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cept such rewards. The only boon he requested was, for himself, a branch from the sacred olive-tree which grew on the citadel, the gift, it was believed, of Athené, when she claimed the land as her own, and for his country a decree of perpetual friendship and alliance between Athens and Cnossus. This pleasing monument of his visit seems to have subsisted in the time of Plato,” and a statue of the Cretan sage long adorned one of the Athenian sanctuaries. But though the visit of Epimenides was attended with the most salutary consequences, so far as it applied a suitable remedy to evils which were entirely seated in the imagination, and though it may have wrought still happier effects by calming, softening, and opening hearts which had before only beaten with wild and malignant passions, still it had not produced any real change in the state of things, but had, at the utmost, only prepared the way for one. This work remained to be achieved by Solon. The government had long been in the hands of men who appear to have wielded it only as an instrument for aggrandizing and enriching themselves. They had reduced a great part of the class whose industry was employed in the labours of agriculture to a state of abject dependance, in which they were not only debarred from all but, perhaps, a merely nominal share of political rights, but held even their personal freedom by a precarious tenure, and were frequently reduced to actual slavery. The smaller proprietors, impoverished by bad times or casual disasters, were compelled to borrow money at high interest, and to mortgage their lands to the rich, or to receive them again as tenants upon the same hard terms as were imposed upon those who cultivated the estates of the great landowners. The laws made by the nobles enabled the creditor to seize the person of his insolvent debtor, and to sell him as a slave; and this right had been frequently exercised : numbers had been torn from their homes, and condemned to end their days in the service of a foreign master; others were driven to the still harder necessity of selling their own children. One who travelled at this time through Attica saw the dismal monuments of aristocratical oppression scattered over its fields, in the stone posts,t which marked that what was once a property had become a pledge, and that its former owner had lost his independence, and was in danger of sinking into a still more degraded and miserable condition. Such spectacles had frequently struck the eye of Solon, and they undoubtedly moved him no less than that which roused the holy indignation of the elder Gracchus against the Roman grandees.t Those who groaned under this tyranny were only eager for a change, and cared little about the means by which it might be effected. But the population of Attica was not simply composed of these two classes. We have already noticed an ancient geographical division of the
* Le Leg., i., 11. Though Plato's chronology is enormously wrong—he places the visit of Epimenides only ten years before the Persion war, about B.C. 500—we may receive his testuntony in the fact stated in the text, which is also mentioned by Diogenes Laert. i., 111.
t "Opot. They were inscribed with the amount of the debt and the name of the creditor.
4 Pluto, Tib. Gracchus, c. 8.
country, which, from time immemorial, had determined the pursuits and the character of its inhabitants; and this now separated them into three distinct parties.* animated each by its peculiar interests, views, and feelings. The possessions of the nobles lay chiefly in the plains. As a body, they desired the continuance of the existing state of things, on which their power and exclusive privileges depended ; but, as we have seen, there were among them some moderate men, who were willing to make concessions to prudence, if not to justice, and to resign a part for the sake of securing their possession of the rest. The inhabitants of the highlands, in the eastern and northern parts of Attica, do not seem to have suffered any of those evils which the rapacity and hard-heartedness of the powerful had inflicted on the lowland peasantry; but, though independent, they were probably, for the most part, poor, and had, perhaps, been less considered than their neighbours in the distribution of political rights. They generally wished for a revolution which should place them on a level with the rich; and, uniting their cause with that of the oppressed, they called for a thorough redress of grievances, which they contended could only be afforded by reducing that enormous inequality of possessions, which was the source of degradation and misery to them and their fellows.t. The men of the coast, who probably composed a main part of that class which subsisted by trade, by the exercise of the mechanical arts, and, perhaps, by the working of the mines, and now included a considerable share of affluence and intelligence, were averse to violent measures, but were desirous of a reform in the Constitution which should promote the prosperity of the country by removing all grounds of reasonable complaint, and should admit a larger number to the enjoyment of those rights which were now engrossed and abused by a few. It is probable that the wiser nobles now regretted the blind eagerness with which their ancestors abolished the regal dignity, under which they might, perhaps, still have retained their power, even if they had been compelled to exercise it with greater moderation. The people in general felt the need of a leader, and would have preferred even the despotic rule of one man to the tyranny of their many lords. As Solon's established reputation pointed him out as the person most eapable of remedying the disorders of the state, so he united all the qualities which could fit him for coming forward as the protector of the commonalty without exciting the fears of the nobles. He belonged to the latter by birth and station, and he recommended himself to the former by the proofs he had shown of activity, prudence, justice, and humanity. He was therefore chosen, with the unanimous consent of all parties, to mediate between them, and arbitrate their quarrels; and, under the legal title of archon, was invested with full authority to frame a new Constitution and a new code of laws. (Ol. 46, 3–B.C. 594.) Such an office, under such circumstances, conferred almost unlimited power, and an ambitious man might easily have abused it to make him
