Draconian

Long ago, Draco was an official in Athens. He had been given the responsibility of coming up with a written law code, to replace the chaotic traditional oral system. He did so, around the years 622-621 B.C.E. His legal system was harsh, and he believed in the death penalty. His laws prescribed death for persons found guilty of even small thefts. His laws allowed debtors from the lower classes of Athens to be enslaved, while penalties on debtors from the upper classes were less severe. We don’t know all the details of his system, but we do know his laws were harsh on offenders, and tended to favor the rich. The death penalty was prescribed for a wide range of offenses. His laws were replaced about a century later by Solon, whose laws were more reasonable. Solon’s name was for a long time used to describe wise legislators. Draco has given us a word for unreasonably severe laws and codes: Draconian.

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