Laocoön (Λαοκόων [laok'ooːn] , usual English pronunciation [leɪ'ɒkəʊɒn] ), the son of
Acoetes["Laocoon, son of Acoetes, brother of Anchises, and priest of Apollo..." (Hyginus, "Fabula 135.] was a Trojan priestof Poseidon, [According to Virgil: "Laocoon, ductus Neptuno sorte sacerdos" (2.101)] or of Apollo, whose rules he had defied by marrying and having sons [According to Hyginus] or had committed an impiety by having sex with his wife in the presence of a cult imagein a sanctuary; [According to Servius.] his minor role in the Epic Cyclenarrating the Trojan Warwas of warning the Trojans in vain against accepting the Trojan Horsefrom the Greeks— "A deadly fraud is this," he said, "devised by the Achaean chiefs!" [ Quintus SmyrnaeusX.420f ( [http://www.theoi.com/Text/QuintusSmyrnaeus12.html Text on-line] ).] — and for his subsequent divine execution by two serpents sent to Troy across the sea from the island of Tenedos, where the Greeks had temporarily camped. ["Aeneid" 2. 199-227.]
Laocoön warned his fellow Trojans against the wooden horse presented to the city by the Greeks. In the "Aeneid", Virgil gives Laocoön the famous line "Equo ne credite, Teucri / Quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes", or "Do not trust the Horse, Trojans / Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts." This line is the source of the saying: "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts."
The most detailed description of Laocoön's grisly fate was provided by
Quintus Smyrnaeusin " Posthomerica", a later, literary version of events following the "Iliad". Virgil employed the motif in the " Aeneid"; the Trojans, according to Virgil, disregarded his advice, however, and were taken in by the deceitful testimony of Sinon; in his resulting anger Laocoön threw his spear at the Horse. Minerva, who was supporting the Greeks, at this moment sent sea-serpents to strangle Laocoön and his two sons, Antiphantes and Thymbraeus. "Laocoön, ostensibly sacrificing a bull to Neptune on behalf of the city (lines 201ff.), becomes himself the tragic victim, as the simile (lines 223-24) makes clear. In some sense, his death must be symbolic of the city as a whole," S.V. Tracy notes. [S.V. Tracy, "Laocoon's Guilt" "The American Journal of Philology" 108.3 (Autumn 1987), pp. 451-454) p. 453.] According to the Hellenistic poet Euphorion of Chalcis, [Euphorion's poem is lost, but Servius alludes to the lines in his scholia on the "Aeneid".] Laocoon is in fact punished for procreating upon holy ground sacred to Poseidon; only unlucky timing caused the Trojans to misinterpret his death as punishment for striking the Horse, which they bring into the city with disastrous consequences. The episode furnished the subject of Sophocles' lost tragedy, "Laocoön".
Aeneid" Virgil describes the circumstances of Laocoön's death:
:From the "
:"Ille simul manibus tendit divellere nodos"
:"perfusus sanie vittas atroque veneno,"
:"clamores simul horrendos ad sidera tollit:"
:"qualis mugitus, fugit cum saucius aram"
:"taurus et incertam excussit cervice securim."
:Literal English translation:
:"At the same time he stretched forth to tear the knots with his hands
:"his fillets soaked with saliva and black venom
:"at the same time he lifted to heaven horrendous cries:
:"like the bellowing when a wounded bull has fled from the altar
:"and has shaken the ill-aimed axe from its neck.":
John Dryden's translation: [see [http://www.bartleby.com/13/2.html] , line 290]
:"With both his hands he labors at the knots;
:"His holy fillets the blue venom blots;
:"His roaring fills the flitting air around.
:"Thus, when an ox receives a glancing wound,
:"He breaks his bands, the fatal altar flies,
:"And with loud bellowings breaks the yielding skies.
The death of Laocoön was famously depicted in a much-admired marble "Lacoön and His Sons", attributed by
Pliny the Elderto the Rhodian sculptors Agesander, Athenodoros, and Polydorus), which stands in the Vatican Museums, Rome. Copies have been executed by various artists, notably Baccio Bandinelli. These show the complete sculpture (with conjectural reconstructions of the missing pieces) and can be seen in Rome, the Uffizi Galleryin Florenceand in front of the Archaeological Museum, Odessa, Ukraine, amongst others.
The marble Laocoön provided the central image for Lessing's "Laocoön", 1766, an aesthetic polemic directed again
Winckelmannand the comte de Caylus. Daniel Albright reengages the role of the figure of Laocoön in aestheticthought in his book "Untwisting the Serpent: Modernism in Literature, Music, and Other Arts".
In addition to other literary references,
John Barthemploys a bust of Laocoön in his novella, "The End of the Road". Laocoön "and her two sons" appear in the R.E.M. song, "Laughing," on "Murmur." The marble's pose is parodied in Asterix and the Laurel Wreath.
Arctinus, OCT Homer 5.107.23; pseudo-Apollodorus, "Epitome" 5.18; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, "Roman Antiquities" 1.48.2; Petronius89; Serviuson "Aeneid" 2.201; Hyginus, "Fabula 135; Quintus Smyrnaeus, "Posthomerica" 12.445ff; John Tzetzes, "Ad Lycophron" 347. [Sources compiled by Tracy 1987:452 note 3, which also mentions a fragmentary line possibly by Nicander.]
* [http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/laocoon/ Laocoon photos]
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