A Brief History
On an unknown date around 638 BC one of the greatest of the Ancient Greeks was born in Athens into a modestly wealthy family of the noble class. A Renaissance Man before there was such a thing, Solon had many facets and many talents. Engaging in commerce and in military leadership, he became known for high intelligence and persuasive debate.
Eventually becoming a major reformer of Athenian society, Solon is often remembered as “The Lawgiver” for his wise legislation as Chief Magistrate of Athens starting around 594 BC. During his time as autocrat of Athens, Solon ruled at his own discretion, mediating disputes and creating laws and regulations. Solon instituted social reforms and took off on a 10 year tour of the known world, a trip calculated to remove himself from Athens so that his reforms could not be repealed by Solon due to pressure from special interests. Traveling to Egypt, Cyprus, Lydia and other locations, Solon shared his wisdom and learned the knowledge and ways of other people and places.
Upon his return to Athens, Solon found a would be tyrant, Peisistratos, maneuvering to take power. Solon publicly resisted this undoing of his reforms and encouraged Athenians to resist the tyrant, but failed, with Peisistratos taking power anyway. Solon died shortly after this failure, about 558 BC at the age of 80, leaving a rich legacy of wisdom and fairness behind, as well as works of poetry, some of which included accounts of his legal decisions. Solon was obsessed with fairness in all things, and strove to create a rule of law instead of personal patronage, nepotism, and corruption.
Solon today is synonymous with high standards of moral dedication to fairness and the good of all people and the rule of law instead of the rule of men. One of the interesting areas addressed by Solon’s reforms was regarding sexuality, with rules making brothels available to all free men so as to provide sexual pleasure availability to a wider range of people. He also addressed pederasty and instituted various regulations intended to protect young free born boys from abuse, while still allowing for the practice. (These sex related laws are under a certain amount of debate among scholars.)
Solon is considered one of the “Seven Sages of Greece,” all seven being more or less contemporary to the same particular era. Solon is remembered by the city that bears his name not far from Cleveland, Ohio.
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