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Who's Who Ancient Greece: Solon of Athens

Solon of Athens - Pre-Socratic Philosopher and acclaimed as one of the seven sages (wise men) 640 - 558 BC

solon the lawgiverLike Pittakos, Solon was also a legislator and poet who came from an aristocratic family, but he was a philosopher as well.

He was elected ruler of Athens in reward for his helping recapture the island of Salamis from Megara, and given unlimited powers, along with a mandate to accomplish social and economic reforms.

Among his much-lauded accomplishments were his abolishing of debts that had been incurred by the lower classes (often loans based on their property or labor), and had which had reduced many to slavery.

solonHe defined four classes of citizens, each with its own set of rights, based on the property and income of each rather than on family origin, which had previously been the defining factor.

The four classes consisted of the very wealthy (aristocrats), the horsemen, the farmers and, together in the last class, servants and artisans.

Despite this stratification of classes, economic measures were taken to bridge the gap between upper and lower classes.

He forbade the export of grains from Attiki (Attica) because there was only enough sufficient to the dietary needs of the populace; he allowed the export of oil, of which there was a superfluity.

He encouraged the settlement of immigrants, granted amnesty to exiled Athenians, passed a law that gave any citizen the right to bring charges against a second citizen for damages to a third citizens that involved life, property or honor.

Forbade neutrality in political and civic affairs

A rather intriguing law passed by Solon was that which forced every man to side with a faction in the event of civil strife in the city, a law believed to have been inspired by his desire to see citizens, during civil unrest, to take an active role in public affairs by choosing the side they believed to be virtuous and consonant with their own principles, and to risk themselves by giving their support rather than standing back apathetically (in safety), as if watching a competitive game. Has street named after him central Athens: Solonos

Quote: "Learn to be ruled that you may rule"