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The Story of Atlas

The Story of Atlas

© Image Credit: Library of Congress Geography and Map DivisionWashington, DC

By Judy Rosenbaum, Cricket Media

You've probably seen an atlas. It's a book of maps. But the word atlas also has a different meaning. It was someone's name. Here's the story of the first Atlas.

The ancient Greeks told tales about giant beings called Titans. One Titan was named Atlas. The Titans once fought with the Greek gods and lost. So, the gods punished the Titans. Atlas's punishment was to hold the sky up on his shoulders.

He held the sky up for years and years and years.

Once Atlas almost got free. A hero named Hercules came to see him. Hercules needed to find some golden apples. Only Atlas knew where they grew.

Atlas said, "I'll get the apples if you hold the sky up while I'm gone."

Hercules was almost as strong as a Titan. He could hold the sky up while Atlas went for the apples. But it was hard work.

Soon, Atlas came back. He saw Hercules with the sky on his shoulders. The weight of the sky made Hercules sweat and groan. Who would want to take back a job like that? Atlas thought, "I could leave Hercules here and walk away. Then I would be free forever."

Hercules realized what Atlas had in mind. So Hercules thought of a trick. "This sky is so uncomfortable!" he said. "Hold it up for a minute while I put a pad on my shoulders. Then I'll hold it up again." So Atlas took the sky from Hercules.

But the minute Hercules was free, he ran away. So, Atlas had to keep holding up the sky forever. In time, he turned into stone mountains-the Atlas Mountains in northwestern Africa. Even now, Atlas still seems to carry the sky on his shoulders.

About 500 years ago, a great cartographer named Gerardus Mercator made a book of maps. In the book, he told the story of Atlas. Ever since then, a book of maps has been called an atlas.




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Kids Magazine: The Story of Atlas
The Story of Atlas
The Story of Atlas
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