ONE of the first Athenians whose doings belong to history is
Draco, who lived about 600 years before Christ.
At that time the working people of Athens were very unhappy.
One reason of this was that the laws were not written and the
judges were very unfair. They almost always decided in
favor of their rich friends. At last everybody in Athens
agreed that the laws ought to be written out and Draco was
asked to write them. A very wise and good man called Solon was then living in
Athens, and the Athenians asked him to make a new set of
Rich and poor were surprised when they read Solon's new
laws. The poor who had lost their farms and houses were to
have everything given back to them. Solon thought they had
paid so much interest for so many years that their debts
should be forgiven. All who had been sold as slaves were to
have their freedom and no one was ever again to be sold for debt. Those debtors who had not
lost everything were to be forgiven about a quarter of what
All this Solon called a "shaking-off of burdens," and
thousands of people felt that heavy burdens had indeed been
taken from their shoulders.
Solon did another good thing for the people. He gave every
citizen a vote and all could attend the Assembly of the
people, which was like a New England town-meeting.