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Solon   


of a thing, by ingeniously giving it some pretty and innocent appellation,
calling harlots, for example, mistresses, tributes customs, a garrison
a guard, and the jail the chamber, seem originally to have been Solon's
contrivance, who called cancelling debts Seisacthea, a relief, or
disencumbrance. For the first thing which he settled was, that what
debts remained should be forgiven, and no man, for the future, should
engage the body of his debtor for security. Though some, as Androtion,
affirm that the debts were not cancelled, but the interest only lessened,
which sufficiently pleased the people; so that they named this benefit
the Seisacthea, together with the enlarging their measures and raising
the value of their money; for he made a pound, which before passed
for seventy-three drachmas, go for a hundred; so that, though the
number of pieces in the payment was equal, the value was less; which
proved a considerable benefit to those that were to discharge great
debts, and no loss to the creditors. But most agree that it was the
taking off the debts that was called Seisacthea, which is confirmed
by some places in his poem, where he takes honour to himself, that-
"The mortgage-stones that covered her, by me
Removed,- the land that was a slave is free: that some who had been
seized for their debts he had brought back from other countries, where-
"-so far their lot to roam,
They had forgot the language of their home; and some he had set at
liberty-
"Who here in shameful servitude were held."
While he was designing this, a most vexatious thing happened; for
when he had resolved to take off the debts, and was considering the
proper form and fit beginning for it, he told some of his friends,
Conon, Clinias, and Hipponicus, in whom he had a great deal of confidence,
that he would not meddle with the lands, but only free the people
from their debts; upon which they, using their advantage, made haste
and borrowed some considerable sums of money, and purchased some large
farms; and when the law was enacted, they kept the possessions, and
would not return the money; which brought Solon into great suspicion
and dislike, as if he himself had not been abused, but was concerned
in the contrivance. But he presently stopped this suspicion, by releasing
his debtors of five talents (for he had lent so much), according to
the law; others, as Polyzelus the Rhodian, say fifteen; his friends,
however, were ever afterward called Chreocopidae, repudiators.
In this he pleased neither party, for the rich were angry for their
money, and the poor that the land was not divided, and, as Lycurgus
ordered in his commonwealth, all men reduced to equality. He, it is
true, being the eleventh from Hercules, and having reigned many years
in Lacedaemon, had got a great reputation and friends and power, which
he could use in modelling his state; and applying force more than
persuasion, insomuch that he lost his eye in the scuffle, was able
to employ the most effectual means for the safety and harmony of a
state, by not permitting any to be poor or rich in his commonwealth.
Solon could not rise to that in his polity, being but a citizen of
the middle classes; yet he acted fully up to the height of his power,
having nothing but the good-will and good opinion of his citizens
to rely on; and that he offended the most part, who looked for another
result, he declares in the words-
"Formerly they boasted of me vainly; with averted eyes
Now they look askance upon me; friends no more, but enemies." And
yet had any other man, he says, received the same power-
"He would not have forborne, nor let alone,
But made the fattest of the milk his own." Soon, however, becoming
sensible of the good that was done, they laid by their grudges, made
a public sacrifice, calling it Seisacthea, and chose Solon to new-model
and make laws for the commonwealth, giving him the entire power over
everything, their magistracies, their assemblies, courts, and councils;
that he should appoint the number, times of meeting, and what estate
they must have that could be capable of these, and dissolve or continue
any of the present constitutions, according to his pleasure.

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