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Ancient Laocoöns

Trojan War on Amphora
Trojan War on Amphora, RMO Leiden.

Laocoön's fate became part of the story of Troy's fall to the Greeks but there are many stories surrounding the Trojan War, emerging and being shaped to fit the contexts in which tales were told. This section of the website offers an account of the earliest examples of literature and art in which the figure of Laocoön appears.

Although Laocoön became linked to the fall of Troy, he's not present in all the accounts of Troy's fall, and indeed is absent from some of the most prominent literature concerning the Trojan War. Homer, for example, doesn't mention Laocoön in either the Iliad or the Odyssey. In his mid fifth-century BCE epic the Άργοντικά (Argonautica), Apollonius of Rhodes mentions a Laocoön as being among Jason's crew, but that Laocoön doesn't feature in any serpent attack and who does not seem to be the same figure. Laocoön does not feature in Tryphiodorus's Ίλίου ἅλωσις (Ilíou hálosis,Taking of Ilium), a Greek fragment of the third or fourth century AD, and he is likewise absent from Nonnus's fourth- or fifth-century epic, Διονυσιακά (Dionysiaca).

The story of Laocoön, then, may have emerged independently and only later have been incorporated into the story of Troy's fall.[note]

Follow the links on the right (or below if using a phone or tablet) to read my accounts of ancient Laocoöns in art and literature.

Note. As argued by Milena Delic Ebanks in "Laocoön in Art and Literature: its contribution to Eighteenth Century Aesthetics", New York University Ph.D., 1975, p.33. [back to text]

Resources available

    Know of any ancient Laocoöns not yet on this list? Let me know!


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