Conflicts in Ancient Athens

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Conflicts in Ancient Athens

Throughout the history of ancient Athens, many conflicts existed amongst its citizens.

Most tension occurred between those in the two different social classes while they also

emerged between those of the same social class. The first section of this paper will deal

with the conflicts between the peasants and the aristocrats while explaining the

conflicts between aristocrats over political power. The third section of this paper

will cover the political changes that occurred under the rule of Solon. Finally, the fourth

and last section of this paper will be an assessment of all these major conflicts as a

whole. The primary source for these investigations is The Rise and Fall of Athens: Nine

Greek Lives by Plutarch while solely using the life of Solon.


In ancient Athens, land was the primary source of wealth. This was due to the fact

that the land in Athens was not extremely arable and therefore, much was required in

order to produce an acceptable amount of vegetation. Those who had land were

considered aristocrats while those who had no land were considered to be peasants.

Peasants made their living from subsistence farming. The man of the peasant family

would only work to feed himself, his wife, and his children. Therefore, peasants lived in

a world of "limited good" (Trumbach).

Peasants farmed on the land of the aristocrats by paying a form of rent. They had to

give one-third of their produce to the aristocrats in exchange for use of their land. They

could also borrow "currency" from the aristocrats by promising collateral if not repaid. If

the peasants failed to pay aristocrats back, they or their children would possibly become

slaves. There was no social mobility in ancient Athens. No peasant could become an

aristocrat even if they gained wealth. "If a peasant managed to become rich, he would

become a rich peasant." (Trumbach) This inspired the peasants' desire to revolt in favor

of a redistribution of land. This was opposed by the aristocrats who wished to keep their

land and refused to give it to the peasants.


An aristocrat was someone who came from a wealthy land owning family and

participated in politics as well as the military. This class of aristocrats only made up

about two percent of the Athens population. However, there was much tension between

aristocratic families due to competition for political power. Because of this, loyalty to

one's immediate family was extremely important. Almost all disputes were settled

through blood feuds which involved many pointless and irrational murders. This was

motivated by the belief in honor and desire for revenge.

Conflicts dealing with women were also present in ancient Athens. Men were

superior to women and could control every aspect of their lives. Women were the

possessions of men and were therefore treated like them. They could be used for political

alliance through marriage, and sold as slaves. They're main purpose was to marry,

procreate, and to take care of the household. If a woman was caught in the

act of adultery, the husband would kill the man she was sleeping with and divorce the

wife. However, a woman could not divorce her husband without consent from him. A

man would also sell his daughter as a slave if he was displeased with her in any way.

These are prime examples of how women were viewed and treated by the men of ancient


Inheritance was always passed down to the oldest son in the family. If there were no

male family members, the inheritance was passed down to a friend of the deceased

person. When a man married his daughter off, he gave his son-in-law a gift of...
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