Laocoön, a Trojan prince, brother of Anchises and priest of Apollo Thymbraeus or Poseidon. Of his story as told by Arctinus (Iliu Persis; see epic cycle), Bacchylides, and Sophocles (Laocoön), we know little. In the standard version (Verg. Aen. 2. 40–56, 199–231; Apollod. Epit. 5. 17–18), he protested against drawing the Wooden Horse (see epeius(2)) within the walls of Troy, and two great serpents coming over the sea from the island of Tenedos killed him and his two sons (so Euphorion (2); in Arctinus, Laocoön and one son; in Bacchylides, Sophocles, Apollodorus (6), and Quintus Smyrnaeus (12. 444–97), only the sons). According to Hyginus (Fab. 135. 1) the serpents were sent by Apollo to punish him for having married in spite of his priesthood, in Quintus Smyrnaeus and Virgil, by Athena on account of his hostility to the Horse.
In art, Laocoön is the subject of the famous marble group in the Vatican showing father and sons in their death-agony. It was made by three Rhodian sculptors (see hagesander, athenodorus, and polydorus). The group was exhibited in the palace of Titus, and was said by Pliny (1) (HN 36. 37) to have surpassed all other works of painting and sculpture. The death of Laocoön is shown on two wall-paintings from Pompeii, and late Imperial gems. Two south Italian vases show Laocoön as devotee of Apollo Thymbraeus.