Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Atlas (1.)

ATLAS ([Greek]), in Greek Mythology, called sometimes a son of Japetus and the nymph Asia, or of Uranus and Gaia, and at other times traced to a different parentage, but always known as the being -who supported on his shoulders the pillars on which the sky rested. He knew the depths of the sea (Odyssey, vii. 245), and in the first instance seems to have been a marine creation. The pillars which he supported were thought to rest in the sea, immediately beyond the most western horizon. But by the time of Herodotus (iv. 184), a mountain is suggested as best suited to hold up the heavens, and the name of Atlas is transferred to a hill in the N.W. of Africa. Then the name is traced to a king of that district, rich in flocks and herds, and owning the garden of the Hesperides. Finally, Atlas was explained as the name of a primitive astronomer. He was the father of the Pleiades and Hyades. Perseus encountered him when he searched for Medusa. Heracles took the burden of the sky from his shoulders, but cleverly contrived to replace it. Atlas bear ing up the heavens is mentioned as being represented on early works of art, e.g., on the chest of Cypselus (Pausan.,v. 18,1), j and on the throne of Apollo at Amyclse (Pausan., iii. 18, 7) ; and this subject occurs on several existing works of art.