Hera received a golden apple tree as a gift from Gaia. She planted it near the place Atlas was imprisoned, and employed a dragon named Ladon, and Atlas' daughters, the Hesperides, to guard it.

I have heard about a legend where Atlas refused to let Perseus rest near the apple tree, for the fear of the apples being stolen.

But why does Atlas care? Those are Hera's apples, not his.

1 Answer 1


It's not uncommon for Greek myths to have several variations, and it's not always possible to reconcile different versions of a myth.

The Atlas and Perseus story is a late variation of the myth of the Garden of the Hesperides that appears in Book 4 of Ovid's Metamorphoses. In this version, the garden and its golden apples belong to Atlas, not Hera (who isn't involved at all). Another notable difference in Ovid's telling is that Atlas is a giant, not a Titan.

The story is built around a prophecy that a son of Zeus will steal the golden apples and with them the giant's glory. This was not Perseus' intention, the hero was only looking for a place to rest. However, when Perseus identified himself as a son of Zeus Atlas naturally assumed that he was there to fulfil the prophecy. Perseus was left with no other option than to turn Atlas to stone by using Medusa's head.

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    However, it is also possible that since Hera planted the seed in the garden of the Hesperides, who were daughters of Atlas, thus making it technically his property, Atlas came to regard himself as having some claim over it, whether or not he actually did. So, that when Perseus came, he refused him by that imaginary right. Of course, it could well be, that case of insecurity in his own power [ If this guy is so brave and great as a mortal, how good would he be as an immortal?]. Note that I have absolutely zero references for this. Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 14:42
  • @MalayTheDynamo nice analysis though. keep it up!
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 15:24
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    @MalayTheDynamo looking into the immortal part. Do you know where you got the immortal part from?
    – bleh
    Commented Jun 29, 2017 at 21:55
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    @PrittBalagopal This isn't a single narrative. There are several variations of the myth, and Atlas parentage isn't necessarily the same in each variation. Also, Ovid's telling ends with Atlas turning into stone. That renders it completely incompatible with the versions of the stories that concern Atlas dealings with Herakles. If Perseus turned Atlas into stone, it would be impossible for Herakles (who was Perseus great-grandson) to meet him.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 3:57
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    @DukeZhou In Norse Mythology, golden apples are said to be a source of immortality. Also, given that Gaia had given them as gifts, and since she was so powerful due to being a primordial, it kind of fits. Commented Jun 30, 2017 at 9:22

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