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At the time of Solon the Athenian State was almost falling to pieces in consequence of dissensions between the parties into which the population was divided. Of these the Diacrii, the inhabitants of the northern mountainous region of Attica, the poorest and most oppressed section of the population, demanded that the privileges of the nobility, which had till then obtained, should be utterly set aside. Another party, prepared to be contented by moderate concessions, was composed of the Parali, the inhabitants of the stretch of coast called Paralia. The third was formed by the nobles, called Pedieis or Pediaci, because their property lay for the most part in the pedion, the level and most fruitful part of the country. Solon, who enjoyed the confidence of all parties on account of his tried insight and sound judgment, was chosen archon by a compromise, with full power to put an end to the difficulties, and to restore peace by means of legislation. One of the primary measures of Solon was the Seisachtheia (disburdening ordinance). This gave an immediate relief by cancelling all debts, public and private. At the same time he made it illegal for the future to secure debts upon the person of the debtor (Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, 6]. He also altered the standard of coinage [and of weights and measures, by introducing the Euboic standard in place of the Pheidonian or Aeginetan, ib. 10]. 100 new drachmae were thus made to contain the same amount of silver as 73 old drachmae. He further instituted a timocracy (q.v.), by which the exclusive rights which the nobles had till then possessed were set aside, and those who did not belong to the nobility received a share in the rights of citizens, according to a scale determined by their property and their corresponaing services to the State. For this purpose he divided the population into four classes, founded on the possession of land. (1) Pentacosiomedimni, who had at least 500 medimni (750 bushels) of corn or metretoe of wine or oil as yearly income. (2) Hippeis, or knights, with at least 300 medimni. (3) Zeugitoe (possessors of a yoke of oxen), with at least 150 medimni. (4) Thetes (workers for wages), with less than 150 medimni of yearly income. Solon's legislation only granted to the first three of these four classes a vote in the election of responsible officers, and only to the first class the power of election to the highest offices; as, for instance, that of archon. The fourth class was excluded from all official positions, but possessed the right of voting in the general public assemblies which chose officials and passed laws. They bad also the right of taking part in the trials by jury which Solon had instituted. The first three classes were bound to serve as hoplites; the cavalry was raised out of the first two, while the fourth class was only employed as light-armed troops or on the fleet, and apparently for pay. The others served without pay. The holders of office in the State were also unpaid. Solon established as the chief consultative body the Council of the Four Hundred (see BOULE), in which only the first three classes took part, and as chief administrative body the Areopagus (q.v.) which was to be filled up by those who had been archons. Besides this, he promulgated a code of laws embracing the whole of public and private life, the salutary effects of which lasted long after the end of his constitution. [According to Aristotle's Constitution of Athens, 4, a Council of 401 members was part of Dracon's constitution (about 621 B.C.). The members were selected by lot from the whole body of citizens. Solon (who was archon in 594) reduced the Council to 400, one hundred from each of the four tribes; and extended in some particulars the powers already possessed by the Areopagus, (ib. 8).]
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