Greek Society, despite it being an ancient civilization, was a very complex society, which functioned under laws and a Constitution. It suffered from the same issues of Class struggle, huge difference between the rich and the power, plus Political Confusion; all were part of the Greek Society and part of its everyday life. Some of the major issues that were confronted in the times were class issues, with a major conflict taking place between the aristocrats of Greek and the working class. But besides, these there were also many issues within the aristocratic class, regarding the status of women and their social standing. But most importantly, was the issue regarding the constitution and the laws of the time. These laws were not only strict, but were immensely binding -- the real victim of which were the poor or the working class of Greek.
Therefore it is not surprising that Solon was much appreciated and is remembered as a leader who took these issues and not only confronted them but also dealt with them in the most remarkable manner. It is for this reason that he is considered as one of the most important figures to have lived and have had a significant control on Greek was Solon.
Solon and the Greece of that time:
It appears that he was a very important figure in Athens, whose reputation as a philosopher and a lawmaker preceded him. To understand Athens of that time, one needs to turn to the poetry and the many accounts provided to us by those who lived at that time. It is from these historical records that we come to know that Solon was the son of a distinguished family, although with modest influence and wealth. Solon was a man with a fascination for learning and his many travels were taken on account of this pursuit mostly, than for commerce purposes, which was his profession. As a society, Athen's never frowned upon people who ventured out to work to make a living, therefore no matter what form of work, it was never looked down upon. It is not surprising to note then that Plato, despite being the scholar that he was, sold oil on the streets of Egypt to pay for his expenses.
It was the basic characteristics of Solon's personality that would later go on to give him the reputation that launched him into a political career. These included his lack of affiliation with wealth and also associating his status with the poor. However, it can't even be denied that he did use his wealth to obtain pleasure as a compensation for the many risks that he took and faced due to his profession.
His childhood affiliations led him to pass a law later that restricted slaves from rubbing oil on themselves or to have a boy lover, since these were honors in his eyes, worthy of only the respected class (Life of Solon, by Plutarch, n.d). But despite this, he was considered a man of principal in every circle. And it was because of this he was later on selected as a legislator.
One of the incidents that truly got Solon recognized in Athens was the issue of Salamis. Athens as a society was conscious enough of the consequences that were caused by war; therefore it was only logical that the mention of the island of Salamis was banned by law in any form after the war with Megarians had exhausted the resources of Athens (Plutarch, n.d.). But many like Solon took it an offense and it was the cleverness of Solon that finally resulted in repealing the law and once again launching a war, which was commanded by Solon this time. It was only through the leadership and the cleverness of Solon that they were able to capture the islands of Salamis to which they long have had claims. This increased the reputation of Solon multiple times within the circles of Athens.
It needs to be understood that Athens of this time is society with a great respect for scholars and wise men, and this is much evident by the story of the tripod, which passed from the hands of seven men, each always giving it up for they didn't consider themselves wise enough. The decisions regarding the affairs of the state were settled by great discussions and debate in Athens by the nobles and the wise men of the city, and overall it was reflective of a learned society. However, the weaknesses of the law and the general weakness of the Athenian society are pointed out by Anacharsis to Solon, by describing the said laws as spider webs, which only result in binding the poor and the weak, while the rich can always find tool to cut these webs, to continue with their dishonest and greedy ways. It was also him who pointed out that in Athens despite the great debates by wise men; it was the fool who decided the fate of Athens.
Issues between the Aristocrats and Peasants:
The Athen's of this time is defined as a class-based society, with a vast difference between the rich and the poor, which was a cause of much disturbance within the society of Greek. Many of the people were in debt to the rich, which was returned by working for them on their lands. For some the condition was so bad, that they even had to sell their children or have to leave the country, usually an act enforced by the creditors. It was a time when the rich held a major share in the running of the entire country and even held prominent state offices (Aristotle, n.d.). This meant that the country was not only in utter disorder, but was also on the verge of a revolution.
Solon therefore devised strategies that included not only to focus on those laws that he could either enforce or approve through persuasion but in a manner that would not result in confrontation or upsetting the balance of the power within the city. Nonetheless, his reforms were much appreciated by even the likes of Aristotle (Solon of Athens, n.d)
Many of the changes that he made were disguised by pleasant names or by euphemisms. Therefore one of the first reforms that he bought about was the discharging of the debts and no one could collect the family of the debtor against the loan or enslave them. Other than this all previous debts were also forgiven and all those who were sold as slaves to recover the debt upon them were all returned to Athens as free man.
He also took steps to share the power of the Government with the poor who never before had any say in the official matters of the state. He categorized the citizens of Athen according to their income and the lowest cadre in this regard, thetes, although had no right to stand for election for an office. However, they were given the privilege of being part of the jury or an Assembly and even give their judgments to the various cases that came to the court. Power was also given to the common man further by giving the right to everyone to approach the law on behalf of the victim and have the offender be prosecuted.
Maybe it was the impact of the comments by Anacharsis that prompted Solon to establish the Council of Areopagus based on former archons. But upon sensing the unrest of the people because of the debts that they had to let go, he also decided upon creating a second chamber of 400 men, who would be able to keep a stronghold on the working of the society.
Issues within the Aristocratic Family:
Within the family structure too, there exited a hierarchical ladder, in which the women were in the bottom. This is indeed a very troubling aspect of the Athenian society from our perspective, since they were considered nothing more than a second class citizen. The way they were treated showed little or no respect towards them and they had little say in the Athenian society. To cater towards the women rights in Athens, he made it a law that a women upon marrying doesn't need to bring any dowry from her family, except for three clothes and a few items. Besides this, women were also given a status in public which regulated their appearance in public and went a long way in reestablishing their status from that of a second class citizen.
The Politics of Greece: Issues of Constitution in Greece
There was also a great political upheaval in Athens with regards to what Political system should be adopted in the state. Three points-of-views existed predominantly; those of the people of the hill who supported an extreme form of Democracy, the people of the plain wanted an Oligarchy form of Government, while the people of the shore wanted a mixed form of Government.…