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A History of Ancient Greece

Draco and Solon Laws

Draco, 7th century BC also spelled DRACON,

 

Athenian lawgiver whose harsh legal code punished both trivial and serious crimes in Athens with death--hence the continued use of the word draconian to describe repressive legal measures.

The six junior archons (thesmotetai), or magistrates, are said by Aristotle to have been instituted in Athens after 683 BC to record the laws. If this is correct, Draco's code, which is generally dated to 621, was not the first reduction of Athenian law to writing, but it may have been the first comprehensive code or a revision prompted by some particular crisis. Draco's code was later regarded as intolerably harsh, punishing trivial crimes with death; it was probably unsatisfactory to contemporaries, since Solon, who was the archon in 594 BC, later repealed Draco's code and published new laws, retaining only Draco's homicide statutes. A decree of 409/408 BC orders the public inscription of this murder law, which is partly extant. Later authors refer to other laws of Draco, which may be genuine; but the constitution ascribed to Draco in chapter 4 of the Constitution of Athens by Aristotle is certainly a later fabrication.

from Solon Code of laws.

Solon's third great contribution to the future good of Athens was his new code of laws. The first written code at Athens, that of Draco (c. 621 BC), was still in force. Draco's laws were shockingly severe (hence the term draconian)--so severe that they were said to have been written not in ink but in blood. On the civil side they permitted enslavement for debt, and death seems to have been the penalty for almost all criminal offenses. Solon revised every statute except that on homicide and made Athenian law altogether more humane. His code, though supplemented and modified, remained the foundation of Athenian statute law until the end of the 5th century, and parts of it were embodied in the new codification made at that time.


 

 

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