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Solon (Greek: Σόλων, c. 638 BC558 BC) was a famous Athenian law maker.

He was the son of Execestides . He first worked as a foreign trader, and his abilities as a poet had him lauded as one of the Seven Sages of Greece.

In the mid 590s BC he worked to promote renewed conflict against Cirrha over Salamis. In 594 BC he was made archon of Attica, in order to subdue the civil disorder that was rampant there. He introduced a set of ordinances, seisachtheia, that did much to improve conditions. His ordinances were such a success that he was given the task of rewriting the constitution, creating what was later called the Solonian Constitution.

He repealed most of the laws of Draco; introduced a timokratia, an oligarchy with a sliding scale of rights determined by property, dividing the population into four classes:

  • Pentakosiomedimnoi,
  • Hippeis,
  • Zeugitai and
  • Thetes;

He introduced the trial by jury; military obligations were codified based on class; the Council of the Four Hundred (or Boule) and the Areopagus were established as the main consultative and administrative bodies; introduced many new laws, especially those covering debt and taxation; remodelled the calendar; and regulated weights and measures. Also, he took measures to protect children from sexual abuse. His laws were written onto special wooden cylinders and placed in the Acropolis.

Solon wrote the laws as a compromise between oligarchy and democracy, tailored to what the people would accept.

After having his constitution accepted he left Athens for over ten years, travelling to Egypt, Cyprus and Lydia. According to the historian Herodotus of Halicarnassus, in Lydia he offended Croesus when he was asked "Who is the happiest man you have ever seen?", instead of complimenting the king he said "I can speak of no one as happy until they are dead". It was recalling this story which, again according to Herodotus, saved Croesus from execution when his kingdom was overcome by Cyrus's invading Persians.

Solon returned to Athens in the 550s BC during the reign of the tyrant Pisistratus. The tyrant retained some of the constitution and showed Solon considerable respect. Solon died soon afterwards.

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