Laocoon, a Trojan hero, generally represented as the son of Antenor, and a priest of Apollo or Neptune. While the Trojans were assembled round the wooden horse of the Greeks, deliberating whether they should admit it into their city, Laocoon rushed forward, warned them not to receive it, and struck his spear into its side. As a punishment for his impiety toward an object consecrated to Minerva, two monstrous serpents attacked him and his two sons while preparing to sacrifice in the temple of Neptune, and, coiling themselves round the bodies of the three, crushed them to death. This legend was a favorite subject with the poets and artists of ancient Greece. The story is related by Virgil, and a celebrated group of sculpture representing Laocoon and his sons encoiled by the serpents, and suffering the agonies of strangulation, is still extant, and is said by Pliny to have been the work of the Rhodian statuaries, Agesander, Polydorus, and Athenodorus. It was discovered at Rome in 1506, and purchased by Pope Julius II., who placed it in the Vatican, where it still remains.
The Laocoon group has been made the subject of admirable art criticism by both Winckelmann and Lessing; by the latter in the celebrated work on art entitled Laokoon.