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Athens Handout

Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, (trans. by R. Crawley)

2.15 The Synoecism of Theseus:

From very early times this had been more the case with the Athenians than with others. Under Cecrops and the first kings, down to the reign of Theseus, Attica had always consisted of a number of independent townships, each with its own town hall and magistrates. Except in times of danger the king at Athens was not consulted; in ordinary seasons they carried on their government and settled their affairs without his interference; sometimes even they waged war against him, as in the case of the Eleusinians with Eumolpus against Erechtheus. In Theseus, however, they had a king of equal intelligence and power; and one of the chief features in his organization of the country was to abolish the council-chambers and magistrates of the petty cities, and to merge them in the single council-chamber and town hall of the present capital. Individuals might still enjoy their private property just as before, but they were henceforth compelled to have only one political centre, viz., Athens; which thus counted all the inhabitants of Attica among her citizens, so that when Theseus died he left a great state behind him.

Plutarch, Life of Solon (trans. by B. Perrin)

Solon and Draco’s Laws:

17 1 In the first place, then, he repealed the laws of Draco, all except those concerning homicide, because they were too severe and their penalties too heavy. For one penalty was assigned to almost all transgressions, namely death, so that even those convicted of idleness were put to death, and those who stole salad or fruit received the same punishment as those who committed sacrilege or murder. 2 Therefore Demades, in later times, made a hit when he said that Draco's laws were written not with ink, but blood. And Draco himself, they say, being asked why he made death the penalty for most offences, replied that in his opinion the lesser ones deserved it, and for the greater ones no heavier penalty could be found.
Lycurgus vs. Solon:
16 1 He pleased neither party, however; the rich were vexed because he took away their securities for debt, and the poor still more, because he did not redistribute the land, as they had expected, nor make all men equal and alike in their way of living, as Lycurgus did. But Lycurgus was eleventh in descent from Heracles, and had been king in Lacedaemon for many years. He therefore had great authority, many friends, and power to support his reforms in the commonwealth. He also employed force rather than persuasion, insomuch that he actually lost his eye thereby, and most effectually guaranteed the safety and unanimity of the city by making all its citizens neither poor nor rich. 2 Solon, on the contrary, could not secure this feature in his commonwealth, since he was a man of the people and of modest station; yet he in no wise acted short of his real power, relying as he did only on the wishes of the citizens and their confidence in him…
3 Soon, however, they perceived the advantages of his measure, ceased from their private fault-finding, and offered a public sacrifice, which they called Seisactheia, or Disburdenment. They also appointed Solon to reform the constitution and make new laws, laying no restrictions whatever upon him, but putting everything into his hands, magistracies, assemblies, court-of law, and councils. He was to fix the property qualification for each of these, their numbers, and their times of meeting, abrogating and maintaining existing institutions at his pleasure.

