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Lycurgus In Sparta And Solon In Athens

1404 words - 6 pages

Many believe the notion of equality and justice are very much intertwined. Through the ways in which Lycurgus and Solon reform their city to resolve social inequalities, the notion of equality and justice is discerned, which is to say equality is universal whereas justice depends on the parameters of the society. Lycurgus led his reforms so that everyone equally advances as a public duty. As opposed to Lycurgus, Solon led his reforms so that every person had a fair chance at advancement and participation in government built on merit and wealth. Lycurgus and Solon both modified their city through political, social, and economic reformations to alleviate social injustice.
Politically, Lycurgus ...view middle of the document...

The rich and the poor clearly did not have a level playing field since they start at different places. Therefore, it is likely that the rich and the poor will not end up with equal outcomes. Still, Solon attempts to listen to both sides and make compromises. Solon says, it is “hard to please everyone in politics” (Solon 76). Even so, he still “granted privilege enough, not lessening [the poor’s] estate nor giving more; [the rich], who were envied for their wealth, [Solon] have save them from all mistreatment too” (Solon 75). Although both Lycurgus and Solon attempts to promote equality and justice in their city, Lycurgus was not as successful as Solon because inequality is inescapable so it is only through fairness that justice is sought.
Socially, Lycurgus established common messes in Sparta and Solon abolished slavery in Athens in an attempt to alleviate social injustices. Lycurgus’ reform was equal but not just. Lycurgus made everyone dine in public halls, regardless if they were a king or just regular citizens. Everyone ate the same food at the same time. The rich could not even dine at home first and then proceed to their messes on a full stomach. For example, King Agis had defeated the Athenians and “wanted to eat at home with his wife […] the polemarchs wouldn’t send them. Next day, he didn’t carry the required sacrifice, and they then fined him” (Plutarch 15). Others looked out for others who did not dine in public halls and would exploit them for having no self-discipline and for being too delicate to consume the common fare. This was not just because the government had control over what and when the people were eating. It takes away the ability of those who have earned more in life to enjoy their accomplishments. Unlike Lycurgus’ reform, Solon was just but not equal. He prevented corruption in using humans as collateral in loans by abolishing slavery. Solon justifies this by saying “For if men injure their own people, they soon find their lovely city scarred and faction-torn […] many of the poor folk find themselves in foreign lands, sold into slavery and bound in shameful bonds” (Solon 75). However, it was not equal because Solon did not change the poor citizens’ socioeconomic status. The poor were still poor while the rich still had an advantage in Athens. Even so, a hard worker who becomes rich is more deserving of benefits than an ordinary citizen. Therefore, even though Solon’s reform did not necessarily make every citizen completely equal, his approach is still just and ideally better compared to Lycurgus’ reform, which was based on strict equality.
Economically, Lycurgus equally redistributed the land and made currency worthless while Solon erased debt to alleviate social injustices. Lycurgus’ reform created equality, but not justice in Sparta. People will be equal except for what censure of bad conduct and praise of good would determine. Every person’s socioeconomic status was even so they could all unite as one whole state....

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