Greece

Solon


(c.638-559BC)

The ancient Greeks considered Solon to be one of the Seven Wise Men. He was a poet, politician and lawmaker, and was the one to found democracy in Athens.

Solon was born into a noble family and at the age of about 55 he was elected archon of Athens, in order for him to help the city get through the social and economical crisis it was going through.
As such, he wrote a series of laws and reforms called Solon's laws. They covered all aspects of society: economy, marriage, politics, crime and punishments etc. There was even laws about the citizens obligation to take part in politics: if Athens was going through disputes between different parties, any citizen who did not take sides would have his belongings confiscated.
He divided the Athenian society into five classes based on people's annual fortune: the pentacosiomedimni, the medimni, the hippeis, the zeugotae, the thetes. According to class, one had certain obligations, such as tax and contributions to the war-machine. Solon introduced the Aeropagus, the court, and the boule, a parliament consisting of 400 members, which made Athenian citizens more engaged in the cities politics even of the lower classes, something which made him unpopular amongst the aristocrats.
Many people also believed he did not give the people enough power, and all this hostility made Solon leave Athens for ten years. He saw his democracy turn into a tyranny under Pisistratus, even though the tyrant kept his laws. Solon is said to have made many journeys after he had become a private citizen again, and on one of his trips he met the legendary king Croesus according to some sources.

"Call no man happy until you know the nature of his death; he is at best but fortunate."
Solon (Herodotos, History, book I)

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