Italian School, (15th century)
Biblioteca Marciana, Venice, Italy / The Bridgeman Art Library
The creation of the constellation is explained in Greek mythology by the short-lived association of Karkinos with one of the Twelve Labors of Hercules, in which Hercules battled the multi-headed Lernaean Hydra. Hera had sent Karkinos to distract Hercules and put him at a disadvantage during the battle, but Hercules quickly dispatched the creature by kicking it with such force that it was propelled into the sky. Other accounts had Karkinos grabbing onto Hercules’ toe with its claws, but Hercules simply crushed the crab underfoot. Hera, grateful for Karkinos’ heroic effort, gave it a place in the sky.