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Ancient Greeks: Solon on a Well Governed Society

Ancient Greeks: Solon on a Well Governed Society

Society is well governed when its people obey the magistrates,
and the magistrates obey the law.
~ Solon


Solon, (born c. 630 bce—died c. 560 bce), Athenian statesman, known as one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece… Solon ended exclusive aristocratic control of the government, substituted a system of control by the wealthy, and introduced a new and more humane law code. He was also a noted poet.” ~ Encyclopaedia Britannica

READ MORE: Solon; Greek Statesman & Poet | Encyclopaedia Britannica


Human nature has not changed over the millennia. The question is, do we learn from history?

Power corrupts. Corruption is cruel.

That’s one of my thoughts. Care to share what you are thinking?


Ancient Greek Wisdom  

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About The Author

JoAnn Chateau

JoAnn Chateau likes progressive politics and loves the canines. She writes fiction about an alpha Bichon named Chester, and his friends--with a dash of humor and a dab of poli-sci. JoAnn worked professionally in the Psychology and Information Science fields. Retired now, she enjoys the creative life.

26 Comments

  1. usfman

    Winning an election is not a prerequisite to running a country successfully Trump’s everyday tweets shows his sole concern is keeping his voting base strong with little or no concern with the good of the country. Ex. By attacking London’s mayor, he risks jeopardizing our national security.

    • JoAnn Chateau

      Agreed. He hasn’t a single prerequisite.

    • usfman

      Now he thinks he is completely exonerated because Comey told him he was not under investigation? Then why did he fire him and what about the other obstruction of justice statements that Trump made during their conversations?

      • JoAnn Chateau

        Trump thinks he makes something true by the mere speaking.

  2. GarryRogers

    So much of belief and behavior is passed from parents to children that human nature is very resistant to change. Where parents are absent, peers and local society provide the examples and standards.

    • JoAnn Chateau

      That’s where liberal arts programs come into play. I’ve been reading “Not for Profit; Why Democracy Needs the Humanities” by Martha C. Nussbaum. She says the study of humanities helps develop the independent thinking that is required to be a good citizen – to be one who can see the big picture and see through propaganda. (poorly paraphrased)

      That must be why I’m looking at ancient Greek philosophers. (Obviously easily programmed. I need a little smiley face here, with the pink cheeks.)

  3. John Fioravanti

    Solon puts forward the principle that no one is above the law – especially not the rulers. Corruption is born out of greed and bred by dishonesty and disdain for the well-being of others. Pure and simple, it is thievery and the community is the victim. I think that power corrupts when it is wielded in a culture that tolerates and expects corrupt practices as “the way we do business.” I do not believe that power by its very nature is the corrupting agent. When those who hold public office only care about their own interests (ie getting re-elected) and serving the agenda of those who paid to get them elected, then we have a systemic problem compounding the moral weakness of a corrupt politician. Is it possible to have an honest politician whose only motive is to serve the common good? I believe so.

    • JoAnn Chateau

      Yes. Some people do manage power well, and I’d think we’d consider them to be people of courage, character, and principle. Our laws should not be so lax or unenforced as to put a heavy burden of temptation on our mostly average elected officials. The peer pressure alone probably pushes many of them down the slippery slope of corruption.

      • John Fioravanti

        I think it is in the enforcement and I think that’s mainly about two factors: 1) there is a cost to having a staff of watchdogs, but more importantly, there needs to be a change in the political culture. How is that possible when only the wealthy, or those few who are supported by the wealthy have a chance to be elected to power. Those $ favors need to be paid off. What you need is a billionaire with high morals and dedication to serving the common good – someone who can’t be bought – to make meaningful changes in how things get done. Not an easy problem – and it plagues every democracy.

      • JoAnn Chateau

        Two modern U.S. leaders that immediately come to mind, that were rich, fairly moral and dedicated, were FDR and John Kennedy. Of course, they were not perfect. But here’s the thing: They both suffered painful incurable illness. I suggest the experience of knowing what it’s like to be unable to control an evil, despite all the advantages and power you have, may lend insight, compassion, and balance to the job of governing.

        Wouldn’t a wealthy candidate with integrity, who couldn’t be bought, have the same problems as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn? The Establishment wouldn’t allow them to get fair coverage.

        Not that it is impossible. I’m certainly hoping that the good guys get a break.

