Cicero on Freedom of Speech

From the Pro Plancio 33:

“He has at times,” says he, “said some very harsh things.” Perhaps he may have spoken rather freely. “But that speaking freely, as you term it,” says he, “is not to be borne.” Are then those men to be borne who complain that they cannot bear the freedom of a Roman knight? Where are our old customs? Where is our equality of privileges? Where is that ancient liberty, which, having been overwhelmed by civil disasters, ought by this time to be raising its head and to be at last recovered and assuming a more erect attitude again? Need I recount the abuse directed by the Roman knights against even the noblest men, or that of the harsh, ferocious, unbridled expressions of the farmers against Quintus Scaevola, a man superior to all others in genius, justice, and integrity?

Granius, the crier, replied to the consul Publius Nasica in the middle of the forum, when he, after a suspension of all judicial proceedings had been proclaimed, as he was returning home, had asked Granius “why he was sad; was it because all the auctions were postponed?” “Rather,” said he, “because they have sent back the ambassadors.” The same man made this answer to a tribune of the people, Marcus Drusus, a most influential man, but one who was causing great disturbances in the republic. When Drusus had saluted him, as is the fashion, and had said, “How do you do, O Granius?” he replied, “I should rather ask, O Drusus, what are you doing?” And he often reproved with impunity the designs of Lucius Crassus and Marcus Antonius, with still harsher witticisms. At present the state is to such a degree oppressed by your arrogance, that the freedom of laughing in which a crier used to be indulged, is more than is now allowed to a Roman knight in making lamentations.

 

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