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Old April 10th, 2017, 05:31 PM   #1
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Romans marching cadence


In the movie Ben Hur (2016) we can see roman legionaries singing a cadence while on the march.

How accurate is it?
And I would very much like to know the lyrics, I couldn't find them...
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Old April 10th, 2017, 06:04 PM   #2
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I wish I could be certain of this. A few pieces of ancient music have survived the ages, as well as musical theory from the Greeks and Romans. It is always difficult to be true to the ancient melody, but attempts are made for accuracy. The lyrics are probably a simple army chant and invented or borrowed from a poem, more likely the former, because they sing in a somewhat rough and manly way. Soldiers in those days, and until very lately, had a custom of singing from time to time during marches and laboring to raise their spirits and keep themselves awake.

The following is an example of an ancient Greek epigram from Asia Minor (Song of Seikilos, about 150 CE), with a melody taken directly from the engraved symbols on the marble:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikiped...f_Seikilos.ogg
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Old April 11th, 2017, 04:57 AM   #3
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Marching cadence aren't accompanied by musical instruments, they aren't expertly composed by musicians, they either all get sung at the same time (like German marching songs) or one person says a line then everyone repeats it. Typically they are bawdy, invoke lots of jokes soldiers would recognize, they insult basically everyone outside the immediate unit (I'm from Unit A, every man not in Unit A are wimps, losers, every women wants to be with us instead of them!). And it's near impossible to get a large force to all sing the same songs because they won't hear each other, each unit marching on its own formation would have to organize its own cadence.

Its not anything overly complex, its just soldiers singing to pass the time during long marches, keeping their minds occupied, while helping maintain some semblance of step (though its completely unnecessary to walk in lock step on long marches or military advances not involving locked shields, rigid ranks, or testudo, or while just trying to look pretty).

So yes, they had marching songs (we know the Romans Osteen sang theirs too during the Triumph march).
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Old April 11th, 2017, 05:37 AM   #4

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darthonia View Post
In the movie Ben Hur (2016) we can see roman legionaries singing a cadence while on the march.

How accurate is it?
And I would very much like to know the lyrics, I couldn't find them...
Wow, that was painful on the eyes... *I* wasn't seeing any attempt at "accuracy", but I wouldn't expect any from Hollywood.

But otherwise, what they said! Almost no Roman music has survived, though we have some lyrics and ditties. It would be hard to *keep* any soldiers from singing or calling cadences at such a time, really. The jury is still out on whether the Romans commonly marched in step, but that tends to happen naturally if there is any singing or rythmic cadence.

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Old April 11th, 2017, 05:54 AM   #5
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Wow, that was painful on the eyes... *I* wasn't seeing any attempt at "accuracy", but I wouldn't expect any from Hollywood.

But otherwise, what they said! Almost no Roman music has survived, though we have some lyrics and ditties. It would be hard to *keep* any soldiers from singing or calling cadences at such a time, really. The jury is still out on whether the Romans commonly marched in step, but that tends to happen naturally if there is any singing or rythmic cadence.

Matthew
Wait, are you saying the Roman milites didn't use rucksacks, chest pouches, elbow pads, and iron gauntlets?

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old April 11th, 2017, 05:54 AM   #6

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Legionaries sung … the “carmine” [usually in occasions of triumphs].

Gallias Caesar subegit, Nicomedes Caesarem:
ecce Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias,
Nicomedes non triumphat qui subegit Caesarem.


Caesar has subjugated the Gauls, Nicomedes Caesar: here now Caesar triumphs, who subjugated the Gauls, while Nocomedes doesn’t triumph, who anyway subjugated Caesar.

The carmina were also hilarious and sarcasm wasn’t rare [in the mentioned one there is an allusion to eventual homosexuality].
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Old April 11th, 2017, 07:32 AM   #7

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The rational for marching in cadence is so everybody gets to where they're going, all at the same time, instead of having guys straggling in after the supper pots and pans have been washed up and put away.

