), a disburdening ordinance, was the first and
preliminary step in the legislation of Solon (Plut.
). The real nature of this measure was a subject of
controversy even amongst the ancients. Philochorus (fr.
57; Suid. and Photius, s. v.) explains it as χρεωκοπία,
and this opinion is widely held: Heracl. Pont.
ed. Schneidewin, p. 4, 9, Σόλων . . . καὶ χρεῶν
ἀποκοπὰς ἐποίησε τὴν σεισάχθειαν λεγομένην
Halic. Antiq. Rom.
: Plut. Sol. 15
, τῶν χρεῶν ἀποκοπή--τῶν συμβολαίων
: Dio Chrysost. 31.69: D. L.
; Suid. s. v. etc.; cf. also Arist. Ἀ θ η
i6 1. 14, τὴν [τῶν] χρεῶν ἀποκοπήν:
συμβεβήκει γὰρ αὐτοῖς γενέ[σθαι ταπεινοῖς] καὶ
Only Androtion and some others, whose names Plutarch
does not give, describe it as a mere reduction of the rate of interest
), a view accepted by
i.3 p. 159; Hermann,
§ 106; Curtius,
i.5 p. 318. But such
results as Solon claims for his measure, viz. that the mortgage pillars were
removed, and that the debtors were liberated, even those sold to foreign
36, and Arist. Ἀθην. πολ.
i.a 50.7 ff.), could not
have been brought about by a reduction of the rate of interest (see,
moreover, his law, τὸ ἀργύριον στάσιμον εῖναι
ἐφ᾽ ὁπόσῳ ἂν βούληται ὁ δανείζων,
Lys. c. theomn.
1.18), even when coupled with a lowering
of the silver standard. To achieve this, all those contracts in which the
debtor had borrowed on the security either of his person or of his land had
to be cancelled, and to prevent the recurrence of similar social evils it
was forbidden henceforth ἐπὶ τοῖς σώμασι
and a limit was fixed beyond which no one was
allowed to buy up land (Arist. pol.
2.4 (7 Bk.)
4). This measure of Solon (ὁμοῦ βίην τε καὶ δίκην
36) seems, no doubt, hard on the rich--yet their
riches were ill-gotten (fr.
4)--but it was demanded
by the circumstances; he did not disturb owners in the possession of the
land they had bought, and did not go nearly as far as the Megarians on a
similar occasion (Plut. Quaest. Graec.
18, p. 295 D, παλιντοκία
). At the same time Solon effected a
reform in measures and in the coinage (Plut. l.c.
ἡ ἅμα τούτῳ γενομένη τῶν δὲ μέτρων
ἐπαύξησις καὶ τοῦ νομίσματος τιμή
). This reform was,
however, not made with a view to assisting debtors by reducing their debts
27 per cent., since 73 old drachmas were worth 100 new drachmas (Grote,
Hist. of Greece,
iii. p. 100 f.). Solon's object clearly
was, as Köhler shows (Mitth. d. d. arch. Inst.
p. 151 ff.), to open up new fields for Athenian trade. Hitherto the coinage
of Athens had been on the Aeginetan system, which prevailed on the mainland
of Greece, and on the Cyclades; now the Euboic system was adopted, which was
confined to that island and Corinth. The trade to the Black Sea and to Egypt
was in the hands of Aegina and Megara, and with these flourishing towns
Athens could at that time not compete. The Chalcidians and Corinthians, on
the other hand, had planted colonists north of Chalcidice and in Sicily, and
thus opened up new districts to Greek trade. With these the Athenians might
hope successfully to compete, and, as the result showed, their hope was well
founded; hence their coinage system was adopted. From these districts they
could import what Athens stood most in need of, viz. timber and grain; and
thither they could export oil, which alone of all produce Solon allowed to
be exported (Plut. l.c.
24), and manufactures, which
he encouraged in every possible way. [L.S
. This measure, which
was a cancelling of all debts, both public and private (100.6), preceded
Solon's legislation, and the reform of the money standard and of the system
of weights and measures followed the legislation (100.10; it was not
contemporary with the Seisachtheia, Plut. Sol.
). Some particulars are given as to the monetary standard
introduced by Solon: unfortunately the reform of the system of weights and
measures is only mentioned as a fact without details.