      • John Fioravanti

        Look at Trump. Total outsider – filthy rich, not embraced by the GOP, and reviled by the press. Yet he won. Now he owes nobody for his election win. He’s in the perfect position to make wonderful changes in Washington. But look at what he’s doing. Sigh.

      • JoAnn Chateau

        When during Trump’s campaign he boasted about giving large sums to Clinton and others in past elections to get what he wanted, it was obvious he was an active participant in the conflicts of interest corruption. Why would he change?

      • John Fioravanti

        Very true. I didn’t expect him to perform any differently than he has. It’s just that he’s in the perfect position to make positive, progressive changes. Unfortunately, all he wants is to be crowned King Donald.

      • JoAnn Chateau

        It would have been a really good story if he had changed his spots. Imagine the fun an author could have with that might-have-been.

      • John Fioravanti

        Exactly – an alternative history novel!

  4. Robert A. Vella

    The democratic fight against authoritarianism has been going on for millennia, thanks to the ancient Greeks. What disturbs me most is the growing attitude among young people today who see democracy as either obsolete or as counterproductive. It very well may be obsolete now, but their desire to discard it is egregiously foolish especially considering their refusal to offer any governmental alternative. Furthermore, the wrongly conceived notion that humankind can flourish or even survive without social organization – an idea also popular among Millennials – is an absurdity that makes me shake my head in astonishment. There are 7.4 billion of us on this planet. We have so many varied and conflicting interests, philosophies, and allegiances that war has become perpetual. Absolve government – an impossibility, I would add – and the resulting chaos would be unthinkable. So, if we must have government, democracy should seem much more desirable than the authoritarian types. End of rant.

    • JoAnn Chateau

      I am not aware that young people have given up on democracy. I think the reason so many of them don’t vote is because they think the system is rigged. Far-right Christians, in my mind, are more likely to forget the benefits of democracy, as they are so intent on belonging in the safety of a group (preferably exclusive).

      Regarding lack of organization, it makes me think of Black Lives Matter. I think one of the reasons they avoid leadership is so their leaders can’t be destroyed.

      There must be more to these things. If you have time, please fill me in, Robert.

      • Robert A. Vella

        I should have qualified my remarks as personal perception, and I certainly didn’t intend to portray all young people as anti-democratic. Also, the pacific northwest region where I live is a hotbed of anarchist sentiment, and that undoubtedly affected my opinion. Still, my general sociological point asserting that democracy is falling out of favor especially amongst the young deserves further explanation as well as scrutiny.

        I engage with a lot of Millennials personally and online from all over the world. I have noticed a familiar pattern in their opinions regardless of whether they vote or not. On democracy, they generally see it as old, obsolete, inefficient, and ineffective. On government, they universally see it as corrupt and a growing number see it as unnecessary. This latter view assumes that social organization need not be institutionalized, and that it can form organically via people living together. It also assumes human nature is sufficiently altruistic and cooperative for that to occur – a view which is psychologically typical of youth.

        Additionally, there appears to be another component to this philosophy which involves religion; or, more precisely, the rejection of religious beliefs. The concept of ‘free will,’ long promoted by theists, is often countered by young atheists with deterministic and even nihilistic thought. In other words, that human choice doesn’t really exist, that our lives are predetermined by nature, and even that existence itself is completely subjective and a cosmological absurdity. The implications of this philosophy are obviously not conducive to the practice of democracy which is dependent upon the belief that people can empower themselves.

      • JoAnn Chateau

        A logical response when experiencing lack of control over dire external circumstances.

        Thanks for explaining.

        Your comment has the makings of a great post for your blog, Robert.

      • Robert A. Vella

        Thank you, JoAnn. I’ve tried before, but the reaction has been quite predictable. Millennials generally refuse to accept that government is necessary, and my Baby Boomer generation is getting tired of continually defending democracy. Not an encouraging combination of attitudes, is it?

      • JoAnn Chateau

        Maybe the older generation prefers security, but the younger generation sees that security is gone.

    • JoAnn Chateau

      Just learning about the leaderlessness of the anarchy movement. Now I get what you mean about young people seeing democracy as counterproductive.

  5. Rosaliene Bacchus

    Corruption corrodes our reason and compassion for others.

    • JoAnn Chateau

      Yes. At the very least, corruption is dysfunctional, and people willingly lie to themselves about their real fears and motives. That’s when they aren’t TRYING to be bad.

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