Question: What made it possible that, during the times of Solon, Athens underwent reforms characterized by isonomia, — that is, equality among citizens, — whereas their approximately contemporary Roman reforms did not grant the lower classes much power?


  • Jean-Pierre Vernant wrote in his «Origins of Greek Thought» that the aforementioned Athenian reforms gave equal power to every citizen, including the right to access the Ecclesia that happened originally every month, regardless of the will of the elites.
  • In contrast, Mikhail Rostovtzeff argued in his «History of Rome» that Roman reforms during this general period conceded much more power to individual members of the elite than to individual plebeians: the First Class had 98 out of 193 total votes, while the other classes combined amounted only to 95 votes. Moreover, if the First Class voters were unanimous, the votes of the other classes were not even counted. To add insult to injury, meetings only happened when the First Class so desired.

So, while in one city the people were powerful enough to exert the pressure necessary for the creation of isonomia, in the other the lower classes remained relatively powerless. What were the main differences between them that lead to such starkly distinct outcomes?

  • Edited to improve readability, revert if you wish. – justCal May 18 '17 at 16:12
  • 2
    Question could be improved with some links to authors, works cited, an possible quotes illustrating your points. – justCal May 18 '17 at 16:14
  • You might want to look at some other sources on Athens under Solon. "Solon established as the chief consultative body the Council of the Four Hundred,[24][25] in which only the first three classes took part, and as chief administrative body the Areopagus which was to be filled up by those who had been archons." There was still a caste system, and the lower caste, though having the right to vote, could not serve in any capacity in the boule or in any government position. Kind of an unequal equality. – justCal May 20 '17 at 3:57
  • Above from Solonian Constitution – justCal May 20 '17 at 4:00

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