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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

025 - The Reforms of Solon

In this episode, we discuss the life of the great Athenian statesman, Solon, who from his position of sole archonship, enacted various economic, political, and legal reforms that would later form the backbone for Athenian democracy in the Classical Period, but in doing so he took a moderate stance to appease everyone, which didn't quiet the ongoing social and economic problems of the state and shortly thereafter factionalism set in, leading to the next phase of Athenian political history (in which aristocratic infighting led to instability for decades and ultimately to tyranny)

ca. 625 BC - severe agrarian crisis causes the Athenians to look for new land--their solution was to establish a cleruchy on Salamis; this led to continuous war with Megara, who also held claims to the island
ca. 605 BC - in order to defend their trade routes into the Black Sea, Athens challenges Mytilene for control of Sigeion in the Troad, an event which was arbitrated by Periander in favor of Athens (thanks to Solon's argument)
595 BC - Solon and Peisistratos led forces that defeated the Megarians
594/3 BC - Solon was appointed as sole archon of Athens in an extra legislative capacity to reform the constitution, which (among many other things) eliminated debt slavery and helped ease the land crisis; though wildly successful, his reforms' immediate aftermath led to increased competition amongst the elite for political offices
593-583 BC - Solon went on a self-imposed exile for 10 years following his reforms so that he couldn't be persuaded to change anything by his fellow citizens, during which he visited various rulers and wise men in Egypt, Cyprus, Lydia, and Ionia
591/0 BC - political strife in Athens led to a period of anarchy as they were unable to elect the three archons, but it was eventually restored
580s-560s BC - The three dominant political factions (the Pediakoi, the Peralioi, and the Diakrioi) all competed for control of Athenian government
586/5 BC - second bout of anarchy; once again was eventually restored
582/1 BC - archonship of Damasias, at the end of which he refused to step down
579 BC - after two and half years, Damasias was driven out of the archonship; afterwards, a board of 10 archons were appointed to govern Athens
578 BC - three traditional offices of the archons were re-established
575 BC - a great ramp was built up onto the Acropolis; noble families began to compete for prestige through the funding of the construction of new buildings and statues atop the Acropolis, such as the Temple of Athena Poleis (the precursor to the Parthenon) and a statue of Athena Promachos
566 BC - the Great Panathenaia was instituted by the archon, Hippocleides
ca. 565 BC - Solon recognized that Peisistratos was harboring feelings for a revolution to end the political strife of the three dominant political factions

Greek wordsgnorimoi ("notables"), plethos (the multitude), eunomia (good law and justice), sophrosyne (self-control and moderation), seisachtheia (the shaking off of burdens), metoikois (metics, i.e. resident foreigners), medimnos (measurement of grain equal to about 12 gallons), Pentakosiomedimnoi (those whose land produced at least 500 medimnoi), hippeis (horses or cavalrymen), thugatai ("yoke-fellows", those who were wealthy enough to own an oxen to plow their fields), thetes (landless workers), ekklesia (general assembly), politeia (constitution), eisangelia (impeachment), graphe (a written charge of indictment), heliaia (a court of appeals), Agroikoi (farmers), Demiourgoi (artisans), pediakoi (the men of the plain), peralioi (the men of the coast), diakrioi (the men of the hills), hyperakrioi (the men beyond the hills), apobatai (athletic competition at Panathenaic Games in which contestants wore armor and periodically leapt off a moving chariot and ran alongside it before leaping back on again), hekatombe (a sacrifice of a hundred oxen), pannychis ("all-nighter”, referring to a feast)