Solon 'the reformer' as he was know was an Archon from 594-593bc in the time of the Greeks. He was an elected dictator (aisymnetes) and was placed in power to sort out the ever growing problem that was happening between all social classes. He was chosen for this job due to the fact that he was born into a noble class; though he was perhaps he was a second son but didn't inherit the family estate. He was a trader by occupation, and had a good working knowledge of economics; he then became even better known when he became an Archon.

There were several reasons as to why there was a problem

  1. Those who were in dept were growing in numbers and demanded a redistribution of the land.
  2. Political rows between families were beginning to disrupt Athens
  3. Tyrannies had been set up in neighbouring states
  4. There had been an attempted tyranny by Cylon which failed due to lack of support.
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Solon had been brought in by the nobles to try to stop the ever growing worry of a revolt occurring. Some nobles realised that that there would have to be some loss for the nobles if they were to keep their wealth and lose the idea of a revolution.

The only way to make the poor happy

Solon decided that the only way to make the poor happy would be to cancel all outstanding debts, which involved the richer families returning those slaves who were formerly in debt back their freedom.

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He also made a law forbidding loans to be secured in this way in the future. This would help the poorer classes though there were a people called horoi (pledge-makers) who made these deals (no money we enslave you for the rest of your life) these people were removed from society so they couldn't make such deals. He then did something that must have been very difficult to do, he purchased back all those whom had been sold abroad as slaves back, and given freedom.

With all these things he hoped to achieve a service that would be remembered through out time. To try to stop a peasant's revolt and a possible tyranny that could result in a total crash of the current working system of noble rule.

Though Solon achieved many footings for the future of democracy, what he created was just a temporary safe-plan. His main objective was to satisfy both sides whilst trying to affect modern society as little as possible. The only way that was possible for this to happen and prevent a peasant's revolt would be for the nobles to lose some land and power and slaves. When they heard this they were not happy, they would lose the ability to secure debts with slavery. They would also lose some land that would have been received through debt payment. Understandably the nobles are unhappy with this current situation yet realise that they will have to sacrifice some to achieve a feeling of safety.

Seisachtheia (the shaking off of burdens/debts)

So Solon did everything that he believed would be beneficial for the Athenian people as a whole. He did this by introducing some thing called seisachtheia (the shaking off of burdens/debts) many of the debts were left unpaid, and therefore the higher class (pentacosiomedimni) were not happy with this as they went without certain amounts of money from people that owed money. The lower classes that were given back their freedom were unhappy also as though they were given their freedom they were not 'free' they went without certain things

  • They had no land the ones that had land had very little and ended up being unhappy.
  • The slaves that were formerly slaves are given freedom and end up going back to their masters as they do not know what to do.

He also managed to change the whole of the government system of modern Athens. He wished to give all the poorer classes a little more chance to have a say in the running of the Athenian way of life. He wished to increase the trading ability of Athens and turn it into the #1 trading city in Greece. So to do this he did a few things,

  1. He introduced a new standard of coinage, weights and measures. The silver mines were developed fully now.
  2. It was against the law to be idle, if a man wanted an easy life when he got old he needed to teach his son a trade.
  3. He also encouraged foreigners from other countries to come in only those with a particular skill and only form within Greece. This would help people to learn trades that would help in trade.

He not only helped the lowest class he also gave the whole system a little more power, not much but a little more except the pentacosiomedimni ended up losing out on a little bit of power yet they still had a main stronghold as they always had done.

Though Solon had given a lot of thought to what could and should have been done, admittedly he has done what he and the Nobles thought would benefit themselves and the poorer classes.

The first class pentacosiomedimni would be given most of the power they would be allowed make up the whole council, of Archons, the council of the Areopagus. And they were eligible for the new council of the 400 (boule) and the assembly. Effectively Solon opened up archonship to the amount of wealth a man had. Then two middle classes the Hippeis and Zeugitae were allowed to join the lower offices of state and were able to join the council of the 400 and assembly. Then the lowest class were given more power then before they were able to sit in on the council and cast their votes on decisions made within the council.

Then he made a council called Heliaea (the people's court) this was the first step towards democracy as everyone had the ability to play a part in the running of the city Athens this includes the Thetes and the Pentacosiomedimni working together for the best interests for the Athenian people.

Solon didn't please everyone

Though most of what Solon did was good he didn't please everyone, in fact many people despised this new order or 'regime' that was introduced.

Though he gave people freedom from slavery he didn't give them any land to farm on, so many went back as sixth part owners. Some others tried to work with what little land they had and many ended up going back voluntarily into slavery.

They way in which he decided to sort out all of the problems were not really for a permanent state but instead for a temporary solution to the ever growing problem. Some call him the 'Father' of democracy; I would tend to disagree with this. Admittedly he paved the way for it but he certainly did not begin it off. He was close, properly the closest the closest he got to democracy was the council of the 400 (Boula)

So did Solon achieve much throughout his time as an Archon, we must remember he did

  • Encouraged foreigners from other countries to come in only those with a particular skill and only form within Greece. This would help people to learn trades that would help in trade
  • Removed all debts and gave back the freedom to people that were put into slavery through debts.
  • Solon brought back slaves that were sold to foreign countries and brought them back to their home land as free men.
  • He introduced a new standard of coinage, weights and measures. The silver mines were developed fully now.
  • He encouraged Athens to become a trading capital of Greece and therefore increase her wealth in economy.

In my eyes what Solon achieved was a great amount in less then a year, it must have taken a lot of imagination and time to think up of how and what to do with the problem.

He tackled the problems well and head on, he did well for Athens, even though it wasn't wholly popular he did a good job in stopping the problem of a revolt and brining and anarchy like crisis.

Cite this page

What did Solon achieve?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

What did Solon achieve?
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