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granpa

Atlantis: what did Plato get wrong?

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The Puzzler

You have no answer as well. Ever thought of that one?

You 'dance' as much as we all do.

I even 'dance' with the devil on my back - but it's hard.

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jaylemurph

Jay may wish to read Plutarch's Solon on which he will find this: (inverted commas used by Plutarch indicating Solon's own words)

"In great affairs to satisfy all sides," as an excuse for travelling, bought a trading vessel, and, having leave for ten years' absence, departed, hoping that by that time his laws would have become familiar.

His first voyage was for Egypt, and he lived, as he himself says-

"Near Nilus' mouth, by fair Canopus' shore,"

http://classics.mit....arch/solon.html

Aristotle was a good four centuries closer to Solon than Plutarch (not that I'm suggesting Plutarch is a particularly unreliable source) and apparently had Solon's complete works at his fingertips and /doesn't/ mention Egypt. And, as I've said, later writers -- Plutarch (nor Aristotle*) not necessarily excepted -- had no problem attributing verses allegedly by Solon to make good their point. A tradition I see you actively upholding. :lol:

But legitimately Solonian or not, I applaud your use of the quote!

...I don't plan to make a habit of using the term Atlantidiots, since as you point out it hardly fosters a respectful discourse such as I (ahem) always insist upon, but I can't be trusted to ever turn away from a particularly apt phrase. But I clearly could never apply the terms to someone who had Plutarch at their fingertips.

--Jaylemurph

*Insofar as anything can be reliably attributed to Aristotle and not Androcles, who re-discovered Aristotle's corpus after it was lost for a century or two after his death.

Edited by jaylemurph
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The Puzzler

Nice answer J, I 'liked' it - I don't have much else to contribute to this thread at this point.

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Leonardo

Aristotle was a good four centuries closer to Solon than Plutarch (not that I'm suggesting Plutarch is a particularly unreliable source) and apparently had Solon's complete works at his fingertips and /doesn't/ mention Egypt. And, as I've said, later writers -- Plutarch (nor Aristotle*) not necessarily excepted -- had no problem attributing verses allegedly by Solon to make good their point. A tradition I see you actively upholding. :lol:

Aristotle was also Plato's student and so would have had a better idea of whether Plato's writing of Solon travelling to Egypt (so as to meet the priest of Sais and learn of Atlantis) was merely a case of literary licence. Plutarch would have had no such intimacy with Plato's prose and method, so may have taken what Plato wrote as fact - hence his writing of Solon's travels to Egypt.

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The Puzzler

Aristotle was also Plato's student and so would have had a better idea of whether Plato's writing of Solon travelling to Egypt (so as to meet the priest of Sais and learn of Atlantis) was merely a case of literary licence. Plutarch would have had no such intimacy with Plato's prose and method, so may have taken what Plato wrote as fact - hence his writing of Solon's travels to Egypt.

This is true, hence why I did not quote that part from Plutarch, but was more showing his use of Solon's actual words that he DID go to Egypt at least as per J's post that there was no mention of him going to Egypt in Aristotles work, whether he spoke to learned priests there is speculation without evidence for now.

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Leonardo

This is true, hence why I did not quote that part from Plutarch, but was more showing his use of Solon's actual words that he DID go to Egypt at least as per J's post that there was no mention of him going to Egypt in Aristotles work, whether he spoke to learned priests there is speculation without evidence for now.

But was Plutarch actually quoting Solon, or was he quoting someone who wrote about Solon (like Plato did)?

Look at how Plato writes in Timaeus 22 - 23. He writes of Solon, "Solon said..." and "Solon told us...", but this is not evidence that what Plato is writing is factual. Likewise, that Plutarch writes of Solon "...as he himself says..." does not mean Plutarch is not simply relaying anecdote from second-hand (or greater removed) accounts.

I'm not saying Plutarch did not have access to some of Solon's works, so may have been directly quoting him, but there is no corroborating evidence that Plutarch did have first-hand accounts - so some doubt must remain.

