, one of the seven wise men of Greece, as they are called, was born atS;t!amis, of Athenian parents, who were descended from Codrus, in the sixth century B. C. His father leaving little patrimony, he had recourse to merchandise for his subsistence. He hat!, however, a greater thirst after knowledge and fame, than after riches, and made his mercantile voyages subservient to the increase of his intellectual treasures. He very early cultivated the art of poetry, and applied himself to the study of moral and civil wisdom. When the Athenians, tired out with a long and troublesome war. with the Megarensians, for the recovery of the isle of Salamis, prohibited any one, under pain of death, to propose the renewal of their claim to that island, Solon, thinking the prohibition dishonourable to the state, and finding many of the younger citizens desirous to revive the war, feigned himself mad, and took care to have the report of his insanity spread through the city. In the mean time, he composed an elegy, adapted to the state of public affairs, which he committed to memory. Every tiling being thus prepared, he sallied forth into the market place, with the kind of cap on his head which was commonly worn by sick persons, and, ascending the herald’s stand, he delivered, to a numerous crowd, his lamentation for the desertion of Salamis. The verses were heard with general applause; and Pisistratus seconded his advice, and urged the people to renew the war. The decree was immediately repealed, and the conduct of the war being committed to Solon and Pisistratus, they defeated the Megarensians, and recovered Salamis. He afterwards | acquired additional fame by a successful alliance which he formed among the states, in defence of the temple at Delphos, against the Cirrhoeans.

But the height of his glory was when the dissert dons and civil commotions among the Athenians rendered it necessary to vest the supreme powers of legislator and magistrate in one person, and when in 594 B. C. he was appointed to this high office under the title of Archon. This office he appears to have executed with such wisdom and firmness as to give universal satisfaction, and spread his fame through the most distant parts of the world. In the exercise of his power, he made a new distribution of the people, formed new courts of judicature, and framed a judicious code of laws, which afterwards became the basis of the laws of the twelve tables in Rome. At the opening of this new plan of government, Solon was every day visited by persons, who were desirous, either to propose questions concerning the meaning and application of his laws, or to suggest farther corrections and improvements. Finding these importunities troublesome, he determined to make his escape from the difficult situation in which he was placed, and to leave his laws to their own natural operation. For this purpose he obtained permission from the state to travel. His first voyage was to Egypt. Here he became acquainted with several of the more eminent priests of Heliopolis and Sais, by whom he was instructed in the Egyptian philosophy. One of his preceptors, boasting of the antiquity of the Egyptian wisdom, said to him, “Solon, Solon, you Greeks are always children; you have not an old man among you.” From Egypt he sailed to Cyprus, where he formed an intimate friendship with Philocyprus, one of the princes of the island, and assisted him in founding a new city.

It is also related, that he visited Croesus, king of Lydia, and that, during the interview, the following interesting conversation passed between them. Croesus, after entertaining his guest with great splendour, and making an ostentatious display of the magnificence of his palace, desirous to extort from Solon expressions of admiration which he did not seem inclined to bestow, asked him, whom, of all mankind, he esteemed most happy Solon answered, “Tellus, the Athenian.” Crcesns, surprized that Solon should name any other man in preference to himself, requested to be informed of the grounds of this judgment. | Tellus,” replied Solon, “was descended from worthy parents, was the father of virtuous children, whom every one respected, and, at last, fell n tin engagement in which, before he expired, he saw his country victorious.” Croesus, flattering himself that he should at least obtain the second place, in Solon’s judgment, among the fortunate, inquired, whom, next to Tellus, he thought most happy? Solon, in return, said, two youths of Argos, Cleobis and Biton, who while they lived were universally admired for their fraternal affection to each other, and for their dutiful behaviour to their mother; and who, after they had given an illustrious example of filial piety, expired without sorrow or pain. Crcesus, mortified to find the condition of a private citizen of Athens or Argos preferred to his own, could no longer refrain from asking Solon, whether he meant wholly to exclude him from the number of the happy? Solon’s reply is a memorable proof of his wisdom: “The events of future life are uncertain; he who has hitherto been prosperous may be unfortunate to-morrow: let no man therefore be pronounced happy before his death.” This observation made so deep an impression upon the mind of Crcesus, that when afterwards, experiencing a reverse of fortune, he became a prisoner to Cyrus, and was brought forth to be put to death, he cried out, “O Solon! Solon!Cyrus inquiring into the meaning of the exclamation, Crcesus informed him of what had formerly passed between himself and Solon. The consequence was, that Cyrus, struck with the wisdom of Solon’s remark, set Croesus at liberty, and treated him with all the respect due to his former greatness. The story is attended with some chronological difficulties; but it is so consonant to the character of Solon, and so admirable an example of the moral wisdom of those times, that we could not persuade ourselves to reject it.

Solon died in the island of Cyprus, about the eightieth year of his age. Statues were erected to his memory, both at Athens and Salamis. His thirst after knowledge continued to the last: “I grow old,” said he, “learning many things.” Among the apophthegms recorded of him, are, “Laws are like cobwebs, that catch the weak but are broken through by the strong;” “He who has learned to obey, will know how to command;” “In every thing you do, consider the end.” Laertius has mentioned among his writings, his orations, poems, laws, and an Atlantic history, | completed afterwards by Plato and has preserved som epistles, but of doubtful authority. 1


Diog. Laertius.—Stanley’s Philosophers.—Brucker.—Fenelon.