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Photo of Vatican Museums

Laocoon and His Sons

Sculpture of Laocoön and his two sons caught in the coils of serpents (c.50 BC), Pio-Clementine Museum, Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani). According to Virgil's Aeneid, Laocoön was a Trojan priest of Apollo who warned against admitting the Greeks' wooden horse into Troy. This angered Apollo, who sent serpents to kill him and his young sons. Described with admiration by Pliny, this magnificent work of Hellenistic art was discovered on the Esquiline Hill in 1506 and purchased by Pope Julius II. Its original arm was missing until, remarkably, an archaeologist discovered it in an antique shop in Rome in 1905.

Photo © Holly Hayes.

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