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Hero Or Tyrant? The Trial of Pericles by the National Hellenic Museum

Trial of Pericles
The “re-trial” of Pericles at an NHM event in April. Public Domain

Talented legal minds will rule in the trial of Pericles, known as the great hero of Athenian democracy, at an event organized by the National Hellenic Museum (NHM).

The trial of Pericles is the latest installment of NHM’s Trial Series that takes legal cases and controversies from the pages of history and tries them before an audience to demonstrate the enduring relevance of these ancient disputes.

It will take place on Wednesday, April 17, at 7:00 PM in Chicago’s Harris Theater. For more details please follow the link.

Pericles is known as a great Athenian statesman and a guardian of Athenian democracy. He was responsible for building the structures on the Acropolis, including the Parthenon, which have survived through the ages to remind us of his greatness and visionary thinking.

He also promoted the arts, literature, and philosophy and gave free rein to some of the most inspired writers, artists, and thinkers of his time, giving Athens the reputation of being the educational and cultural center of the ancient world.

A great statesman, as well as a successful general, he increased the power of Athens through his use of the Delian League to form the Athenian empire.

National Hellenic Museum trial on Pericles to focus on controversy

However, as leader of Athens, Pericles made many controversial decisions that complicated his legacy.

None of those decisions is more controversial than the 451 B.C. Citizenship Law, which changed the Athenian Constitution to revoke the citizenship of those without two Athenian parents. Previously, citizenship had been granted to anyone with an Athenian father.

Pericles and his allies claimed that the law was necessary to protect Athens from dangerous foreign influences and maintain the integrity of their democracy.

Others viewed it as tyrannical because they lost their previously held civil liberties, including the right to vote. Some believe Pericles would have been tried had he survived the plague of 430 B.C.

Socrates was found Not guilty

The National Hellenic Museum will now litigate this long-imagined case. Prominent lawyers present arguments for prosecution and defense before a panel of esteemed Judges.

On stage, a Jury of 12 community leaders offer opinions, then the entire audience votes to weigh in, as was done in ancient Athens, literally tipping the scales to decide the outcome of the case. Guilty or not guilty!

In 2023 Socrates, the philosopher from Athens who is credited as the founder of Western philosophy, was found not guilty in a mock trial conducted by the  National Hellenic Museum (NHM).

Socrates was “re-tried” on charges of breaking Athenian laws 2,500 years ago when he was found guilty and put to death at the age of 70 in Ancient Greece.

Each of the Trials organized by NHM has received high acclaim.

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