). A very celebrated Athenian legislator, who
flourished about B.C. 621. Suidas tells us that he brought forward his code of laws (θεσμοί
) in this year, and that he was then an old man. Aristotle
) says that Draco adapted his laws
to the existing constitution, and that they contained nothing particular beyond the severity
of their penalties. The slightest theft was punished capitally, as well as the most atrocious
murder; and Demades remarked of his laws that they were written with blood, and not with
, 17). Draco, however, deserves credit as the first who introduced
written laws at Athens; and it is probable that he improved the criminal courts by his
transfer of cases of bloodshed from the archon to the ephetae, since before his time the
archons had a right of settling all cases arbitrarily and without appeal—a right
which they enjoyed in other cases until Solon's time. It appears that there were some offences
which he did not punish with death; for instance, loss of civil rights was the punishment of
attempting to alter one of his laws (Demosth. c. Aristocr.
p. 714, Bekker).
Draco was an archon (Pausan. ix. 36, 8), and, consequently, an Eupatrid; it is not, therefore,
to be supposed that his object was to favour the lower orders, though his code seems to have
tended to abridge the power of the nobles. The Athenians, it is said, could not endure the
rigour of his laws, and the legislator himself was obliged to withdraw to the island of
Aegina. Here he is said by Suidas to have been suffocated in the theatre beneath the number of
cloaks and garments which the people of the island, according to the usual mode of expressing
approbation among the Greeks, showered upon him. He was buried in the theatre.