Solon

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Solon, who born sometime around 630 Bc, and around 560 BC, through the beginnings of the Greek intellectual miracle. This may be one explanation for his willingness to challenge the traditional, and for his attachment to reason over passion. His motto meden agan, which 'nothing in excess'. Solon possibly the greatest lawgiver of all time. His thought still the democratic systems of western civilization. American democracy and British-style parliamentary democracies his intellectual children. It is astounding to see how close to successful contemporary democratic constitutions what he 2,600 years ago. He truly the nature of man and accordingly.

Solon's laws much milder than previous ones. He them carved on wooden columns, so people could read them. He the Athenians to have a strong sense of civic duty: in times of serious political discord, he , a citizen who not actively support one or the other side would be disfranchised. A citizen who another citizen wronged the legal obligation to indict the wrongdoer. The best city to live in, Solon said, 'was that city in which those who not wronged, no less than those who wronged, exert themselves to punish the wrongdoer.' Before Solon's laws, if a man without heirs, his fortune to his clan. Solon the individual the right to bequeath his property to people outside his clan, provided he of sound mind and not made a will under duress.

Solon's legislation strongly the family and the begetting and education of children. He that sons not taught a trade by their father need not support him in his old age. The sons of those who in battle to be brought up and by the state. Solon dowries. Marriages should not be for money but for passionate love that leads to begetting children, he said. A bride only bring three changes of clothes and small personal items to her husband's house. Solon marriages between old men and young women, for they might not lead to passionate love. He also marriages or even sex between old women and young men. The young man should be taken away from the old woman 'who fattening him like a partridge' and given as husband to a young woman who could have children. By law, if a man incapable of having sex an heiress, she would have the right to sleep with any man of his clan she . Thus, impotent men would have to desist from marrying heiresses or submit to the shame of seeing their wife copulate with whomsoever she fancied in the clan. Solon not only debt. He to encourage economic activity other than agriculture. People who to Athens with their whole families, to ply a trade, were given citizenship. Olive oil the only export Solon allowed - there a big foreign market for it. Many Athenian fields less suited to producing grain than olives; but, it years before the trees large enough to produce oil. Solon and state brothels, boosting Athens's tourist industry, not unlike several cities today. The monies farmers waiting for their olive trees to grow. To make imports cheaper, Solon the currency by adding 30 per cent lead to the Athenian silver coins. People who willingly no work or a life of debauchery their right to address the Ekklesia. This to losing their citizenship.

Not surprisingly, some citizens to circumvent Solon's legislation from the very beginning. When preparing his constitution, he his most intimate friends, Conon, Clemias and Hipponicus, that he would not expropriate the lands of the rich but would abolish all debts. The three 'trusted friends', grand acquisitors all, immediately huge sums of money. When the decree abolishing debts published, they to pay their creditors. Thus founded the three greatest Athenian fortunes. Nasty rumours that Solon colluded with his friends, probably to make money. But it soon discovered that Solon himself large sums of money which he not able to collect because he cancelled all debts.

Solon asked whether he given the Athenians the best laws. No, he , only the best they would accept. To which he : 'Make no law you cannot enforce.' This still the essence of democracy today. The people their laws. Legislators their legislation will not stand long if the people eventually against it. Solon clearly another fundamental truth about democracy: there always at least two views of what constitutes perfection. What perfection for one group may very well be oppression for another. True democratic solutions must therefore always in compromise. The nobles the continued right to oppress the poor. The poor the oppressive dispossession of the rich. He neither side what it . He the few rich keep their wealth, several measures to encourage economic growth, and political power to the many poor - power to tax the rich and pay for public services that benefit the poor. In contemporary terms, Solonian democracy taxing the rich to give the poor free education and health care. Solon's ideas the ancestors of modern progressive democratic capitalism.

(From: Power and Greed by Philippe Gigantes, Robinson, 2002)