A constellation representing the three-headed monster that guarded the gates of Hades. It is depicted being held in the outstretched hand of Hercules, who overpowered Cerberus and dragged it from the Underworld to the surface as one of his labours. The constellation was introduced by Johannes Hevelius in 1687, replacing the branch from the tree of the golden apples that had previously been depicted in the hand of Hercules. Although, in mythology, Cerberus was supposedly a three-headed dog, Hevelius and all subsequent map makers depicted it with three snake heads.


Cerberus held in the grasp of Hercules, as shown on the Firmamentum Sobiescianum star atlas of Johannes Hevelius (1690). It is shown in mirror image, as it would appear on a celestial globe. Image courtesy ETH-Bibliothek Zurich.

The English engraver John Senex, a friend of Edmond Halley, combined Cerberus with the apple branch, Ramus, in 1721 to produce Cerberus et Ramus, the serpents in this case being wrapped around the branch, and this is how it was subsequently shown on the Uranographia atlas of Johann Bode (see illustration below).


Cerberus et Ramus shown in the Uranographia of Johann Bode (1801).

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