O morem praeclarum disciplinamque quam a maioribus accepimus, si quidem teneremus! sed nescio quo pacto iam de manibus elabitur. nullam enim illi nostri sapientissimi et sanctissimi viri vim contionis esse voluerunt; quae scisceret plebes aut quae populus iuberet, submota contione, distributis partibus, tributim et centuriatim discriptis ordinibus, classibus, aetatibus, auditis auctoribus, re multos dies promulgata et cognita iuberi vetarique voluerunt. Graecorum autem totae res publicae sedentis contionis temeritate administrantur. itaque ut hanc Graeciam quae iam diu suis consiliis perculsa et adflicta est omittam, illa vetus quae quondam opibus, imperio, gloria floruit hoc uno malo concidit, libertate immoderata ac licentia contionum. cum in theatro imperiti homines rerum omnium rudes ignarique consederant, tum bella inutilia suscipiebant, tum seditiosos homines rei publicae praeficiebant, tum optime meritos civis e civitate eiciebant.
(Cicero, Pro Flacco 15-16)
Oh, if only we could maintain the fine tradition and discipline that we have inherited from our ancestors! But somehow it is now slipping out of our hands. Those wisest and most upright of our men did not want power to lie in the public meetings. As for what the commons might approve or the people might order, when the meeting had been dismissed and the people distributed in their divisions by centuries and tribes into ranks, classes and age groups, when the proposers of the measure had been heard, when its text had been published well in advance and understood, then they wished the people to give their orders or their prohibitions. In Greece, on the other hand, all public business is conducted by the irresponsibility of a public meeting sitting down. And so – to pass over the modern Greece which has long since been struck down and laid low in its councils – that Greece of ancient times, once so flourishing in its wealth, dominion and glory, fell through this single evil, the excessive liberty and licence of its meetings. When untried men, totally inexperienced and ignorant, had taken their seats in the theatre, then they would decide on harmful wars put troublemakers in charge of public affairs and expel from the city the citizens who had served it best. (tr. Coll MacDonald)