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In Ancient Greece, specifically the 5th century Athens, there was a noticeably significant difference regarding the treatment towards the different social classes of Greece, and a limit to the political participation of certain classes, this mistreatment had been directed to the lower wealth classes such as merchants, farmers, and hoplite. The nobles and aristocrats had acquired a lot of fertile land, as well as social institutions in Greece as a result of the resources that they were provided with by themselves, this included the resources to breed horses, as well as to train them, these resources had then resulted in the dominance that the Nobles had in society.
The presence of the nobles had led them to being particularly powerful regarding the political and economic power, which the lower classes had opposed, specifically the ownership of land, and say in governing the city. For example, farmers had resented the power that the nobles held, as there had been harsh conditions that had been set in place that they didn’t like, they had struggled to make a living on infertile land therefore they had to take for oneself money from the Nobles, or would go in debt, and if they failed to pay this money back, the nobles would take their land as a consequence, or even force them into slavery which had occurred often, the quote stated by Herodotus: “The whole country was in the hands of a few persons, and if the tenants failed to pay their rent they were liable to be haled into slavery, and their children with them”, reinforcing that those that failed to pay debt, such as the farmers, would suffer severe consequences.
As well as the farmers the merchants class opposed the ways of the aristocrats. This was because, in the dark ages the trading of the merchants had declined, but once these tradings had started to flourish again, the merchants had become wealthy, and were then greedy for land, this land had also associated with wealth but the majority had been owned by the Aristocrats, which the resented. Lastly the hoplite’s had challenged the ways of the Nobles, as despite their heavy participation in the security of the Athens, which had included risking their lives for the state, they did not have a voice regarding the governing of their city. The quote by Solon, “Power proves the man”, helps to emphasize the circumstances of the social classes, as it reinforces that power is an aspect that is important regards to being recognized, and proving your worth, this is displayed as the aristocracy hold the most wealth, and are therefore able to dictate the happenings of society, while the hoplite, and social classes the same or beneath them do not have any say.
In the image to the left, we are able to interpret the art as evidence that the hoplite had risked their lives, fought for, and provided security for their city. To the backs of the hoplite are robed men, representing that of the nobles, as they are included in the citizens that the hoplites are providing security for. This piece of evidence is limited in its usefulness, as we are unable to confidently decipher the meaning of this artwork, as well as those individuals that have been displayed.
The Reforms of Draco and Solon: (reference images)
The Reforms of Draco had obtained laws that were harsh, and severe, this included the death sentencing of crime offenders, and the littlest of crimes to have conseqeuences equal to that of a murder. The Draco’s reforms had showed extreme violence, and severity, and as well as this the displayed Laws below represents and shows how Draco had been the first to implement laws solidly, this is relevant as he had prevented the aristocrats from being able to manipulate the laws to benefit for themselves.
The example: “Draco’s laws … were too severe, and the punishment too great; for death was appointed for almost all offences, insomuch that those that were convicted of idleness were to die, and those that stole a cabbage or an apple to suffer even as villains that committed sacrilege or murder. So that Demades, in after time, was thought to have said very happily, that Draco’s laws were written not with ink but blood; and (Draco) himself, being once asked why be made death the punishment of most offences, replied, Small ones deserve that, and I have no higher for the greater crimes.” made by Plutarch helps to reinforce that the previous statements are true, as well as providing information regarding the thought process of Draco as he had implemented these laws, however this source is limited in its reliability as the translations could possibly have errors in them, because of the translations to English as well as how many years it has been since it had been displayed, therefore the message may have been altered in this long time period. As well as the harsh laws that had been implied, there had been a sense of different conduct towards those of different classes, those of the aristocracy had dominated the Athenian society, as it was easier for them to take advantage of the other social classes, as well as manipulating the laws so that they would benefit for themselves, thus the poor had been unfairly treated, and the aristocrats thrived in society. However, this had changed after Solon’s reforms had been implemented.
Before the Solon’s reforms the political, social and economical state of Athens were dire, this had included the exclusion of some classes in the Government, dominantly poorer classes such as those of the lower and middle class , wide-spread debt, and extreme levels of slavery. This had resulted in the law makings being pushed onto Solon in order to solve these issues in the Athenian society. The example said by Plutarch: “But the most part and the bravest of them began to combine together and encourage one another to stand to it, to choose a leader, to liberate the condemned debtors, divide the land, and change the government”, helps to reinforce that the Athenian society required a leader of some sort, to change the way that their communities had
been handled and therefore appointed a leader, which in this case had been Solon. Solon had made many changes to the laws that contributed to solving these relevant issues, this resulted in giving the poor land, yet the rich keeping their power, addressing the issues regarding slavery and debt, examples of this were cancelling the debt for those who had owed money, freeing those who had been forced into slavery for not meeting the debt requirements, and having those sold overseas returned back to their home lands. He also addressed the issue of the exclusion of certain classes, and the power of certain classes regarding political situations, as he had enabled all classes to be represented in the government, evenly distributed power, and eliminated discrimination in his council to those such as indebted farmers, therefore non-nobles, as well as those less wealthy were able to to have a say, not just those of a higher social class, and wealth, which had resulted in the relevant monopoly system that the nobles had in the past over the government to be stopped, and paved the way for a democratic system.
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