The Hellenistic period was the heyday of marble sculpture. One of the greatest masterpieces is the Laocoon sculpture. The story of Laocoon, which depicts a father and two sons dying after being bitten by a huge sea serpent, comes from the Trojan War. Despite a long siege and the removal of Troy's great warrior, Hector, the Greek allied forces could not bring down Troy. Just before giving up, Odysseus proposes to set up a Trojan horse. They hid soldiers inside the wooden horse while the Greek army pretended to withdraw. The people of Troy cheered and tried to drag the wooden horse left behind by the Greek army into the castle as a symbol of victory.
Trojan prophets Laocoon and Cassandra warn that it was an evil plot by the Greek army. When Laocoon stabbed the horse's stomach, Poseidon of the Greek side sent a huge sea serpent to kill Laocoon and his two sons. The statue of Laocoon depicts this dramatic moment.
Cassandra also warned of the dangers, but no one believed her words as the Greek gods had already placed a curse on her that no one would believe anything she said. That night, the Greek soldiers hiding in the wooden horse opened the gates, and Troy fell.
The Laocoon statue depicts the human in despair, fear of death, and frustration of the man failing to prevent his sons’ death and the fall of his country by the body movements and facial expressions. But perhaps the real agony of Laocoon is the public that cannot accept the truth. The people of Troy were deceived by an obvious trick out of joy that the war was over and refused to accept the prophecies.
This was a lesson from the fall of Troy and the agony of ancient Greek democracy. Greece ushered in democracy, which fell when it failed to overcome public desire that wished to hear what they wanted rather than the truth, deceived by politicians who took advantage of that desire. Laocoon's despair and Cassandra's curse were a warning and despair on the limitations of democracy. Perhaps this was the message that the artist wished to convey.