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Laocoön  

Laocoön

Cat. 1059

This statue group was found in 1506 on the Esquiline Hill in Rome and immediately identified as the Laocoön described by Pliny the Elder as a masterpiece of the sculptors of Rhodes. The story is that during the Trojan War, Laocoön, a priest of Apollo in the city of Troy, warned his fellow Trojans against taking in the wooden horse left by the Greeks outside the city gates. Athena and Poseidon, who were favouring the Greeks, sent two great sea-serpents which have wrapped their coils around Laocoön and his two sons and are killing them. From the Roman point of view, the death of these innocents was crucial to the decision of Aeneas, who heeded Laocoön's warning, to flee Troy, and this led to the eventual founding of Rome. Such an important sculpture could not escape the notice of Pope Julius II (1503-1513) who bought it immediately and had it displayed in the Statues Courtyard (Cortile delle Statue), making it the centrepiece of the collection. There has been much debate over the date of the statue, which would seem to have been made around 40-30 B.C.