from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A gift or present; a prize.
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- n. A gift; a present; a prize; hence, an alms; a largess.
"sportula," when the poor had got to live upon the alms of the rich, more and more, year by year -- till they devoured their own devourers, and the end came; and I shuddered.
The custom of subsidies (sportula) by the wealthy and powerful to clients for political and personal reasons was not truly philanthropic in the original sense of the term, love of mankind.
There is the hurrying throng of the streets of Rome with all its dangers and discomforts: nobis properantibus opstat unda prior, magno populus premit agmine lumbos qui sequitur; ferit hic cubito, ferit assere duro alter, at hic tignum capiti incutit, ille metretam. pinguia crura luto, planta mox undique magna calcor et in digito clavus mihi militis haeret. nonne vides quanto celebretur sportula fumo? centum convivae, sequitur sua quemque culina.
Never was vice so rampant; luxury has become monstrous; the rich lord lives in pampered and selfish ease, while those poor mortals, his clients, jostle together to receive the paltry dole of the _sportula_; that is all the help they will get from their patron:
[Footnote 4: More properly, sportulage; meaning, apparently, a small customary present or fee to a judge, Lat. _sportula_.]
The client of the Empire was a degraded being; of the client in the last age of the Republic we only know that he existed, and could be useful to his _patronus_ in many ways, -- in elections and trials especially;  but we do not hear of his pressing himself on the attention of his patron every morning, or receiving any "sportula."
The whole business that was carried on with such noise and eagerness in that great city, then the empress of the western world, was nothing else but to build magnificently, to feed luxuriously, to frequent sports and theatres, to run for the sportula, and in a word, to flatter and to be flattered; the effects of a too full and unwieldy prosperity.
_sportula_ is familiar to us in the pages of Juvenal and receives fresh and equally vivid illustration from Martial.
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