Solon Blames the Rich

Aristotle, The State of the Athenians, §5:

“This was the arrangement of things in the state – the masses were effectively slaves to the few, and the people revolted against the nobles. Because the revolt was especially serious and the two factions were opposed to each other for an extended time, they made the common choice of Solon to serve as their mediator and ruler. They entrusted the state to him, and he wrote an elegy about it, of which this is the beginning:

‘I understand, and grief lies deep in my heart as I see the Ionian land of old sinking into decline…’

In this elegy, he combats and disputes with each side about the other, and after that he recommends to both sides that they abandon their rivalry. Solon was, according to his birth and his reputation, among the chief men in the city, but in his material wealth and affairs he belonged to the middle class (as is agreed by many other sources) and he himself attests to this in his poems, when he advises the rich not to be greedy:

‘You, who delight your bold hearts in idle leisure, and have had your full share of the good things in life, should place your great counsel in moderation. I will never be able to persuade you, know will all of these possessions ever be enough for you.’

On the whole, he always attributed the cause of the rebellion to the rich. On that account, in the beginning of one elegy, he says that it seemed that the hatred between the people arose ‘on account of material greed and unbearable arrogance.’”

Suweydie, mosaic o/t Seven Sages, Solon

Τοιαύτης δὲ τῆς τάξεως οὔσης ἐν τῇ πολιτείᾳ, καὶ τῶν πολλῶν δουλευόντων τοῖς ὀλίγοις, ἀντέστη τοῖς γνωρίμοις ὁ δῆμος. ἰσχυρᾶς δὲ τῆς στάσεως οὔσης καὶ πολὺν χρόνον ἀντικαθημένων ἀλλήλοις, εἵλοντο κοινῇ διαλλακτὴν καὶ ἄρχοντα Σόλωνα, καὶ τὴν πολιτείαν ἐπέτρεψαν αὐτῷ, ποιήσαντι τὴν ἐλεγείαν ἧς ἐστὶν ἀρχή·

γιγνώσκω, καί μοι φρενὸς ἔνδοθεν ἄλγεα κεῖται,

πρεσβυτάτην ἐσορῶν γαῖαν ᾿Ιαονίας


ἐν ᾗ πρὸς ἑκατέρους ὑπὲρ ἑκατέρων μάχεται καὶ διαμφισβητεῖ, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα κοινῇ παραινεῖ καταπαύειν τὴν ἐνεστῶσαν φιλονικίαν. ἦν δ’ ὁ Σόλων τῇ μὲν [φύ]σει καὶ τῇ δόξῃ τῶν πρώτων, τῇ δ’ οὐσίᾳ καὶ τοῖς πράγμασι τῶν μέσων, ὡς ἔκ τε τῶν ἄλλων ὁμολογεῖται, καὶ αὐτὸς ἐν τοῖσδε τοῖς ποιήμασιν μαρτυρεῖ, παραινῶν τοῖς πλουσίοις μὴ πλεονεκτεῖν·

ὑμεῖς δ’ ἡσυχάσαντες ἐνὶ φρεσὶ καρτερὸν ἦτορ,

οἳ πολλῶν ἀγαθῶν ἐς κόρον [ἠ]λάσατε,

ἐν μετρίοισι τίθεσ[θ]ε μέγαν νόον. οὔτε γὰρ ἡμεῖς

πεισόμεθ’, οὔθ’ ὑμῖν ἄρτια τα[ῦτ’] ἔσεται.

καὶ ὅλως αἰεὶ τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς στάσεως ἀνάπτει τοῖς πλουσίοις· διὸ καὶ ἐν ἀρχῇ τῆς ἐλεγείας δεδοικέναι φησὶ ‘τήν τε φι[λαργυρ]ίαν τήν θ’ ὑπερηφανίαν’, ὡς διὰ ταῦτα τῆς ἔχθρας ἐνεστώσης.

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