THE PEOPLE GET FED UP The privileged eupatrid (aristocratic) few in Athens had been making all the decisions for long enough. By 621 BC the rest of the people of Athens were no longer willing to accept arbitrary, oral rules of the eupatrid judges. Draco was appointed to write down the laws. Athens may have been a late-comer to the written law code.
PROBLEMS INTRODUCED BY THE LAW CODE OF DRACO Whether or not it was intentional, when Draco codified the laws, it brought to public attention Athens’ outrageous and archaic penalties. Part of the excess was Draco himself.
The story goes that when asked about the harshness of his punishments, Draco said the death penalty was appropriate for stealing even so much as a cabbage. If there had been a worse penalty than death, Draco would gladly have applied it to greater crimes.
As a result of Draco’s strict, unforgiving code, the adjective based on the name Draco – draconian – refers to penalties considered excessively severe.
“And Draco himself, they say, being asked why he made death the penalty for most offenses, replied that in his opinion the lesser ones deserved it, and for the greater ones no heavier penalty could be found.”