Yes, I remember Solon, as do many of us here,
Nascent Athenian self-government, six-thou-
Sand from Attic Peninsula, ekklesia or assembly,
We stood in silence, awaiting his proclamation,
When nobly ascending elevated granite promen-
Tory: “We the demos, we the people,” he began,
“With this gathering of free men, democracy
Begins at Pnyx.”
I was there, eighteen and free when Athens
Became the rightful center of democratic rule,
Dawn of enlightenment and reformation, under
Aegis of Solon-scripted laws, end of tyrants and
Oligarchies, years of 600 BC, beginning one cen-
Tury of self-rule, best for demos, for those on
Grecian shores, fisherfolk and farmers.
Across Attica, Solon’s moral words rang true,
Greatest good for greatest number, decrees made
By council for the people, villagers forming
Decisions for themselves, government by and
Of the people. Yet, we had deep inequities, slaves
And women forbidden vote, strained lack of
Parity and influence in governmental affairs.
We swore fidelity to Solon’s constitution, giving
Rights to rich and poor. Citizens of lower class
And aristocrats chosen as Archons or rulers,
Shaping new laws, sanctity of which we guarded,
Dedicating our lives, as did Solon, who purpose-
Fully left Greece for ten years to prevent changes
To our new constitution and populist laws.
Today, we remember Solon and his poetry, some
Say self-righteous and political, he reverenced
Athena and rights of common man, and from his
Verse I recite: “Some wicked men are rich, some
Good are poor; we will not change our virtue for
Their store: virtue’s a thing that none can take
Away, but money changes owners all the day.”
For those who remember his inspiration as young
Men and women, free and slave, rich and poor, we
Honour Solon with our words of praise, our memo-
Ries decades past, as he rests before us, flesh and
Bone to funeral pyre flames, his spirit ascending to
Athena’s side, for he gave us self-rule, common
Men political might when no others ventured forth.
1. Beginning as early as 507 BC, the Athenians gathered on the Pnyx to host their popular assemblies, thus making the hill one of the earliest and most important sites in the creation of democracy. (Wikipedia with photo below).
2. Plutarch Solon, Dryden translation.
3. “The Development of Athenian Democracy,” Christopher W. Blackwell.