Is murder ever justified in defending freedom? Can citizens break the law to save democracy?
These were some of the tough questions raised by the ancient Greeks, and the National Hellenic Museum (NHM) in Chicago is asking them again with the latest in its innovative series of live trials based on Greek cases from 1,400 years ago.
On March 1, the Trial of Megacles: A Test of Democracy will see prominent judges, lawyers and panelists reenact the 632BC case of an Athenian leader for murdering an Olympic champion-turned-traitor, despite promising to spare his life.
After failing in a coup against the fledgling democracy, a rebel named Cylon and his followers sought sanctuary in the Temple of Athena.
Megacles assured Cylon that he would receive a fair trial and his life would be spared if he left the refuge of the temple.
After negotiations, and even tying themselves to the temple, Cylon and his men agreed to leave its safety. Despite his promise, Megacles ordered their deaths.
Now the Rubloff Auditorium in Chicago will see Megacles once again put on trial, and with him, the underpinnings of democratic principles.
The dynamic NHM Trial Series has grown both in reputation and following over the years. 2016’s Trial of Antigone was broadcast on WTTW-TV (PBS Chicago) in May 2017 and nominated for a regional Emmy. 2017’s Trial of the Parthenon Marbles sold-out the auditorium at over 700 attendees.
“Truth comes from taking an idea and arguing it from all sides until it is fully uncovered and well-polished. The best truth comes from hearty debate. We have the Greeks to thank for this legacy in our democracy,” said Judge Charles P. Kocoras, a proud participant of every one of the NHM trials.
The NHM Trial of Megacles: A Test of Democracy will take place on Thursday, March 1. Tickets are $100 and available for purchase online, by calling the Development Team at 312-655-1234 ext. 21 or in person at the National Hellenic Museum Store, 333 S. Halsted Street in Chicago.