Edited by Leonardo

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kannin

enough with atlantis, there are more important things to find that actually have been proven to have exsisted, the hanging gardens, the library of alexandria these are lost but proven to have existed focus on these so much knowledge lost stop chasing a goose

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DieChecker

Seems so and a very condescending word at that...

I think its somewhat better then Atlant-tards though...

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The Puzzler

But was Plutarch actually quoting Solon, or was he quoting someone who wrote about Solon (like Plato did)?

Look at how Plato writes in Timaeus 22 - 23. He writes of Solon, "Solon said..." and "Solon told us...", but this is not evidence that what Plato is writing is factual. Likewise, that Plutarch writes of Solon "...as he himself says..." does not mean Plutarch is not simply relaying anecdote from second-hand (or greater removed) accounts.

I'm not saying Plutarch did not have access to some of Solon's works, so may have been directly quoting him, but there is no corroborating evidence that Plutarch did have first-hand accounts - so some doubt must remain.

Leo, if you read the actual text called Solon by Plutarch it would be hard to think he didn't actually have Solon's poems on hand. I doubt he would have even written it without having this knowledge first hand. He uses many of Solon's poems throughout the whole work, just a few...

It is certain that he was a lover of knowledge, for when he was old he would say, that he-

"Each day grew older, and learnt something new;" and yet no admirer of riches, esteeming as equally wealthy the man-

"Who hath both gold and silver in his hand,

Horses and mules, and acres of wheat-land,

And him whose all is decent food to eat,

Clothes to his back and shoes upon his feet,

And a young wife and child, since so 'twill be,

And no more years than will with that agree;" and in another place-

"Wealth I would have, but wealth by wrong procure

I would not; justice, e'en if slow, is sure."

but that he accounted himself rather poor than rich is evident from the lines-

"Some wicked men are rich, some good are poor,

We will not change our virtue for their store:

Virtue's a thing that none can take away;

But money changes owners all the day."

In philosophy, as most of the wise men then, he chiefly esteemed the political part of morals; in physics, he was very plain and antiquated, as appears by this:-

"It is the clouds that make the snow and hail,

And thunder comes from lightning without fail;

The sea is stormy when the winds have blown,

But it deals fairly when 'tis left alone."

he declares in the words-

"Formerly they boasted of me vainly; with averted eyes

Now they look askance upon me; friends no more, but enemies."

Of this equalisation he himself makes mention in this manner:-

"Such power I gave the people as might do,

Abridged not what they had, now lavished new,

Those that were great in wealth and high in place

My counsel likewise kept from all disgrace.

Before them both I held my shield of might,

And let not either touch the other's right."

And Solon himself, in his Elegies, addressing Philocyprus, mentions this foundation in these words:-

"Long may you live, and fill the Solian throne,

Succeeded still by children of your own;

And from your happy island while I sail,

Let Cyprus send for me a favouring gale;

May she advance, and bless your new command,

Prosper your town, and send me safe to land."

Solon opposed it, and said much to the same purport as what he has left us in his poems-

"You dote upon his words and taking phrase;" and again-

"True, you are singly each a crafty soul,

But all together make one empty fool."

His first voyage was for Egypt, and he lived, as he himself says-

"Near Nilus' mouth, by fair Canopus' shore,"

Again, I doubt Plutarch didn't have his poems first-hand, there is too many poems within this work for me to doubt so much, you can if you like though - so I stand by my original posting that Solon himself had written the lines "Near Nilus' mouth, by fair Canopus shore".

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The Puzzler

enough with atlantis, there are more important things to find that actually have been proven to have exsisted, the hanging gardens, the library of alexandria these are lost but proven to have existed focus on these so much knowledge lost stop chasing a goose

Important maybe but not really able to give the ability to learn for years on end new information concerning ancient history, it's not all about it being lost that grabs the world stage as the biggest ancient mystery ever known. Rather than being an Atlantidiot, I prefer to call myself an Atlantologist these days. Without trying to sound big-headed I know so much about Atlantis it would make your head spin.

