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Women and Family in Athenian Law 

K. Kapparis, edition of March 22, 2003

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· The Laws of Solon ·

Read about the evidence
Aeschines (Aeschin. 1).
Plutarch (Plut. Sol.).
Apollodorus (Dem. 59).

The legislation of Drakon was largely replaced by that of Solon a generation later (594 BC). Solon considered carefully the role of the family in the institutions of the state, and was the first to introduce extensive social legislation (Aesch. 1.183 ff.; Plu. Sol. 20 ff.). He probably introduced laws governing marriage, adoption, inheritance, property transfers, the treatment of orphans, and generally the protection of the weaker members of society, which were legally unable to aid themselves. It is also possible that Solon enshrined into law the concept of succession only by legitimate heirs, namely natural sons or daughters properly born in wedlock, or adopted heirs in the absence of natural legitimate sons. Moreover he introduced laws on the orderly conduct of women (περὶ τῆς τῶν γυναικῶν εὐκοσμίας), some of which were seemingly not enforced in the classical period. Solon probably introduced milder laws regulating cases of adultery, such as permitting the husband to abuse the seducer with impunity or accept financial compensation, in order to provide alternatives for the atonement of the injured man’s honor without the need to resort to murder. In the same spirit, and in order to curb abuses of the Drakonian adultery laws, he introduced a law which stated that if a man is caught with a woman who practices some form of prostitution, either organized or free-lance, he cannot be accused of adultery (Dem. 59.67). By doing so Solon perhaps unintentionally legalized and defined prostitution. Any woman who offered sexual favors for money placed herself outside the protective shield of the oikos; she was alone in a world which did not offer many opportunities for single females.

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