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The Seisachtheia and the Nomothesia of Solon

  • N. G. L. Hammond (a1)


The orthodox date for Solon's archonship, 594/3, was undisputed until the discovery of the Athenaion Politeia; then two passages in this treatise cast doubt upon this date and introduced further problems. The purpose of this paper is to reconsider these two passages and to show that the Ath. Pol. in fact gives the date of Solon's archonship, during which the Seisachtheia was enacted, as 594/3, and gives the date of a second commission, during which the Nomothesia was passed, as 592/1; and I shall then consider how far the narratives of Plutarch and Aristotle imply that Solon held two separate commissions. My paper accordingly falls into two sections: the chronological data, and the Seisachtheia and the Nomothesia.



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1 Cf. Jacoby, F., Apollodors Chronik, in Philologische Untersuchungen vol. 16 (1902) p. 168, ‘Bei dieser Übereinstimmung der Zeugnisse, zu denen noch indirekte treten, hat denn auch vor Auffindung der Ἀθηναίων Πολιτεία niemand an der Authenticität des Jahres 594/3 gezweifelt.’

2 Read in shorter form to the Cambridge Philological Society, November 1938.

3 Diogenes Laertius i 62, Clemens Alexandrinus Stromata i 65, and Tatian ad Graecos 41 date the ἀκμή in the words ἤκμαȜεν or εὑρίσκεται γεγονώς; to the 46th Olympiad; in Eusebius, Hieronymi Chronicon 99 the Latin MSS., supported by Cyrillus, give the 46th Olympiad for Solon sua iura constituit. As these four agree, the number can be safely emended to in Suidas s.v. Σόλων γέγονε κ.τ.λ. and in Schol. Demosth. xlv 64 Σόλων γέγονε κ.τ.λ.; and the Armenian MSS. of Eusebius, which give the 47th Olympiad, may be dismissed as inaccurately transmitting Apollodorus' date. The date of Solon's archonship is given by Diogenes Laertius i 62 ἧρξεν Ἀθηναίων and by the Latin MSS. of Eusebius Solon sua iura constitut as Olympiad 46, 3 = 594/3; as these two agree in the year, and as their datum for the Olympiad is confirmed, there is no reason to doubt the fact that in Apollodorus Solon was archon 594/3. Cf. Jacoby, loc. cit.

4 Some of these are summarised in J. E. Sandys second edition (1912), pp. 50 f.

5 This chapter of the Ath. Pol. is written in the first hand, which is especially good; cf. F. G. Kenyon's edition (1891), pp. xi f.

6 Cf. F. Jacoby op. cit. p. 170.

7 μὲν οὗν is resumptive in this treatise, cf. chs. ix and x.

8 The Teubner text is here falsely punctuated, for the μὲν and δέ, together with the omission of ἔτει after πέμπτῳ, show that the sentences are closely linked and are both resumed in the phrase καὶ πάλιν ἔτει πέμπτῳ.

9 That this is the meaning of the phrase διὰ τῶν αὐτῶν χρόνων is clear from general Greek usage and from the example in Aristotle, Politics iii p. 1275a 23, cited by Blass, Litterar. Centralblatt 1893, p. 1713.

10 As Bauer, Wilamowitz, Busoit, Reinach, Poland and others have done.

11 The account of Solon's legislation and the interval of time which must have ensued before criticism arose from the actual working of the system (Ath. Pol. x and xi, 1), make it impossible to place these events within less than one year.

12 Kenyon and Jacoby both take xiii, 1 as I have done, but suspect or emend the later passage, xiv, I; cf. Kenyon's edition pp. 33 and 38, and Jacoby, Apollodors Chronik pp. 170 and 171.

13 Proposed by Bauer and followed e.g. by Sandys Wilamowitz, Jacoby.

14 Bauer and Sandys in suggesting that δευτέρῳ is a corruption of overlook this important fact.

15 Halic., Dionysius, Antiqu. iii 36.

16 Jacoby, Apollodors Chronik p. 170 n. 12 and FHG 2 D pp. 687 f.

17 Plut., Solon xiv l. 23 (Teubner, ed. Sintenis 1906).

18 Philostratus, Vit. Soph., i 16.

19 Diog. L. i 101 (Anacharsis) .

20 The Greek is here inarticulate; for, while μὲν οὖν is resumptive, the δέ clause has no main verb. One can supply a verb such as for the participle ποιήσας, but the grammar does not justify it.

