Category Archives: Greek and Roman History

Who was Solon?What did he set out to achieve in Athenian Democracy and how successful was he?

Who was Solon?What did he set out to achieve in Athenian Democracy and how successful was he?
See all 6 photos

Who was Solon?

Solon was an Athenian politician, poet, aristocrat and a legislator. When he came to power he proceded to reform the Law radically. He was called Champion of people in the” Athenian constitution” with a lot of affection. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in archaic Athens. He is credited with having laid the foundation for Athenian democracy. His vision was that the people of Athens would have democratic government run by intelligent high class people who were able to look after the progress of the state in the near future.


During Solon’s time many Greek states had seen emergence of tyrants and they were trying to grabbing power for their personal interest rather than for the people. This led to an increase in corruption and which resulted in wars between various states. The greed of rich grew alongside the increase in the number of tyrants. These factors affected the poor and middle class, overall leading to lots of debt which is mentioned in much more detail in the upcoming paragraph.

Before Solon took power, the state had lots of poor people. They were lot wars which led rise of debtors in the state. There was no proper international and internal trade. The poor could not pay up the debt and they were inflation with agriculture goods which the poor could not afford. As Solon says in his works, “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” which describes the situation that time.

See all 6 photos
See all 6 photos

What was his reforms and how did he achieve it ?

So when Solon took power as an archon, he had huge task at hand. He banned all loans on the security of the debtor’s person. He also cleared all the debt of the people publically and private. With this reform he brought sharp criticism but also won the hearts of poor. He created currency for the people of Athens. He called the law as a Draconian law. The people of Athens minted their own coin which survived for thousands of years and were more preferred by the neighbours rather than their native coins. He introduced new system of measurement and weights which were preferred by many. There were encouragement to help people to settle in Athens with family and they were given citizenship. This led increase in population. Another reform which Solon introduced was the land reform. Land reform is a purposive change in the way in which agricultural land is held or owned, the methods of cultivation that are employed, or the relation of agriculture to the rest of the economy. Reforms such as these changed the mind-set of the people. People found new crops to grow which in turn needed lot of investment, such as the olives, cash crops etc. Solon tried to help the poor by rotating the crops during every season to increase fertility in the soil and to gain extra revenue. Those who could not survive with farming, Solon encouraged new trades and profession such as exporting and producing olive oil, pottery etc. He also banned export of grain which led to relief to the poor.

These set of reforms created increase trade both internal and international. This also led to increases in wealth among the people and the number of rich citizens also increased. The rise in economy also brought competition among the neighbours.

See all 6 photos
Ecclesia (ancient Greek assembly) — Britannica Online Encyclopedia
(“gathering of those summoned”), in ancient Greece, assembly of citizens in a city-state. Its roots lay in the Homeric agora, the meeting of the people. The Athenian Ecclesia, for which exists the most…

Prior to The Solon rule, the Athens state were run by nine Archons appointed or elected annually by the Areopagus on the basis of noble birth and wealth. The Aeropagus had power to appoint people and make extraordinary influence as consultative body. The nine Archons were vested with powers to deal with the law breakers. The lower classes of people were not able to make any influence in the archons or the Aeropagus. Solon introduced government who are run by the wealthy citizens. He divided the population according to property they own into four classes, mainly, Pentacosiomedimni, Knights, Zeugitae, and Thetes. The various magistracies, mainly, the nine Archons, the Treasurers, (the Commissioners for Public Contracts) Poletae, (the Eleven, and Clerks) Colacretae were assigned to the Pentacosiomedimni. The Knights and the Zeugitae were given the offices to each class in proportion to the value of their liability of property. Those who ranked among the Thetas were given nothing but a place in the Assembly and in the juries. For a man had to be rank as a Pentacosiomedimnus; he has to own land, five hundred measures, whether liquid or solid. Those who ranked as Knights were made to own three hundred measures, or they were able to maintain a horse. Those ranked as Zeugitae made two hundred measures, liquid or solid and the rest of those ranked as Thetes were not eligible for any office. The elections to the various offices which Solon enacted were to be by lot, out of the candidates selected by each of the tribes. Each tribe selected ten candidates for the nine archonships, and among these the lot was cast. Hence it is still the custom for each tribe to choose ten candidates by lot, and then the lot is again cast among these.

See all 6 photos
See all 6 photos

Solon modified the assembly body called the ekklesia (the assembly). The ekklesia was a meeting place where the citizens could speak their minds and try to influence one another in the political process. Any member of the tribe is allowed to enter the ecclesia. The main essential was the freedom of speech. Solon introduced the Council of 400 or called the boule. One hundred men from each of the 4 tribes would be picked by the lot to form the council of 400. They determine to find out what should be discussed in the ekklesia. They get involved in the public finances and have certain power in arresting Athenians before trial.

