Greek Morality Trials

Greek Morality Trials

Sophomores in Mandy Repoli’s English II class held their annual trials for the breach of the Greek Moral Code of Conduct as presented by Homer in Book 9 of the Odyssey on February 8. Highly regarded as one of the most significant and oldest works of the Western literary canon still read by contemporary scholars, Homer’s 24-book poem recounts the epic 10-year journey of Greek King Odysseus as he returns home from the Trojan War. 

Book 9 finds Odysseus and his men encountering the uncivilized race of one-eyed, man-eating Cyclopes and son of Poseidon, Polyphemus. Imprisoned in the cave of the Cyclops giant, the great Odysseus executes a plan to intoxicate and blind Polyphemus as a means to escape. In Book 9, Homer not only depicts examples of Odysseus’ cunning but speaks to the themes of Greek etiquette, hospitality, and pride.

As part of the trials, students were assigned as lawyers who argued their defenses for Odysseus and Polyphemus on whether they breached the Greek Moral Code of Conduct. Dean of Students & Campus Life Greg Lynch and self-proclaimed method actor and math teacher Brian Carroll each had a turn playing the role of Zeus—the god who presides over Xenia and Hospitality—to determine which group of young lawyers presented the most compelling argument for their defenses of Odysseus and Polyphemus. 

True to the character of Zeus, Brian Carroll commented, "These mortals debating Odysseus' fate showed no hubris in their mastery of rhetoric. Ms. Repoli prepped them well and her students showed a love and great understanding of the Odyssey. I therefore decided NOT to banish anyone to Hades. It was a job well done by all!"

Participating remotely from Shangai, China, Harold Xu noted, “It was a great experience because everyone was involved. I learned that debating is nothing to be nervous about and that I enjoy it. I personally believe Polyphemus won the trials based on the reasonable evidence presented. Although it can be a difficult language to understand, I appreciate reading the Odyssey and learning from Homer’s poetic writing style.”