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858

SOLON.

suit which would furnish the amplest means for its gratification. (Plut. Sol. 2.) The desire of amassing wealth at any rate does not seem to have been his leading motive. The extant fragments of his poetry (Fr. 12, 15, 16, ap. Bergk,/. c. pp. 327, 330) contain various dignified sentiments on the subject of riches, though a sufficient appreciation of their advantages is also perceptible. Solon early distinguished himself by his poetical abilities. His early effusions were in a somewhat light and ama­tory strain, which after wards gave way to the more dignified and earnest purpose of inculcating profound reflections or sage advice. So widely indeed did his reputation spread, that he was ranked as one of the famous seven sages, and his name appears in all the lists of the seven. It was doubtless the union of social and political wisdom which marked him in common with the other members of this assemblage and not his poetical abilities, or any philosophical researches, that procured him this honour.

The occasion which first brought Solon promi­nently forward as an actor on the political stage, was the contest between Athens and Megara re­specting the possession of Salamis. The ill success of the attempts of the Athenians to make them­selves masters of the island, had led to the enact­ment of a law forbidding the writing or saying anything to urge the Athenians to renew the con­test. Solon, indignant at this dishonourable renunciation of their claims, and seeing that many of the younger and more impetuous citizens were only deterred by the law from proposing a fresh attempt for the recovery of the island, hit upon the device of feigning to be mad, and causing a report of his condition to be spread over the city, whereupon he rushed into the agora, mounted the herald's stone, and there recited a short elegiac poem of 100 lines, which he had composed, calling upon the Athenians to retrieve their disgrace and reconquer the lovely island. To judge by the three short fragments that remain, the poem seems to have been a spirited composition. At any rate either by itself, or, as the account runs, backed by the eloquent exhortation of Peisistratus (who however, must have been extremely young at the time), it produced the desired effect. The pusilla­nimous law was rescinded, war was declared, and Solon himself appointed to conduct it. The ex­pedition which he made was a successful one, though the accounts of its details varied. Certain propitiatory rites seem to have been performed, by the direction of the Delphic oracle, to the guardian heroes of the island. A body of volunteers was landed on the island, and the capture of a Mega-rian ship enabled the Athenians to take the town of Salamis by stratagem, the ship, filled with Athenian troops, being admitted without suspicion. The Megarians were driven out of the island, but a tedious war ensued, which was finally settled by the arbitration of Sparta. Both parties appealed, in support of their claim, to the evidence of certain local customs and to the authority of Homer (Arist. JRhel. i. 16), and it was currently believed in anti­quity that Solon had surreptitiously inserted the line (II. ii. 558) which speaks of Ajax as ranging his ships with the Athenians. Some other legend­ary claims, and the authority of the Delphic oracle, which spoke of Salamis as an Ionian island, were also brought forward. The decision was in favour of the Athenians. Solon himself, probably, was

SOLON.

one of those who received grants of land in Sala­mis, and this may account for his being termed a Salaminian. (Diog. Laert. i. 45.) The authority of Herodotus (i. 59, comp. Plut. Sol. 8) seems decisive as to the fact that Solon was aided in the field as well as in the agora by his kinsman Pei­sistratus. The latter, however, must have lived to a great age, if he died in b. c. 527, and yet served in the field about b. c. 596, or even earlier.

Soon after these events (about b. c. 595 ; see Clinton. Fasti Hellen. s. a.} Solon took a leading part in promoting hostilities on behalf of Delphi against Cirrha, and was the mover of the decree of the Amphictyons by which war was declared. It does not appear however what active part he took in the war. We would willingly disbelieve the story (which has no better authority than Pau-sanias, x. 37 § 7. Polyaenus, Strateg. vi. 13? makes Eurylochus the author of the stratagem), that Solon hastened the surrender of the town by causing the waters of the Pleistus to be poisoned.

It was about the time of the outbreak of this war when Solon's attention was turned more forcibly than ever to the distracted state of his own country. He had already interfered to put a stop to the dissension between the Alcmaeonidae and the partisans of Cylon [alcmaeonidae; cylon], and had persuaded the former to abide by the result of a judicial decision. • It was very likely also at his recommendation, and certainly with his sanction, that, when the people were suffering from the effects of pestilential disorders and superstitious excitement, and the ordinary religious rites brought no relief, the celebrated Epimenides [epimenides] was sent for from Crete. (Plut. Sol. 12.) But the sources of the civil dissensions by which the country was torn required a more thorough remedy. Geographical as well as political distinctions had separated the inhabitants of Attica into three parties, the Pedieis, or wealthy aristocratical in­habitants of the plain, the Diacrii, or poor inhabit­ants of the highlands of Attica, and the Parali, or mercantile inhabitants of the coast. These last, in point both of social condition and of political sentiment, held a position intermediate between the other two. It is difficult to say how far we are to trust Plutarch, when he says that the Pedieis and Diacrii differed in being respectively of oligarchical and democratical tendencies. The difficulties arising from these party disputes had in the time of Solon become greatly aggravated by the miserable condition of the poorer population of Attica—the Thetes. The great bulk of these had become sunk in poverty, and reduced to the necessity of borrowing money at exorbitant in­terest from the wealthy on the security of their estates, persons, or families ; and by the rigorous enforcement of the law of debtor and creditor many had been reduced to the condition of slavery, or tilled the lands of the wealthy as dependent tenants. Of the rapacious conduct of the richer portion of the community we have evidence in the fragments of the poems of Solon himself. (Fr. 3, ap. Bergk, I. c. p. 321.) Matters had come to such a crisis that the lower class were in a state of mutiny, and it had become impossible to enforce the observance of the laws. Solon was well known as a man of wisdom, firmness, and integrity ; and his reputation and influence had already been en­hanced by the visit of Epimenides. He was now called upon by all parties to mediate between

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