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ATLAS Mythology

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Atlas was a legendary Titan. He was in a lot of stories, starting with a story including a hero named Hercules. Atlas led a battle of Titans against Zeus which lasted for ten years. Eventually Atlas was singled out by Zeus and forced to hold up the heavens as a special punishment. The Earth goddess gave Juno, Jupiter's wife, a tree of golden apples as a wedding present. Atlas's daughters had the role of protecting it. Hercules was ordered to fetch the golden apples from Atlas' daughers, so he asked Atlas for help. Atlas had Hercules hold up the heavens while Atlas went to look for his daughters, who had the apples. Finally Atlas returned, but he didn''t want to take over holding up the sky again. He had enjoyed his brief break and told Hercules that he would deliver the apples himself to the king. Hercules tricked Atlas into taking the load back by asking Atlas to hold it while he shifted the load. Hercules then took the apples and Atlas again shouldered the weight of the heavens.

Because the place where Atlas stood to perform his task was the westernmost end of the world known to the ancient Greeks, the ocean near him was called the Atlantic meaning the "Sea of Atlas" in his honor.

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In another story of Roman mythology Atlas refused to offer Perseus, son of Zeus, hospitality because he was told a prophecy that a son of Zeus would some day steal his daughters golden apples. Insulted, Perseus showed him the severed head of Medusa, which had the power to turn all who looked into stone. Atlas then turned to stone. The stone Atlas became is considered the origin of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

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Atlas was a legendary king of Mauretania, the land of the Mauri that roughly corresponds with modern Morocco today. King Atlas was said to have been skilled in philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy. In antiquity, he was credited with inventing the first celestial globe. A celestial globe shows the positions of the stars and plantets in the sky relative to earth. In some medieval texts, Atlas is even credited with the invention of astronomy itself.

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Atlas' best-known cultural association is in cartography / maps. The first publisher to associate the Titan Atlas with a group of maps was Antonio Lafreri, on an engraved title-page in 1572. However, he did not use the word "atlas" in the title of his work. The mapmaker Gerardus Mercator was the first to put a picture of Atlas holding up the world - not the heavens - on the title page of his book. Mercator dedicated his "atlas" specifically "to honor the Titan, Atlas.

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In this book, Atlas serves as a metaphor for all the smart, creative "doers" in the world: the industrialists, the artists, the engineers, the professors, the workers, etc. Ayn Rand, the author, believes that the heroes in society are people that develop their talents to achieve instead of living off others. Just like Atlas on the book cover, these are the people in her books responsible for supporting the entire world. In Rand's stories they are all mistreated and are often opposed and held back by bad government policies. So in the book Atlas Shrugged they all go on strike and basically "shrug" off the weight of the world. Rand's weaves her philosophies on how to live life into her books and characters. Themes include the idea that people need to fight for their own life's goals, act on them, and have courage to become the best they can be while ignoring negative influences of others... forget thier stamp of approval. She believes in the importance of the productive individual, one that chooses to live and shapes the world around them in a creative way that is in line with thier values. Rand cautions falling into the trap of a blank routine where others perscribe your actions as your precious life rusts away. She believes that mans greatest goal in life should be the pursuit of happiness and achievment as every person has the ability to live a rich, independent, and fulfilling life.

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"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision"

~ Ayn Rand inscribed at Disney's Epcot Center