chapter  5
15 Pages

THE REFORMS OF SOLON

THE SOURCES The survival in later writers of Solon’s poems, in which he outlines the problems that were afflicting Athens at the beginning of the sixth century (599-500) or rather his solutions to them, has supplied the historian with the best evidence of all the major political events in early Greek history. As a contemporary of the crisis, and as the leading actor in the attempts to resolve it, his evidence is invaluable. However, his pre-reform poems also reveal his concern for social justice and the well-being of the community, and thus state, in the broadest terms, his moral principles and his condemnation of the current evils: Solon clearly thought it wise, in his attempt to be accepted by both sides as the mediator in this crisis, not to publish any specific proposals or reforms that might lead to him alienating one side or the other. In his post-reform poems, there was no need to state all the details of his legislation because everyone knew them, and so he concentrated on the justice of his solutions. Therefore, the historian must deduce the particular social, economic and political grievances from a combination of, first, the poems which give some insight into Athens’ problems, and, second, the actual legislation that can be identified with reasonable accuracy as Solonian.