How did the Athenians accidentally kill their greatest legislator?

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David. (Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1931/Wikicommons)

Legislator Draco is considered one of the most influential figures in Athena’s history as he succeeded in making radical changes to the city’s legislative system which had adopted an oral and customary legislation that was based on bloody rivalries.

Athena’s oral laws had turned into a tool of suppression that was used to deprive ordinary citizens of their rights so people in Athena appointed Draco as their first legislator and he developed a written legal system that judges implemented.

Draco’s written laws, which made up Athena’s first type of constitutions, adopted strict penalties that mostly included execution to punish wrongdoers. Hence, simple misdemeanors were equated with major crimes and were handed the death penalty as for example the thief was punished the same as a murderer and murderers were all punished equally regardless of whether the crime was intentional or not.

When asked about his harsh laws and why he opted for the death penalty as such, Draco said execution was a perfect punishment for lesser crimes, noting that he had no worse punishment for graver crimes. Given his rule’s harshness, the term “dracronian” is now used to refer to unforgiving laws.

According to a number of Greek historians, Draco died in the Aeginetan theatre around 600 B.C. when people, who in a display of approval, threw so many hats and cloaks over him and he suffocated to death.

In 6th century B.C., Athenian legislator Solon repealed a great deal of Draco’s laws but kept the homicide law which remained in effect until the next century and it was later replaced with another that ordered executing whoever commits a premeditated murder and exiling whoever commits an unintentional murder.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:53 - GMT 06:53
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