atlas, at. He grew up on the slopes of the Atlas Mountains and was guarded by a hundred -headed dragon Ladon. When Heracles arrived at his excursion to Atlas and declared himself to Atlas volunteered to pick the apples for Hercules, so that spared him the fight against the dragons remain suspicious. Meanwhile, Heracles Atlas should replace while wearing the firmament. The hero thanked him and invited the celestial sphere on his shoulders, while the Titan got the golden apples. Intoxicated by his new freedom Atlas wanted this now bring Eurystheus himself. Even so Heracles was a sham agreed, but asked Atlas to take the load again for a short time, so that he could rearrange his cloak, so as to create a fabric cushion between the shoulder and the load. Atlas met him this service; Heracles, however, went on with the loot and away.


Originally Atlas was usually depicted in the visual arts as a carrier and as Atlant he took in the architecture of both a supportive as well as decorative function. In later pictures he is wearing then the celestial sphere, or not infrequently the globe.

Atlas as a name

The Titan Atlas is named for the Atlantic Ocean ( Atlantic), but not for the atlas as a map series or the legendary island of Atlantis. Also, the first cervical vertebra is called the atlas. He "carries" the head as Atlas then the celestial sphere.