The Athenians



mind (2) roadside don’t mind
point (3) by the way contemplate
steal waste (2) hospitable
cry out anyway treacherous
lie cheat stranger
stab dishonest opportunity
insult vulgar respect


Walking Along the Road

One day, long ago, a young man was walking along a country road.

After a while, he saw an older man sitting on the roadside under a tree.

“Hello sir,” said the first man. “How are you? What are you doing here, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“My name is Socrates,” answered the older man. “I live in Athens, but today I have come here to contemplate the meaning of life.”

“Ah. Okay. And I was wondering if you tell me the direction to Athens?” asked the first man.
“It’s in that direction,” said Socrates pointing to down the road.

The Athenians

“Alright, thank you sir. . . by the way,” he asked Socrates. “What the people of Athens are like?”
“Where are you from?” asked Socrates?
“I’m from Thebes.”
“What are the people of Thebes like?”
“Oh, they are very nice and friendly. They are very open and hospitable to anyone, including strangers,” replied the first man.

“Well, I’m happy to inform you that Athenians are exactly the same,” said Socrates.

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Walking Down the Road

A few hours later, another young man came walking down the same road.

“Hey old man!” he cried out to Socrates. “Why are you sitting under that tree, wasting your time? ”
“I have come here to contemplate the meaning of life,” answered Socrates.
How stupid! Why don’t you do something useful? Anyway, how far is it to Athens?”
“It’s about two leagues further,” said Socrates.

The Athenians

“And what are the people of Athens like?” the second man asked.
“Where are you from?” asked Socrates?
“I’m from Thebes.”
“And what are the people of Thebes like?”
“Oh, they’re terrible, they’re horrible!” replied the young man. “They cheat. They lie. They steal. They are rude, insulting, and disrespectful. They are vulgar, treacherous and dishonest — given the opportunity, they WILL stab you in the back. And the front too.”

“Well, I’m afraid to inform you that Athenians are exactly the same.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. The story took place in the city of Athens. True or false?

2. What happened in the opening of the story?

3. Did the young traveler meet someone? What did he ask the old man (Socrates)? What was Socrates’ reply?

4. There was only one traveler. Is this right or wrong?

5. Was the second traveler the same as the first? How did they differ?

6. Did Socrates give the second man the same answer he had given to the first, or he give different answer?

7. Is there a moral or lesson to the story?
A. When I visited another town (neighborhood, region or country), the people turned out to be exactly as I had expected. Yes, no, it varies, it depends?

B. Have you been to a school, company, town, place or country where the people were friendlier than what you had expected?

C. I have been to places where the people where ruder and less friendly than what I had thought. True or false?

D. Can you think of any examples of this story among you, your classmates, friends or coworkers? Have people been cold or unfriendly to a (new) person because he or she was cold and unfriendly?

E. Have you or someone become friendlier because a new person was friendly?

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