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Atlas was a son of Iapetus, a Titan, and Clymene, a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, and brother of Prometheus. He fought with the Titans in the war against the Olympian gods. As a punishment Atlas was condemned to bear forever on his back the earth and the heavens, and on his shoulder the great pillar that separates them.

According to one legend Zeus married the goddess Harmonia, a descent of Atlas, and from this union came the Muses. After Atlas picked the apples of Hesperides and brought the back to Hercules, the twelfth Herculean labor, the latter tricked him and placed the sky back on his shoulders.

Since the figure of Atlas supporting the world often appeared on title pages of collections of maps his name became synonymous with a volume containing maps. Atlantes, the plural of Atlas, is the classical term in architecture for the sculptured figure of a male used as a column to support a superstructure. A.G.H.


Funk &Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, 1979, 2, 442
Grimal, Pierre, Larousse World Mythology, Secaucus, New Jersey, Chartwell Books, 1965, pp. 103, 112, 143

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