Atlas, an individual featured in Greek mythology, is typically illustrated with him carrying a globe or celestial sphere on his back. This image can represent strength, persistence, and patience.
In this article, we’ll look at the various meanings behind an atlas tattoo.
Who is Atlas?
In Greek mythology, Atlas was the son of the Titan, Iapetus. Titans were the descendants of Uranus and Gaia. There are differing opinions about who the mother of Atlas was. Some state that it was Clymene, an Oceanid, while others claim it was a sea nymph named Asia.
Atlas had three brothers: Epimetheus, Menoetius, and Prometheus. Over his lifetime, Atlas also fathered many children, mainly girls. Atlas is said to have had great knowledge and skill in the areas of astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy. Though the etymology of the name Atlas is unclear, it is likely that it means very enduring.
Atlas and the Titanomachy
The ten-year war that was fought in ancient Greece is referred to as the Titanomachy. It is also called the War of the Titans. The battles were fought to determine whether the Titans or the Olympians would reign over the world.
During this war, Atlas and his brothers were divided. Prometheus and Epimetheus took the side of the Olympians with Zeus. Atlas and Menoetius fought together on the Titan side. Eventually, Atlas would become the leader of this rebellion and face the consequences for that.
When the Olympians won the war, Atlas was punished and condemned to hold up the world on his shoulders for all of eternity.
Atlas and Perseus
Another story of Atlas was written by the Greek poet Polyidus. He wrote that Perseus came to Atlas, seeking shelter from him. Atlas, however, was afraid that Perseus would steal his golden apples and declined to offer him assistance.
Faced with this refusal, Perseus used his powers to turn Atlas to stone. This stone took the shape of an entire mountain range. The Atlas Mountains are found in the northwest part of Africa, specifically Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Atlas Depicted in Art
Several artists have created works of art depicting the story of Atlas. Most of this artwork shows Atlas carrying a celestial globe on his shoulders. He is usually illustrated as a large, strong man with a beard who is bent over from the weight of the world. Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman art all feature paintings or sculptures of Atlas.
One famous piece of art is a bronze statue entitled Atlas. This artwork was sculpted by Lee Lawrie in 1937. The statue is 45 feet tall and is located in the Rockefeller Center in New York City.
Another famous sculpture is known as the Farnese Atlas, which is thought to have been created by the artist Heliodorus. It was made in the 2nd century and is the oldest remaining statue of Atlas in the world. Made of marble, this Roman sculpture stands 7 feet tall. The Farnese Atlas is housed at the National Archaeological Museum of Naples in Italy.
Perhaps due to its masculine nature, tattoos featuring an image of Atlas are more common among men. They are often black and white and illustrated on the shoulder or forearm.
A person who has an Atlas tattoo almost certainly holds an interest in Greek mythology or at least is somewhat familiar with the story of Atlas. The symbolism of this tattoo is typically related to strength, persistence, patience, or the so-called Atlas personality.
The image of Atlas holding the weight of the world on his shoulders is one that displays incredible strength and endurance. A person who chooses an Atlas tattoo may do so because they like this representation of power.
For some, the image of Atlas may represent physical strength. The tattoo may symbolize the person’s desire to build or maintain their own strength and power in their body. It can be seen as an encouraging image and a sign that nothing is impossible.
This tattoo may represent a person’s belief that the body is capable of more than what we think and that there is no limit to what a person is able to achieve.
For others, the image of Atlas with the globe on his back may be more symbolic of mental or emotional strength. An individual with this tattoo may view it as a reminder that they are strong enough to handle any challenges that might come their way.
Since Atlas was condemned to hold up the world for all of eternity, the image can be understood as a representation of persistence and tenacity. An Atlas tattoo can symbolize a person’s determination to stick with something regardless of how long it takes.
Even though Atlas did not choose this punishment, it can still represent a person’s persistence with their goals. The tattoo can illustrate a person’s willingness to keep going despite the obstacles they may face along the way. The individual may view the tattoo with a certain perspective, knowing that their challenges are never as great as depicted in this image.
For Atlas to display such strength and power for eternity, he would need to have had patience. A tattoo of this image may represent the need for an individual to exhibit a similar type of patience in their life.
The Atlas tattoo may relate to a person’s desire to be more patient in general or to have more patience with specific people or occurrences in their life. It can be symbolic of the person knowing that being patient will ultimately result in their achieving something they hope for.
In psychology, the Atlas personality refers to the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors an individual has as a result of a specific childhood upbringing. An individual who was forced to take on responsibilities that were inappropriate for their young age often develops this personality.
The Atlas personality is a result of having to take on too much as a child and not being afforded the opportunity to experience childhood. These individuals had to grow up too quickly and as adults are often unable to express their needs. They may feel anger toward their parents and experience depression or anxiety as a result.
An Atlas tattoo may be symbolic of a person’s childhood experiences in this sense. They may relate to the idea of having to shoulder responsibilities that were too heavy for them to carry.