Friday, August 2, 2019

Athens Under Solon

When the city of Athens stood on the brink of revolution, the citizens of Athens looked upon Solon and gave him the task of creating new laws for them because of troubles that had been plaguing them for a long time. â€Å" They saw that he more than anyone else in city, stood apart from the injustices of the time and was involved neither in the extortions of the rich nor the privations of the poor† (Plutarch 55, Par 1). In this paper I will be writing of changes that took effect under Solon and whether those changes resolved the conflicts that brought Athens on the brink of revolution.First, I will be writing about the conflict over land ownership and slavery between aristocrats and common people, who appointed Solon as reconciler and archon and whether his new laws resolved those conflicts. Secondly, I will be writing of conflict over power between aristocrats and aristocrats, feuds that used to run between families and would not get resolved until there was no one left to ta ke revenge on and how Solon’s new laws changed that. And another laws of Solon’s that he was highly appraised for to make an Athens better place under him such as laws on Dowry, Inheritance, and Wills.Thirdly, I will be writing of political laws that took places under Solon’s era and how he secured those laws against alteration for a hundred years that gave powers to common people in Athens. The Two sources I will be using to write this paper are The Athenian Constitution (The document given in class by Prof. Trumbach) and Plutarch: The Rise and fall of Athens (Textbook assigned for class). Aristocrats vs. Peasants Before I write about the conflict between the aristocrats and the common people, you must know the geographical system of Athens and the people who worked on those lands and how that contributed to the conflict. The city of Athens was divided into as many parties as there were geographical features in its territory. First there were aristocrats, peopl e who lived in plain, who supported an oligarchy government and had the best and most fertile land (The Athenian Constitution 2). The party of the hill (Peasants with land on the hill) supported an extreme democracy so the new government can redistribute the land and they can have some of the fertile land which was all owned by aristocrats.Their land was so unfertile that sometimes they had to eat their own seed to survive due to bad harvest and borrow seeds from aristocrats and pledge their own freedom. When they were unable to pay back their debt, they were seized by their creditors and being enslaved at home or were sold to foreigners aboard. Many parents were even forced to sell their own children because there was no law to prevent that from happening (The Athenian Constitution 2). Then there were sharecroppers (Thetes) who supported a mixed form of government. These were the peasants who had no lands of their own and rented a land from aristocrats.As a rent they would pay one sixth of their crop which left them with just enough crop to survive. Sharecroppers lived on very tight budget. They were always left over with just enough to survive year to year and had no social mobility whatsoever. They were born poor and died poor. The City stood at the brink of revolution and the poor people could not take any more harshness from their creditors† (Plutarch 54, Par 2). â€Å"At this point poor rose against notables, the strife was fierce but they held out against each other for very long time.Eventually tired from fighting both sides agreed to appoint Solon as reconciler and archon and entrusted the Athens to him† (The Athenian Constitution 2). â€Å"After gaining control, first measure Solon put into force, he discharged all the debts of common people whether it was public or private that they owed to aristocrats which the Athenians called the â€Å"Shaking-off of Burden†. He freed all enslaved and put in a law that in future nobody could accept the person of a debtor as a security† (The Athenian Constitution 3).Hill peasants were now free from slavery and debt but their problems were still not solved. They wanted Solon to redistribute the land which he did not do, but instead he made Olive oil the only product of Athens allowed to be exported. So if there was anything extra leftover from the farms of aristocrats, they had no choice but to give to starving poor and Hill peasants. If anyone were to export anything but oil be punished by archon or should pay fine to the public treasury† (Plutarch 66, Par 3). After making Attica a great and secure place to live, he realized that the city was filling up with people in a steady stream from everywhere in Greek; at the same time he realized that most of the country was still poor and unproductive, and people elsewhere are not in the habit of sending their goods to those who have nothing to offer in exchange.He therefore encouraged the sharecroppers to turn to th e arts and crafts of manufacture and made a law that no son was obliged to support his father unless the father first taught the son a trade of some kind† (Plutarch 64, Par 2). At first, the changes Solon made did not please either party. The rich were angry because of being deprived of their securities and losing out on their property and the poor even more so, because Solon did not carry out a redistribution of the land as they had expected him to do† (Plutarch 58, Par 2). However, it was not long before they realized that what Solon had done was great and saw the advantages of his policy. Athenians were so happy that they went on to appoint Solon to reform the constitution and draw up a code of laws.No limit was set to his powers and every function of the state was committed to his charge, the magistracies, the public assemblies, the courts of law and the Councils. He had authority to decide the property qualifications, the numbers and the times of meeting of each of these bodies and also to preserve or dissolve all existing institution as he thought fit. Aristocrats vs. Aristocrats After Solon became the authority figure and champion of people, he established a constitution and formed other laws to make Athens better place to live.Athens had long been troubled by the blood-feuds of aristocrat’s families that had been trying to gain political control of the city, which in Solon time were the families of Cylon and Megacles. Family of Cylon wanted to seize the control of Athens and Megacles’ family wanted to stop them. At the time of Solon this feud was at its height and the city was torn between them. So after Solon