"Now Iapetus took to wife the neat-ankled maid Clymene, daughter of Ocean, and went up with her into one bed. And she bare him a stout-hearted son, Atlas: also she bare very glorious Menoetius and clever Prometheus, full of various wiles, and scatter-brained Epimetheus.
Hyginus emphasises the primordial nature of Atlas by making him the son of Aether and Gaia. In contexts where a Titan and a Titaness are assigned each of the seven planetary powers, Atlas is paired with Phoebe and governs the moon. He had three brothers — Prometheus, Epimetheus and Menoetius.
According to Plato, the first king of Atlantis was also named Atlas, but that Atlas was a mortal son of Poseidon. A euhemerist origin for Atlas was as a legendary Atlas, king of Mauretania, an expert astronomer.
The etymology of the name Atlas is uncertain and still debated. Virgil took pleasure in translating etymologies of Greek names by combining them with adjectives that explained them: for Atlas his adjective is durus, "hard, enduring", which suggested to George Doig that Virgil was aware of the Greek τλήναι "to endure"; Doig offers the further possibility that Virgil was aware of Strabo's remark that the native North African name for this mountain was Douris.
Some modern linguists derive it and its Greek root from the Proto-Indo-European root *tel, 'to uphold, support'; others suggest that it is a pre-Indo-European name. The Etruscan name for Atlas, aril, is etymologically independent.
Atlas' best-known cultural association is in cartography. The first publisher to associate the Titan Atlas with a group of maps was Antonio Lafreri, on the title-page to Tavole Moderne Di Geografia De La Maggior Parte Del Mondo Di Diversi Autori; however, he did not use the word "atlas" in the title of his work, an innovation of Mercator who dedicated his "atlas" specifically "to honour the Titan, Atlas, King of Mauritania, a learned philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer."
Since the middle of the sixteenth century, any collection of cartographic maps has come to be called an atlas. Gerardus Mercator was the first to use the word in this way, and he actually depicted the astronomer king.
Atlas continues to be a commonly used icon in western culture (and advertising), as a symbol of strength or stoic endurance. He is often shown kneeling on one knee while supporting an enormous round globe on his back and shoulders. The globe originally represented the celestial sphere of ancient astronomy, rather than the earth. The use of the term atlas as a name for collections of terrestrial maps and the modern understanding of the earth as a sphere have combined to inspire the many depictions of Atlas' burden as the earth.
Mickey à travers les siècles (Mickey Through the Centuries) was a French comic strip series published in the early 1970s featuring Mickey Mouse as a time traveller who assisted Heracles in his twelve tasks. The story gave a Euhemerist spin on the legend of Atlas, depicted as an ordinary king with a passion for geography. He builds a large globe representing the Earth, and he and Heracles carry it to a suitable location. The Hesperides are his daughters and the golden apples are oranges.
In the Worlds Strongest Man competitions, competitors have to carry huge stone boulders across a small distance. These stones are known as the Atlas Stones.
Sources describe Atlas as the father, by different goddesses, of numerous children, mostly daughters. Some of these are assigned conflicting or overlapping identities or parentage in different sources.