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.

A Student Debt Proposal: Collect The Balance In Hell

Valerius Maximus, Wonndrous Deeds and Sayings 2.6.10

“This ancient custom of the Gauls returns to my mind as I leave their walls: The story goes that they used to loan money which was scheduled to be repaid in the underworld, because they considered human souls to be immortal. I would call them fools if they didn’t believe the same thing wearing pants as Pythagoras did wrapped in his cloak.”

Horum moenia egresso vetus ille mos Gallorum occurrit,quo[s] memoria proditum est pecunias mutuas, quae iis apud inferos redderentur, da<ri soli>tas,  quia persuasum habuerint animas hominum immortales esse. dicerem stultos, nisi idem bracati sensissent quod palliatus Pythagoras credidit.

Image result for Ancient Roman Loans

 

Wealth and the Death of Culture

Plutarch, Moralia 832 [On Borrowing]

“Why do we need to talk about these guys when the lyric poet Philoxenos who had a share of the land in a Sicilian colony—safeguarding his lifestyle and his home and giving him a lot extra—when he saw that luxury and pleasure, and lack of the arts rose up together, said “By the gods, these good possessions will not ruin me! I should lose them!” He left his goods to others and sailed away.

People who are in debt are forced to beg, to be harvested for interest, enslaved and robbed-they hold on like Phineus, feeding winged Harpies who steal their food and swallow it whole, purchasing their grain, not at the right time, but before it is even harvested, buying up all the oil before the olives are picked.

“Well, I have wine,” he says, “for this much money” and gives an IOU for its cost. The grapes hang on the vine still and linger for the rising of Arcturus.”

καὶ τί δεῖ τούτους λέγειν, ὅπου Φιλόξενος ὁ μελοποιὸς ἐν ἀποικίᾳ Σικελικῇ, κλήρου μετασχὼν καὶ βίου καὶ οἴκου πολλὴν εὐπορίαν ἔχοντος, ὁρῶν δὲ τρυφὴν καὶ ἡδυπάθειαν καὶ ἀμουσίαν ἐπιχωριάζουσαν “μὰ τοὺς θεούς,” εἶπεν, “ἐμὲ ταῦτα τἀγαθὰ οὐκ ἀπολεῖ, ἀλλ᾿ ἐγὼ ταῦτα· καὶ καταλιπὼν ἑτέροις τὸν κλῆρον ἐξέπλευσεν.

οἱ δ᾿ ὀφείλοντες ἀπαιτούμενοι δασμολογούμενοι δουλεύοντες ὑπαργυρεύοντες ἀνέχονται, καρτεροῦσιν, ὡς ὁ Φινεύς, Ἁρπυίας τινὰς ὑποπτέρους βόσκοντες, αἳ φέρουσι τὴν τροφὴν καὶ διαρπάζουσιν, οὐ καθ᾿ ὥραν ἀλλὰ πρὶν θερισθῆναι τὸν σῖτον ὠνούμενοι, καὶ πρὶν ἢ πεσεῖν τὴν ἐλαίαν ἀγοράζοντες τοὔλαιον· καὶ “τὸν οἶνον ἔχω,” φησί, “τοσούτου” καὶ πρόσγραφον ἔδωκε τῆς τιμῆς· ὁ δὲ βότρυς κρέμαται καὶ προσπέφυκεν ἔτι τὸν ἀρκτοῦρον ἐκδεχόμενος.

Venus and Arcturus, by Paul van de Velde, 2018

Our Debts to Self and Time

Plutarch, On Borrowing 831d

“And so each person in debt doesn’t sell their own land or home, but one that belongs to their lender, whom they made master of their things under the law.”

καὶ τῶν χρεωστῶν οὐ πωλεῖ ἕκαστος τὸ ἑαυτοῦ χωρίον οὐδὲ τὴν ἰδίαν οἰκίαν, ἀλλὰ τὴν τοῦ δανείσαντος ὃν τῷ νόμῳ κύριον αὐτῶν πεποίηκε.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 9 1165a

“So, what I was just saying, in general, debts should be paid back. But if a gift tips the balance with nobility or necessity, then we should be inclined towards giving.”

ὅπερ οὖν εἴρηται, καθόλου μὲν τὸ ὀφείλημα ἀποδοτέον, ἐὰν δ᾿ ὑπερτείνῃ ἡ δόσις τῷ καλῷ ἢ τῷ ἀναγκαίῳ, πρὸς ταῦτ᾿ ἀποκλιτέον

Aristotle, Problems 29.2

“Where there’s debt, there are no friends. For you don’t lend to a friend, you give.”

