Solon -639 - -559 (80)

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Solon ( 639-559 BC ) was an ancient Greek Athenian lawmaker, philosopher, poet, statesman and one of the seven sages of antiquity. He belonged to a wealthy and aristocratic family, his father Exikestidis provided the best education for his son. When Solon lost his family fortune, he turned to trade for making a living, traveled to Egypt and Asia Minor where he studied foreign cultures, law and the economic system of other countries. When he returned to Athens, he used his knowledge for the social and economic recovery of his country. Initially he won the assessment of his fellow citizens with poetry. He wrote his elegiac poem Salamis, in which he was urging Athenians to recapture the island from the Megarians and then he wrote political elegies which showed his love for his homeland and for justice. The Athenians in 594, at a time when the risk of civil conflict was visible as long disputes between citizens and noblemen could not come to an end, elected him as the legislature and conciliator, offering him extra powers for dealing with the situation. His laws were published in 592 BC, written on wooden plates and hung on Prytaneum so everybody could read them. Solon divided the people into four classes based on their property. In the first 3 classes imposed taxation proportional to their income, while the poor were exepted from taxation and introduced that the leaders would be elected from the first class and the members of parliament from the first 3 classes. He created a parliament of 400 people and the people's court of Heliaia consisting of 6000 men. He reorganized the army and regulated financial matters, such as prohibiting export of oil if there was a surplus. Among the most important laws were “seisachtheia”, which freed all slaves who had gone into slavery because of debt and also forbade the borrowing with pledge freedom. He established the institution of the covenant so if someone was childless cold leave his property to whomever he wanted, whereas previously had to go necessarily to relatives. He made arrangements to private citizens' relations ( eg abstraction rules, minimum distances of constructions ) he established welfare rules for the disabled, he took measures against adultery, rape, prostitution for strengthening the family, appointed as an obligation of the parents to teach their children some kind of art and for those who do not respond, their children were not pbliged to take care of their elderly parents. He also made the participation of citizens in public life obligatory. Most Athenians were not happy with his laws. Farmers waited a redistribute of the land and noble people expected recognition of their privileges, but even so, Athens came to a social peace, injustice was decreased and the foundations for a more representative democracy were laid. Solon, to avoid the pressures for changes in legislation and not to interfere with its application, he left Athens for ten years. In this energy appears a first application of the distinction between the legislative and the executive. He traveled throughout the known world and when he returned to Athens he found it in good condition, with the Athenians to honor him, having recognized his work.