Solonian Constitution


Solonian Constitution

The Solonian Constitution was created by Solon in the early 6th century BC.

Solon wanted to revise or abolish the older laws of Draco, which had not solved any of the problems in Athens despite inflicting harsh penalties for almost every crime. Under Solon's reforms, all debts were abolished and all debt-slaves were freed. The status of the "hectemoroi" (the "one-sixth workers"), who farmed in an early form of serfdom, was also abolished. These reforms were known as the "Seisachtheia", the "shaking-off of burdens."

Solon's constitution reduced the power of the old aristocracy by making wealth rather than birth a criterion for holding political positions, a system called "timokratia" or Timocracy. Citizens were also divided based on their land production: Pentacosiomedimni (over 500 bushels of produce), Hippeis (300-500 bushels), Zeugitae (200-300 bushels), and "thetes" (below 200 bushels, as well as citizens with no wealth tied to the land). Each division had different rights; for example, the "pentecosiomedimi" could be archons, while "thetes" could only attend the Athenian assembly (the Heliaia).

The Heliaia was given the right to hear appeals, and Solon also created the Boule as a higher assembly. Both of these were meant to decrease the power of the Areopagus, the aristocratic council.

The only parts of Draco's code that Solon kept were the laws regarding homicide. The constitution was written as poetry, and as soon as it was introduced, Solon went into self-imposed exile for 10 years so he would not be tempted to take power as a tyrant.

External links

* [http://www.constitution.org/ari/athen_00.htm The Athenian Constitution] , Aristotle (~350 BCE). Commentary on the Solonian Constitution.
* [http://www.constitution.org/rom/plutarch/solon.htm The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans] , Plutarch (~75 CE). Article on Solon.
* [http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1884/origin-family/ch05.htm The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State] , Frederick Engels. Chapter V. The Rise of the Athenian State, discusses the significance and effects of Solonian Constitution.


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