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A Podcast about Rome. Part 7: Laocoön and His Sons.
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A Podcast about Rome. Part 7: Laocoön and His Sons.

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Laocoön and His Sons, Octagonal Courtyard, Vatican Museums

As I’ve mentioned here, at pretty much every opportunity, Rome has long been obsessed by her own origins. Those legendary origins go back far beyond the story of Romulus, Remus, and the she-wolf to the tale of the fall of Troy.

Laocoön and His Sons, Vatican Museums

The Laocoön Group is a sculpture of Cycladic marble, carved by artists from Rhodes and, though uncertain in date, plausibly datable to the reign of Augustus. Whatever its date it is certainly in keeping with the programme which saw history, geography, religion, legend, the visual arts, and poetry all knitted together to form a spectacularly sophisticated propagandistic programme to emphasise Augustus’s ancestry, and his divine mandate and that of his immediate successors. Today the Laocoön is found in the Vatican Museums, where it has been for over five hundred years.

A plaster cast of the 16th century restoration of the Laocoön, here seen at an exhibition in the Domus Aurea in July 2021

Next time I will talk of a triumph of Augustan art, the Ara Pacis in the Campus Martius, also deeply rooted in ancient origin legends but with a fabulously clever monumental and modern twist.

Please let me know what you think, or if there’s something you’d like mentioned in future episodes!

Many thanks, Agnes

PS corrigendum: in the audio I mention Antonio da Sangallo, it was in fact Giuliano da Sangallo who identified the statue in 1506.

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Understanding Rome's Newsletter
Understanding Rome Podcast
A chronological history of Rome focusing on a building, a sculpture, a painting, or an artefact each episode.