For additional resources, please see the Squires Foundation website, at http://squirefoundation.org/forteachers.html The Winning Words program is deeply informed by such key works as Martha Nussbaum, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (Princeton), Gareth Matthews, Dialogues With Children (Harvard) and The Philosophy of Childhood (Harvard), and Matthew Lipman, Ann Margaret Sharp, and Frederick S. Oscanyan, Philosophy in the Classroom (Temple)
Updated 2010 Curriculum
THE GODS Judge SOCRATES
University of Chicago Laboratory School
Narrator: Mt Olympus, 399 BC. The king of the gods, Zeus, has called the other Olympian gods together for a Council Meeting. Assembled with Zeus, the Lord of the Skies and the Thunderbolt, are 1. Athena, goddess of wisdom, strategy, and heroism, and patron goddess of Athens, 2. Apollo, the god of music, healing, plague, prophecies, poetry, and archery, whose oracle is at Delphi, 3. Ares, the god of war, bloodlust, violence, manly courage, and civil order, 4. Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty, whose gift of Helen to Paris of Troy caused the Trojan War, 5. Poseidon, Ruler of the Seas, the Earthshaker, 6. Hermes, the messenger of the gods, and 7. Hera, Zeus’s wife, the Queen of the gods and protector of hearth and family. The other gods and goddesses had schedule conflicts.
Zeus: It has come to my attention that there are some strange things going on in your city Athena. Who is this man Socrates, and why is he being put on trial?
Athena: Dread Majesty, son of Cronos, this man, Socrates, is very strange. His followers call him a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, because he devotes his life to seeking the truth about how mortals can best live their lives. Although his followers love him, he has annoyed many important people by questioning them about such things as virtue, piety, courage, justice, love, and friendship. His enemies have charged him with impiety and corrupting young people.
Zeus: Impiety?! We gods cannot stand for that! Is this true?
Apollo: Lord Zeus, a word of explanation here. A friend of this man Socrates visited my oracle at Delphi. He asked the oracle whether anyone was wiser than Socrates, and the oracle told him that no one was. But when this was reported to Socrates, he was puzzled; he never claimed to have any special expertise at all. So, he went looking for someone wiser than himself.
Zeus: Hence the questioning?
Athena and Apollo: Right!
Zeus: Ares, Aphrodite, what do you make of this Socrates?
Ares: I like this troublemaker! He is stirring up conflict, violence, bloodlust (at least for his own blood). Who knows? Maybe these mortals will start going to war over this philosophy thing! We had better alert Hades about this!
Aphrodite: Hold on Ares. I am not sure that I trust this man at all. Why, he seems to think that physical beauty is just not that important! He claims that the beauty of mortals lies within them, whatever that means. Whoever heard of a beautiful liver? And anyway, this Socrates only loves ideas! Ares, if the mortals had followed him, we would not have had the Trojan War!
Ares: Terrible man! Still, my manly courage side has to admire him—did you hear what he just told the Athenian jury? They found him guilty and asked him what a fit punishment would be. And he told them that he should be treated to free meals at City Hall, just like the athletes who return victorious from the Olympic games!
Athena: That sounds VERY ARROGANT! My poor City has to put up with that? I am not sure that I understand this mortal’s so-called wisdom!
Zeus: That gives me an idea, dear daughter. Let us summon one of your favorite mortals of all, Odysseus, the great hero of the Trojan War, whose soul now dwells on the Isles of the Blessed. He was always the cleverest of mortals, a man of Winning Words. Let us hear his verdict on this Socrates, and on whether we gods need worry about these new philosophical developments.
Odysseus is summoned, and Zeus provides him with a backgrounder on the situation. Odysseus is then invited to address the assembled gods and goddesses on the subject of Socrates.
Odysseus: Great gods, again you favor me. My great protector, Athena, my wisdom is nothing compared to the wisdom of the gods. How can I serve you? How can my mortal experience, nothing to the gods, shed any light on this case?
Athena: Well, you can see why he has always been my favorite.