This in turn has broadened my knowledge of what I knew 5 years ago one thousand fold. When you start investigating Atlantis it takes you to a new world, of knowledge about mythology, geography, geology, astronomy, astrology, ancient texts and histories, the Bronze Age cultures, who was who in these cultures and who was who in philosophy plus a hundred other topics. I know much about all of these and more, my bookcase bulges with books on the ancient world, I have so many books on archaeology I hardly know which one to read first. I doubt searching for the library of Alexandria or the hanging gardens of Babylon would have done this for me.

It's the never-ending search of Atlantis that educated me more than anything else, it doesn't even matter where it is anymore or whether it existed, it's gone beyond that realm and that my friend is why the search for Atlantis is not only of utmost importance but the biggest enigma of our times and nothing can compare to the knowledge we can all learn from it's investigation.

Edited by The Puzzler

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Leonardo

Leo, if you read the actual text called Solon by Plutarch it would be hard to think he didn't actually have Solon's poems on hand. I doubt he would have even written it without having this knowledge first hand. He uses many of Solon's poems throughout the whole work, just a few...

It is certain that he was a lover of knowledge, for when he was old he would say, that he-

"Each day grew older, and learnt something new;" and yet no admirer of riches, esteeming as equally wealthy the man-

"Who hath both gold and silver in his hand,

Horses and mules, and acres of wheat-land,

And him whose all is decent food to eat,

Clothes to his back and shoes upon his feet,

And a young wife and child, since so 'twill be,

And no more years than will with that agree;" and in another place-

"Wealth I would have, but wealth by wrong procure

I would not; justice, e'en if slow, is sure."

but that he accounted himself rather poor than rich is evident from the lines-

"Some wicked men are rich, some good are poor,

We will not change our virtue for their store:

Virtue's a thing that none can take away;

But money changes owners all the day."

In philosophy, as most of the wise men then, he chiefly esteemed the political part of morals; in physics, he was very plain and antiquated, as appears by this:-

"It is the clouds that make the snow and hail,

And thunder comes from lightning without fail;

The sea is stormy when the winds have blown,

But it deals fairly when 'tis left alone."

he declares in the words-

"Formerly they boasted of me vainly; with averted eyes

Now they look askance upon me; friends no more, but enemies."

Of this equalisation he himself makes mention in this manner:-

"Such power I gave the people as might do,

Abridged not what they had, now lavished new,

Those that were great in wealth and high in place

My counsel likewise kept from all disgrace.

Before them both I held my shield of might,

And let not either touch the other's right."

And Solon himself, in his Elegies, addressing Philocyprus, mentions this foundation in these words:-

"Long may you live, and fill the Solian throne,

Succeeded still by children of your own;

And from your happy island while I sail,

Let Cyprus send for me a favouring gale;

May she advance, and bless your new command,

Prosper your town, and send me safe to land."

Solon opposed it, and said much to the same purport as what he has left us in his poems-

"You dote upon his words and taking phrase;" and again-

"True, you are singly each a crafty soul,

But all together make one empty fool."

His first voyage was for Egypt, and he lived, as he himself says-

"Near Nilus' mouth, by fair Canopus' shore,"

Again, I doubt Plutarch didn't have his poems first-hand, there is too many poems within this work for me to doubt so much, you can if you like though - so I stand by my original posting that Solon himself had written the lines "Near Nilus' mouth, by fair Canopus shore".

Plutarch may indeed have had poems attributed to Solon at hand to quote from, but that they were attributed to Solon does not make them by Solon's hand - nor does it mean Plutarch was quoting from something actually written by Solon - but copies, or copies of copies.

And that Solon is attributed to have written the line in question is not in itself evidence he visited Egypt - only that he was well-read (according to the time) on Egypt.

Again, I am not saying you are wrong - only that you cannot be certain you are right. I also am not saying that historical orthodoxy is wrong and that Solon did not write poems and we do not have some fragments of those poems passed down - mainly in other works such as Plutarch's.

All I am saying is this is not in itself evidence Solon visited Egypt as Plato states he did - but Aristotle does not state so.

Edited by Leonardo
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The Puzzler

Plutarch may indeed have had poems attributed to Solon at hand to quote from, but that they were attributed to Solon does not make them by Solon's hand - nor does it mean Plutarch was quoting from something actually written by Solon - but copies, or copies of copies.

