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Arctinus of Miletus


Cadmus fighting the dragon
Cadmus fighting the dragon (amphora from Euboea, ca. 560&ndash550 BC). Louvre, Paris.

The earliest known version of Laocoön's story was written by Arctinus of Miletus, in his Ίλίου πέρσις (Iliou Persis, Sack of Ilium). The original (circa 776–774 BCE) is lost, but we have access to it in a limited form via Proclus's mid fifth-century synopsis of the Trojan cycles.[note]

According to Proclus, the Trojans had already decided to receive the wooden horse and dedicate it to Athena when the two serpents appear, killing Laocoön and one of his sons. Recognising this as a portentous occurrence, Aeneas and his family remove to Mount Ida. Neither Laocoön's occupation nor the reason for his death is specified: it is simply an omen.

We learn little of Laocoön as a character in Proclus's summary but it does prove that the character of Laocoön belongs to an extremely old tradition. That tradition appeared long before Homer's telling of Troy's fall from which Laocoön is absent.

Note. The Homeric Hymns and Homerica, trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White (London: William Heineman, 1936), p.520 [Greek] and p. 521 [trans.]. [back to text]

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