Created between 42 and 20 BC
by Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodoros of Rhodes
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The tale of Laocoön is the quintessential story of a ruse de guerre: a successful trick played by the Greeks upon their Trojan enemies, along with the tragic fate of the Trojan priest who tried in vain to warn his fellow citizens of the danger.
The Trojans were successfully duped by he Greek agent Sinon, who pretended to offer the huge wooden horse as a gift from the Greeks. “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” Laocoön warned his fellow countrymen. The goddess Athena, however, a friend to the Greeks, punished Laocoön by blinding him.
Even as the Trojans moved the wooden horse into their walled city, Laocoön continued to try to alert them to the danger. This time Athena (or Poseidon, in some versions of the story) sent two huge sea serpents to slay both Laocoön and his sons.
The sculpture had been lost for over a thousand year when it was discovered buried in a vineyard close to Emperor Nero’s “Golden House” in Rome. Michelangelo was present at the discovery of Laocoön — and some later scholars have even suggested that the work is a forgery sculpted by Michelangelo himself.