Background for Classroom Activity - Defense of Socrates for Mock Trial Illustration

Background - Defense of Socrates

Background Information
“Defense of Socrates”
Mock Trial of Socrates

Socrates has been a teacher for over 50 years. He is over 70 years old. He is quite poor; he has no army or armed guard around him.

The Socrates method of teaching is to ask a question, to listen to the answer, and to ask a further question based upon the answer.

The Socrates method of questioning makes people seem foolish when their answers appear to contradict what they say they believe. Socrates seems to always ask these questions in public places where people can hear the question and the answer. He has made a great many powerful people angry with him.

Socrates is trying to teach his followers to question what they believe. He has attracted a following of young Athenian men who have taken to questioning things like: “Is our government good? Are people good? Do the gods exist or not? If the gods exist, do they live on Mt. Olympus or not? Is the earth solid rock? If it is, then where is the underworld?”

Aristophanes has written a play making fun of Socrates in which Socrates goes around asking stupid questions like “If the moon is made of cheese, are there mice in the heavens?”

Two of Socrates friends, Chaerephon and his brother, went to see the Oracle at Delphi. His friends asked the Oracle, “Who is the wisest man alive?” The Oracle responded: “Socrates.” This made a great many powerful people angry.

It is against the law in Greece to not worship the Gods. It is also against Greek Law to turn a man’s son against him. These are two of the crimes of which Socrates has been accused.