Law, money, and the transformation of Athens in the sixth century B.C.E.
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 16:17 authored by Gillan Davis
In this thesis I propose a new paradigm to explain the transformation of Athens during the sixth century B.C.E. I argue that economic change continually promoted sub-elite groups who became sufficiently strong to demand a share of legal and political rights. The pace of change increased during the century as trade, commerce, and silver mining monetised the economy and brought Athens into broader contact with the outside world. Politicians responded in accordance with circumstances and their own interests. Solon, Peisistratos and Kleisthenes were particularly important because their experiences abroad and personalities led them to try novel solutions. The end of the century saw the collective rise in prosperity of a large proportion of the population, notably farmers, manufacturers, traders and miners. Leaders among these people worked with officials who had been increasingly involved in administering Attica during the tyranny. They used their organisational skills and detailed local knowledge to design and implement the democratic changes under Kleisthenes. -- Central to my theory is a re-evaluation of Solon and the ancient attribution to him of a comprehensive 'code' of laws. I demonstrate that laws were written in response to need over time, and only reinscribed on numbered axones at the end of the fifth century. I argue against the claim that weights were used as de facto coinage in Solonian legislation, and suggest a requantification of the system of weights and measures. In my view, coinage was introduced by Peisistratos with a suite of denominations for internal use in Attica. Exploitation and export of newly-accessed silver was the reason for the subsequent change of type to 'owls', not democracy. Silver mining also helped foster an embryonic market economy with significant social and economic consequences. These insights allow me to provide a new reading of key political events with a focus on identifying the groups and people involved.