Zeus: Odysseus, favorite of the gods, that is what we want of you—the perspective of a mere mortal.
Odysseus: Zeus, Lord of the Skies, I will speak. I believe that this man Socrates is pious, and if he is condemned, I hope his soul will join me on the Isles of the Blessed.
All the gods: Whaaaaat? Is he that good?
Odysseus: Peace, Immortal Ones. I mean no offense. I only affirm what I just said—the wisdom of mortals counts for little. Surely you agree?
All the gods: OBVIOUSLY!
Odysseus: And surely the piety you so rightly demand of mortals requires that we recognize how limited our wisdom is?
All the gods: Yes, of course.
Odysseus: Then Socrates must be a very pious man, for he claims that he knows nothing, and that the wisdom of mortals counts for little.
Zeus: Athena, daughter dearest, why would your City condemn Socrates for such noble thoughts?
Athena: Father, I will see that they come to regret it!
Ares: Hooray! Would you like to help with a few more wars?
Odysseus: Thank you, Immortal Ones, I trust the will of the gods will carry me back to the Isles of the Blessed, where I shall await the arrival of this strange man Socrates. I have some questions to ask him!
Zeus: I bow my head to that. This has made me very thirsty—someone get me something to drink! Apollo, get me some nectar!
Apollo: But you quit drinking nectar.
Zeus: Well, get me something else to drink!
Apollo: Lemonade, Lord Zeus?
Zeus: Lemonade?! No, water!
Poseidon: Here Sire, have some water—I have plenty.
Zeus: (tales a sip) Pleeeeeck! That tastes terrible! You gave me sea water!
Poseidon: Of course Sir, I am the Lord of the Sea. You can develop a taste for it.
Zeus: I just want that taste out of my mouth! Give me some food!
Poseidon: Food Sire? Here, try this fresh sea….
Zeus: Not you, where’s Hera?
Hera: What would you like Dread Majesty?
Hera: We only have the fat free kind. Remember your New Year’s Resolution?
Hermes: Perhaps I can help Lord Zeus! Would you like some tasty snakes? I always have some with me! I could even cook them up for you, with Hephaestus’ help.
Hephaestus: That sounds more like a job for Hades.
Socrates: By the dog! Perhaps I can help you, Lord Zeus.
Zeus: Who are you?! And no dogs, or mortals, are allowed on Mt. Olympus without special permission. We do not even let Hades bring Cerberus along.
Socrates: I am the soul of Socrates, the philosopher condemned to death by Athens. I was on my way to the Isles of the Blessed when I ran into the great hero Odysseus, who told me how to get here. I could not resist the opportunity to learn from gods, since you are surely much wiser than I am. And I happen to have with me a doggy bag from my last feast—I only like very plain and simple food, and not much of it. I used to say that whereas my fellow citizens lived to eat, I ate to live.
Zeus: Doggy bag? Are you offering the King of the Gods some kind of dog chow? That does not sound very wise to me!
Hera: No, Dear, I think the weird mortal means he has some of that mortal food that is always being tossed into the sacrificial fires for us.
Hermes: Lord Zeus, do you want the snakes or not?
Zeus: Not, though I might regret this choice after tasting this Socratic bag lunch. What is this?
Socrates: A roast beef sandwich and individual serving of red wine. Odysseus thought you would like it.
Zeus: Hera, can eat this? I do not want to end up with a bellyache like my father Cronus.
Hera: Remember, Dear, your father’s digestive problems were rather special, the result of eating his children, plus a large rock.
Zeus: Well, here goes. You there, the soul of the mortal Socrates, entertain me while I dine. Do you know any good jokes?
Socrates: No, but people used to take pleasure in my questioning important individuals claiming to be wise. Here, let me show you my method. Aphrodite, you are the goddess of beauty. Surely you can tell us what beauty really is …
Narrator: And so the Gods and Socrates spent their remaining days discussing the meanings of important life concepts like beauty, justice and wisdom. Mount Olympus was finally calm—the temperaments of the strong-willed Gods were finally peaceful.