Lawlessness and The City

Solon, Fragment 4. 21-33.

Thanks to its enemies a prized city
Fast succumbs to wrongdoers’ cherished mobs.
This evil circulates in the land.
Many of the poor leave for foreign lands,
Bound and sold in shameful chains.

And so the people’s evil comes to each house
And the doors are disinclined to bar it.
It bounds the tall wall and always finds its man,
Even when he’s slipped into some recess
of an inner room.

My heart commands I teach Athenians this:
Lawlessness brings the city complete evil,
But respect for the law renders the whole
Orderly and sound, and it puts wrongdoers
In handcuffs, sometimes.

ἐκ γὰρ δυσμενέων ταχέως πολυήρατον ἄστυ
τρύχεται ἐν συνόδοις τοῖς ἀδικοῦσι φίλαις.
ταῦτα μὲν ἐν δήμῳ στρέφεται κακά: τῶν δὲ πενιχρῶν
ἱκνεῦνται πολλοὶ γαῖαν ἐς ἀλλοδαπὴν
πραθέντες δεσμοῖσί τ᾽ ἀεικελίοισι δεθέντες
οὕτω δημόσιον κακὸν ἔρχεται οἴκαδ᾽ ἑκάστῳ,
αὔλειοι δ᾽ ἔτ᾽ ἔχειν οὐκ ἐθέλουσι θύραι,
ὑψηλὸν δ᾽ ὑπὲρ ἕρκος ὑπέρθορεν, εὗρε δὲ πάντως,
εἰ καί τις φεύγων ἐν μυχῷ ᾖ θαλάμου.
ταῦτα διδάξαι θυμὸς Ἀθηναίους με κελεύει,
ὡς κακὰ πλεῖστα πόλει δυσνομίη παρέχει,
εὐνομίη δ᾽ εὔκοσμα καὶ ἄρτια πάντ᾽ ἀποφαίνει,
καὶ θαμὰ τοῖς ἀδίκοις ἀμφιτίθησι πέδας.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

2 thoughts on “Lawlessness and The City

  1. To be fair, there should also be a picture posted of the BLM/Antifa riots (which were demonstrably worse in both the economic and community impacts–Jan. 6 was shocking in different way, but not comparable to the summer 2020 riots that swept our country–both involved people trying to be heard, albeit in lawless ways. Lawlessness harms societies. Period.

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