Solon on his middle ground approach (as quoted in Plutarch 18.4):
"For to the common people I gave so much power as is sufficient,
Neither robbing them of dignity, nor giving them too much;
And those who had power, and were marvellously rich,
Even for these I contrived that they suffered no harm.
I stood with a mighty shield in front of both classes,
And suffered neither of them to prevail unjustly."
On allowing all to seek justice:
5 Moreover, thinking it his duty to make still further provision for the weakness of the multitude, he gave every citizen the privilege of entering suit in behalf of one who had suffered wrong. If a man was assaulted, and suffered violence or injury, it was the privilege of any one who had the ability and the inclination, to indict the wrong-doer and prosecute him. The law-giver in this way rightly accustomed the citizens, as members of one body, to feel and sympathize with one another's wrongs. And we are told of a saying of his which is consonant with this law. Being asked, namely, what city was best to live in, "That city," he replied, "in which those who are not wronged, no less than those who are wronged, exert themselves to punish the wrongdoers."
Examples of other acts attributed to Solon:
21 1 Praise is given also to that law of Solon which forbids speaking ill of the dead. For it is piety to regard the deceased as sacred, justice to spare the absent, and good policy to rob hatred of its perpetuity. He also forbade speaking ill of the living in temples, court-of‑law, public offices, and at festivals; the transgressor must pay three drachmas to the person injured, and two more into the public treasury. For never to master one's anger is a mark of intemperance and lack of training; but always to do so is difficult, and for some, impossible. And a law must regard the possibilities in the case, if its maker wishes to punish a few to some purpose, and not many to no purpose.
2 He was highly esteemed also for his law concerning wills. Before his time, no will could be made, but the entire estate of the deceased must remain in his family. Whereas he, by permitting a man who had no children to give his property to whom he wished, ranked friendship above kinship, and favour above necessity, and made a man's possessions his own property. 3 On the other hand, he did not permit all manner of gifts without restriction or restraint, but only those which were not made under the influence of sickness, or drugs, or imprisonment, or when a man was the victim of compulsion or yielded to the persuasions of his wife. He thought, very rightly and properly, that being persuaded into wrong was no better than being forced into it, and he placed deceit and compulsion, gratification and affliction, in one and the same category, believing that both were alike able to pervert a man's reason.
4 He also subjected the public appearances of the women, their mourning and their festivals, to a law which did away with disorder and license. When they went out, they were not to wear more than three garments, they were not to carry more than an obol's worth of food or drink, nor a pannier more than •a cubit high, and they were not to travel about by night unless they rode in a wagon with a lamp to light their way. Laceration of the flesh by mourners, and the use of set lamentations, and the bewailing of any one at the funeral ceremonies of another, he forbade. 5 The sacrifice of an ox at the grave was not permitted, nor the burial with the dead of more than three changes of raiment, nor the visiting of other tombs than those of their own family, except at the time of interment. Most of these practices are also forbidden by our laws, but ours contain the additional proviso that such offenders shall be punished by the board of censors for women, because they indulge in unmanly and effeminate extravagances of sorrow when they mourn.
Aristotle, The Athenian Constitution (Trans. by F. G. Kenyon)
Part 7; Restructuring the tribes and opening up access to government:
Next Solon drew up a constitution and enacted new laws; and the ordinances of Draco ceased to be used, with the exception of those relating to murder. The laws were inscribed on the wooden stands, and set up in the King's Porch, and all swore to obey them; and the nine Archons made oath upon the stone, declaring that they would dedicate a golden statue if they should transgress any of them. This is the origin of the oath to that effect which they take to the present day. Solon ratified his laws for a hundred years; and the following was the fashion in which he organized the constitution. He divided the population according to property into four classes, just as it had been divided before, namely, Pentacosiomedimni, Knights, Zeugitae, and Thetes. The various magistracies, namely, the nine Archons, the Treasurers, the Commissioners for Public Contracts (Poletae), the Eleven, and Clerks (Colacretae), he assigned to the Pentacosiomedimni, the Knights, and the Zeugitae, giving offices to each class in proportion to the value of their rateable property. To who ranked among the Thetes he gave nothing but a place in the Assembly and in the juries. A man had to rank as a Pentacosiomedimnus if he made, from his own land, five hundred measures, whether liquid or solid. Those ranked as Knights who made three hundred measures, or, as some say, those who were able to maintain a horse.
Part 12; One of Solon’s Poems, concerning the seisachtheia:
Of all the aims for which I summoned forth
The people, was there one I compassed not?
Thou, when slow time brings justice in its train,
O mighty mother of the Olympian gods,
Dark Earth, thou best canst witness, from whose breast
I swept the pillars broadcast planted there,
And made thee free, who hadst been slave of yore.
And many a man whom fraud or law had sold
For from his god-built land, an outcast slave,
I brought again to Athens; yea, and some,
Exiles from home through debt's oppressive load,
Speaking no more the dear Athenian tongue,
But wandering far and wide, I brought again;
And those that here in vilest slavery
Crouched 'neath a master's frown, I set them free.
Thus might and right were yoked in harmony,
Since by the force of law I won my ends
And kept my promise. Equal laws I gave
To evil and to good, with even hand
Drawing straight justice for the lot of each.
But had another held the goad as
One in whose heart was guile and greediness,
He had not kept the people back from strife.
For had I granted, now what pleased the one,
Then what their foes devised in counterpoise,
Of many a man this state had been bereft.
Therefore I showed my might on every side,
Turning at bay like wolf among the hounds.
Herodotus, Histories (trans. by Aubrey de Selincourt)
5.69-5.73 Cleisthenes, Isagoras, and the Spartans:
Isagoras, beaten in his turn, then appealed to Cleomenes the Spartan, who had been his guest-friend during the siege of the Pisistratidae (he was indeed rumored to have had illicit relations with Isagoras’ wife). Cleomenes then first sent an order to Athens for the expulsion of Cleisthenes, together with a large number of other Athenians, calling them the “Accursed.” This was a suggestion of Isagoras; for the Alcmaeonidae and their allies were held to be involved in the blood-guilt it referred to, but Isagoras and his friends were not…
On the arrival of Cleomenes’ order for the expulsion of Cleisthenes and the “Accursed,” Cleisthenes himself left Athens but his departure did not prevent Cleomenes from coming to the city with a small force of men and banishing, as accursed, seven hundred Athenian families, whose names had been given him by Isagoras. Then he attempted to abolish the Council and transfer power to a body of three hundred supporters of Isagoras. The Council resisted, and refused to obey his orders, whereupon he, together with Isagoras and his party, occupied the Acropolis. This united the rest of Athens against them; they were blockaded in the Acropolis for two days, but, on the day after, a truce was made, and all of them who were Lacedaemonians were allowed to leave the country…
After the execution of the prisoners, the Athenians recalled Cleisthenes and the seven hundred families which had been expelled by Cleomenes; they were well aware that they were now in a state of war with Cleomenes and Sparta, so to strengthen their position they sent representatives to Sardis, in the hope of concluding an alliance with Persia. When they got there and delivered their message, Artaphernes the son of Hystaspes, the governor, asked in reply who these Athenians were that sought an alliance with Persia, and in what part of the world they lived. Then, having been told, he put the Persian case in a nutshell by remarking that, if the Athenians would signify their submission by the usual gift of earth and water, then Darius would make a pact with them; otherwise they had better go home. Eager that the pact should be concluded, the envoys acted on their own initiative and accepted Artaphernes’ terms-for which they were severely censured on their return to Athens.
Alexander J King
Ancient Greece 1.) Explain briefly the synoecism which resulted in Athens, and tell who Athenian tradition credited with this development. * Theseus by way of war abolished city-state seventy as far as governing was concerned. There were allowed no other town-halls or places like it besides in the capitol. The people that were part of this centralization were given Athenian citizenship.

