Plutarch Essay

1856 words - 8 pages

Solon was famous for advocating democracy and creating laws. When he was asked if he had given Athens the best laws that could be given, he said, “The best they could receive.” This meant there could have been better laws, but the Athenians would not have accepted them. There are several laws mentioned by Plutarch that Solon was responsible for creating. Solon would pass something called the Mortgage Law which made it illegal to bind a debtor’s body to the creditor if the loan went into default. This was good for the poor because the rich took advantage of the poor. The debtor essentially would become a slave if he could not pay his loan. Solon also put an end to Draco’s laws, except for offenses related to homicide, which were too harsh in Solons opinion. With Draco laws every offense ranging from idleness to theft to murder was punishable by death. Plutarch viewed Solon as a fair and just man. This almost became a burden to Solon because he was so fair and just that he never pleased either side.
Themistocles was an Athenian politician and general. He represented the poor class because he came from a very poor background. Themistocles was well known for his support of building up a navy. His main rival, Aristides, stressed land power. This rivalry will eventually lead to the ostracism of Aristides. The Athenians, while being led by Themistocles, had a great naval victory at Salamis against the Persians. Themistocles had tricked the Persians by convincing them that the Greeks were fleeing. However, his good fortune in Athens does not last forever. He will be ostracized for suspicions that he is too close to the Persians. Ironically, when he leaves Athens he is accepted into the council of the Persian king, becoming an enemy of Athens. When he was ordered to take up against the Athenians he could not do so and ended his life by drinking poison. This shows his true commitment for Athens.
This conflict of the individual versus the state is apparent in many of the lives and it shows up primarily because of ostracism. These figures are very passionate in promoting the well being of Athens, but end up having too much influence and get banished for ten years (sometimes recalled before ten years). They were trying to defend against tyranny by ostracizing these figures. Themistocles, the key player in building up a navy for Athens and in rebuilding its walls after the second Persian War, is thanked for his efforts with ostracism. Aristides helped bring Athens to virtue and has the nickname, “The Just”, yet he still gets ostracized while trying to help Athens. The big difference between these two figures is Themistocles never returns after ostracism, but Aristides returns and continues to be very influential but dies a poor man. Cimon was an effective general and he also gets ostracized.
These people were ostracized because of this conflict between individual and state. They truly wanted to help Athens, but others accused them of being...

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