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Solon's reforms

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Solon (Greek: ΣόΛων; between 640 and 635 BC, Athens-circa 559 BC, Athens) was an Athenian politician, legislator and poet, one of the" seven wise men " of Ancient Greece.

Solon was descended from the noble Codrid family, which was formerly a royal dynasty. Apparently, even before the beginning of his political activity, he was known to his fellow citizens as a poet. He was the first Athenian poet, and the political orientation of some of his poems was bound to attract the attention of listeners. Solon's political career began with his expedition to Salamis during the Megarian war. After a successful expedition, he initiated the First Holy War. By 594 BC, he had become the most influential and authoritative Athenian political figure.

Solon was elected eponymous archon for 594/593 BC. In addition, he was given extraordinary powers. Solon carried out a number of reforms (sisachthia, property qualification, the establishment of the court of juries and the Council of Four Hundred, etc.), which represent the most important milestone in the history of archaic Athens, the formation of the Athenian state. After his archonship, the reformer went on a journey, during which he visited various regions of the Eastern Mediterranean. After his journey, Solon no longer took an active part in political life. He died around 559 BC in Athens.

Бюст Солона, Musée national archéologique de Naples

Perhaps by this time Solon had already formed a plan for transformation. To start implementing them, it was necessary to enlist a highly authoritative religious sanction. The Delphic Oracle gave Solon several prophecies that approved of his plans. By 594 BC, Solon was the most influential and influential Athenian political figure. He could be considered by all social strata (aristocrats, people, merchants and artisans) as a compromise figure.

In 594 BC, Solon was elected an eponymous archon. In addition, he was given some kind of emergency powers. According to Plutarch, he was appointed "conciliator and lawgiver," and according to Aristotle, in general, " entrusted to him the state." Apparently, his extraordinary powers were expressed in the word "conciliator, arbitrator". Thus, his task was to resolve the conflict and reconcile the warring parties. At that time, the archons were appointed by the Areopagus, but Solon was probably chosen by the national assembly because of the special situation.

His first reform was sisakhfiya, which he considered his main merit. All debts were abolished, bonded debtors were released from the slave status, and debt slavery was prohibited. Sisakhfiya was supposed to significantly ease social tensions and improve the economic situation of the state.

Solon pursued a comprehensive economic policy characterized by protectionism towards Athenian agriculture and support for handicraft production. Artisans from other cities who arrived in Athens were allowed to settle in the city. Under another law, parents who did not teach their son a trade did not have the right to demand that he support them in their old age. He banned the export of grain from Athens and encouraged olive farming. Thanks to Solon's measures, olive farming later developed into a thriving branch of agriculture. Solon's monetary reform involved replacing the former Aegina coin with the Euboean one. This measure facilitated trade between Athens, Euboea, Corinth, Chalkidiki, and Asia Minor, and encouraged the development of Athens ' foreign trade.

Solon's social reforms were also important. The most important of them is the division of the entire civil collective of the policy into four property categories. The criterion for belonging to a certain category was the amount of annual income calculated in agricultural products.

The poorest (Phetes), unlike the Athenians, who were included in the first three property classes, did not have the right to hold public office and took part only in the work of the national assembly and the court of juries (Heliei). According to the most common version, Solon carried out this reform in the interests of the rich (primarily non-noble rich from artisans and merchants). However, the poor also benefited: they could now participate in political life.

Solon seems to have established Helia. This innovation was of the most democratic nature. Solon granted the right to any citizen to initiate legal action in a case that does not directly concern him. If earlier in Athens there were only private lawsuits and processes in which the plaintiff had to act as the victim himself, now there are public lawsuits and processes.

Solon also established another new state body — the Council of Four Hundred. Its members were representatives of four Attic philae, 100 people from each philae. The Council of Four Hundred was an alternative to the Areopagus. The distribution of functions between them was not precisely defined. According to Plutarch, the Council of Four Hundred prepared and pre-discussed draft resolutions for the national assembly, while the Areopagus " supervised everything and protected the laws."

Solon passed the law on wills. Plutarch describes the law as follows: previously, "it was not allowed to make wills; the money and house of the deceased were to remain in his family; and Solon allowed those who did not have children to give their fortune to whomever they wanted." Solon introduced the institution of wills for the first time in Athenian history. In addition, the land maximum was introduced (prohibition to have land holdings in excess of the statutory norm).

Solonovsky legislative code was written on wooden boards (kirbakh) and put on public display. This code was to replace the Draconian Code; only the Draconian murder laws were still in effect. The new code of laws was supposed to remain in force for 100 years, but in fact it was still in force after that.

Solon's reforms represent a major milestone in the history of archaic Athens, the formation of the Athenian state.

Related topics

Ancient Greece, Athenian Democracy