And that Solon is attributed to have written the line in question is not in itself evidence he visited Egypt - only that he was well-read (according to the time) on Egypt.

Again, I am not saying you are wrong - only that you cannot be certain you are right. I also am not saying that historical orthodoxy is wrong and that Solon did not write poems and we do not have some fragments of those poems passed down - mainly in other works such as Plutarch's.

All I am saying is this is not in itself evidence Solon visited Egypt as Plato states he did - but Aristotle does not state so.

We'll have to beg to differ then on this one Leo, I personally am taking at face value that Solon wrote that line because he was in Egypt.

I'll also mention Herodotus (much closer to Solon's time) who says Solon went to Egypt too.

His first stop was Egypt. There, according to Herodotus he visited the Pharaoh of Egypt Amasis II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solon

Here it is in the text of Herodotus:

So for that reason, and to see the world, Solon went to visit Amasis in Egypt and then to Croesus in Sardis.

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126%3Abook%3D1%3Achapter%3D30

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Leonardo

We'll have to beg to differ then on this one Leo, I personally am taking at face value that Solon wrote that line because he was in Egypt.

I'll also mention Herodotus (much closer to Solon's time) who says Solon went to Egypt too.

His first stop was Egypt. There, according to Herodotus he visited the Pharaoh of Egypt Amasis II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solon

Here it is in the text of Herodotus:

So for that reason, and to see the world, Solon went to visit Amasis in Egypt and then to Croesus in Sardis.

http://www.perseus.t...ok=1:chapter=30

I know you put great store in the words of Herodotus, Puz, but I remain skeptical. Unless we have first-hand accounts written by Solon himself that predate accounts such as Plato suggesting - perhaps as a literary device - that Solon visited Egypt, then I have to maintain some doubt that visit actually occurred.

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The Puzzler

I know you put great store in the words of Herodotus, Puz, but I remain skeptical. Unless we have first-hand accounts written by Solon himself that predate accounts such as Plato suggesting - perhaps as a literary device - that Solon visited Egypt, then I have to maintain some doubt that visit actually occurred.

When something is in inverted commas it usually means they have actually said/written it, especially in the context Plutarch has it.

But each to their own.

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DieChecker

Do we know if Plato liked Solon's work? Seems to me that if I didn't like someone (professionally?) that I'd put them into an obviously made up story to try to ruin their reputation. We see it all the time today in Politics.... People lying about each other to the official news sources to get political gain.

Say, weren't Solon and Plato both into Politics??? Weird coincidence there....

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cormac mac airt

When something is in inverted commas it usually means they have actually said/written it, especially in the context Plutarch has it.

But each to their own.

When something is in inverted commas it usually means they have allegedly said/written it. Barring any other source (and in this case preferably something stated by Solon himself) that would substantiate said claim it can't be taken as valid solely on its own.

cormac

Edited by cormac mac airt

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kmt_sesh

I concede that it's possible Solon visited Egypt, but we must still bear in mind certain realities. One is that in Solon's time Athens as a polis was still more or less a backwater village. It had nothing of the importance or reputation it would acquire following the wars with Persia. Egypt was interested in Greece in the Late Period mostly for the mercenaries it could provide, but an equal number of mercenaries came from Ionia at this time, for that matter. In other words, Greece was not of great import to Egypt at this time.

To emphasize this point, we are told Solon received an audience from Amasis (Ahmose II). The two were indeed roughly contemporaries, but Amasis reigned late in Dynasty 26. This was one of the only times in the Late Period when Egypt was autonomous, and the Persians had not yet even advanced on Egypt. While it's true Egypt might have begun to fear the rise of Persia in Amasis's time, I am not aware of large numbers of Greek mercenaries in Egypt at this time. The Egyptians would hire large contingents to throw off Persia only quite some time later. Moreover, it's quite unrealistic to believe that Amasis would've had any interest in a tourist named Solon, much less having allowed an audience with him. Solon belonged to a minor city on the other side of the Mediterranean, and belonged to a society which was developing a form of politics about which Egypt couldn't care less. Pharaohs received foreign dignitaries who could directly benefit Egyptian interests or who were bringing tribute, but not tourists.

