Friday 14 August 2009

Gods and goddesses from apples to Atlas

Once again, I opened a page at random in my Dictionary of Classical Mythology to find The Bad Witch's God of the Week and immediately turned to a most suitable candidate - Pomona, Roman Goddess of Apples.

Pomona is a very appropriate goddess. The fruit on the tree in my garden has ripened early this year and a couple of days ago I gave a huge sackful of rosy apples to Freecycler who said he wanted as many as possible to make cider.

But Pomona has already been my Goddess of the Week, last autumn, so I decided to turn to a second page at random and found another deity associated with spherical objects - though of a much larger size - Atlas, the Greek god who carries the weight of the world.

Atlas didn't always have this heavy burden. He was at one time the leader of the Titans, but after attempting to storm Olympus to overthrow Zeus, King of the Gods, he was condemned to carry the vault of heaven aloft for eternity. However, he did get a short holiday when the hero Heracles took over the job briefly - and, by coincidence, that story connects Atlas with apples.

One of Heracles' tasks was to get three golden apples from the tree of the Hesperides. He didn't know where they were, so he asked around. Prometheus advised asking his brother, Atlas, to get them. Atlas agreed on condition Heracles held up the world while he was gone.

The name Atlas is now given to books of maps and charts because the 16th-century explorer Gerard Mercator used a picture of Atlas carrying a globe on the title page of one of his collections.

The picture above shows a Photo Jigsaw 17x12 (43x30cm) Statue of Atlas from Robert Harding. It is available from Amazon for £14.99.


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