In the second place, wishing to leave all the magistracies in the hands of the well-to-do, as they were, but to give the common people a share in the rest of the government, of which they had hitherto been deprived, Solon made an appraisement of the property of the citizens.1
Those who enjoyed a yearly increase of five hundred measures (wet and dry), he placed in the first class, and called them Pentakosiomedimnoi; the second class was composed of those who were able to keep a horse, or had a yearly increase of three hundred measures,
and they were called Hippada Telountes, since they paid a Knight's tax; the members of the third class, whose yearly increase amounted to two hundred measures (wet and dry together), were called Zeugitai. All the rest were called Thetes, they were not allowed to hold any office, but took part in the administration only as members of the assembly and as jurors. This last privilege seemed at first of no moment, but afterwards proved to be of the very highest importance, since most disputes finally came into the hands of these jurors. For even in cases which Solon assigned to the magistrates for decision, he allowed also an appeal to a popular court when any one desired it.
Besides, it is said that his laws were obscurely and ambiguously worded on purpose to enhance the power of the popular courts. For since parties to a controversy could not get satisfaction from the laws, the result was that they always wanted jurors to decide it, and every dispute was laid before them, so that they were in a manner masters of the laws.
And he himself claims the credit for this in the following words—
For to the common people I gave so much power as is sufficient,
Neither robbing them of dignity, nor giving them too much,
And those who had power, and were marvelously rich,
Even for these I contrived that they suffered no harm
I stood with a mighty shield in front of both classes,
And suffered neither of them to prevail unjustly.
Moreover, thinking it his duty to make still further provision for the weakness of the multitude, he gave every citizen the privilege of entering suit in behalf of one who had suffered wrong. If a man was assaulted, and suffered violence or injury, it was the privilege of any one who had the ability and the inclination, to indict the wrong-doer and prosecute him. The law-giver in this way rightly accustomed the citizens, as members of one body, to feel and sympathize with one another's wrongs. And we are told of a saying of his which is consonant with this law. Being asked, namely, what city was best to live in,
‘That city’ he replied,
‘in which those who are not wronged, no less than those who are wronged, exert themselves to punish the wrongdoers.’