Debts Getting Us Down? Make Like Solon and Shake it Off

Suda, Sigma 289

“Seisakhtheia: Shaking off burdens. The abolition of public and private debts which Solon introduced. Its name comes from the Athenian habit of having the poor work with their bodies for their creditors. When they finished the debt it was like “shaking [aposeisasthai] off the burden” [akhthos]. For this situation, as Philokhoros sees it, the burden was really “voted off”.

Σεισάχθεια: χρεωκοπία δημοσίων καὶ ἰδιωτικῶν, ἣν εἰσηγήσατο Σόλων. εἴρηται δέ, παρ’ ὅσον ἔθος ἦν ᾿Αθήνησι τοὺς ὀφείλοντας τῶν πενήτων σώματι ἐργάζεσθαι τοῖς χρήσταις· ἀποδόντας δὲ οἱονεὶ τὸ ἄχθος ἀποσείσασθαι· ὡς Φιλοχόρῳ δὲ δοκεῖ, ἀποψηφισθῆναι τὸ ἄχθος.

Suda, Sigma 779

“Solon the law-giver of the Athenians, persuaded by friends who were in debt, introduced the cancellation of debts.”

Σόλων: ὅτι Σόλων ὁ νομοθέτης Ἀθηναίων, φίλων ἡττώμενος ὀφειλόντων, χρεῶν εἰσηγήσατο ἀποκοπάς.

File:Solon, the wise lawgiver of Athens.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers 1.2. 45

“Solon the son of Exekestides, born at Salamis, was the first to introduce the Abolition of Debts for the Athenians. This was a release of bodies and property. For people used to borrow money with their bodies as collateral and many were compelled to work as servants because of poverty. Indeed, he rejected a debt of seven talents due to him because of his father and advised the rest to do what he did. The law is called shaking-off-the-burden for obvious reasons.

Σόλων Ἐξηκεστίδου Σαλαμίνιος πρῶτον μὲν τὴν σεισάχθειαν εἰσηγήσατο Ἀθηναίοις· τὸ δὲ ἦν λύτρωσις σωμάτων τε καὶ κτημάτων. καὶ γὰρ ἐπὶ σώμασιν ἐδανείζοντο καὶ πολλοὶ δι᾿ ἀπορίαν ἐθήτευον. ἑπτὰ δὴ ταλάντων ὀφειλομένων αὐτῷ πατρῴων συνεχώρησε πρῶτος καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς τὸ ὅμοιον προὔτρεψε πρᾶξαι. καὶ οὗτος ὁ νόμος ἐκλήθη σεισάχθεια· φανερὸν δὲ διὰ τί.

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