οὗ δὲ τὸ χρέος, οὐ φίλος· οὐ γὰρ δανείζει, ἐὰν ᾖ φίλος, ἀλλὰ δίδωσιν

Palladas, Greek Anthology, 11.62

“All mortals owe a debt to death
And no one knows if they will live in the morning
Learn this well, and take a joyous breath—
You have wine to help you forget,
and brief life still leaves time to enjoy sex—
Let Chance take care of all the rest.”

Πᾶσι θανεῖν μερόπεσσιν ὀφείλεται, οὐδέ τις ἐστὶν
αὔριον εἰ ζήσει θνητὸς ἐπιστάμενος.
τοῦτο σαφῶς, ἄνθρωπε, μαθὼν εὔφραινε σεαυτόν,
λήθην τοῦ θανάτου τὸν Βρόμιον κατέχων.
τέρπεο καὶ Παφίῃ, τὸν ἐφημέριον βίον ἕλκων·
τἄλλα δὲ πάντα Τύχῃ πράγματα δὸς διέπειν.

Jan Steen, “The Debtor” 1679

In Support of Killing Student Loans: 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.

or, just collect the balance in hell

Valerius Maximus, Wondrous Deeds and Sayings 2.6.10

“This ancient custom of the Gauls returns to my mind as I leave their walls: The story goes that they used to loan money which was scheduled to be repaid in the underworld, because they considered human souls to be immortal. I would call them fools if they didn’t believe the same thing wearing pants as Pythagoras did wrapped in his cloak.”

Horum moenia egresso vetus ille mos Gallorum occurrit,quo[s] memoria proditum est pecunias mutuas, quae iis apud inferos redderentur, da<ri soli>tas,  quia persuasum habuerint animas hominum immortales esse. dicerem stultos, nisi idem bracati sensissent quod palliatus Pythagoras credidit.

The Cancel Culture They’re Really Afraid Of

Appian 3, 1.9

“Persuaded by these arguments, the Senate voted for the cancellation of debts for all Romans and immunity for the public enemies at the time.”

οἷς ἡ βουλὴ πεισθεῖσα τὰς μὲν τῶν χρεῶν ἀποκοπὰς ἐψηφίσατο πᾶσι Ῥωμαίοις, τοῖς δὲ τότε ἐχθροῖς καὶ ἄδειαν

Aristotle, Constitution of Athens

“In his laws [Solon] appears to have established these conventions as democratic: before he legislated, he carried out he cancellation of debts and after that the standardizing of the measures, weights, and currency.”

Ἐν μὲν οὖν τοῖς νόμοις ταῦτα δοκεῖ θεῖναι δημοτικά, πρὸ δὲ τῆς νομοθεσίας ποιήσας τὴν τῶν χρεῶν ἀποκοπὴν καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα τήν τε τῶν μέτρων καὶ σταθμῶν καὶ τὴν τοῦ νομίσματος αὔξησιν

Plutarch’s Moralia: On the Fortune of Alexander 343d

“Solon carried out the cancellation of debts in Athens, naming it “shaking-off-burdens”; Alexander, however, paid off what debtors owed himself!”

Σόλων χρεῶν ἀποκοπὴν ἐν Ἀθήναις ἐποίησε, σεισάχθειαν προσαγορεύσας· Ἀλέξανδρος δὲ τὰ χρέα τοῖς δανείσασιν ὑπὲρ τῶν ὀφειλόντων αὐτὸς ἐξέτισε.

Sallust, War with Catiline  21

“Then Catiline promised the cancelling of debts, the slaughter of the rich, magistracies, priesthoods, seizures—all those things that war and the corruption of victors offers.”

Tum Catilina polliceri tabulas novas, proscriptionem locupletium, magistratus, sacerdotia, rapinas, alia omnia quae bellum atque lubido victorum fert.

Livy, AUC 32.38

“He had an assembly called and promised two things: a cancellation of debts and a redistribution of lands, dual torches kindling revolution of the people against the elites.”

contione inde advocata rogationes promulgavit, unam de tabulis novis, alteram de agro viritim dividendo, duas faces novantibus res ad plebem in optimates accendendam.

by Quintin Massys, c. 1520 see https://jhna.org/articles/massys-money-tax-collectors-rediscovered/

Four Years of Presidential Memories: A Student Debt Proposal, Collect The Balance In Hell

This charming detail from Valerius Maximus might be the perfect rider for an education bill right about now…

Valerius Maximus, Wondrous Deeds and Sayings 2.6.10

“This ancient custom of the Gauls returns to my mind as I leave their walls: The story goes that they used to loan money which was scheduled to be repaid in the underworld, because they considered human souls to be immortal. I would call them fools if they didn’t believe the same thing wearing pants as Pythagoras did wrapped in his cloak.”

Horum moenia egresso vetus ille mos Gallorum occurrit,quo[s] memoria proditum est pecunias mutuas, quae iis apud inferos redderentur, da<ri soli>tas,  quia persuasum habuerint animas hominum immortales esse. dicerem stultos, nisi idem bracati sensissent quod palliatus Pythagoras credidit.

