when men begin by cursing one another and foully abusing one another in the manner of fish-wives; and the man who utters such words is gratifying a thing most ungracious and sating his passion with foul foods, and by thus brutalizing afresh that part of his soul which once was humanized by education, he makes a wild beast of himself through his rancorous life, and wins only gall for gratitude from his passion. In such disputes all men are commonly wont to proceed to indulge in ridicule
of their opponent; but everyone who has ever yet indulged in this practice has either failed to achieve a virtuous disposition, or else has lost in great measure his former high-mindedness. No man, therefore, shall ever in any wise utter such words in any holy place or at any public sacrifice or public games, or in the market or the court or any public assembly; in every such case the magistrate concerned shall punish the offender; or, if he fail to do so, he shall be disqualified for any public distinction
because of his neglect of the laws and his failure to execute the injunctions of the lawgiver. And if in other places a man abstains not from such language—whether he be the aggressor or acting in self-defence—whosoever meets with him, if he be an older man, shall vindicate the law by driving off with stripes the man who pamper passion, that evil comrade; or, if he fail to do so, he shall be liable to the appointed penalty. We are now asserting that a man who is gripped by the habit of abuse cannot avoid trying to indulge in ridicule; and this is a thing we abuse when it is uttered in passion.
What then? Are we to countenance the readiness to ridicule people which is shown by comic writers,1
provided that in their comedies they employ this sort of language about citizens without any show of passion? Or shall we divide ridicule under the two heads of jest and earnest, and allow anyone to ridicule any other in jest and without passion,2
but forbid anyone (as we have already said) to do so in real earnest and with passion? We must by no means go back on what we said; but we must determine by law who is to be granted this permission, and who refused. A composer of a comedy or of any iambic or lyric song shall be strictly forbidden to ridicule any of the citizens either by word or by mimicry,3
whether with or without passion; and if anyone disobeys, the Presidents of the Games