a class of persons whose conversation
formed one of the entertainments of the Roman dinner-tables (Suet.
74). The word literally signifies persons who discourse about virtue;
and the class of
persons intended seem to have been poor philosophers, chiefly of the Cynic
and Stoic sects, who, unable to gain a living by their public lectures,
obtained a maintenance at the tables of the rich by their philosophical
conversation. Such a life would naturally degenerate into that of the
parasite and buffoon; and accordingly we find these persons spoken of
contemptuously by Juvenal, who uses the phrase mendax
they became a sort of
15.16; cf. Casaubon.
ad Suet. l.c.;
Mayor, ad Juv. l.c.