In the language of Roman administrative law, the Latin word classicus denotes citizens assigned on the tax rolls to the highest of the five classes (Cato, cited by Gellius, VI 13). Reinforcing the principles of an “agonal culture” (Agon), the principle and terminology of the Roman class system were extended early on to linguistic and intellectual achievements. Plautus (2nd cent. bce) calls the everyday vernacular proletarius sermo (Mil. glor. 752).
In Rome c. 140 ce, the rhetorician and tutor of princes Marcus Cornel…