Solon had other reforms other than the political and economic reform. He introduced some ideas to improve the morality of state. In his poems one can see how he portrays greed and arrogance among the people of Athens. Solon introduced his famous laws for injustice called the Seisachtheia (shaking off of burdens).The Athenians lauded this reform and was remembered for many years. Some of the other reforms he made include the abolition of Feudal system, the release of all Athenians who had been enslaved by their owners and reinstated all confiscated serf property to the hektemoroi. These reforms created many enemies for him. He also created another reform for Females, It is called Epikleros. The Law states that the daughter is allowed to inherit all the property if there is no male heir in the Family. Solon gave pride to “Athenian nationalism” particularly in the war against Megarians for the island of Salamis. Using his poetic skills he tried bring the spirit of nationalism among the people. One of the poems was “Behold in me a herald comes from lovely Salamis, with a song in ordered verse instead of a harangue.” This poem encouraged people to repeal any laws constraining then waged war against opponent in which Solon was the commander .Everyone was sing in praise of Solon during this time and citizens obeyed his words. This made him a hero of the country. These events made him reform the system to show the loyalty to people and make the state a powerful state for years to come.

Aftermath of Solon’s reforms

After he completed implementing his reforms, he gave up the authority of the government and fled the country. He thought that the people of Athens need some time to get used to the new system which he created. He departed to Egypt .During this time, the government was run by tyrants .Within 4 years there were social rifts between the classes and tribes. The people found irregularities in the government’s procedure and election in the archon was not held for few years. This led new complication in the system which Solon could not foresee.

Even though the reform succeeded during his reign and declined after that, but people still remember him for various reforms in regulating the economy and reducing the burden of the people. He changed the mind-set of the people who want justice and taught the people new trade and profession which regulated the economy. He brought some value into state by introducing coin, units and measurements. He also increased the population within the state and improved the trading system within the state and outside.

Marcus Brutus

Marcus Brutus
See all 5 photos
Marble Bust of Brutus, 30–15 B.C.
“This was the noblest Roman of them all.” – Marc Antony



The purpose of this article, briefly: I keep reading about Julius Caesar, and I think it’s high time Brutus got some love. Also, I’m just plain obsessed with Brutus and need some outlet to share that fact.


Family was always quite important to Romans and influenced many of their decisions. The fact is that Brutus was descended from two tyrant-killers – one on each side of the family, which no doubt weighed heavily on him. On his father’s side was Lucius Junius Brutus, who, in 509 B.C. was instrumental in establishing the Roman Republic. On his mother’s side, Gaius Servilius Ahala killed a man who was attempting to become king of Rome.

See all 5 photos
“The Lictors Bring Home the Sons of Brutus,” 1789, concerning Lucius Brutus


Marcus Junius Brutus is born around 85 B.C. to Servilia Caepionis and Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder (who, for simplicity’s sake, I will simply refer to as Junius Brutus). Rumors did circulate that Julius Caesar as his father, since Servilia was once Caesar’s mistress. This seems unlikely, however, as Caesar was only about 15 years old at the time of Brutus’s birth. Junius wasn’t much of a father-figure, in any case; he was murdered by Pompey when Marcus Brutus was quite young.

See all 5 photos
“Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries,” 1888, Rodolfo Lanciani


Rome of this time was a rough place, filled with gangs, street fighting, and so on. Brutus, however, probably mixed with influential men between the hours spent at school. He was a serious sort who enjoyed his studies and impressed his teachers with this attitude. During this time, Brutus tried out various philosophies before finally settling on Stoicism, which basically discounts useless emotions.

Influential Figures

Besides the memory of his ancestors and his strong-willed mother, two people wielded a great influence over the young Brutus’s life. One was Quintus Servilius Caepio, his mother’s brother, who adopted him in 59 B.C. to help him get ahead in life. The other was his mother’s half-brother, Marcus Porcius Cato, whose Stoicism he admired. Cato educated Brutus in this philosophy and gave him political assignments that he carried out with all efficiency. Honestly, Brutus would rather have spent his time reading, but he felt bound to carry out his duty.


In 56 B.C., Brutus returned to Rome from abroad and married a woman named Claudia. He didn’t much care for her; he did this to please his mother, who found Claudia easy to manipulate. He got another job then, as quaestor of Cilicia. This basically means that he handled the money there, and he had a position that was pretty typical for an aspiring politician.

His First War

Brutus loses the stability in his life in 49 B.C. when Julius Caesar’s army marched into Rome and starts a Civil War against Pompey. Brutus, being conservative and not liking the invasion, sided with Pompey, despite the fact that Servilia loved Caesar and Pompey killed Junius Brutus. One event that prompted Brutus’s decision was the fact that Cato joined in on Pompey’s side. Both started fighting in their separate locations. It was Brutus’s first field experience and he acquitted himself well enough, though he was eventually forced to surrender. Cato, unwilling to surrender, killed himself, horrifying his young protege. Caesar didn’t actually care about Cato, but he really liked Brutus, so he pardoned him and his friends, and then sent him to govern Cisalpine Gaul.

