A stock character of Greek and Roman comedy. At first called kolax (‘toady’, ‘flatterer’, as in Eupolis' Kolakes of 421 bc, named after its chorus), the type acquired as a joke in the 4th cent. the alternative label parasitos or ‘sponger’ (in origin a ‘fellow diner’, esp. denoting certain religious functionaries). Thereafter the two terms were largely interchangeable. Parasites attach themselves to their social superiors for their own advantage, esp. for free meals; in return they flatter or entertain their patron, run errands, and suffer much ill‐treatment. Sometimes the patron is a vainglorious soldier, and soldier and parasite made a stock pair.
Subjects: Classical Studies.