self absolute master of the state. The contend- Solon himself, in a poem which he afterward ing parties would probably have acquiesced composed on the subject of his legislation, spoke without much reluctance in such a usupration, with a becoming pride of the happy change as an evil less than those which some suffered which this measure had wrought in the face of and others feared. Solon's friends exhorted Attica, of the numerous citizens whose lands him to seize the opportunity of becoming tyrant he had discharged, and whose persons he had of Athens; and they were not at a loss for fair emancipated, and brought back from hopeless arguments to colour their foul advice. They slavery in strange lands. He was only unfortubade him consider that the name of a tyranny nate in bestowing his confidence on persons was harmless, and the thing salutary, so long who were incapable of imitating his virtue, and as it was wisely and justly administered; and who abused his intimacy. At the time when they reminded him of recent instances—of Tyn- all men were uncertain as to his intentions, nondas in Euboea, and Pittacus at Mitylene, and no kind of property could be thought secure, who had exercised a sovereignty over their sel-Hohe privately informed three of his friends of his low-citizens without forfeiting their love. Solon determination not to touch the estates of the saw through their sophistry, and was not tempt- landowners, but only to reduce the amount of ed by it to betray the sacred trust reposed in debt. He had afterward the vexation of dishim; and he consoled himself for the taunts covering that the men to whom he had intrustwith which they reproached his want of spirit ed this secret had been base enough to take adand prudence by the approbation of his con- vantage of it, by making large purchases of science, the esteem of his countrymen, and the land, which at such a juncture bore, no doubt, honour with which his name has come down to a very low price, with borrowed money. Forposterity. Instead of harbouring any schemes tunately for his fame, the state of his private of selfish aggrandizement, he bent all his affairs was such as to exempt him from all susthoughts and energies to the execution of the picion of having had any share in this sordid great task which he had undertaken. transaction. He had himself a considerable
This task consisted of two main parts: the sum out at interest, and was a loser in proporfirst and most pressing business was to relieve |tion by his own enactment. the present distress of the commonalty; the We have here followed that account of Sonext, to provide against the recurrence of like lon's measures of relief, which seems the most evils, by regulating the rights of all the citizens probable in itself, and is confirmed by the best according to equitable principles, and fixing evidence. There was, however, another, adoptthem on a permanent basis. In proceeding to led by some ancient writers, which represented the first part of his undertaking, Solon held a him as having entirely cancelled all debts, and middle course between the two extremes— as having only disguised the violence of this those who wished to keep all, and those who proceeding under a soft and attractive name. were for taking everything away. The most It does not appear that the ancients saw anyviolent or needy would have been satisfied with thing to censure in his conduct according to nothing short of a total confusion of property, either view. On the other hand, in our times followed by a fresh distribution of it. They de- there will, perhaps, be some who will consider sired that all debts should be cancelled, and that such a change in property and contracts, even the lands of the rich should be confiscated and upon the mildest interpretation, as unjust in parcelled out among the poor. Solon, while he principle, and as a precedent pregnant with conresisted these reckless and extravagant de- sequences the most dangerous to society. But mands, met the reasonable expectations of the the example of Solon cannot be fairly pleaded public by his disburdening ordinance,” and re- by those who contend that either public or prilieved the debtor, partly by a reduction of the vate faith may be rightly sacrificed to experate of interest, which was probably made ret-diency. He must be considered as an arbitrarospective, and thus in many cases would wipe stor to whom all the parties interested submitoff a great part of the debt, and partly by lower-lted their claims, with the avowed intent that ing the standard of the silver coinage, so that they should be decided by him, not upon the the debtor saved more than one fourth in every footing of legal right, but according to his own payment.t. He likewise released the pledged view of the public interest. It was in this light lands from their encumbrances, and restored; that he himself regarded his office, and he apthem in full property to their owners; though it pears to have discharged it faithfully and disdoes not seem certain whether this was one of creetly. The strongest proof of the wisdom the express objects of the measure, or only one and equity of his measures is that they subjectof the consequences which it involved. Finally, led him to obloquy from the violent spirits of he abolished the inhuman law which enabled both the extreme parties. But their murmurs the creditor to enslave his debtor, and restored were soon drowned in the general approbation those who were pining at home in such bondage with which the disburdening ordinance was reto immediate liberty ; and it would seem that ceived: it was celebrated with a solemn festihe compelled those who had sold their debtors val, and Solon was encouraged, by the stronginto foreign countries to procure their freedom |est assurances of the increased confidence of at their own expense. The debt itself in such his fellow-citizens, to proceed with his work; cases was, of course, held to be extinguished, and he now entered on the second and more * xaráxthua difficult part of his task.
