Solon (about 640–around 560 BCE) was an Athenian statesman, legislator, and poet who is credited for reorganizing Athens' social and political system and establishing the groundwork for Athenian democracy. The stories about his life have been passed down through many generations and have been used as a template for other politicians who have followed in his footsteps.
He was born into an extremely wealthy family in 758/7 or 757/6 BCE, which makes him around 35 years old when he takes office. His parents were from Clazomenae in Asia Minor and they had settled in Athens, where they owned large tracts of land. According to some sources, his father died when he was still a boy and according to others, he lost both parents when he was already an adult. No matter what the truth may be, it's known that after the death of his parents, he managed to gain control of their vast wealth and use it to further his political ambitions.
It is also believed that he met Archidamus IV, king of Sparta, when they were both attending the ceremonies of Apollo of Delphi together in 708/07 BCE. They must have made a good impression on each other because three years later they signed a treaty of peace and friendship that is still in effect today.
Solon was an ancient lawgiver and poet who rewrote the Athenian constitution in the early sixth century BC. Though Athens was culturally and politically dominating in the early Classical era, it was not until the late sixth century BC that it became a major force in Greece. In 464 BC, one of the longest wars in history began when Sparta went to war with Athens over the issue of whether women could participate in politics.
Athens' military success against the Spartans led them to extend their influence beyond Greece's battlefields. They established themselves as a leader among Mediterranean city-states and funded a large army which helped them win more battles. But the cost of this ambition was high: in approximately 431 BC, they entered into their first conflict with Persia, which lasted for eight years. Even after this defeat, they continued to dominate the Greek world but didn't achieve any further victories against the Persians.
In 399 BC, another Persian invasion forced Athens to abandon their policy of militarism and focus on cultural development. The resulting rise in popularity of Plato and Aristotle contributed to the creation of the Academy and the Lyceum, two prestigious universities where many important political figures of the time were students. This rise in prestige also led to Athens becoming the main center of culture and learning in Greece.
Solon was one of Greece's Seven Wise Men and controlled Athenian politics for decades, becoming the city's leading magistrate in the early 6th century BC (594–3 BC). He is also regarded as one of the founders of American democracy because he is said to have written a law book that formed the basis of Congress' deliberations before it voted on any laws. This book, which has been called the first official compilation of democratic principles, is called The Constitution of Athens because it helped establish the ideals that would later lead to a constitutional monarchy in Athens.
He lived from c. 638/27-560/9 BC. His birth date is not known with certainty but it is estimated to be between 638 and 561 BC. He may have been born into an aristocratic family or possibly even a priestly family since his grandfather was identified as a priest by birth. However he soon left his home town of Athens and entered political life as a prominent speaker at various meetings held by citizens who wanted to change the government system then in place. It was at one of these meetings that he made the famous statement "that justice is nothing else but the interest of the prince safeguarded by the power of the people" which would later become the foundation for what we know today as democratic societies.
Solon was elected as Athens' leader because he was a fair and respectable trader, and the nobility wanted to make some adjustments to avert an insurrection. They looked to Solon for leadership, and he instituted some significant changes. For example, he abolished the monarchy and established an oligarchy instead. He also reformed the military and legal systems to make them more effective.
These reforms made Athens a much better city state to live in. Solon also managed to reduce the power of the rich by giving more power to the people through their assembly. This showed that even though the nobility had most of the power, they could not keep it forever because even they knew that without the support of the people, they would not be able to rule.
Athens under Solon's leadership became very prosperous and strong. He also learned how to manage his people's opinions effectively so that he could get things done even though the majority of the population wanted different things. This shows that even though the aristocracy had most of the power, they could not keep it forever because even they knew that without the support of the people, they would not be able to rule.