The decidedly modern atmosphere of Harris Theater, the sleek suits of the attorneys and judicial robes of the bench, heightened the National Hellenic Museums’ emphasis on the continued relevance of ancient Greek history. They seemed to suggest this was no nostalgic whim. Moderator Andrea Darlas described this moment in history as a test of the “fragility of democracy, the limits of freedom, and the imperfection of human justice.” Sentenced to death in 399 B.C.E. for impiety and corrupting the youth, Socrates was given another chance. The museum set out to reexamine and resolve the historical record of what they consider a legal uncertainty.
Prosecutor Patrick Collins elicited the most light-hearted response from the audience (over 500 jurors), likening the thinker’s interactions with youth to the influence of TikTok. The many influences young people face today, he explained, and the resultant anxiety of parents, somehow mirrors what control Socrates had over the minds of youth. He questioned the too-pristine historical record of Socrates as it is only by Plato and other of his allies that his person was inscribed. What if Joe Biden’s legacy was preserved only by MSNBC? Or Donald Trump’s by Fox News? We in the audience laughed when Collins amusingly inquired about such. Socrates (John Kapelos), recently taught to search on Google, could assure us he hardly identifies with our former president, despite accusations.
The National Hellenic Museum Reexamines a Historical Hallmark
On the defense, Robert A. Clifford termed the so-called “corruption” of the youth “self-examination.” Socrates’s provocations are a far cry from mindless internet clicking in his eyes. The man himself, appearing like a bust of the philosopher with his undulating beard, claimed only to follow his conscience after all; he was destined to prick Athens when they erred.
Only one judge considered Socrates innocent as well as the lion’s share of the audience, who were also jurors, given Athenian custom. Three other jurors of the thirteen onstage considered him guilty.
In this writer’s opinion, the event was less an immersion and more a nudge to make us think more deeply about a moment in history.
THE TRIAL OF SOCRATES asks us to seriously consider the complexity and ambiguity of this historical moment. Not quite theatrical, the event is more intellectual than entertaining, and is for anyone interested in law and history.
Monday, May 22, 2023 at 7 p.m.
205 E. Randolph Street
About the Author: Anthony Neri
An avid philosophizer and Dostoevsky fanboy, Anthony spends his time ruminating on very deep moral questions. Is he a genuine old soul or does he feign as much for the mystique?--perhaps a bit of both. When he isn't tormenting himself existentially, he reads fiction and translates ancient Greek and Latin texts, all the while developing his own literary flourishes with the hope of producing his very own dazzling prose. Cliche? Maybe. But he figures everyone starts out as a cliche.