Full Court Press

Middle school and high school
Subject: World history
Time: Two class periods
Preparation: Distribute the handout and hold press conference as outlined. After discussion, have class view "Sophocles" (Tape 2, Deliberation, Act 8, 50:35) for further comparison.

Famous criminal trials provide an opportunity to talk about justice, to compare our own system of justice with others, and to discuss how politics and law interact.

1. Ask for two volunteers to play Socrates and Sophocles. Each student will hold a post-trial press conference to answer questions based on the information below. The rest of the class will play reporters; they will ask questions about each defendant's accomplishments, trial and charges, motivation for trial, and defense.

2. After the press conference, ask the class to discuss the two trials -- their similarities and differences. Was Socrates' trial just?

3. Compare these two trials with modern-day trials in the newspaper. How does the American system stack up against the ancient Greek system?

Susan Pass
Bellaire High School
Houston, Texas

Name: Socrates
Year of birth: 469 B.C.
Year of death: 399 B.C.
Job: philosopher
Hometown: Athens, Greece
Known for: Teaching by Socratic method, which is leading the student to answer by effective questioning. Also known for ethics.
Most famous pupil: Plato
Most famous saying: "Know thyself."
Brought to trial by: Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon (important townspeople of Athens who were offended by his teaching)
1. introducing new gods
2. corrupting the youth
Possible motivation for charges: jealousy and hurt pride
Verdict: guilty
Sentence: death by poison
Defense: Socrates declared his innocence. He claimed that his accusers resented his questioning of them. Indeed, rather than punishment, Socrates believed that he should be rewarded for being the state's "gadfly."

Name: Sophocles
Year of birth: 496 B.C.
Year of death: 406 B.C.
Job: author and playwright
Hometown: Athens, Greece
Known for:
1. Electra
2. Ajax
3. Trachinian Women
4. Oedipus
5. Oedipus Tyrannus
6. Philocetes
Most famous for: tragedies
Brought to trial by: his sons
Charges: not mentally competent to manage his property
Possible motivation for charges: greed
Verdict: not guilty
Defense: Sophocles recited passages from his current work-in-progress (his 100th play).

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