Also, they didn't want stragglers getting picked off one at a time.
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Old April 11th, 2017, 08:34 AM   #8
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The rational for marching in cadence is so everybody gets to where they're going, all at the same time, instead of having guys straggling in after the supper pots and pans have been washed up and put away.

Also, they didn't want stragglers getting picked off one at a time.
No, that's not why marching in cadence occurs, its about motivation and morale. Every army known to have sung marching songs routinely left stragglers behind. Romans, British, Germans, etc. They all did it when it was necessary to maintain speed at all costs. The way you stop stragglers is to give frequent rests for the men during the march, to have the sick, lame and lazy either carried on wagons, ontop horses or mules, or have them hold onto saddle straps to help pull them or hold onto the straps, packs, or what not of the men walking in front of them, and most importantly by having unit leaders watch their men before and during the march for any signs of fatigue or injury (which is why officers and NCOs, still to this day, are supposed to visually inspect their soldier's feet multiple times a day). Lastly, the leadership is supposed to closely supervise their soldiers during the march to "encourage" anybody starting to show problems in keeping up with the rest.

During arduous marches, even at slow speeds, everyone is suffering to one extent or another, the faster the march and the more weight they carry the worse it gets. Some people have the ability to turn off their brain but most don't. To keep the mind occupied one can do their taxes in your head, build a house in their head, think about their significant others in sexy time, sing a ditty or song inside their head, contemplate ancient warfare, etc. Or they can sing a song with everyone else in their unit loud and proud, which is the marching cadence. Its no different at all than the work songs traditionally sung by many performing in collective work, sailors, chain gangs, farmers, lumberjacks, etc. It takes the person's mind off of what they're doing.

With marching cadence, if done with a inking of bearing and decorum it makes the unit marching look disciplined and motivated, which scares people because they are duped into believing the unit singing are high speed, low drag. So lots of leaders like their soldiers singing them because it makes them look motivated and disciplined (especially when marching in step, the more precise the better they look). But a cadence doesn't necessitate marching in step, which is often completely unnecessary for other than a few situations. While conducting a typical daily march, the spacing between individuals shouldn't be too close that they are stepping on one another's heels. If they are, its because some officer above them ordered the unit to maintain a rigid interval between men front to back and expects them to maintain this interval during the march. It became very common during the military reforms of the early modern era of Europe, which saw many reading old Roman treatises, confusing them, and starting to adopt their own forms of draconian discipline and order that evolved into lock step precision and automaton soldiers, which were rare or simply didn't exist in much of the ancient world.
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Old April 11th, 2017, 10:07 AM   #9

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When they're marching together in cadence, the files and ranks can more quickly deploy into a defensive arrangement to repel a sneak attack.

I reckon that to be of equal importance with the morale thing.
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Old April 11th, 2017, 10:19 AM   #10
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When they're marching together in cadence, the files and ranks can more quickly deploy into a defensive arrangement to repel a sneak attack.

I reckon that to be of equal importance with the morale thing.
No, when walking IN MARCHING FORMATION they can adjust rank and file to deploy into offensive and defensive fighting formations.

One does not need to be singing a cadence (which is what military cadence means), using the voice, making noises emanating from the vocal cords of a human being, in order to form a unit...

Soldiers don't sing cadence for a tactical reason, they do it to increase morale, pass the time and forget about the arduous and extremely boring marches, one foot in front of the other, all day, rain or shine, up and down hills, through manure and mud and across ankle destroying rocky terrain.

Marching in step is different from cadence which is different from marching in formation. Elementary school children going outside for a fire drill are in single file, which is a formation, but it doesn't require marching in step, nor a cadence. Same with soldiers. A cadence might be used to keep those in step (voice or musical), but a cadence doesn't need to be (and most of the times isn't) used to keep a unit in step, because most units in ancient history, medieval history, and basically everything besides early modern military history and their immediate descendants, didn't need to march in step at all.
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