21 refers to the preceding phrase , not to ἡ νομοθεσία, as Seltman, C. T., Athens, its History and Coinage p. 16, takes it.

22 ‘Besides,’ not ‘simultaneously’; for the καὶ reinforces ἅμα and the note in x shows that the χρεῶν ἀποκοπαὶ preceded the νομοθεσία.

23 Cf. Adcock, F. E.Klio (1912) xii p. 1 f.

24 It seems probable that this is the origin of the term Seisachtheia, which seems to be a colloquial title like Pentakosiomedimni, and not that suggested by Plutarch xv l. 21, which smacks of the specious diction of the fourth century; Ath. Pol. vi 1 supports he popular origin of the word.

25 Although I do not attach much importance to short verbal echoes, it is worth observing that Ath. Pol. v 2 () has words in common with Plut., Solon xiv l. 23 () and xvi l. 25 (), which may mirror the words of Androtion's Atthis.

26 I can see no reason in the content to assign ll. 9–12 to this fragment with Diehl; as ll. 9–12 are quoted in Plut., Solon iii 2 and ll. 1–8 are quoted in Ath. Pol. v, there is no sign that they were associated together in Androtion's Atthis.

27 Frag. 23 from the context in Plut., Solon xvi (Ath. Pol. xii 3 cites it as ἑτέρωθί που— i.e., as part of a different poem from that previously cited which deals with constitutional matters); frag. 24 from the context in Plut., Solon xv and from Ath. Pol. xii 4 which cites it as ; frag. 25 from the context in Plut., Solon xvi (Ath. Pol. xii 5 may refer to discontent in either 593/2 or 591/0, but Plutarch settles the point).

28 Frag. 5 ll. 1–6 from the general context in Plut., Solon xviii and from the position of importance given to both 1–6 and ll. 7–10 in Aristotle's citation (Ath. Pol. xii 12); frag. 5 l. 11 from the context in Plut., Solon xxv.

29 Cf. Gilliard, C.Quelques réformes de Solon (1907) p. 268.

30 These laws are in my opinion genuine for the most part; this applies in particular to the laws with which I am here dealing, despite the doubts of Gilliard and others.

31 For instance Bury, J. B., History of Greece p. 189, who thinks it allowed the Alcmaeonidae to return but not the descendants of Cylon, and Adcock, F. E. in CAH iv 45, who holds it excluded both parties. I agree with the latter's interpretation.

32 Within the groups the order may have been according to the government department concerned in each case; but this does not affect the relative position of laws passed in 594/3 and 592/1.

33 Anyone who was resident in Athens during the period after the Greco-Turkish war will understand the effect of a sudden increase in the population of Attica.

34 Tod, GHI no. 87, and others consider that the omission of the law on premeditated murder in this Axon shows that the Axon was Solonian.

35 On this point an objection may be made against my view; Plutarch and Aristotle quote this law first under chapters dealing with the Nomothesia, and, as it occurs in the same position in both Plutarch and Aristotle, it stood in that context in Androtion. Either Androtion has erred (as is demonstrably the case in stating tha οί φονικοὶ νόμοι were retained, since one of them was repealed, cf. Tod loc. cit. p. 216) or Solon did not finally cancel all the Draconian code until the Nomothesia.

36 Harpocration s.v. .

37 Cf. Jacoby, F.Apollodors Chronik p. 168 n. 8: ‘Hier liegt sicher Apollodor zu Grunde.’

38 Diogenes i 110; Eusebius, Hieronymi Chronicon sub Ol. 46, 2; Suidas gives the Olympiad as , emended to by Bernhardy, Ath. Pol. 1.

39 The war against Megara, in the course of which Athens lost and regained Salamis, should be dated, I believe, to the period between 600 and 595 B.C.; to this war Solon's poem ‘Salamis’ (frag. 2) relates. Solon also played a part in the declaration of the Sacred War—i.e., in 600/599 B.C.—since the ten-years war ended in 591/90.

40 The publication of the law at this epoch was a constitutional innovation of great importance; it is possible that the ancient tradition, that he passed more specifically constitutional reforms, may contain some element of truth.

41 Plut., Solon xi preserves the entry in the Delphic records; the view expressed above is not the orthodox one, but it seems to be compatible with the evidence and to explain the chaotic year at Athens which follows. The Alcmaeonids were in close contact with Delphi.

42 Cf. C. T. Seltman op. cit., whose explanation and dating of the Heraldic coin-issues are convincing.

The Seisachtheia and the Nomothesia of Solon

  • N. G. L. Hammond (a1)


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