During a Tour of Italy we paid a visit to the Naples Museum of Archaeology. Where we came across this Titan from Greek Mythology. Who was forced to bear the weight of the whole world upon his shoulders. Meet the Farnese Atlas.
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Built from solid Marble, this 7’ foot tall sculpture of Atlas is very detailed. Clearly showing the agony upon his face. As his forehead wrinkles with intense concentration. While he’s forced to toil beneath the weight of the figurative 13 Septillion pound load upon his shoulders.
Fun Fact: 13 Septillion pounds is the estimated weight of the world. That’s the number 13 followed by 24 Zeros, or to be exact 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
What’s On Atlas’s Shoulders?
What is Atlas actually holding? It’s been depicted throughout the years as if he’s holding the actual world. According to Greek Mythology he is actually holding the Celestial Globe, not the actual World. As he was punished to hold up the night sky by the leader of the Olympian gods, Zeus.
A Celestial Globe is a depiction of the night sky, and it’s constellations as they are positioned. Without displaying the Planets, or the Sun, and Moon. Because their location isn’t a constant like the stars, due to their proximity to Earth.
This Farnese Atlas was created sometime around 129 A.D… The sculptor actually recorded the positioning of the night sky as it was in his time. Effectively saving an astronomical map, or image of the sky as it was in 129 A.D.
Atlas in Mythology
In Greek Mythology Atlas was a Titan son of a Titan named Lapetus, who was the son of Uranus. Titans are the earliest Greek Gods, coming before, and giving birth to the first generation of Olympians. Which were lead by Zeus.
How did Atlas end up holding the Celestial Globe, or night sky? Atlas lead the Titans in a revolt to aid Cronus, and help overthrow the Olympian gods. This great battle was said to last 10 years, and took place in the Thessaly region of Greece.
Which is home to Mount Olympus, with the largest city in this area of Greece being Larissa. During the this battle the Olympian gods were lead by their Chief god, and King Zeus.
After Zeus successfully overthrew his father Cronos, during this 10 year battle known as the Titanomachy. Atlas was punished for his involvement in the Battle against the Olympians. Instead of being banished to Tartarus with the other Titans. Zeus handed down a special punishment for Atlas. Condemning him to hold up the sky, or celestial globe for eternity.
At the western most part of the Earth, in what is today known as Morocco. According to Greek Mythology, as Atlas was holding up the Celestial Sky. He was approached by Perseus as he wandered through the land of Atlas.
Realizing Perseus was the son of Zeus. Atlas tried to run him out of his lands. Perseus is said to have become enraged with Atlas’s unwelcoming personality. Brandishing the head of Medusa to turn Atlas into stone. It’s said that Atlas was turned into a large Mountain Range today known as the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
Ruler of A Lost Island
Atlas was also said to be the first King of the legendary lost island city of Atlantis. In Plato’s dialogue of Timaeus and Critias. Atlas is described as the son of Poseidon, with the Atlantic Ocean deriving its name from him. The name of the legendary lost island of Atlantis literally means: Atlas’s Island.
Like what you read, and want to know more about the Farnese Family and their sculptures? Just CLICK HERE to read my other article in Greek Mythology, about another famous Farnese Sculpture.
The Roving Gypsy
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