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(240) McManis Faulkner 45th Anniversary:
In 621 BC Athenian legislator Draco replaced the traditional system of oral law and blood feud with a written code to be enforced only by a court, thus changing from arbitrarily applied and idiosyncratically interpreted tradition to written laws posted in the Agora for all to see. Draco furthermore introduced the concept of intent, particularly in regard to a murder that was intentional and a murder that was unintentional. The former was punishable by death, the latter by banishment.
The new laws were harsh and punishments harsher, consisting of selling debtors into slavery, and death for even the most minor offenses, such as "stealing a cabbage."
In his Life of Solon, Plutarch states: "It is said that Draco himself, when asked why he had fixed the punishment of death for most offenses, answered that he considered these lesser crimes to deserve it, and he had no greater punishment for more important ones."
Draco extended the franchise to all free men who could furnish themselves with a set of military equipment. He introduced the concept of a citizen council chosen by lot, which evolved in later constitutions to play a large role in Athenian democracy.
Despite its flaws, Draco's innovation led the way to sheltering Athenian citizens from laws that were unwritten & without specific penalty. Not thirty years later, the Draconian laws were abolished and replaced through Solon's reforms with more humane legislation.