Solon and the Foundation for Democracy


(Bust de Solon, collection Farnèse, Musée national archéologique de Naples.)

“Solon”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

    When one thinks of the city of Athens, one thinks of the roots of democracy and a democratic system of government – perhaps the very first seen in world history. If indeed Athens was one of the earliest if not first political state to institute a democratic form of government, where did the ideas for such a system originate? Although it would be impossible to pinpoint one single person or group in Greek history, one could argue very persuasively that if one man is to be considered the father of Athenian democracy that man should be Greek Axial Age thinker and Athenian statesman, Solon.

Solon taught that the citizenry of a state should be responsible in forming a collaborative political effort to create a stable form of government and together devise solutions to societies’ problems. To achieve this he formed an assembly open to all male Athenians. Solon’s main goal was to lead Athens on the road to a more democratic form of government. He set out to accomplish this goal by abolishing farmer’s debts, enslavement for debt, and by formalizing the rights and privileges of each class of Athenian society according to wealth. To Solon wealth was a better way to determine access to public office over birth. He created a comprehensive code of law made available on tablets so that the Athenian citizens could see how they were being governed and what their specific rights were. Solon also created a set of census ratings for each adult citizen to have their wealth recorded in order to have access to public offices. When the people of Athens wanted Solon to assume tyranny of the city, he, some would say nobly, rejected the offer.

Solon’s reforms and ideas were not always immediately accepted openly by some in Athens. In fact democracy would not be fully instituted in Athens until fifty years after Solon’s death. Despite this, there is no denying Solon’s influence and contributions in setting Athens on the road to democracy.


“The Axial Age.” The Human Journey: Axial Age Greece. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

“The Internet Classics Archive | Solon by Plutarch.” The Internet Classics Archive | Solon by Plutarch. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Hertzoff, Andrew. 2008. “Eros and Moderation in Plutarch’s Life of Solon.” Review Of Politics 70, no. 3: 339-369. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 26, 2015).

“Solon”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

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