Ancient Greece Lesson Plan - Mock Trial, Socrates
Mock Trial, The Trial of Socrates
3-5 class periods, 55 minutes each
- Voting Ballots – cardboard, scissors, pencil (see Creating a Voting Ballot activity below for details)
- Voting Box. A shoebox works well. Any box is fine.
- Video camera if possible for use by the “recorder”
- You will need:
Background Material for “The Defense of Socrates”
Guidelines for Conducting a Mock Trial
How trials were conducted in ancient Athens (with a comparison to US trials)
PRIOR TO THIS LESSON: Preface this debate with an introduction to the government of three city-states, Athens, Sparta, and Corinth. Compare styles of government. Then discuss: What is philosophy? Then move to Day One.
DAY ONE: Preparation
Open Class: Has anyone ever watched a TV show or a movie that included a scene in a courtroom? What is the job of the judge? What is the job of a defense attorney? A prosecuting attorney? What is the bailiff’s job? The court recorder? How about witnesses? Who are they? Define all roles. Write each “job” on the overhead or the chalkboard. What is a capital crime?
Ask: What does the phrase “trial by jury” mean to you?
Does anyone know how many people are on a jury in the United States?
Activity: Introduce “The Defense of Socrates”
Say: In Athens, during the democracy, it took hundreds of people to make up a jury, anywhere from 200 to 1500 people could be part of one jury. This was to ensure that no jury could be bribed because there were so many people on each jury. A simple majority ruled guilty or not guilty. We don’t have 1500 students in this class, or even 200 students, so we will have to make due with the number we have. You are going to put Socrates on trial. Socrates is one of the great Greek philosophers. Yet, in Athens, he was put on trial for corrupting the youth of Athens and not believing in the gods. He was found guilty and sentenced to death. Socrates went home and drank poison to fulfill the sentence. On a different day or a different time in history, things might have gone exactly the same, or perhaps quite differently. So today, we're going to hold a mock trial, the Trial of Socrates.
Activity: Select mock trial participants
Judge – The Teacher or another staff member should take this job.
Meletus – a poet who Socrates made look foolish in the marketplace
Anytus – a politician who believes strongly in the gods and the government of Athens.
Lycon – a public speaker and father of one of Socrates’ followers
Plato – A follower of Socrates
Aristophanes – a play writer and friend of Socrates.
Jury: Everyone else in classroom. Say: In ancient Athens, only male citizens could serve as jurors. Today, in our mock trial, we will have both male and female jurors as we do in the United States.
Assign or ask for volunteers to play the roles listed above.
Activity: Based on Roles Assigned
Activity: Judge, Socrates, Defense Attorney(s), Prosecuting Attorney(s), Witnesses, and Recorder
- Hand out Background Material for “The Defense of Socrates” (see below) to these participants only at this time. Have them read this material in their group (defense and prosecution witnesses.) They are not to share this information with the class.
- Hand out Guidelines for Conducting a Mock Trial. (see below) Have them read this material in their group (defense and prosecution witnesses.)
- Allow 15-20 minutes for the attorneys to question the witnesses prior to the trial, so that the defense and the prosecution can prepare their case.
- Bailiff hands out Jury Questionnaires (see below) to members of the jury only.
- Bailiff collects completed Questionnaires and hands half of them to the defense team and half to the prosecution. Allow each team to review the questionnaires, then switch, so that each side can quickly review all questionnaires.
- Bailiff collects all questionnaires and gives them to the judge for review.
- Bailiff: Read Guidelines for Conducting the Mock Trial
- Bailiff: Read Background Material for “The Defense of Socrates” if time permits. Do not share this information with the jury.
- Complete Jury Questionnaires as quickly as possible. The individual members of the jury are not to share their answers with anyone. Questionnaires collected by the bailiff.
- Create a voting ballot prior to mock trial
Say: In Athens, a voting ballot was a disk made out of clay. It had the trial name printed on it. Each juror received two ballots. One ballot had the center punched out (which indicated innocent) and one had the center hub still in the ballot (which indicated guilty.) The juror voted by depositing one of the ballots in the ballot box.
Using cardboard stock, have your students cut out two equal size circles. Have them punch a pencil-sized hole in the center of one of the circles. Then have your students write “The Trial of Socrates” around the circle of both cut outs. Remind them after the trial that the complete one without a hole in the center mean guilty, and the one with a hole punched out means innocent. Think of it like this: There is a hole in the prosecution’s case. The defendant is innocent.
Close Class: Tomorrow, we will put Socrates on trial. I know you will judge wisely based on the information you hear in court. Thank you citizens of Athens for your participation as jurors in this most important matter.
DAY TWO & THREE: The Mock Trial
If needed, complete trial on day three prior to
Set up and operation of mock trial courtroom: Arrange your room so that the Judge’s bench is at one end of the room with the Witness chair next to it. The accused (Socrates) sits with his defense lawyer or lawyers facing the judge. The Prosecutor or prosecutors should sit separate from the defense also facing the judge. The witnesses should wait outside until called upon. The jury can fill in the rest of the room although off to one side where they can see everything is best. In addition you may have a Bailiff who keeps order, gets the witnesses to swear to tell the truth and escorts in witnesses; and a Recorder who keeps track of the trial. We suggest the recorder actually be a student who videotapes the proceedings.
Conduct the Trial using the Guidelines for Conducting the Mock Trial as a guide.
Activity: Jury Votes (Bailiff collects votes in voting box)
Activity: Based on Roles Assigned
Jury Activity After Voting: While the votes are being counted by the attorneys (prosecution and defense), read Background Material for “The Defense of Socrates” to the jury (rest of class.) Ask: Do you feel all the facts came out at the trial? Would your vote have been different if you had read this before you voted?
Once the vote is tallied, the attorneys will be directed to write down the decision of the jury and hand it to the bailiff. The bailiff will hand the decision to the judge. The judge will read it, and hand it back to the bailiff to read aloud. The accused and the defense attorneys will stand to hear sentence.
Close the Mock Trial: Thank all participants for their fair and impartial decision.
Activity: All students :
:Comparison of US Trial, Athenian Trial, Mock Trial
- Read aloud: Gifts from the Greeks – Trial By Jury
- Class Discussion: Compare to Mock Trial
- Have all students create and complete a two-column comparison chart entitled Comparison Chart: US & Athenian Trials.