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Trust not the horse, Trojans!  Regardless of what it is, I fear Greeks even when they bear gifts.
~ Laocoön
(as attributed by Virgil, c. 29–19 BCE.)

Laocoön (Ancient Greek: Λαοκόων), the son of Acoetes, is a figure in Greek and Roman mythology and the Epic Cycle.  He was a Trojan priest who was attacked, with his two sons, by giant serpents sent by the gods.  In Virgil's Aeneid, he was a priest of Poseidon (or Neptune for the Romans), who was killed with both of his sons after attempting to expose the ruse of the Trojan Horse by striking it with a spear, while in Sophocles, he was a priest of Apollo, who should have been celibate but had married.

Quotes attributed to Laocoön[edit]

  • o miseri, quae tanta insania, ciues?
    creditis auectos hostis? aut ulla putatis
    dona carere dolis Danaum? sic notus Vlixes?
    aut hoc inclusi ligno occultantur Achiui,
    aut haec in nostros fabricata est machina muros,
    inspectura domos uenturaque desuper urbi,
    aut aliquis latet error; equo ne credite, Teucri.
    quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentis.
    • Virgil, Book II of Aeneid (c. 29–19 B.C.E.), lines 42–49.
    • A literal translation of the emboldened text reads:
      • Trust not the horse, Trojans!
        Regardless of what it is, I fear Greeks even when they bear gifts.
    • It has been paraphrased in English as the proverb:
      • Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
    • Other translations:
      • O wretched countrymen! what fury reigns?
        What more than madness has possess'd your brains?
        Think you the Grecians from your coasts are gone?
        And are Ulysses' arts no better known?
        This hollow fabric either must inclose,
        Within its blind recess, our secret foes;
        Or 'tis an engine rais'd above the town,
        T' o'erlook the walls, and then to batter down.
        Somewhat is sure design'd, by fraud or force:
        Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.
      • Ah, wretched citizens, what height of madness is this?  Believe you the foe is gone? or think you any Grecian gift is free of treachery? is it thus we know Ulysses?  Either Achaeans are hid in this cage of wood, or the engine is fashioned against our walls to overlook the houses and descend upon the city; some delusion lurks there: trust not the horse, O Trojans.  Be it what it may, I fear the Grecians even when they offer gifts.
      • "O unhappy men!
        "What madness is this?  Who deems our foemen fled?
        "Think ye the gifts of Greece can lack for guile?
        "Have ye not known Ulysses?  The Achæan
        "Hides, caged in yonder beams; or this is reared
        "For engin'ry on our proud battlements,
        "To spy upon our roof-tops, or descend
        "In ruin on the city.  'T is a snare.
        "Trust not this horse, O Troy, whate'er it bode!
        "I fear the Greeks, though gift on gift they bear."

Quotes about Laocoön[edit]

  • Laocoön, and her two sons
    Pressured storm, tried to move
    No other more, emotion bound
    Martyred, misconstrued
    • R.E.M., "Laughing," Murmur (I.R.S. Records, 12 April 1983), tr. 3.

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