See all 5 photos
“Porcia Wounding Her Thigh,” 1638-1665, by Elisabetta Sirani

Before the Ides

Brutus returned to Rome when his term in office is up. He didn’t mingle much with society, considering most of his friends were away anyway. At first he ignored politics; he writes a pamphlet on Cato; he divorced Claudia and married Porcia Catonis, a woman he loves and is, furthermore, Cato’s daughter.

He got pulled back into the political arena when he becomes first praetor of Rome (a kind of ultimate judge) in 44 B.C. thanks to Caesar’s nomination. Brutus was kind of annoyed at Caesar, though. Flush with his victory against Pompey, Caesar’s pretentions to power started growing, and it became increasingly clear that he wanted more (especially since he declared himself dictator for life in February of that year). It didn’t take long before a group wanted him gone. A little bit longer than that, and Brutus wanted in on the scheme.

Julius Caesar
Amazon Price: $5.95
List Price: $19.97
Plutarch’s Lives, Volume 2 (Modern Library Classics)
Amazon Price: $6.74
List Price: $14.95
The Twelve Caesars (Penguin Classics)
Amazon Price: $8.05
List Price: $16.00
Cicero’s Brutus Or History Of Famous Orators: Also His Orator Or Accomplished Speaker
Amazon Price: $13.85
List Price: $21.95
Marcus Brutus Assassin of Julius Caesar Roman Bronze Marble Statue Military Art
Current Bid: $69.00
Marcus Brutus Vintage Ogden’s Guinea Gold Cigarette Card
Current Bid: $8.95
Marcus Junius Brutus Fouree Denarius “Apollo & Victory Crowning Trophy”
Current Bid: $112.50

The Ides of March

About 60 senators were in on the plan, but the most famous were and are Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus. Cassius was the main leader, and he was glad to have Brutus on board as a figurehead; Brutus had a great reputation and two tyrant-killing ancestors. They debated about where to do it, but eventually decided on the Hall of Pompey during a senate meeting. The date was set as March 15, or the Ides of March. There were two good reasons for this. One:  The senate planned to give Caesar a crown on that day, just before he went off to conquer some people in the East. Two: The Ides of March was a festival for an obscure goddess named Anna Perenna, which meant that the masses would be busy celebrating that and not notice much of what went on in the senate.

On that day, Brutus and several others had jobs to do. Many others gathered at Cassius’s house, where his son took on the toga virilis (a manhood ceremony). Caesar did get word of the plan, but for some unknown reason, he dismissed his guard. Also, when he made a sacrifice that morning, the animal was deformed, and by religious law, the senate meeting should have been postponed. He went anyway.

Everyone filtered in by the afternoon. One man, Trebonius, kept Caesar’s friend Antonius out of the way while the others pressed around Caesar and struck. Casca made the first move, by prearranged consensus. Caesar, startled, turned around and wounded Casca with his stylus, but it was far too late. He was wounded a total of 23 or 35 times, depending on the source. Only one was mortal.

According to legend, Caesar finally died when he saw Brutus in the crowd against him. Shakespeare has him saying “Et tu, Brute?” but this has no historical basis. A stronger possibility is that he said, “Kai su teknon?” This is Greek, meaning, “You also, my son?” Whatever he said, his body lay for some time where it fell by Pompey’s statue, until some servants and a physician removed it.

See all 5 photos
“Mort de Cesar,” 1798, by Vincenzo Camuccini
This was a coin cast by Brutus, commemorating the Ides of March.

Civil War

Hardly any of Caesar’s assassins survived him for more than three years, or even died a natural death. Most died in the ensuing civil war, which was mainly fought between two factions: the Brutus/Cassius faction and the Antionius/Octavius faction. Antonius, as previously mentioned, was a friend of Caesar; Octavius was Caesar’s main heir.

Now, you all have been a great audience, and I’ll reward you by refraining from a detailed account of the whole campaign. In fact, consider yourselves lucky I cut out a lot of information from the preceding passages as well.

I’ll just say that the war went on for a couple years, punctured by news of Porcia’s depressed and lonely suicide in Rome and culminating in 42 B.C. the two-part battle of Philippi. In part one, on October 3, Brutus defeated Octavius, but Antonius defeated Cassius, who committed suicide by having his shield-bearer kill him. The second battle was on October 23. This time, Octavius and Antonius teamed up and defeated Brutus, who also committed suicide. Obviously, he was no longer mad at Cato for meeting this end.


Antonius, somewhat respectful of Brutus, put his own purple cloak over the body. Octavius, on the other hand, chopped off Brutus’s head and had it shipped back to Rome. He intended this head to be thrown at the feet of Caesar’s statue, but the ship carrying the head sunk, so that obviously didn’t happen. Antonius burned the rest of the remains with all due ceremony and shipped the ashes back to Servilia.

Acta est fibula. Plautite! (The play is over. Applaud!)


Do you prefer reading about Julius Caesar or Marcus Brutus?

I don’t really like either.
See results without voting