But the Athenians, now that the Cylonian disturbance was over and the polluted persons banished, as described,1
relapsed into their old disputes about the form of government, the city being divided into as many parties as there were diversities in its territory. The Hill-men favoured an extreme democracy; the Plain-men an extreme oligarchy; the Shore-men formed a third party,2
which preferred an intermediate and mixed form of government, was opposed to the other two, and prevented either from gaining the ascendancy.
At that time, too, the disparity between the rich and the poor had culminated, as it were, and the city was in an altogether perilous condition; it seemed as if the only way to settle its disorders and stop its turmoils was to establish a tyranny. All the common people were in debt to the rich. For they either tilled their lands for them, paying them a sixth of the increase (whence they were called Hectemoiroi and Thetes), or else they pledged their persons for debts and could be seized by their creditors, some becoming slaves at home, and others being sold into foreign countries.
Many, too, were forced to sell their own children (for there was no law against it), or go into exile, because of the cruelty of the money-lenders. But the most and sturdiest of them began to band together and exhort one another not to submit to their wrongs, but to choose a trusty man as their leader, set free the condemned debtors, divide the land anew, and make an entire change in the form of government.