Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plutarch
Pages of Solon

Previous | Next


Didymus, the grammarian, in his answer to Asclepiades concerning
Solon's Tables of Law, mentions a passage of one Philocles, who states
that Solon's father's name was Euphorion, contrary to the opinion
of all others who have written concerning him; for they generally
agree that he was the son of Execestides, a man of moderate wealth
and power in the city, but of a most noble stock, being descended
from Codrus; his mother, as Heraclides Ponticus affirms, was cousin
to Pisistratus's mother, and the two at first were great friends,
partly because they were akin, and partly because of Pisistratus's
noble qualities and beauty. And they say Solon loved him; and that
is the reason, I suppose, that when afterwards they differed about
the government, their enmity never produced any hot and violent passion,
they remembered their old kindnesses, and retained-
"Still in its embers living the strong fire" of their love and dear
affection. For that Solon was not proof against beauty, nor of courage
to stand up to passion and meet it-
"Hand to hand as in the ring," we may conjecture by his poems, and
one of his laws, in which there are practices forbidden to slaves,
which he would appear, therefore, to recommend to freemen. Pisistratus,
it is stated, was similarly attached to one Charmus; he it was who
dedicated the future of Love in the Academy, where the runners in
the sacred torch race light their torches. Solon, as Hermippus writes,
when his father had ruined his estate in doing benefits and kindnesses
to other men, though he had friends enough that were willing to contribute
to his relief, yet was ashamed to be beholden to others, since he
was descended from a family who were accustomed to do kindnesses rather
than receive them; and therefore applied himself to merchandise in
his youth; though others assure us that he travelled rather to get
learning and experience than to make money. It is certain that he
was a lover of knowledge, for when he was old he would say, that he-
"Each day grew older, and learnt something new;" and yet no admirer
of riches, esteeming as equally wealthy the man-
"Who hath both gold and silver in his hand,
Horses and mules, and acres of wheat-land,
And him whose all is decent food to eat,
Clothes to his back and shoes upon his feet,
And a young wife and child, since so 'twill be,
And no more years than will with that agree;" and in another place-
"Wealth I would have, but wealth by wrong procure
I would not; justice, e'en if slow, is sure." And it is perfectly
possible for a good man and a statesman, without being solicitous
for superfluities, to show some concern for competent necessaries.
In his time, as Hesiod says,- "Work was a shame to none," nor was
distinction made with respect to trade, but merchandise was a noble
calling, which brought home the good things which the barbarous nations
enjoyed, was the occasion of friendship with their kings, and a great
source of experience. Some merchants have built great cities, as Protis,
the founder of Massilia, to whom the Gauls, near the Rhone, were much
attached. Some report also, that Thales and Hippocrates the mathematician
traded; and that Plato defrayed the charges of his travels by selling
oil in Egypt. Solon's softness and profuseness, his popular rather
than philosophical tone about pleasure in his poems, have been ascribed
to his trading life; for, having suffered a thousand dangers, it was
natural they should be recompensed with some gratifications and enjoyments;
but that he accounted himself rather poor than rich is evident from
the lines-
"Some wicked men are rich, some good are poor,
We will not change our virtue for their store:
Virtue's a thing that none can take away;
But money changes owners all the day."
At first he used his poetry only in trifles, not for any serious purpose,
but simply to pass away his idle hours; but afterwards he introduced
moral sentences and state matters, which he did, not to record them

Previous | Next
Site Search