Atlas was one of the second-generation Titans. He personified the quality of endurance (atlaô). In one tradition, Atlas led the Titanes in a rebellion against Zeus and was condemned to bear the heavens upon his shoulders. In another, he was said to have been appointed guardian of the pillars which held earth and sky asunder. He was also the god who instructed mankind in the art of astronomy, a tool which was used by sailors in navigation and farmers in measuring the seasons. These roles were often combined and Atlas becomes the god who turns the heaven on their axis, causing the stars to revolve.
Herakles encountered the Titan during his quest for the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. He agreed to take the heavens upon his shoulders while Atlas fetched the apples. The hero also slew the Hesperian Drakon, which in vase painting appears as the Titan’s tormentor, and built two great pillars at the ends of the earth, perhaps to relieve the Titan of his labour. In a late myth, Atlas was transformed into the stony Atlas mountain by Perseus using the Gorgon’s head. The Titan was also the constellation Kneeler.