A Conversation Between Greek Philosophers
A Interaction Between Famous Greek Playwrights
A Preface: This scene is an attempt to interpret Ancient Greek playwright's opinion on authority, then to communicate the interpretation in a somewhat entertaining fashion. Plays used for interpretation come from Oates & O'Neil Jr.'s 7 Famous Greek Plays which includes:
Prometheus Bound and Agamemnon by Aeschylus, Oedipus the King and Antigone by Sohpocles, and Medea by Euripides.
Stars On A Greek Night by Alexander Brenner
As I stepped into Dive-onysus, a local Athens bar, it took my eyes a few minutes to adjust to the dim lighting. The bar was empty except for two figures at the far end of the bar, and not wanting to disturb what looked like a heated conversation, I sat at the other end and ordered a ouzo.
Time passed and drink drained, I began to lose my usually strict inhibitions, slowly being replace with boredom. Feigning a trip to the restroom, I returned to a seat much closer, still not wanting to interrupt the conversation I began to eavesdrop.
“Authority is to be respected absolutely.... There’s no avoiding it and though it might not be ideal, there’s no sense in worrying about things you cannot change.” Said a man who, through the corner of my eye appeared to be wearing a uniform of some sort.
“Oh Aeschylus, wake up! If a situation is not ideal, change it! Your so concerned with absolute, black and white. The world is gray my brother.” said the other excitedly
“This obsession with absolutes comes from our societies obsession with the God’s. Man by his very nature is so pragmatic it is foolish to think otherwise.”
“First off, Euripides, the Gods are to be respected above all else, it is their authority that allows us to live and it is by their authority we speak today. I would also like to remind you that had you spent time in military you would realize that only by following orders, no matter what they are, do we define ourselves as a nation and endure”
“Endure what, Aeschylus? We Greeks have endured all hardships and our Gods hinder more often than not. ”
“ Oedipus, who defied the Gods with his existence brought pain onto his nation, and his successor Creon met a like fate. Let us not bring pain onto ourselves by displaying our ignorance” said the man called Aeschylus.
It was at this point, and a few drinks later, that I felt I must interject
“ Are you speaking of Oedipus?” I said somewhat lamely “I have just completed a tragedy on the very subject.”
“Have you?” asked the older one “ and who might you be?”
“Sophocles” I replied. I was finding it hard to articulate so I thought it best to keep my words few and poignant.
“What do you do?” said the younger
“Well...” I thought for a moment “ I am a writer, yes, above all else I am a writer of tragedy. And yourselves?”
“You find yourself in good company Sophocles as you sit with two writers of the same nature. I am Euripides and my older friend still in his military garb is Aeschylus. May I buy you a drink in honor of our historic and famous hospitality? And tell me, if I may enquire, what is the ‘all else’ that your writing comes above?”
“ Well, not to have an influence on the debate but I guess you could call me part the so called ‘ authority’, I am a state official and a politician.”
Aeschylus sat up straighter and seemed more attentive while Euripides unleashed a barrage of questions, personal questions, how I felt about the struggles I faced day to day
“Ah and already my prophecy has come true. I am thankful that I was able to join the conversation but can we please not be distracted from the subject at hand, I believe you were discussing matters of authority”
“ Yes Yes Of course Of course, I am of the mind that we have full reign over what we do and who we are. Being less concerned with the Gods than my old fashioned friend here, I believe an unjust ruler does not deserve to rule and as all we do and know exsist in the mortal world, why not take advantage of a tyrant’s mortality and remove him?”
Speaking for the first time since my interruption, Aeschylus addressed his companion
“ You do not understand the repercussions of authority scorned! Yes, Gods and men alike may rule, and yes that rule may harm at times. But Gods and men alike, with the exception of the almighty Zeus, must recognize some sort of authority. Like Prometheus. we doom ourselves to anguish trying follow our own compass rather than the one provided”
“ You both, though of very different opinions, are very wise, and you show it. I must confess myself torn. As a politician I know personally the power the state has. If the government wants something done badly enough, it will be done. But as a writer, who exams the beings of supreme power in his daily life, I can see them as mortals and recognize their humanity, so imperfect.”
Aeschylus spoke “ I can see that you have experience, and I respect that. But as a man of the military I know that absolute respect for authority is always in the best interest of the people. How would we survive war if each individual was given his say?”
“Perhaps, if each individuals thoughts were fully explored we would no longer have need for war” Euripides replied.
“War is inevitable” I said “ it is a product of humanity, man is constantly in conflict with himself so it stands to reason that conflict is inherent with society.”
We went on like this for hours, each of us drinking more and more as the night went on. Old Aeschylus stood by his position,though somewhat less formally,
“ Your an idiot Euripides, pardon me Sophocles, but you must see that what will happen will happen and the best thing to do is keep one’s head down and accept the inevitable”
“Oh I’m an idiot? Because I pay attention to the world around me? Because I recognize that we do have free will?”
“Gentlemen!” I interrupted “ Before we riot, I would like to interject and hopefully placate. You both need to listen to one another, I feel like I have gained new perspective on authority, from an insider and an outsider, age and youth. I believe authority is a divine creation, and the concept must be respected, but Euripides’ interest in the individual mind and opinion has inspired me. Is that not proof that authority can be changed? Does it not mean an individuals mind is worth as much as he says it is?”
I did not wait for a reply. Satisfied with my position, I stepped out into the starry night of Athens.