Most people are familiar with the terms “comitium” and “spoort,” which refer to the Roman military’s practice of dining together and engaging in conversation after every meal. However, many are unsure of the exact differences between these two terms and how they relate to each other. Below, we will explore the differences between comitium and spoort in more detail.
The word “comitium” means “dining room” or “common room” in Latin. This is because Roman soldiers would often meet in someone’s home to eat and discuss their latest adventures or triumphs. During these meetings, the Roman soldiers would recline at tables and talk with the host or master of the home. The conversations that would take place were later documented by Greek and Roman historians. These historians often used the word “comitium” to refer to these conversations, so the word became synonymous with discussing military matters.
In Roman military parlance, a “spoort” is a type of jacket worn by cavalry soldiers. The term comes from the ancient Germanic tribe of the Goths, and it was the Roman army that gave the word its modern meaning. During the early 15th century, the English knight Sir Thomas Lucy wrote that the Goths and other Germanic tribes would often give their young men “a spoyrt of peys to keepe them warme in winter,” which was apparently a type of overcoat. The word spread from there and eventually made its way to the common English language. Today, the term “spoort” is mostly used when discussing the coats and jackets worn by horseback riders in English-speaking countries.
It is important to note here that in the Roman military, the practice of discussing matters of governance and statecraft was considered an honor. This is because many battles were fought over the control of the Roman empire, and its troops and generals often had to strategize effectively to achieve victory. After the battles were over, the victors would often award the other side some type of recognition for their contributions in the fight. This could include presenting them with a statue, a banner, or even a gold coin as a symbol of appreciation for their contribution.
Because these meetings were often held in people’s homes, the participants would eat and drink while talking and arguing about military strategy. This became known as “home cooking” in the United States during the twentieth century and is still commonly referred to as “family dinner” in countries where the practice is still followed. However, while the practice of “family dinner” arose due to changes in family structure, it was the Romans that first established the custom of discussing matters of state and governance after each meal. The early Christians also adopted this custom, and many church councils were convened to discuss important matters of faith and church governance after a satisfying meal.