Exploring the History of Medicine, Part 11: Venice, Part 6

September 1, 2021


The Atlas Statue of the Doge's Palace

The Doge's Palace houses an Atlas statue.

In Greek mythology, the descendants of the gods born between the sky god Uranus and the earth goddess Gaia are called Titans.

The Titans, including every god, were all extraordinarily strong and colossal.

The adjective "titanic" in English means "gigantic."

Originally, "titanic" comes from the word "Titanic" that means resembling the powerful and colossal Titans in Greek mythology.

In the early 20th century, the name "Titanic" was given to the luxurious British ocean liner because it was the largest in the world at that time.

However, unfortunately, as many of you are aware, it sank in the Atlantic.

The element titanium, known for its exceptional strength and durability, was named after the Titans.

In Greek mythology, one of the Titans was Atlas, also a mighty and colossal god.

The Titans fought against the gods of Olympus and were defeated.

At the pinnacle of the Olympian gods was the omnipotent god Zeus, and Atlas was the last among the Titans to resist Zeus until the end.

Defeated in the battle, Atlas, by Zeus's command, was burdened with the task of holding up the sky (celestial sphere) at the western edge of the world.

The first cervical vertebra of the human body (the uppermost bone in the neck, just below the skull) is circular ring-like shaped.

This bone, supporting the skull from directly below, is called Atlas being likened to Atlas supporting the celestial sphere.

In Greek mythology, the hero Perseus defeated the monster Medusa.

Medusa had the magical ability to turn anyone she gazed at into stone.

Perseus held the severed head of Medusa and directed it toward Atlas.

Atlas turned into a large stone mass, liberated from the role of supporting the sky.

Thus, Atlas transformed into a mountain, and based on this myth, the mountain range in North Africa was named the "Atlas Mountains."

Additionally, the story of Atlas bearing the sky at the western edge led to the naming of the Atlantic Ocean.

Furthermore, calling a collection of maps an "atlas" originates from the 16th century when Mercator depicted the Greek mythological Atlas on the cover of map book.

Books gathering illustrations or diagrams are also called atlases, as they are a kind of "map book."

Due to the Greek myth of Atlas supporting the sky, in Europe, individuals who bear heavy responsibilities in organizations or households, essentially becoming pillars of support, are referred to as "Atlas."

We too aspire to become significant figures who others might call Atlas.