f #so sal. 15) says that he made the mina, which He began by repealing all the laws of Draco, before contained 73 dragoma, to contain sou; that is, he except those which concerned the repression made old traohms to he worth 100 new. Beckh, Staash. of bloodshed, which were, in fact, customs halit., p. 360, thinks that he meant to reduce the value of the lowed by time and by religion, and had been
drachtn only by au rter, but that the new coin wed - - to..."'" “"“” retained, not introduced, by his predecessor. * This appears to be the foundation of Plutarch's statement, Sol, 24, which is, literally, that no foreigners could be adopted as citizens but those who had either settled in Attica as above mentioned, or were banished from their own countries for life. He seems to suppose that such aliens had a legal right to the freedom of the city. t Niebuhr takes a very different and peculiar view of this subject thistory of Rome, v. iv., ed. 2, p. 305, of the English translation: “By his constitution of the classes. Solon removed all the indigent eupatriots from the government without letting in the rich members of the demus.” Vol. i., n. 1017.) See Appendix I. 4 IIerrakootoufouvut. The medimnus exceeds the bushel by six pints and a fraction. ' 'Imrås. M Zst:yural. * 9ires.
As a natural consequence, perhaps, of this measure, he published an amnesty, or act of grace, which restored those citizens who had been deprived of their franchise for lighter offences, and recalled those who had been forced into exile; and it seems probable that this indulgence was extended to the house of Megacles, the Alcmaeonids, as they were called from a remote ancestor, the third in descent from Nestor, and to the partners of his guilt and punishment: the city, now purified and tranquillized, might be supposed to be no longer polluted or endangered by their presence; and it was always liable to be disturbed by their machinations, so long as they remained in banishment. The four ancient tribes were retained, with all their subdivisions; but it seems probable that Solon admitted a number of new citizens; for it is said that he invited foreigners to Athens by this boon, though he confined it to such as settled there with their whole family and substance, and had dissolved their connexion with their native land.* The distinguishing feature of the new Constitution was the substitution of property for birth, as a title to the honours and offices of the state.f. This change, though
its consequences were of infinite importance,
would not appear so violent or momentous to the generation which witnessed it, since at this time these two claims generally concurred in the same person. Solon divided the citizens into four classes, according to the gradations of their fortunes, and regulated the extent of their franchise, and their contributions to the public necessities, by the amount of their incomes. The first class, as its name expressed, consisted of persons whose estates yielded a nett yearly income or rent of 500 measures of dry or liquid produce.f. The qualification of the second class was three fifths of this amount; that of the third, two thirds, or more probably half, of the latter. The members of the second class were called knights,' being accounted able to keep a war-horse: the name of the third class, whom we might call yeomen, was derived from the yoke of cattle for the plough, which a farm of the extent described was supposed to require. The fourth class comprehended all whose incomes fell below that of the third, and, according to its name, consisted of hired labourers in husbandry." The first class was exclusively eligible to the highest offices, those of the nine archons, and, probably, to all others which had hitherto been reserved to the nobles: they were also destined to fill the highest commands in the army, as in later times, when Athens became a maritime power, they did in the fleet. Some lower offices were undoubtedly left open to the second and third cl
their privileges, or to ascertain whether in their political rights one had any advantage over the other. They were at least distinguished from each other by the mode of their military service : the one furnishing the cavalry, the other the heavy-armed infantry. But, for their exclusion from the dignities occupied by the wealthy few, they received a compensation in the comparative lightness of their burdens. They were assessed, not in exact proportion to the amount of their incomes, but at a much lower rate, the nominal value of their property being, for this purpose, reduced below the truth—that of the knights by one sixth, that of the third class by one third.