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Laocoön(lāŏk`ōŏn), in Greek mythology, priest of Apollo who warned the Trojans not to touch the wooden horse made by the Greeks during the Trojan War. While he and his two sons were sacrificing to Poseidon at the seashore, two serpents came from the water and crushed them. The Trojans interpreted this event as a sign of the gods' disapproval of Laocoön's prophecy, and they brought the wooden horse into the city. Subsequent events vindicated Laocoön's judgment, however, since the horse was filled with Greeks, who waited until night and then sacked Troy. A magnificent Greek statue by Agesander, Athenodorus, and Polydorus, unearthed in Rome in 1508 and now in the Vatican, shows Laocoön and his sons in their death struggle. This Hellenistic sculpture had an important influence on the artists of the Renaissance.
a Trojan priest in ancient Greek mythology.
When the Greeks withdrew from Troy and left outside its walls a huge wooden horse (the Trojan Horse), Laocoön did everything possible to dissuade the Trojans from taking the horse into the city. For this the goddess Athena, who aided the Greeks, sent two serpents against Laocoön and these strangled him and his sons. Laocoön’s death was captured in the sculpture group “Laocoön” by the Rhodian masters, Agesander, Athenodorus, and Polydorus (c. 50 B.C.) and in the second book of Virgil’s Aeneid. Comparison of these two works of art served as the starting point for G. Lessing’s treatise on the laws of fine art and poetry, Laocoön, or The Limits of Painting and Poetry (1766). The myth of Laocoön served as a subject for European painters of the 16th and 17th centuries, such as G. Romano and El Greco.