"Outside in the chilly street, the usual crowd of the miserable and the desperate was already waiting"

Tiro is describing the Roman system of patrons and clients. This was a symbiotic relationship whereby a patron might help a client with particular concerns, lend him money, support or advice, or sponsor his art or business. In return, the patron would receive political support from his clients: a crowd of enthusiastic followers for his speeches, debates and other public appearances. He would also gain a number of favours to be called in at a later date, as well as a good network of contacts and informants.