* The fourth class was excluded from all share in the magistracy, and from the honours and duties of the full-armed warrior, the expense of which would in general exceed their means: by land they served only as light troops; in later times they manned the fleets. In return, they were exempted from all direct contributions, and they were permitted to take a part in the popular assembly, as well as in the exercise of those judicial powers which were now placed in the hands of the people. We shall shortly have occasion to observe how amply this boon compensated for the loss of all the privileges that were withheld from them. Solon's classification, as we see, takes no notice of any other than landed property; yet, as the example of Solon himself seems to prove that Attica must already have carried on some foreign trade, it is not unlikely that there were fortunes of this kind equal to those which gave admission to the higher classes. But it can hardly be supposed that they placed their possessors on a level with the owners of the soil; it is more probable that these, together with the newly-adopted citizens, without regard to their various degrees of affluence, were all included in the lowest class. Solon's system then made room for all freemen, but assigned to them different places, varying with their visible means of serving the state. His general aim in the distribution of power, as he himself explains it in a fragment which Plutarch has preserved from one of his poems, was to give such a share to the commonalty as would enable it to protect itself, t and to the wealthy as much as was necessary for retaining their dignity—in other words, for ruling the people without the means o He threw his strong shield, he says, over both, and permitted neither to gain an unjust advantage. The magistrates, though elected upon a different qualification, retained their ancient authority; but they were now responsible for the exercise of it, not to their own body, but to the
though we are unable to define the extent of
* As the price of the medimnus was estimated by Solon at a drachin, the lowest income of the first class was equivalent to 500 drachms, the twelfth part of a talent; and the property which yielded this income was rated at a talent, and taxed accordingly. But the property of persons in the second class, instead of being rated at twelve times the amount of their income, or 3600 drachms, was rated at only 3000; that of the yeomen at 1200 instead of 1800. For the full proof and illustration of these statements, see Rueckh's Public Economy of Athens (book iv., ch. v.), which first threw light on this subject.
to huo o Fowka rogor opéro; Bacov Arapray. Niebuhr (ii., p 305, transl of 3d edit.) gives a different interpretation: Solon had conceded (to the demus, only so much authority in the state as could not be worhheld from it.
1 on 6 divor ovuuiv.oui xpnpacw Waav dynrol sal rols topaeduny unov duki, txsaw
governed. The judicial functions of the archons were perhaps preserved nearly in their full extent; but appeals were allowed from their jurisdiction to courts numerously composed, and filled indiscriminately from all classes.” Solon could not foresee the change of circumstances by which this right of appeal became the instrument of overthrowing the equilibrium which he hoped to have established on a solid basis, when that which he had designed to exercise an extraordinary jurisdiction became an ordinary tribunal, which drew almost all causes to itself, and overruled every other power in the state. He seems to have thought that, while he provided sufficiently for the security of the commonalty, by permitting the lowest of its members to vote in the popular assembly, and to sit in judgment on cases in which the parties were dissatisfied with the ordinary modes of proceeding, he had also ensured the stability of his new order of things by two institutions, which appeared to be sufficient guard against the sallies of democratical extravagance—anchors, as Plutarch expresses it, on which the vessel of the state might ride safely in every storm. These were the two councils of the Four Hundred and the Areopagus. The institution of the Four Hundred was uniformly attributed to Solon. But as the foundation of the Areopagus was likewise attributed to him by most of the ancients, though it is certain that he only made some changes in its constitution, there is ground for inquiring whether a similar mistake may not have prevailed in the other case. It is, indeed, highly probable that an aristocratical council existed before Solon; but we have neither evidence nor any sure analogy to guide us in determining its numbers; nor can we decide whether it represented the four tribes, or any of their subdivisions. If we knew how the empatrids were distributed among the tribes, it might be possible to arrive at some probable conclusion on this point; but so long as there is room for the present diversity of opinions with regard to the composition of the tribes, there can be little hope of ascertaining the nature of the council, as it stood before the time of Solon. There are, however, two wellattested facts which appear to have a bearing on this question, and which, we believe, have been hitherto overlooked. We have seen that the cause of the Alcmaeonids was referred to an aristocratical tribunal of Three Hundred persons; and we shall see that when the chief of the Alcmaeonids had substituted a new council in the room of Solon's, his political antagonist having suppressed it, established one of Three Hundred in its stead. This can hardly be a merely casual coincidence. Even if it does not warrant the conclusion that three hundred was the number of the ancient council—which, indeed, cannot be imagined, unless the eupatrids
