Ancient History: Greek World Question: Assess The Importance Of Solon's Reform Program During This Period.

1250 words - 5 pages

Solon, the reformer, came into power at a critical time for Athens' economic and political welfare. Before Solon, Athens was experiencing a severe law of debt, greedy nobles, causing the suffering of the poor and a vast gap between the classes. Athens needed to resolve these economic, social and political problems, while also avoiding a tyranny, hence Solon, the reformer. While in power he did solve many major problems in the city of Athens, however his economic and political reforms did not go far enough, leaving the citizens dissatisfied and discontented.Before the ruling of Solon, Athens' government was in the hands of the aristocrats, the two most important families, being the Alkmenoids and the Philiads. These aristocrats did not provide a fair legal system to all citizens, adapting the laws to their own needs, as they did not officially write the laws down and make them available to the public. With no political rights and these unfair laws, the lower classes became more and more discontented, but there was also fighting between the nobles themselves. Plutarch states that there were, "perennial squabbles about the form government should take".Draco's law was also another major problem in Athens at this time, this was the law which included the ruling that if a citizen was unable to pay their debt, then they became enslaved, this class was later called the hektemoroi. This increased the poverty of the lower classes, while also enhancing the greed of the nobles. Athens needed a reformer.Solon was chosen for many reasons; he was of noble birth, yet moderate wealth, he was a poet who wrote about political issues and he also travelled quite extensively, proving him to be wise in the area of trade. He was appointed in 594B.C. as eponymous archon, allowing him to not only be a reformer, but a mediator as well. The rich approved of Solon, as he came from a good background and was moderate in his beliefs. The lower classes, however liked Solon as he understood and sympathised with their situation, while also being a man of principle. Aristotle sums this up by saying, "For the rich were ready to accept him as a man of wealth and the poor as a man of principle."The main intention behind Solon's rule was for the welfare of the entire state before that of any one particular class. This intention can be seen in the altering to Athens' economy, which occurred under his reign. To begin with he enabled a cancellation of all outstanding debts, while giving personal freedom to the peasant. Evidence of this can be found in a poem Solon wrote himself, in which he states," And set you free, who then had been a slave." Solon then continued to place a law forbidding loans to be secured this way in the future, therefore eliminating the class, hektemoroi. He then got all slaves sold abroad returned to home and those citizens who were in exile, became free to return also.As a result of these changes, Attica did become a land of free peasants, however Solon did not...

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