Lawmaker (c.650 BC – c.600 BC)
Draco was the lawgiver of Athens, the first statesman who wrote down the laws of the city since the mythological era when Thesaeus reigned as king of Athens. He was a political reformer who changed the political system of Athens, implementing laws which were very strict at the time. Revered by many, Draco was considered a very important statesman in the history of Athens and is now among the greatest lawgivers of antiquity, alongside Solon and Lycurgus.
Before Draco, Athens’ laws were not written anywhere. Even though they existed, they were not available to the public hence citizens could not refer to them anywhere. Athens had been experiencing a period of long political decline, social instability and a crisis of values. It was around 621 BC when Draco was assigned to write down the laws of Athens so that they become available to the public. In addition, Draco passed down significant reforms of the law, implementing changes in criminal law and private law.
Draco’s laws were originally written on wooden tablets before being chiseled on stone slabs and placed in public view. They were said to have been written with human blood. Even though most of his laws are not known, Draco’s legislature was extremely strict, punishing even the simplest of crimes, such as theft being punished with death. His most well-known was the law of homicide, which was the only one kept by Solon when he succeeded Draco as lawgiver of Athens. Among some of Draco’s laws were the implementation of the Ecclesia of the people, the passing down of political rights to all men who could be mobilized for war, the reduction of the jurisdiction of the Areios Pagos, the court of Athens concerning the preservation of laws and the ability of citizens to report the decisions of the Areios Pagos as unfair.
In spite of their severity, Draco’s laws made every citizen of Athens equal before the law, regardless of their wealth or status. He succeeded in stabilizing Athens’ political and social condition for almost half a century and highlighted the importance of discipline, which was eclipsing from the Athenian society. His laws combated crime and imposed order to an astounding degree. As a predecessor of Solon, Draco contributed significantly to the re-establishment of democracy in Athens and while his laws may have only lasted for almost half a century, they were necessary for putting Athens back on its former track.
- “Dracon”. Helios New Encyclopaedia of the Sun. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
- Ο Νομοθέτης Δράκων. Αρχαίων Τόπος. Theancientwebgreece.wordpress.com. November 16, 2017. Web
- Dhwty. The brutal Draconian laws of ancient Greece. Ancient Origins. Ancient-origins.net. November 20, 2014. Web.