were all contained in three of the tribes—it seems to raise a strong objection against the supposition that the real number exceeded this by sixty or a hundred; since in that case, on both the occasions just mentioned, we should probably have heard, not of the Three Hundred, but either of 360 or 400 members of those aristocratical assemblies. We are therefore led to suspect that the old Athenian council came nearer in numbers to the Spartan gerusia. But it is possible that, besides this, the eupatrids held general assemblies of their order, either periodically, or as occasions arose for them. The council of Four Hundred was perhaps intended to replace both these institutions. It succeeded to the ancient council in the regular management of public affairs, and its number was probably fixed with a view to admit as many of the citizens to a share in the government as it appeared safe to intrust with it. It was a popular body as compared with an assembly of the eupatrids; for its members were taken from the first three classes, each tribe furnishing one hundred; but, on the other hand, it was aristocratical, inasmuch as it excluded one large division of the people. And there is even room to suspect that it may have been composed in a manner which rendered it more subject to the influence of the eupatrids than has been generally believed ; for it does not seem that entire reliance can be placed on the opinion that the success of the candidates was determined, as in the latter practice, by lot.* If they were elected, it would be easy to conceive that the noble families might generally be able to bring in men of their choice. But the competitors, however appointed, were obliged to give proof of their legal capacity in a previous examination.f To the security for their fitness afforded by the prescribed qualification of fortune, was added that of a mature age, none being eligible under thirty. They were changed every year, and at the end of this term were liable to render a general account of their conduct, and to meet all charges that might be brought against them, and even during its continuance they might be expelled for misconduct by their colleagues. As the council was principally designed to restrain and conduct the enlarged powers of the popular assembly, committed as they now were to a multitude of inexperienced hands, the main part of its business was to prepare the measures which were to be submitted to the votes of the assembly, and to preside over its deliberations. It was divided into sections, which, under the venerable name of prytanes, succeeded each other throughout the year as the representatives of the whole body. Each section during its term assembled daily in their session-house, the prytaneum, to consult on the state of affairs, to receive intelligence, information, and suggestions, and instantly to take such measures as the public interest rendered it necessary to adopt without delay. Like the ancient magistrates of the same name, they were entertained at a common table, together with the other guests of the state who enjoyed that privilege either by virtue of some office or as a reward of merit. Besides, however, the function of prompting and directing the proceedings of the popular assembly, the council possessed others connected with the finances and other objects of administration, which it exercised without any restraint except its general responsibility. In this capacity it had the power of issuing ordinances, not unlike the edicts of the Roman magistrates, which continued in force for the current year, and of inflicting fines at its discretion to a certain amount. According to the theory of Solon's Constitution, the assembly of the people was little more than the organ of the council, as it could only act upon the propositions laid before it by the latter." But, besides the option of approving or rejecting, it seems always to have had the power of modifying the measures proposed, without sending them back for the acceptance of the council in their altered form. There was, however, a mode by which the council . become the organ of the assembly, or, rather, the channel through which measures were introduced into it by private individuals. This happened when the council received a proposition not emanating from its own body, and merely clothed it with the legal form and sanction.f These two cases probably did not enter into Solon's plan, and perhaps, if he had foreseen them, he would have endeavoured to guard against them. In his time their importance could scarcely have been perceived. The ordinary assemblies,f which at first, perhaps, were not held oftener than once a month, seem then not to have excited so lively an interest as in after-times. The attendance of the citizens seems to have been considered by the greater number as a burdensome duty rather than a privilege; and it was necessary to enforce it by marking and fining those who were seen to pass through the streets in a different direction at the hour of meeting. No fixed number of voters was necessary, except in a few cases, which required the presence of at least 6000 citizens. he votes on public measures were taken by show of