Image result for Ancient Roman Loans

A Student Debt Proposal: Collect The Balance In Hell

Long before the plague hit us, economic reports were concerned that we are hitting a tipping point for student loans. It is telling (and damning) that certain sectors consider student loans a crisis only when delinquent payments reach a certain point. It was totally fine when two generations of students had their entire lives shaped by the cost of education….

This charming detail from Valerius Maximus might be the perfect rider for an education bill right about now…

Valerius Maximus, Wondrous Deeds and Sayings 2.6.10

“This ancient custom of the Gauls returns to my mind as I leave their walls: The story goes that they used to loan money which was scheduled to be repaid in the underworld, because they considered human souls to be immortal. I would call them fools if they didn’t believe the same thing wearing pants as Pythagoras did wrapped in his cloak.”

Horum moenia egresso vetus ille mos Gallorum occurrit,quo[s] memoria proditum est pecunias mutuas, quae iis apud inferos redderentur, da<ri soli>tas,  quia persuasum habuerint animas hominum immortales esse. dicerem stultos, nisi idem bracati sensissent quod palliatus Pythagoras credidit.

Image result for Ancient Roman Loans

 

In Support of Killing Student Loans: 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.

or, just collect the balance in hell

Valerius Maximus, Wondrous Deeds and Sayings 2.6.10

“This ancient custom of the Gauls returns to my mind as I leave their walls: The story goes that they used to loan money which was scheduled to be repaid in the underworld, because they considered human souls to be immortal. I would call them fools if they didn’t believe the same thing wearing pants as Pythagoras did wrapped in his cloak.”

Horum moenia egresso vetus ille mos Gallorum occurrit,quo[s] memoria proditum est pecunias mutuas, quae iis apud inferos redderentur, da<ri soli>tas,  quia persuasum habuerint animas hominum immortales esse. dicerem stultos, nisi idem bracati sensissent quod palliatus Pythagoras credidit.

Debt, Asylum, Slavery, and Freedom

Plutarch, On Borrowing 828 e

“But because we are perhaps ashamed to be self-sufficient, we make loans and mortgages our masters even though we should stick only to what is necessary and sustain ourselves by selling what is useless and excessive and establish a temple of freedom for our selves, our children, and our wives.

Artemis in Ephesus gives asylum to debtors when they flee into her temple and provides shelter from their debts. For the asylum and refuge of restraint is open to wise people everywhere and it provides them a pleasant and honorable vastness of great leisure.”

ἡμεῖς δὲ τὴν αὐτάρκειαν αἰσχυνόμενοι καταδουλοῦμεν ἑαυτοὺς ὑποθήκαις καὶ συμβολαίοις, δέον εἰς αὐτὰ τὰ χρήσιμα συσταλέντας καὶ συσπειραθέντας ἐκ τῶν ἀχρήστων καὶ περιττῶν κατακοπέντων ἢ πραθέντων ἐλευθερίας αὑτοῖς ἱερὸν ἱδρύσασθαι καὶ τέκνοις καὶ γυναιξίν. ἡ μὲν γὰρ Ἄρτεμις ἡ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ τοῖς χρεώσταις, ὅταν καταφύγωσιν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν αὐτῆς, ἀσυλίαν παρέχει καὶ ἄδειαν ἀπὸ τῶν δανείων· τὸ δὲ τῆς εὐτελείας καὶ ἄσυλον καὶ ἄβατον πανταχοῦ τοῖς σώφροσιν ἀναπέπταται, πολλῆς σχολῆς εὐρυχωρίαν παρέχον ἱλαρὰν καὶ ἐπίτιμον.

Demosthenes, Exordia 4

“Perhaps it is fated for these people to never think clearly when they’re doing well. It is nevertheless proper for you, because of who you are and because of what has been done by the state, to be eager to show to all people that we choose to pursue just acts now and always as we did before, while others accuse their fellow citizens before us because they want to enslave them.”

οὐ μὴν ἀλλ᾿ ἴσως τούτοις μὲν εἵμαρται μηδέποτ᾿ εὖ πράττουσιν εὖ φρονῆσαι· ἡμῖν δὲ προσήκει καὶ δι᾿ ἡμᾶς αὐτοὺς καὶ διὰ τἆλλ᾿ ἃ πέπρακται τῇ πόλει, σπουδάσαι δεῖξαι πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ὅτι καὶ πρότερον καὶ νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ ἡμεῖς τὰ δίκαια προαιρούμεθα πράττειν, ἕτεροι δέ τινες καταδουλοῦσθαι βουλόμενοι τοὺς αὑτῶν πολίτας διαβάλλουσι πρὸς ἡμᾶς.

Image result for artemis in ephesus
Statue of the type of the Artemis of Ephesus