In actual practice, this is simply another instance of Greco-centric propaganda. Tales and histories written by ancient Greeks (e.g., Herodotus) were crafted to glorify Greece, and in many cases were assembled to make it seem as though all potentates around the Mediterranean craved and needed Greek input and assistance. This is hardly true.

As for the rest of it, there remains no evidence that the Egyptians had anything like the Atlantis tale in their traditions, nor that Solon was received in a sacred temple where 99.9% of the regular Egyptian population would never have been permitted to go (again, Greco-centrism). Priests of important Late Period temples like the one in Sais would not have been interested in Greek tourists.

It's certainly possible Solon visited Egypt, and we can't entirely dismiss the idea. We just have to put it in a proper and realistic context: Solon would've been a tourist.

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DieChecker

Solon would've been a tourist.

He probably had as much chance of seeing the Pharoah as say... a State Representative has of meeting with whoever is in charge in Egypt now. "But, I'm a State Representative of Minnesota!!" "Sorry, never heard of you..."

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Leonardo

I concede that it's possible Solon visited Egypt...

Yes, it is possible but consider what is written of the man.

It is said he introduced reforms to stabilise the Athenian state. He is said to have been a great statesman, and this was (along with his poetry) his passion.

It is then written that, after introducing those reforms and giving the Athenian state 10 years to implement them/stabilise he went on a 10 year holiday. The reforms failed, btw. Athens never fully implemented them, or reversed them.

Does that sound like a statesman dedicated to his passion - and the State - to you?

I suspect the "10 year hiatus" he was written of as undertaking was an invention by ardent supporters to remove Solon from the failure of his reforms. He could not be the "great statesman" they wrote of if he was largely ineffectual after all, could he?

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kmt_sesh

Yes, it is possible but consider what is written of the man.

It is said he introduced reforms to stabilise the Athenian state. He is said to have been a great statesman, and this was (along with his poetry) his passion.

It is then written that, after introducing those reforms and giving the Athenian state 10 years to implement them/stabilise he went on a 10 year holiday. The reforms failed, btw. Athens never fully implemented them, or reversed them.

Does that sound like a statesman dedicated to his passion - and the State - to you?

I suspect the "10 year hiatus" he was written of as undertaking was an invention by ardent supporters to remove Solon from the failure of his reforms. He could not be the "great statesman" they wrote of if he was largely ineffectual after all, could he?

It's true everything went to pot after Solon departed Athens. Within fifty years Pisistratos took advantage of a weakened and divided polis to become tyrant (which actually ended up benefiting Athens in a myriad of ways).

But is this Solon's fault? Evidently he was a respected and trusted aristocrat and was called on, because of his reputation, to draft the reforms. He was not called on to enact them. After presenting his reforms, Solon left so that no one could take advantage of him to benefit one side or the other. Damned if you do, damned if you don't: Solon drafted the reforms so that neither the oligarchs nor the plebeians came out too far ahead in the deal. Consequently neither side ended up entirely pleased. The oligarchs wanted to hold on to power, and the plebeians wanted the oligarchs to stop stomping on them. Solon tried to accommodate both, within reason.

Personally I don't think what resulted can be completely laid at Solon's feet. Rather, it was the failing of the citizens of Athens to make it happen. They failed disastrously, to the point that Athens fell under a tyranny. Nevertheless, on the other side of the tyranny, other reformers such as Kleisthenes picked up where Solon had left off, and instituted numerous aspects of Solon's reforms in the nascent democracy (as well as expanding on them significantly).

Remember that Solon was remembered and venerated centuries later as one of the greatest sages of Athenian history. It's the only reason Plato uses him in the Atlantis tale. While there's no evidence Solon knew a single thing about a place called Atlantis, using his name in such an allegory would've lent weight and credibility to it. It's also more than likely most of the events of Solon were long forgotten by Plato's time: they would've remembered the great statesmen, but probably not the fact that none of his reforms were actually successful till long after his death.

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Leonardo

It's true everything went to pot after Solon departed Athens. Within fifty years Pisistratos took advantage of a weakened and divided polis to become tyrant (which actually ended up benefiting Athens in a myriad of ways).

