Solon (Σόλων) was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet, who lived from 638 BC to 558 BC. His family was Athenia nobility although they only possessed moderate wealth. Solon's father was probably Execestides. Solon's lineage, therefore, could be traced back to Codrus, the last King of Athens. According to Diogenes Laërtius, he had a brother named Dropides who was an ancestor (six generations removed) of Plato.

Solon spent most of his adult life trying to legislate against political, economic, and moral decline in archaic Athens. His ideologies are often credited with having laid the foundations for Athenian democracy. As a statesman, Solon put principles before expediency. In a time when Athens was struggling under the burden of civil war, his reforms strove to bridge the gap between the rich an the poor. He cancelled all debts, and purchased the freedom of all slaves, allowing everyone to start with a clean slate. This caused a massive financial crisis, for which new reforms were necessary, including new trade ties, and an halt in the export of all foodstuffs but olive oil, of which there was plenty.

Solon's reforms created a system where the power was in the hands of the people, because instead of leaving justice to be administered by the aristocracy, Solon formed a 'boule' (a group of 500 men who were representatives of their tribes). Solon's reforms were substantial, and took a lot of power away from the aristocracy. They gave every free man the hope that they could hold office one day, if they worked hard to reach the upper class. For those without political aspirations, Solon's reforms provided judicial safety and a sense of power: no matter who you were, if you were an adult male citizen, your opinion counted, and you could influence the course of the city's political and social landscape. Obviously, Solon's reforms did not create a democracy, but they did lay the groundwork for further reforms, and they did so wisely, and with consent from the elite--at least for his lifetime.

Solon gave the following advice, as is recorded by Apollodorus in his Treatise on the Sects of Philosophers (as written down by Laértios):

"Consider your honour, as a gentleman, of more weight than an oath."
"Never speak falsely."
"Pay attention to matters of importance"
"Be not hasty in making friends; and do not cast off those whom you have made."
"Rule, after you have first learnt to submit to rule."
"Advise not what is most agreeable, but what is best."
"Make reason your guide."
"Do not associate with the wicked."
"Honour the gods."
"Respect your parents."

Pausanias, in his 'Description of Greece', lists Solon as one of the seven sages whose aphorisms adorned Apollo's temple in Delphi (XXIV), and so it is not odd that many of Solon's tenets have a Delphinian counterpart in the maxims. These are common themes, reflected in most of the ethical teachings listed above. Common themes are honor, honesty, intelligent decision making, and family. Coincidentally--or perhaps not so much--these are also at the base of arête.