"Atlas and the Hesperides" by John Singer Sargent
Origin: Greek
Gender: Male
Meaning: "Not enduring"
Pronunciation: AT-les
Other forms: N/A

Atlas is one of my favorite mythological names for boys, and I'm not alone; Edward Norton just chose it for his son, and Anne Heche chose it for her's back in 2009. Although the story is not an especially cheery one, it is still not as morbid as a lot of Greek myths. Atlas comes from the Greek prefix α, which was negative, and tlao, meaning "to endure". Atlas was a Titan and is sometimes credited as the son of Iapetus, also a Titan, and the Oceanid Asia, or Clymene; other times he is the son of Aether and Gaia. He was punished for siding with the Titans during the war against the Olympians, and while the others were sent to Tartarus, Zeus sent him to the western edge of the Earth where he was to hold up Uranus, Father Sky, and keep him from Gaia or Mother Earth, who was his mother and wife. Sometimes it is said he held up the celestial spheres, or the sky.

Most famously, one of Heracles' Twelve Labors was to steal the golden apples from Hera's garden, which were taken care of by the hesperides, Atlas' daughters. Heracles went to Atlas and offered to hold up the spheres while he went and retrieved the apples, but when he returned Atlas tried to trick him into carrying the spheres permanently by telling him he would deliver the apples for him. Heracles pretended to agree to this, asking that he only hold it once more for a moment so he could arrange his cloak as padding. Heracles then took the apples and ran away.

Another mythological Atlas was King Atlas of Mauretania, who was supposedly skilled in astronomy, philosophy, and mathematics, and was thought to have made the first celestial globe. The term "atlas" when used for a collection of maps, was named so for this King.


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