Distributio solemnium sportularum.
The sportulae, or sportellae, were small baskets supposed to contain a quantity of hot provisions of the value of 100 quadrantes, or twelvepence halfpenny which were ranged in order in the hall, and ostentatiously distributed to the hungry or servile crowd who waited at the door. This indelicate custom is very frequently mentioned in the epigrams of Martial and the satires of Juvenal. See likewise Suetonius, in Claudius c. 21; in Nero c. 16; in Domitian c. 4, 7. These baskets of provisions were afterwards converted into large pieces of gold and silver coin, or plate, which were mutually given and accepted even by the persons of the highest rank (see Symmach. Epist. iv. 55, ix. 124, and Miscell. p. 256 [ed. Paris, 1604]), on solemn occasions, of consulships, marriages, etc.