How Successful Were Solon's Measures In Dealing With The Problems Facing Athens In 594 Bc?

2388 words - 10 pages

In 594BC, Solon was appointed as archon (leader with supreme civil authority and power to act as a judge to cases involving Athenian citizens) to Athens, in an attempt to reform the state, which was facing a number of social and economic problems caused by political systems that they had in place at the time. His appointment was also intended to alleviate the problems that were threatening Athens with civil war, caused by other practices in Athens, which were extremely well established. He is best known as a political reformer, as through his measures and his attempts to democratise justice, he managed to, if not revolutionise, then reform much of the political practice of Athens. This paved the way for future leaders to build upon his work, as well as aiding the economic and social growth of Athens. Although many of his measures were not immediately particularly effective or successful, his influence changed the working of the city forever.As Solon took over Athens, class distinction was at the root of a number of problems facing him, such as social inferiority. Although his first concerns were immediate relief and help to the people , the government reforms he achieved are markedly some of the most pointed changes he made. Any political influence in 594 BC was held by noble born men, and to ensue their security, they banded together against the peasants, regardless of any internal disagreements within the nobles themselves. Solon's intention was to abolish the oligarchy, where all citizens could vote but only nobles hold office, redefining citizenship to create the foundations of democracy, and making the courts more accessible to even very poor citizens. Unfortunately the oligarchic system had been in place for hundreds of years, and somehow bridging the gap between rich and poor would be a huge task. After altering a number of other bad practices in Athens, he brought in a number of constitutional reforms designed to make the class system fairer. Elected magistrates would no longer have to be nobility; they would instead have to belong to a certain 'group' of people to be eligible.As far as government was concerned, he divided Athenian society into four classes based on wealth (the wealth was measured by annual production of the land). Those producing five hundred plus bushels a year were in group one, the pentacostomedimnoi. These men were very rich and this group was composed entirely of old nobles who were really in the same position as before, still wealthy and eligible for archonship. Group two, Hippeis, was also composed of the wealthy, with majority nobility, but it was not impossible for rich non-nobles to make it into this group. Groups three and four, Zeugites and Thetes were the poorest. A few from group three could have made it into group two alongside the old nobles, but as before, the poorest, in group four, were the worst off. The only thing they really gained was hope, if they could move up just one group they would have more...

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