Laocoon or The Wooden Horse Part 8 of 12 / by Anthony Gibbins

The Wooden Horse. Part 8. As we await the October 1 arrival of Legonium pars tertia, here is some complete nonsense in 12 parts.

From the translation of The Aeneid, Book II by John Dryden

Laocoon, follow'd by a num'rous crowd,

Ran from the fort, and cried, from far, aloud:

'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 't is 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.'


Laocoon : Laocoon is a Greek proper name. (The two o’s at the end, by the way, are pronounced separately.) Laocoon, as we are about to find out, was a Trojan priest of the sea god Neptune. He attempted to discouraged the Trojans from bringing the horse into Troy. He was killed by two giant serpents that came out of the sea. His name is in the nominative case to indicate that he is the subject of the verb.

autem : autem is a conjunction. Like prepositions, there is absolutely no change to their form. autem is best understood here as ‘however’, ‘but’ or ‘on the other hand’. The point is, some Trojans wanted to drag the horse onto the citadel, Laocoon autem had other ideas.

Neptuni: Neptunus is the Roman god of the sea. Here the name is in the genitive case and is singular. The genitive, you may remember, has as its main task the indication of possession, like an ‘s in English. So, here, we understand Neptuni as something like ‘Neptune’s’ or ‘of Neptune’.

sacerdos : sacerdos is a noun meaning ‘priest’. The gender of sacerdos is common, which means that the grammatical gender will depend entirely on the gender of the individual. Laocoon identifies as male, so we treat sacerdos as a masculine noun. sacerdos is nominative because it is giving us further detail about Laocoon, who was also in the nominative.

hoc : hic we saw on the previous page functioning as a demonstrative adjective, meaning ‘this’. Here it is functioning as a demonstrative pronoun, also meaning ‘this’. Because it is singular and neuter, it is best thought of as ‘this thing’. Because it is in the accusative, we know it to be the object of the verb. In this sentence, hoc refers to the very idea of bringing the horse into the city.

dissuasit : dissuadere is a verb that means ‘to advise against’ or ‘discourage’. It is third person singular because its subject Laocoon is third person singular. It is perfect because it describes an action completed in the past. The object is hoc.

Translation: Laocoon, however, a priest of Neptune, discouraged this.