came to mediate between them and Megacles’ family was found guilty, he enacted a new law to protect common people. â€Å"He gave every citizen the privilege of going to law on behalf of any one whose rights was violated.For instance, if a man was assaulted or suffered violence or injury, anybody who had the abili ty and the desire to do so was entitled to bring a suit and prosecute the offender. In this way every citizens of Athens come close to each other and sympathize with one another’s wrong and became loyal to each other and not just to their friends and families† (Plutarch 60, Par 2). â€Å"Seeing that the city was always in a state of strife and some tyrant is always trying to take control of the city and some of the citizens through apathy accepted whatever might happen, Solon made a special law to deal with them.If when the city is torn by a feud and anyone should refuse to place his arms at the disposal of either side should be outlawed and have no share in the city† (The Athenian Constitution 4). â€Å"Solon was admired for another law that he made which deals with Will. Before Solon wills were not allowed and if someone who owns the property dies, the estate of the deceased was bound to remain within his family. However, Solon allowed any man who had no child ren to choose their heir, showing that he rated friendship above the ties of blood and free choice above necessity† (Plutarch 63, Par 3). In another law, Solon abolished dowries. The bride had to bring nothing but three changes of clothes and small necessity of small value to her new home. Solon object was that marriage is pure and it should not be seen as profit- making institution, two people should get married to gain each other’s love and affection not property† (Plutarch 62, Par 2). â€Å"Solon also forbade slaves to rub themselves with olive oil, to practice in the gym or to have a boy lover.He made this law so the young aristocrats’ boys hang out with people only in their class, with people who can teach them the aristocratic ways and educate them for future† (Plutarch 42, Par 2). â€Å"However, Solon’s law concerning women seem incongruous to some extent. For example, he made it illegal to kill any adulterer who was caught in the act. The offence of rape against a free woman was punished by a fine of no more than 100 drachmae. He also made it illegal for a man to sell his daughter or sister, unless he discovered that she was no longer a virgin showing he did not care much about women’s right† (Plutarch 65, Par 3).Political Structure â€Å"As soon Solon gained all the power in Athens, he abolished all the Draconian laws because of their harshness and the excessively heavy penalties they carried; the only exceptions he made were to the laws relating to homicide† (Plutarch 59, Par 2). â€Å"Solon wanted to leave all the offices of state in the hands of the rich, as he found them but at the same time he wanted to give the common people (Thetes) a share in other sector of government which they had never before possessed. So he took a census of each citizen’s property and divided them in four different Categories.Those who received an annual income of 500 measures were placed in the first c lass. People who owned horses and paid ‘horse tax’ or possessed an income of 300 measures were placed in the second class. The third class was People whose yearly income amounted to 200 measures. Rest of the citizen body was known as thetes, common people and peasants. Solon distributed major offices, such as the nine archons, the treasurer, and the sellers among first three classes according to the level of their assessment.People who were considered thetes were not entitled to hold office and their only political function consisted in sitting in the Assembly or on a Jury. First this new changes to the constitution appeared to be worth very little and nobody took much interest in it, but later on became extremely important, because the majority of the disputes were settled in front of a jury and that jury was now consist of 98% common people. Even in those cases which Solon placed under the jurisdiction of the magistrates, he then also allowed the right of appeal to th e popular court.And if the popular court were unable to settle the case in accordance to law, cases then were to be handled by jury, so that in sense the jurors became the arbiters of the law. And because most of bodies in Athens that time were common people, they were the one to hold most position in jury† (Plutarch 60, Par 2). â€Å"Solon then established the council of the Areopagus, which was composed of men who had previously held the annual office of archon, as he was once before. He too became a member of Areopagus. He saw people were becoming restive and unruly because of their release from their debts.He then formed a second chamber consisting of 400 men, 100 being drawn from each of the four classes. Its functions were to deliberate public business in advance of the general assembly, and not to allow any matter to be brought before the Areopagus without its having been discussed. He charged the upper chamber with the task of exercising a general supervision and acti ng as guardian of the laws. His object here was that the state with its two councils should ride, as it were, at double anchor and should therefore be less exposed to the buffetings of party politics and better able to secure tranquility for the people† (Plutarch 61, Par 2). He also made another law that all his laws were to remain in force for a hundred years, and they were written on a axons, or wooden tablets which was covered with a wooden frame for generations to remember† (Plutarch 67, Par 2).In Conclusion, Solon is considered as the first lawmaker that set the ground for the creation of the democracy, the government system that made Athens powerful and granted the city fame for the centuries to come. The most democratic of Solon's enactments were these three: the first, and greatest, the forbidding of loans on the person [i. . using oneself as security for a loan, foreclosure resulting in slavery]; the second, the possibility for anyone who wishes to sue over wron gdoings; and third, reform of the political structure of Athens which gave the power to common people to sit in the jury for the first time eve in the history of Greece. In his reform measures, he pleased neither the common people who wanted the land redistributed nor the landowners who wanted to keep all their property to themselves. Instead, he did what he thought was right for Athens.

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