This is the brief history of the Laws of Solon
Nearly thirty years after Draco established Greece’s laws, Attica, the wider region that includes Athens, was still experiencing instability and the threat of civil war. Middle-class merchants and tradesmen resorted to the statesman Solon in the hopes of resolving the conflict between the aristocracy and the commoners. Solon’s character and reputation earned him the faith and confidence of commoners and nobles alike, despite his noble lineage. The “high class consented to his appointment because he was wealthy, and the lowly because they knew he was honest,” according to Plutarch. Solon was appointed archon, or magistrate, of Athens in 594 BCE.
Solon’s most notable accomplishments were his innovative approach to law for Greek culture and his creation of rules that broke with precedent, despite the fact that he repealed most of Draco’s harsh regulations. Solon established a new balance of power between aristocrats and commoners, believing that “equality generated no war.” As a “remedy” for debt, he cancelled farmers’ loans and abolished slavery. He improved access to justice by permitting all citizens to file claims for injuries they or others had sustained, as well as introducing a right of appeal for magistrates’ judgments.
The top court, the Heliaea, heard appeals within the citizen assembly known as the ecclesia. Solon also established the boule, a council of members from various classes that debated legislation before it was voted on by the ecclesia. Most historians see the early foundations of Greek democracy in Solon’s efforts and accomplishments, particularly his easing of eligibility rules for office, which allowed commoners to participate.
Solon’s laws were written on revolving wooden tablets known as Axones and stone pillars known as kyrbeis, which were built in public areas and accessible to all. For five centuries, most of Solon’s rules were the laws of Athens, and they served as a legislative model for other Ancient Greek city-states.
This is the brief history of The Laws of Solon.
The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)