The Crab

Cancer Constellation

The Story


The Crab plays a minor role in the Labors of Hercules (Heracles in Greek). Hercules was the son of Zeus, the chief of the Greek gods, by a mortal woman of great beauty named Alcmene.

The Jealousy of Hera

Zeus' wife was the goddess Hera. Hera hated Hercules because of Zeus' infidelity and also because Zeus had allowed Hercules to suckle at her breast while she was sleeping. The divine milk of the goddess made Hercules immortal, but earned him the eternal wrath of Hera which dogged through his life.

The Crab

The Labors of Hercules

At one point Hera cast a spell over Hercules, so that in confusion he slaughtered his own children. In atonement the gods required him to spend twelve years in service to King Eurystheus of Mycenae. The King set Hercules difficult tasks to perform, one task after another. The tasks were so difficult that indeed they appeared to be impossible, but the great Hercules accomplished them nevertheless. These tasks have become known as the Labors of Hercules.

The Battle Against the Hydra

The second task that Hercules had to accomplish was to slay the Hydra. The Hydra was a multi-headed snakelike monster. Hercules grappled with it and slashed at it with his sword, but as soon as Hercules cut off one head of the monster, two more grew back. Hercules was able to defeat the Hydra only with the help of his charioteer Iolaus who burned at the stump with a torch as each head was cut off. Iolaus' burning torch prevented the heads from growing back, so that Hercules at the end could slaughter the monster.

The Crab Scuttles In

The Crab was sent by Hera to distract Hercules in the midst of the struggle with the Hydra. The Crab scuttled out from the swamp to bite at Hercules feet with its claws, but Hercules crushed the Crab with his heel. The goddess Hera rewarded the Crab by placing it among the stars.  

Copyright © 1998 - 2010 by Arnold V. Lesikar,
Professor Emeritus
Dept. of Physics, Astronomy, and Engineering Science,
St. Cloud State University,St. Cloud, MN 56301-4498

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