2.) Name the two Athenian lawgivers of the early Archaic period. * Lycurgus & Solon

3.) What was the problem with Draco's laws? * It had one punishment for most crimes, death. This resulted in no perceived justice among citizens and some of the elite.

4.) What was Solon's task and how did he approach it? Also, how long are his laws supposed to last? * Solons task was to try to appease everyone. He had to make compromises between the separate casts. He tried to be fair to all while not giving anyone everything they wanted. His laws were supposed to last 100 years. Many of his laws are things we have today in the USA, although they have been noticeably updated.

5.) Explain and reflect on the tribal organization of Solon; How do you think this might be better/help the situation? * It allowed representation that was, unless I misread, divvied power based upon how powerful they were already. “just as it had been divided before” Giving more power to the already powerful and less amounts of power to the less powerful. This appeases the different tribes by feeling fairly represented and it divides the possible opposition which is always good for the head a government.

6.) What is the seisachtheia? From what we already learned, why was this law so important? * The old tongue this is written in makes it somewhat hard to follow but the overall message is equality. Equality for the good, evil, rich, poor, ect ect.

7.) What do you think is Athens' big mistake in the last excerpt? Why? * Its clear provoking war was not but big mistake but rather “signify their submission by the usual gift of earth and water”. This to me means we want spoils of war in the form of water-front land. They were in such trouble because apparently whomever was sent to broker an alliance did not have the authority to make such concessions. I suppose “usual gift of earth and water” could be interpreted differently but that was my take.

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