The best authors. The Romans were divided by Servius into six
classes. Any citizen who belonged to the highest class was called
classicus, all the rest were said to be infra clàssem. From
this the best authors were termed classici aucto'rës (classic
authors), i.e. authors of the best or first class. The high
esteem in which Greek and Latin were held at the revival of letters
obtained for these authors the name of classic, emphatically; and when
other first-rate works are intended some distinctive name is added, as
the English, French, Spanish, etc., classics.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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