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Revista de estudios histórico-jurídicos

versión impresa ISSN 0716-5455


DIAZ DE VALDES, José Manuel. Freedom of speech in Rome. Rev. estud. hist.-juríd. [online]. 2009, n.31, pp.125-139. ISSN 0716-5455.

This paper reflects on the existence and exercise of freedom of speech in Rome. After asserting that Romans considered free speech as part of the liberties provided by the Republican regime, it is affirmed that it was not regarded as a human right but as a political entitlement. As nowadays, freedom of speech was valued not only for its importance to the speaker, but also for its relevance to the political system. The paper states that during the Republic, this right was intensively exercised trough both institutional and not institutional settings. Among the former were the contiones, the Senate, the courts and, surprisingly, the army. The latter were mainly the Forum, private associations and some kind of arts. The advent of the Empire deeply affected freedom of speech. Although it did not disappeared altogether, it ceased to be considered as a right (it was only tolerated) and became troublesome to the new political regime. Regarding its legal status, freedom of speech was never recognized as a right by statute. In contrast, legal restrictions evolved from a soft start under the XII Tables, to increasing severity at the end of the Republic, to straight harshness during the Empire.

Palabras clave : Freedom of Speech; Lex Maiestatis; Libel.

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