Who is Solon?June 26, 2021
Athenian statesman, legislator, poet, born 640-635.
He is one of the seven sages. He abolished slavery because of debt, cleared some or all debts, divided citizens into 4 classes according to their income, established people’s courts, and reformed the monetary system and customs. After these innovations, Solon could easily become a tyrant after taking the oath that the people of Athens would abide by these laws, but he went to Anatolia, Egypt and Cyprus to get to know other cultures and peoples and stayed away from active politics.
In his old age, he heard a song of Sappho from his nephew and wanted to learn the song. When one of the guests asked why, he said “so that I can learn this song and die”.
Solon responded to the wish to die at the age of 60 in one of Mimnermos’ poems:
“Now if you listen to my words, because you said give up.
If I told my daughter better than you.
Change your words and say, lovely poet:
“Let death come and take me at the age of eighty”.
Solon’s Elegeia to Musalara, with 76 lines, is in full possession.
Peisistratos died in 560 after becoming tyrant in Athens.
Solon (640-588) is from Athens, of Salamin (Salamis) origin. He is the son of Exesestidas. When the Athenian regulator and legislator Solon became archhon, he granted amnesty for exiles and political prisoners. He passed the law of Seisakhtheia (meaning “offload”), which reduced the debt burden of the peasants and introduced other innovations. Henceforth, people could not be enslaved because of their debts. Solon imposed limits on landed property. He broke the power of the traditional family (genos): limited the rights of heads of families over their children (right to life and death, right to sell daughter, right to expel son from home). He attributed idleness to a fine. He made innovations in scale and scale. The village passed laws (extermination of wolves, building fountains, planting trees). Diogenes Laertios says that the laws he enacted were too numerous to count, and that the laws were written on turntables. Solon was a very popular statesman. The people wanted to make him a tyrant, but he never wanted it. He tried with all his might to prevent Peisistratos, who was trying to become a tyrant. Peisistratus seized power by force in 560. Solon wanted to break the power of the council formed by the nobility by establishing the Council of Four Hundreds. However, Solon could not tell the danger of Peisistratos to anyone.
In his speech to the assembly, he said: “I am wiser than many of you, more courageous than many of you. I am wiser than those who do not understand the evil tricks of Peisistratus, I am more courageous than those who know these tricks but cannot open their mouths out of fear.” Many tended to see him as insane. Against this, he tried to explain himself in one of his poems: “If I am crazy, citizens will soon be crazy too. / You’ll be crazy when you come face to face with the facts.” Solon wrote the following poem on the subject: “Storms that bring snow and hail come from the clouds, / Thunders fall in the clear sky, / Cities often perish at the hands of the powerful, / People become slaves of a tyrant in ignorance.” Solon got tired of the misunderstandings and went to Egypt and Cyprus. Later, he stayed for a while with the king we know as Croesus, the king of Lydia, famous for his wealth, Croesus (Croesus). He later founded a city in Sicily. The city was named Solos after Solon. Solon settled the Athenians in Solos. When Peisistratos became tyrant, Solon wrote the following poem to the Athenians: “If you are unhappy because of your own mistake / Do not blame the gods. / You are the one who gives management to your leaders. / That’s why you became miserable slaves. / You are now tracking a fox. / You have an empty head. / You are producing empty words that force the jaw. / You have no worries about what you do.” Here are some examples of Solon’s aphorisms:
– Stay away from painful pleasures.
– Don’t lie, tell the truth.
– Dedicate yourself to the honorable.
– Don’t be in a hurry to make friends, when you have friends, don’t push them for trying.
– When you know how to bow, you will know how to manage.
– Suggest to your compatriots the best, not the nicest.
– Don’t mess with the bad guys.
– Watch the gods.
– Respect your friends.
– Honor your relatives.
– Make us a guide.
– Don’t tell me everything you see.
– Even if you know, be quiet.
– Be gentle with your relatives.
– Set the invisible by the visible.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook