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Solon

Solon (sōˈlən) [key], c.639–c.559 B.C., Athenian statesman, lawgiver, and reformer. He was also a poet, and some of his patriotic verse in the Ionic dialect is extant. At some time (perhaps c.600 B.C.) he led the Athenians in the recapture of Salamis from the Megarians. He was elected chief archon in 594 at a time of social, economic, and political stress in Athens. With most of the land and political power in the hands of the nobles, the peasants were rapidly losing not only their land but their freedom as well. Solon annulled all mortgages and debts, limited the amount of land anyone might add to his holdings, and outlawed all borrowing in which a person's liberty might be pledged. This last reform put an end to serfdom in Attica. Other economic reforms included a ban on the export of all agricultural products except olive oil and the granting of citizenship to immigrant artisans. Solon also made important constitutional changes. The assembly was opened to all freemen, the Areopagus was continued with new powers, and the Council of Four Hundred was created to represent the propertied classes and to prepare the agenda for the popular assembly. Although there was opposition to Solon's reforms, they subsequently became the basis of the Athenian state. He also introduced a more humane law code to replace the code of Draco.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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