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That this is how it happened is the unanimous account of everybody, and in particular Solon himself in his poetry1 recalls the matter in these words:“For to the people gave I grace enough,
Nor from their honor took, nor proffered more;
While those possessing power and graced with wealth,
These too I made to suffer nought unseemly;
I stood protecting both with a strong shield,
And suffered neither to prevail unjustly.

Solon Fr. 5 [2]

And again, when declaring about how the multitude ought to be treated:“Thus would the people with the chiefs best follow,
With neither too much freedom nor compulsion;
Satiety breeds insolence when riches
Attend the men whose mind is not prepared.

Solon Fr. 6 [3]

And again in a different place he says about those who wish to divide up the land:“They that came on plunder bent were filled with over-lavish hope,
Each and all imagining that they would find abundant wealth,
And that I, though smoothly glozing, would display a purpose rough.
Vain and boastful then their fancies; now their bile against me is stirred,
And with eyes askance they view me, and all deem me as a foe—
Wrongly: for the things I promised, those by heaven's aid I did,
And much else, no idle exploits; nothing did it please my mind
By tyrannic force to compass, nor that in our fatherland
Good and bad men should have equal portion in her fertile soil.

Solon Fr. 34 [4]

And again about the cancellation of debts, and those who were in slavery before but were liberated by the Shaking-off of Burdens:“But what did I leave unachieved, of all
The ends for which I did unite the people?
Whereof before the judgement-seat of Time
The mighty mother of the Olympian gods,
Black Earth, would best bear witness, for 'twas I
Removed her many boundary-posts2 implanted:
Ere then she was a slave, but now is free.
And many sold away I did bring home
To god-built Athens, this one sold unjustly,
That other justly; others that had fled
From dire constraint of need, uttering no more
Their Attic tongue, so widely had they wandered,
And others suffering base slavery
Even here, trembling before their masters' humors,
I did set free. These deeds I make prevail,
Adjusting might and right to fit together,
And did accomplish even as I had promised.
And rules of law alike for base and noble,
Fitting straight justice unto each man's case,
I drafted. Had another than myself
Taken the goad, unwise and covetous,
He'd not have held the people! Had I willed
Now that pleased one of the opposing parties,
And then whatever the other party bade them,
The city had been bereft of many men.
Wherefore I stood at guard on every side,
A wolf at bay among a pack of hounds!

Solon Fr. 36 [5]

And again in his taunting reply to the later querulous complaints of both the parties: “If openly I must reprove the people,
Never in the dreams of sleep could they have seen
The things that they have now . . .
While all the greater and the mightier men
Might praise me and might deem me as a friend;
for had another,

Solon Fr. 37 he says, “won this office,
He had not checked the people nor refrained,
Ere he had churned and robbed the milk of cream;
But I as it were betwixt their armed hosts
A frontier-post did stand.

Solon Fr. 37

1 See Aristot. Ath. Pol. 5.2 n.

2 i.e. posts marking mortgaged estates.

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  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Aristotle, Constitution of the Athenians, 5.2
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