hand, and without any distinction of classes: the vote of the poorest peasant weighed in itself as much as that of the richest noble, though the latter might command many by his personal influence. Every voter was allowed to speak. The exercise of this right began after the age of twenty; but, among his other precautions against the dangers that might arise from ignorance and rashness, Solon provided that in every assembly the crier should invite those who were past fifty to speak first on each question. The president had the power of repressing and punishing all breaches of order and decorum. But the judicial power which Solon had lodged in the hands of the people was the most powerful instrument on which he relied for correcting all abuses, and remedying all mischiefs that might arise out of the working of his Con
* Plut., Sol., 18. Plutarch's statement on this subject seems to be generally rejected as erroneous: Wachsmuth does not even notice it; and Platner, Beitr., p. 59, thinks it clear that Plutarch confounded the dvárptans with an opton; —the magistrate's preliminary investigation with an appeal from has sentence. This would be a singular mistake. Whereas the appeal, of which Draco had left a precedent in the institution of the Ephetes, seems in itself by no means improbable, as a transition from the original plenitude of the magistrate's judicial power to its subsequent comparative nullity. so it unust be owned that on such a point Plutarch's authority is not weighty.
* Wachsmuth, 1.1, p. 257, refers to a collection of authorities in Tittmann relating to the council of Five Hundred, and contents himself with adding, there is no trace that Solon originally appointed an election of the council. But it seems doubtful whether this is the right way of soa. ting the question, and whether, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it ought not to be presumed that this was Solon's regulation. "o. the thing itself is so probable, we might perhaps be justified in laying some stress on Plutarch's expression (Sol. 19): ārū ovXà, Hadarns trurdy dvdplus irosłautvos. -oxiua ta.
stitution. A body of 6000 citizens was every year created by lot for a supreme court, called Heliaca,” which was divided into several smaller ones, not limited to any precise number of persons. The qualifications required for this were the same with those which gave admission into the general assembly, except that the members of the former might not be under the age of thirty. It was therefore, in fact, a select portion of the latter, in which the powers of the larger body were concentrated, and exercised under a judicial form. That Solon himself viewed it in this light, and designed it much rather to be the guardian of the Constitution than the minister of the laws, appears from the oath which he prescribed to its members. It relates, for the most part, to their political duties of resisting all attempts to subvert the democracy, and to substitute any other form of government, and all measures tending to that end; and only after these obligations have been fully described, proceeds to enumerate those which belong to the judicial character, of rejecting bribes, hearing impartially, and deciding faithfully. It is not, indeed, clear that Solon intended wholly to transfer ordinary cases from the cognizance of the archons to that of the popular courts, though subsequently the magistrates only retained the functions of conducting causes to that stage in which they were ripe for the decision of the jurors, of presiding at the trial, and executing the judgment.f. But the peculiar sphere of action in which the jurors appeared in the plenitude of their power, as the representatives of the people, and carried into effect the proper intention of the legislator, lay in questions relating to political offences, which were brought before them chiefly by means of the prosecutions instituted against the authors of illegal measures. The person who had succeeded in causing a law or a decree to be passed which was afterward found to be inconsistent either with other laws that remained in force or with the public interest, was still held responsible for his conduct, and, if convicted within a year after his proposition had been carried, was liable to a punishment depending on the pleasure of his judges, and measured by their opinion of the motives or consequences of his act. They decided at once on the fact and the law, and the grounds of their verdict might embrace the widest field connected with the foreign or domestic policy of the state. This jurisdiction enabled them, at the same time, to punish the individual, and warn others from following his example, and to reverse the proceedings of the legislative assembly, though they had been adopted on mature deliberation, with a full consciousness of their nature, and a strict adherence to all the legal forms. Another important provision by which Solon endeavoured to secure the stability of his institutions, without depriving them of the flexibility necessary for a continual adaptation to altered circumstances, consisted in the regulations by which he subjected them to a perpetual revision. It was a part of the ordinary business