Draco (lawgiver)

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Draco
Born c. 650 BC
Died c. 600 BC
Aegina
Residence Athens, Ancient Greece
Occupation Legislator
Known for Draconian constitution

Draco (/ˈdrk/; Greek: Δράκων, Drakōn) (c. 7th century BC) was the first legislator of the city of Athens in Ancient Greece. He wrote laws that were to be enforced only by a court.[1] This constitution replaced the system of oral law and blood feuding that had governed Athens since the city was founded. Draco's laws were known for being harsh. The word draconian has come to mean unforgiving rules or laws.

Draco established this legal system during the 39th Olympiad, in about 622 or 621 BC. The laws (θεσμοί - thesmoi) he set formed the first written constitution of Athens. They were displayed in public, so that nobody would be unaware of them. The death penalty was the punishment for most crimes, even minor ones. Plutarch states: "It was a lot for himself, when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offences, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and he had no greater punishment for more important ones."[2]

Not much is known about Draco's life or who he was. The 10th-century Suda text tells a legendary story of his death. He was said to have died on the stage of the theatre in Aegina. In a traditional ancient Greek show of approval, his supporters threw so many hats and pieces of clothing onto his head that he suffocated.[3][4]

All of Draco's laws, except the law concerning murder, were abolished by Solon in the early 6th century BC.[5]

Related pages[change | edit source]

References[change | edit source]

  1. Aristotle. Politics, 1274a.
  2. Plutarch (translation by Stewart; George Long). Life of Solon. Project Gutenberg.
  3. Suidas. "Δράκων". Suda On Line. Adler number delta, 1495.
  4. Cobham, Ebenezer. The Reader's Handbook of Allusions, References, Plots and Stories, p. 451.
  5. Aristotle, Athenian Constitution, 7.1.