After he had established the Boulé of the Areopagus, consisting of those who had been archons year after year (and he himself was a member of this body, since he had been archon), he observed that the Demos were uneasy and bold in consequence of the release from debt; he established a second Boulé, one hundred from each of the four phylai. He assigned them the function of prior deliberation before the Demos [proboulein], and ordered that nothing undeliberated should be placed before the Ekklesia. He made the former council Episkopos over All and Guardian of the Nomoi, in the belief that the polis , with its two Boulai, like anchors, would be tossed the less in the surges, and would actually keep the Demos quieted down.
[Plutarch goes on to demonstrate that the contention of his source, that Solon established the Areopagus, is erroneous.
He quotes an old law which removed atimia by way of an amnesty granted by Solon to all except those condemned
by the Areopagus, by the Ephetai, by the Basileus in the Prytaneion, and who were at that moment still or already in exile.]
And [Solon] made a Boulé, four hundred, one hundred from each phyle , but he assigned the function of guarding the laws (to nomophylakein) to the Areopagites, just as they had existed even before, being Episkopos of the Politeia. And this [Boulé of the Areopagus] managed the greatest amount and the most important affairs of the polis . . . .
Next [Kleisthenes, 507 B.C.] made a Boulé of Five Hundred in place of the Four Hundred, fifty from each phyle . Earlier there were a hundred. This was the reason why [Kleisthenes] did not arrange them in twelve phylai, in order that he might not have to use the existing divisions, called trittyes (the four [Ionic] phylai contained twelve trittyes ), with the result that the multitude (to plethos) would not have been mixed up . . . .
This constitution [ of the Five Thousand, 411 B.C. ], therefore, they drew up for the future, but the following to be in force during the crisis which was current: "Four Hundred are to take counsel according to traditional practice ( kata ta patria ), forty from each phyle taken from a preliminary list of any persons over thirty years of age whom the phyletai choose . . . .
[King] Kleomenes [of Sparta], then, having sent and demanded the banishment of Kleisthenes and the Enageis ["Accursed"], Kleisthenes himself departed quietly; later nevertheless Kleomenes appeared at Athens with a few troops, and having entered he banished seven hundred Athenian households [ epistia ], the ones indicated for him by Isagoras. Having done that much, [Kleomenes] made a second attempt to dissolve the Boulé, and he attempted to entrust the archai to Isagoras and his three hundred followers. But the Boulé rose in revolt and decided not to be complaisant. Kleomenes and Isagoras and his followers seized the Acropolis . . . .
In the second place, gentlemen of the jury, the formula "I will not imprison any Athenian" is not in itself a nomos. It is merely a phrase which was written in the Bouleutic Oath, to prevent politicians who are in the Bouléfrom conspiring to put any of the citizens in prison. Now Solon, to render the Boulé incapable of doing that, inserted this in the Bouleutic Oath, but in your oath [ the oath of Jurors in the Dicasteries]; for he thought it necessary for the dikasterion to have the final authority in all matters, and that the convicted criminal should pay whatever penalty that the dikasterion thinks right. As proof of this point, the Clerk will read for you the Oath of the Heliasts. Read if you please . . . .
. . . The Basileus appeared before the Prytaneis to give the usual report on all that had occurred during the performance of the ceremonies [of the Eleusinian Mysteries]. The Prytaneis said that they would bring him before the Boulé, and told him to give Kephisios and myself notice to be present at the Eleusinion; for it was there that, according to the Nomos of Solon, the Boulé was to hold its sitting on the day after the Mysteries. We were present in compliance with the instructions. When the Boulé was assembled, Kallias the son of Hipponikos, stood up in his ceremonial robes . . . .
Kallias Hipponikou, of the Genos Kerykes, of Eleusis, was the Dadouchos ('Torch-Bearer'), hereditary priest of the
Mysteries of Eleusis.
Solon is held, by one school of thought, to have been a good lawgiver, who may be credited with a triple achievement. He swept away an oligarchy which was far too absolute; he emancipated the people from serfdom; and he instituted that 'ancestral democracy' under which the Constitution was so admirably tempered–with the Boulé of the Areopagus standing for oligarchy, the method of selecting the executive magistrates for aristocracy, and the system of popular courts for the democracy. In actual fact, however, it would appear that two of these elements–the Boulé and the method of electing executive magistrates–existed before his time and were simply continued by him. But he certainly introduced the principle of democracy by making membership of the law-courts open to every citizen. And that is the reason why he is blamed by some of his critics, who argue that he really destroyed the other elements by making these popular law-courts, with their members appointed by lot, supreme in every case . . . .
[Note the absence of both the Ekklesia and the Boulé of 400 in Aristotle's analysis. For him, the important elements
were Areopagus, Archons, Heliaia.]
John Paul Adams, CSUN