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Ancient Greece
Solon



Solon
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 8 to 10
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   9.87

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    buy-in, debt-slaves, lower-ranking, policymaker, retributions, tribunal, archon, scant, lightening, hailed, better, aristocracy, offering, bushels, groundbreaking, humane
     content words:    Four Hundred, Since Solon, Seven Sages


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Solon
By Vickie Chao
  

1     Thousands of years ago, monarchy and aristocracy were the norms of the government everywhere. But at the turn of the 6th century B.C., Solon, a remarkable lawmaker from Athens, thought differently. He wanted to place more power in the hands of the people, so he wrote a new constitution to do just that. Thanks to him, the idea of democracy was born.
 
2     Sadly, while Solon was the one who had planted the seed of democracy in the first place, we know almost nothing about the man. Of the scant information we have, we know that he was born around 638 B.C. By the mid-590s B.C., he was already a famous policymaker, most notably for the active role he had played in the war against Megara. For that particular event, he first persuaded the very reluctant Athenians to take an aggressive stand over the control of the island of Salamis. After gaining the buy-in, he then personally led the military campaign and defeated the Megarians soundly. In more ways than one, this victory gave Solon a big boost in his political career and helped him land the position as the archon of Attica, whose district included Athens.
 
3     During his time in office, Solon carried out many groundbreaking reforms. For example, he disliked the existing practice of forcing a person into slavery because of an outstanding debt. To end the custom, he boldly cancelled all debts and liberated those debt-slaves. Never again would the Athenians be turned into serfs simply for failing to meet a financial obligation. Additionally, Solon saw how harsh the Draconian (or Draco's) laws were back then and decided to rewrite them. The new constitution was more reasonable and more humane. It did not evoke the death sentence as freely as the previous version had. (Given that the Draconian laws addressed pretty much every type of crime -- no matter the severity of it -- with a death sentence, people often said that they were written, not in ink, but in blood!)

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