ghra/skw d 0ai0ei/ polla\ didasko/menoj 

I grow old always being taught many things 

 Solon, known to some as one of the seven wise men of Greece, came from a charitable, wealthy, Athenian family. Born in the seventh century BCE, he is the first Athenian figure known to historians by name, and he is said to have traced his lineage back ten generations to Hercules. Solon is renowned for his judicial contributions to Athenian law, and for such fame he now has a marble relief portrait outside the House of Representatives Chamber today. He instituted the seisachtheia or "the shaking off of burdens" in which his law nullified all debts and pledges of servitude, outlawed the enslavement of persons on account of their debts, and limited the quantity of land a man could possess. It was uncommon for such reforms to come from a man of aristocratic background, yet it is believed that he instituted these reforms out of a love for Athens' democracy and a fear of tyranny.

Most of Solon's known accomplishments are documented in Plutarch's Lives, the source of the preceding quote. Plutarch supplies the quote twice, saying of Solon first, "There is no doubt that he was a lover of knowledge, for even when he was far advanced in years he could still say 'I never cease to learn as I grow old,' " and again, later, he states, "Certainly, as far as leisure is concerned, his own verses tell us that he had plenty of it: 'I never cease to learn as I grow old.'" The wording of this quote, however, leaves room for interpretation, for didasko/menoj could be passive, "being taught" or middle, "teaching myself." Whatever the translation, this quote and it's context in Plutarch's Lives provide considerable insight into the personality of Solon.

G. Larsen

St. Paul's School 2004