Aeneid Book 2, lines 40-49

Laocoon warns against the Trojan horse

by Virgil

This extract ends with a famous line and much-quoted line. Aeneas is telling Queen Dido of Carthage about the run-up to the fall of Troy. The Greeks appear to have gone, leaving the wooden horse behind. The Trojans have been discussing whether to destroy the wooden horse or bring it into the citadel: Laocoon the Priest intervenes and passionately urges them to have nothing to do with it. Laocoon’s advice is good, but he and his sons are killed by giant snakes which then disappear into Minerva’s temple, an apparent omen which persuades the Trojans to bring the horse into the city. The rest is history (well, legend).Ulysses is the Latin name of Odysseus, hero of Homer’s Odyssey, the archetypal trickster-King.

See this passage in Schiller’s powerful German version of book 2 of the Aeneid here.

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primus ibi ante omnes, magna comitante caterva,
Laocoon ardens summa decurrit ab arce;
et procul “o miseri, quae tanta insania, cives?
creditis avectos hostes? aut ulla putatis
carere dolis Danaum? Sic notus Ulixes?
aut hoc inclusi ligno occultantur Achivi,
aut haec in nostros fabricata est machina muros
inspectura domos venturaque desuper urbi;
aut aliquis latet error: equo ne credite, Teucri.
quidquid id est, timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”.

There before all others, a large band with him,
Laocoon rushed raging from the topmost citadel;
Calling afar, “poor citizens, what madness is this?
Do you think the enemy has gone? Or that anything
Greek is free from trickery? Is that Ulysses’s reputation?
Either hidden inside this wood there are Greeks,
Or it was built as a war machine against our walls,
To overlook our homes and loom on the city from above;
Or there is hidden mischief: don’t trust the horse, Trojans.
Whatever it is, I fear Greeks, even bearing gifts”.