previous next

All his laws were to have force for a hundred years, and they were written on ‘axones,’ or wooden tablets, which revolved with the oblong frames containing them. Slight remnants of these were still preserved in the Prytaneium when I was at Athens, and they were called, according to Aristotle,1 ‘kurbeis.’ Cratinus, also, the comic poet, somewhere says:—

By Solon, and by Draco too I make mine oath,
Whose kurbeis now are used to parch our barley-corns.
2 [2] But some say that only those tablets which relate to sacred rites and sacrifices are properly called ‘kurbeis,’ and the rest are called ‘axones.’ However that may be, the council took a joint oath to ratify the laws of Solon, and each of the ‘thesmothetai,’ or guardians of the statutes, swore separately at the herald's stone in the market-place, vowing that if he transgressed the statutes in any way, he would dedicate at Delphi a golden statue of commensurate worth. [3] Observing the irregularity of the month, and that the motion of the moon does not always coincide with the rising and setting of the sun, but that often she overtakes and passes the sun on the same day, he ordered that day to be called the Old and New, assigning the portion of it which preceded the conjunction to the expiring month, and the remaining portion to the month that was just beginning. He was thus the first, as it would seem, to understand Homer's verse,3 which speaks of a day when
This month is waning, and the next is setting in,
and the day following this he called the first of the month. After the twentieth he did not count the days by adding them to twenty, but by subtracting them from thirty, on a descending scale, like the waning of the moon.4 [4] No sooner were the laws of Solon put into operation than some would come to him every day with praise or censure of them, or with advice to insert something into the documents, or take something out. Very numerous, too, were those who came to him with inquiries and questions about them, urging him to teach and make clear to them the meaning and purpose of each several item. [5] He saw that to do this was out of the question, and that not to do it would bring odium upon him, and wishing to be wholly rid of these perplexities and to escape from the captiousness and censoriousness of the citizens (for ‘in great affairs,’ as he says himself,5 ‘it is difficult to please all’), he made his ownership of a vessel an excuse for foreign travel, and set sail, after obtaining from the Athenians leave of absence for ten years. In this time he hoped they would be accustomed to his laws.

1 Cf. Aristot. Const. Ath. 7.1, with Sandys' notes.

2 Kock, Com. Att. Frag. i. p. 94.

3 Odyssey, xiv. 162=xix. 307, of the day when Odysseus would return to Ithaca.

4 Thus the twenty-first was called the tenth, the twenty-second the ninth, and so on, ‘of the waning month.’ The twenty-ninth was the second of the waning month, the thirtieth the Old and New.

5 Fragment 7 (Bergk).

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Greek (Bernadotte Perrin, 1914)
hide References (27 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: