A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C

By George Grote; J. M. Mitchell et al. | Go to book overview

2 [XI]

SOLONIAN LAWS AND CONSTITUTION

[IT is important, before considering the complicated details of Solon's reforms, to point out the sources from which information is derived. In the first place, it is clear that there existed in the fifth and fourth centuries no real tradition as to the actual provisions. Had such existed there would either have been no serious difference of opinion, or else the disputants would undoubtedly have appealed to that tradition. Now, firstly, there is no such appeal, and, secondly, there are most important differences of view among fourth-century authorities - e.g., concerning (1) the Seisachtheia, between the author of the Athenaiôn Politeia and Androtion (see below); (2) the coinage reform; (3) the respective qualifications of the second and third classes. Further, the Ath. Pol. endeavours to elucidate problems by inferences from Solon's poems, or by mere probability, rather than by appeal to tradition.

Another source would be the laws of Solon. In the fourth century there were undoubtedly genuine Solonian laws in existence. But the laws relating to the Seisachtheia were dead; only a few of the agrarian and constitutional laws (if any) were still in operation.

The main source is, therefore, Solon's poems, fragments of which are preserved in the Ath. Pol. (c. 12). In general it is important to notice that Grote's views (e.g., as to the Seisachtheia) must be reconsidered in the light of the Ath. Pol., which, as will appear in the notes, differs not only from Androtion (as to the Seisachtheia), but also from nearly all previous authorities in respect of the coinage reform. - ED.]

WE now approach a new æra in Grecian history - the first known example of a genuine and disinterested constitutional reform, and the first foundation-stone of that great fabric which afterwards became the type of democracy in Greece. The archonship of the Eupatrid Solon dates in 594 B.C., thirty years after that of Drako, and about eighteen years after the conspiracy of Kylôn (assuming the latter event to be correctly placed, 612 B.C.). 1

1 [The Kylonian conspiracy is generally dated 632 B.C. Kylôn, who had married the daughter of Theagenês, tyrant of Megara, attempted (probably with Megarian support) to become tyrant in Athens, but was defeated and treacherously slain with his followers. No doubt this was one of the causes of the Megarian War, which contributed to increase the economic distress in Attica by interfering with Athenian trade.

The year of Solon's archonship is probably either 594-593 or 592-591; the former is the

-15-

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