Friday, August 15, 2008

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts!

The history of Greece versus Troy is fantastic. Two of the world's best books / epic poems tell us the story. Evidence of the epic war are everywhere in Italy through art.

The Vatican Musuem has one of my favorite statues that delivers through sculpture one of the pinnacle moments of the Trojan War, has been touched by Michelangelo, and is considered one of the finest examples of Ex Uno Lapide (carved from a single stone) in the world.

The Laocoon was carved in 25 BC...yes 25 BC by three Greek sculptors. It is the priest Laocoon and his two sons being dragged to their deaths by a serpent. The serpent was sent by Apollo as punishment for Laocoon's awareness of Greek treachery. The gods played an enourmous role in the fall of Troy.

The Greeks seemed to leave the beaches of Troy leaving behind a gift of a giant wooden horse. This gift was the brainchild of Odysseus. The Greeks sat quietly in the belly of the wooden horse, the Trojans opened up the city walls dragging the gift into the square. The Trojans, thinking the war was over, celebrated all night. Late into the evening when the Trojans slept the Greeks dropped from the horse and...well, the rest is history.

Laocoon knew this was a treacherous gift and warned the Trojans. Apollo punished Laocoon for his foresight and dragged him and his children into the sea.

This great sculpture was found in a vineyard in Rome on the Esquiline Hill. It was brought to Rome from Greece by Emperor Titus in 69 AD. The pope at the time of the discovery of the Laocoon was Pope Julius II...of course. Michelangelo himself went to identify the great sculpture, repaired the arm of the Laocoon (you can still see the cracks). Julius II offered the vineyard owner 600 gold ducats for life to own the great work.

It is now placed in the Vatican Museums and is one of their prize works.

Oh, by the way, the phrase, "beware of Greeks bearing gifts" was uttered by Laocoon and has remained a timeless phrase to this very day.

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