But is this Solon's fault? Evidently he was a respected and trusted aristocrat and was called on, because of his reputation, to draft the reforms. He was not called on to enact them. After presenting his reforms, Solon left so that no one could take advantage of him to benefit one side or the other. Damned if you do, damned if you don't: Solon drafted the reforms so that neither the oligarchs nor the plebeians came out too far ahead in the deal. Consequently neither side ended up entirely pleased. The oligarchs wanted to hold on to power, and the plebeians wanted the oligarchs to stop stomping on them. Solon tried to accommodate both, within reason.

Personally I don't think what resulted can be completely laid at Solon's feet. Rather, it was the failing of the citizens of Athens to make it happen. They failed disastrously, to the point that Athens fell under a tyranny. Nevertheless, on the other side of the tyranny, other reformers such as Kleisthenes picked up where Solon had left off, and instituted numerous aspects of Solon's reforms in the nascent democracy (as well as expanding on them significantly).

Remember that Solon was remembered and venerated centuries later as one of the greatest sages of Athenian history. It's the only reason Plato uses him in the Atlantis tale. While there's no evidence Solon knew a single thing about a place called Atlantis, using his name in such an allegory would've lent weight and credibility to it. It's also more than likely most of the events of Solon were long forgotten by Plato's time: they would've remembered the great statesmen, but probably not the fact that none of his reforms were actually successful till long after his death.

I am not laying the blame for Athens "going to pot" at Solon's feet, kmt, I am only suggesting Solon's status as a 'legendary statesman' may be more propaganda than fact.

I agree that it was the fault of Athen's citizens that Solon's reforms failed, but my point is that his "10 year sabbatical" may have been an invention to remove Solon from this failure and so preserve his status as a 'legendary statesman' for those who admired him or wished him to be a figure of such status because that suited their own ends.

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Frank Merton

I might suggest, as much for comment as to express my view, that efforts to design institutions in such a way as to overcome the weaknesses of democracy (selfish and ignorant voters, factions, influence peddling, corruption, intimidation, and so on) with things like "checks and balances," as Solon seems to have had in mind, don't really work for long, unless the culture and the people it throws up behave themselves.

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Leonardo

I might suggest, as much for comment as to express my view, that efforts to design institutions in such a way as to overcome the weaknesses of democracy (selfish and ignorant voters, factions, influence peddling, corruption, intimidation, and so on) with things like "checks and balances," as Solon seems to have had in mind, don't really work for long, unless the culture and the people it throws up behave themselves.

Any system is subject to breakdown, Frank. Democracy is not unique, or even especially fragile, in that regard.

But my point about Solon and his reforms is why did he not stick around to help effect them? Surely he was invested enough to do so as he allegedly wrote/proposed them, but this 10-year holiday he went on just makes him appear callous and uninterested in the welfare of Athens. Not really the mark of a great Athenian statesman.

So, is this 10-year holiday true? Or was it a later invention to excuse Solon from the failure of his reforms?

Or was it even a literary invention (such as we see from Plato) that somehow became 'fact'?

Edited by Leonardo

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Frank Merton

I always pictured his leaving as being like Washington, to avoid the temptation of power. That may have been his propaganda though, and he got stuck with it, as seems to have happened to Washington.

I don't think "all systems" are as fragile as democracy, but that was not my point. My point was that the effort to try to design political democratic institutions to defeat human nature doesn't work automatically but only in cultures suited for it, and then only while they remain suited.

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Leonardo

I always pictured his leaving as being like Washington, to avoid the temptation of power. That may have been his propaganda though, and he got stuck with it, as seems to have happened to Washington.

So, Solon was a political coward - not afraid to talk the talk, but couldn't face walking the walk?

If Solon knew the pitfalls of power and didn't relish the power political authority grants, then he would have been best placed to resist those pitfalls. Instead he abdicates this responsibility to those who relish the power politics provides?

Again, this doesn't paint Solon as the "great statesman" his latter Athenians hailed him as. Just as Washington wasn't, perhaps, as great as modern Americans would like to see him portrayed.

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