Aristocrats were undoubtedly some of the richest members of the Archaic society. Their property was defined mainly by the land they possessed, although some of them were probably involved in trade or in manufacture at least indirectly. Their wealth and the control they exercised in religious matters and in the city's ranks, gave them the authority that they needed to maintain their political power. Quite a few members of lower classes were in a way their pelatai (clients). We do not know much about the precise nature of their cliental relation. It is possible that they were entirely or partially dependent on wealthy landowners for reasons of protection (Photius, Lex. pelatai, Scholia on Plato Euthyphr. 327, Polydeuces 4,165).

In Boeotia since Hesiod's times, in the beginning of the 8th century BC, we observe that large plots of land are concentrated in the hands of certain families, through the institutions of marriage, dowry and testament. These families by gaining economic power imposed themselves over the poorer farmers and they gradually constituted the aristocracy of the region (Hesiod, Works and Days 338-341).

In Athens, the members of the aristocracy, the so-called eupatridai, reacted to the abolition of debts, because it is clear that it cost them a lot. It should be noted however that Solon's reforms, as it turned out in the long run, were advantageous for Athens' wealthy citizens. They formed a large group of people between the aristocrats and the slaves, ensuring at the same time the continuation of their existence. Probably one of their duties was to join forces, if necessary, with the former against the latter.
In case the economically weaker Athenians were reduced to a situation corresponding to that of slaves, then the risk of a homogeneous lower class being formed was apparent. If, then, this class became conscious of its collective power, that would signify the end of the structure that the Athenian society had at that time. But through the creation of a group of citizens that would have a defined social status, the rich could make use of foreign slaves to the extent that they wanted and fear less the outbreak of a class revolution.

| introduction | agriculture | trade | state organization | Archaic Period

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