Quotations by Solon


At a dinner given by Periander, tyrant of Corinth, to the Seven Wise Men, including Anacharsis, the question was asked, What is the ideal state, or most perfect form of popular government? The answers given by the philosophers were as follows:—

Solon: “That in which an injury done to the least of its citizens is an injury done to all.”
Bias: “Where the law has no superior.”
Thales: “Where the rich are neither too rich, nor the poor too poor.”
Anacharsis: “Where virtue is honored, and vice detested.”
Pittacus: “Where dignities are always conferred on the good, never on the bad.”
Cleobulus: “Where the citizens fear blame more than punishment.”
Chilo: “Where the laws are more regarded, and have more authority, than the orators.”
Goethe has asked, “What government is best? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.” At another time he said, “The best government is that which makes itself superfluous.”
“Good government,” says Confucius, “obtains when those who are near are made happy, and those who are far off are attracted.”

Solon (c. 638 BC - 558 BC) Athenian statesman, lawmaker, poet
(Attributed)
    (Source)

In S.A. Bent, Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men, "Solon" (1887). Compare translations here.
Added on 18-Jun-14 | Last updated 6-Jul-20
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In giving advice, seek to help, not please, your friend.

Solon (c. 638 BC - 558 BC) Athenian statesman, lawmaker, poet
(Attributed)
Added on 14-Jul-14 | Last updated 14-Jul-14
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Good government makes everything well ordered and fit,
And at the same time it throws shackles on the unjust.
It levels out the rough, stops insolence, and weakens arrogance.
It causes the growing blossoms of blindness to wither.
It straightens crooked judgments and it levels out over-reaching deeds.
It stops the acts of civil conflict and
It stops the anger of grievous strife and because of it
Everything among men is wisely and appropriately done.

[Εὐνομίη δ’ εὔκοσμα καὶ ἄρτια πάντ’ ἀποφαίνει,
καὶ θαμὰ τοῖς ἀδίκοις ἀμφιτίθησι πέδας·
τραχέα λειαίνει, παύει κόρον, ὕβριν ἀμαυροῖ,
αὑαίνει δ’ ἄτης ἄνθεα φυόμενα,
εὐθύνει δὲ δίκας σκολιάς, ὑπερήφανά τ’ ἔργα
πραΰνει· παύει δ’ ἔργα διχοστασίης,
παύει δ’ ἀργαλέης ἔριδος χόλον, ἔστι δ’ ὑπ’ αὐτῆς
πάντα κατ’ ἀνθρώπους ἄρτια καὶ πινυτά.]

Solon (c. 638 BC - 558 BC) Athenian statesman, lawmaker, poet
Fragment 4.32-39 W [tr. @sententiq (2015)]
    (Source)

Solon's description of eunomiē (lawfulness). Alt. trans.:
Lawfulness, puts all things into good order and makes them sound,
And often places shackles about those who are unjust.
She smooths what is rough, puts an end to excess, enfeebles arrogance;
She withers the flowers of ruin as they spring up;
She straightens crooked judgments, and overbearing acts she turns to gentleness;
She puts an end to acts of dissension,
Puts an end to the bitterness of painful strife:
Beneath her hand all things among mankind are sound and prudent.
[tr. Miller (1996)]

Good Government displays all neatness and order,
And many times she must put shackles on the breakers of laws
She levels rough places, stops Glut and Greed, takes the force from Violence:
She dries up the growing flowers of Despair as they grow;
She straightens out crooked judgments given, gentles the swollen ambitions,
And puts an end to acts of divisional strife;
She stills the gall of wearisome Hate,
And under her influence all life among mankind is harmonious and does well.
[tr. Lattimore]
Added on 22-Oct-20 | Last updated 22-Oct-20
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A people always minds its rulers best
When it is neither humored nor oppressed.

Solon (c. 638 BC - 558 BC) Athenian statesman, lawmaker, poet
In Plutach, “Poplicola and Solon Compared,” Parallel Lives [tr. Dryden (1693)]
Added on 2-Oct-13 | Last updated 2-Oct-13
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Each day grew older, and learnt something new.

Solon (c. 638 BC - 558 BC) Athenian statesman, lawmaker, poet
Quoted in Plutarch, “Solon,” Parallel Lives [tr. Dryden (1693); ed. Clough (1859)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
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That city [is best to live in,] in which those who are not wronged, no less than those who are wronged, exert themselves to punish the wrongdoers.

Solon (c. 638 BC - 558 BC) Athenian statesman, lawmaker, poet
Quoted in Plutarch, Parallel Lives, “The Life of Solon,” sec. 18.5 [tr. Perrin (1914)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "That [city is best managed] in which those who are not wronged espouse the cause of those who are, and punish their oppressors." [tr. Stewart, Long (1894)]
  • "That [city is best modeled] where those that are not injured try and punish the unjust as much as those that are." [Source]
  • "That [city is best modeled] where those who are not injured, are as ready to prosecute and punish offenders, as those who are." [tr. Langhorne, Langhorne (1819)]
  • "The city [is best governed of all] where those who have not been wronged show themselves just as ready to punish the offender as thouse who have been." [tr. Scott-Kilvert (1960)]
  • Paraphrased as "Justice can be secured in Athens if those who are not injured feel as indignant as those who are," in Earl Warren, "The Law and the Future," Fortune (Nov 1955).
Added on 22-Apr-20 | Last updated 22-Apr-20
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