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Solon

Civilization:Greek: Athens
Era: City States
638–559 BCField of Renown:statesman: Archon
Solon
 Solon defends his laws, Coypel

Solon was the first major constitutional reformer of Athens. Although his reforms were not democratic, as far as providing any voting power to the lower classes, he did modify economic policies as much as possible to favor the lower classes and the cause of debtors. The lower poorer classes were thereby raised from complete servitude, and in later years, gained still more legal and voting rights.

In his younger years Solon supported himself as a merchant or trader, and traveled widely to Greek colonies throughout the Mediterranean. He also distinguished himself as a great poet. He came to prominence as a political leader when he rallied the city of Athens to reclaim the island of Salamis, that it had lost in a conflict with Cirrha. Athens was at the time in the midst of a civic crisis, with the lower, and debtor classes on the verge of open rebellion. Solon was elected Archon, and because he had the trust of both the nobles and the debtors, was given wide latitude to rewrite the laws of Athens to be more fair to all classes. He threw out the laws of Draco, and wrote a new set which stopped short of abrogating all debts and slavery, but did much to relieve the oppression of the poorer classes, and prevented Athenian citizens from being sold into slavery to pay debts. After spending many years administering to the government of Athens, Solon retired and spent ten years traveling throughout Egypt and Asia Minor. It was during this trip that he made his famous visit to the court of Croesus. By the time Solon returned to Athens he was an old man, and Pisistratus had made himself tyrant. Solon opposed Pisistratus, because he suspected him of setting himself up as a tyrant, but nis warnings went unheeded. Pisistratus did not treat him as an enemy, but honored his laws, and paid him great respect. He died a few years later, in 558 B.C., and his ashes were scattered around Salamis.


Key events during the life of Solon

Year Event
610 BC Began career a merchant. Also distinguished himself as a poet.
596 BC Renewed conflict with Cirrha over the island of Salamis, in which Athens prevailed.
594 BC Became Archon of Attica. Bestowed with great powers to reform constitution, due to civic unrest.
  Repealed laws of Draco. Divided population into four classes. Passed laws that aided debtors.
565 BC Spent ten years traveling to Egypt, Cyrus, and Lydia.
  Visited the court of Croesus
555 BC Returned to Athens and opposed Pisistratus.
558 BC Died. Ashes scattered around the island of Salamis.

 

Story LinksBook Links
Statesman and Poet  in  Pictures from Greek Life and Story  by  Church
Solon  in  Our Young Folks' Plutarch  by  Kaufman
Solon, the Law-Giver of Athens  in  Historical Tales: 10—Greek  by  Morris
As Rich as Croesus  in  Thirty More Famous Stories Retold  by  Baldwin
Wise Man of Athens  in  Children's Plutarch: Tales of the Greeks  by  Gould
Laws of Solon  in  Story of the Greeks  by  Guerber
Tyrant's Insult  in  Story of the Greeks  by  Guerber
Draco and Solon  in  Famous Men of Greece  by  Haaren
What Solon Did for Athens  in  Greek Gods - Heroes - and Men  by  Harding
Solon  in  Stories from Greek History  by  Lemon
Solon Frees the Slaves  in  Story of Greece  by  Macgregor
The Great Lawgivers  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Shaw
The Seven Wise Men  in  Stories of the Ancient Greeks  by  Shaw
Early Days of Athens: The Laws of Solon  in  Story of the Greek People  by  Tappan
Solon, Who Made Laws for the Athenians  in  Old World Hero Stories  by  Tappan

Image Links
Solon defends his laws, Coypel  in Famous Men of Greece Solon in the market-place in Stories from Greek History Solon, the wise lawgiver of Athens.  in Story of Greece
A Bust in the Museum of Naples thought to be that of Solon.  in Story of the Greek People


Contemporary Short Biography
Croesus Wealthy monarch of Lydia who lost his kingdom to Cyrus the Great.
Pisistratus Tyrant of Athens. Respected Solon's laws. Established festivals, and promoted culture.
Megacles Opposed, and then allied himself with Pisistratus. Married Agriste of the Alcmaeonidae clan.
Thales Early Greek philosopher and scientist, one of seven sages of Greece.