Hymn of the Legion - Epic Roman Music
Published at : 03 Jan 2022
Music and vocals by Farya Faraji. Just me having fun and making up a Roman-themed military march--this is neither a real Roman piece of music nor one that is representative of the music of the time; most of the piece is based around triads and chords, which most scholars say did not exist at the time. That said, I tried to keep the sound of the piece as close as possible to that of Ancient Roman music--I used brass instruments since they were copiously used by the Roman army, and there is also a Greco-Roman lyre and aulos in the piece, so the instrumentation is somewhat accurate, but not the arrangement itself and the harmonic contour used.
I pieced the lyrics together from different proverbs from all over the place and recontextualised them to fit the theme of a legion under Caesar's command. "Aut Caesar aut nihil," for example, is not attributed to Caesar himself and is usually attributed to Cesare Borgia in the Renaissance, and the usual meaning of the phrase is "I will be Caesar or nothing," but in this context, I imagine it as being a cry of loyalty from Caesar's men, since the phrase literally means "either Caesar or nothing," which can fit in this context. "Hic abundant leones" and "hic sunt leones" are Medieval phrases that European cartographers would put on the borders of maps; it's the same basic concept as "here there be dragons." In this context though, I applied it as being the soldiers describing themselves as if saying "we are lions here." Finally, "Alea iacta est" is a phrase attributed to Caesar as he crossed the Rubicon--the original wording was "Iacta alea est," and the alternate rendering became more popular over time, and it is believed that the original phrase was uttered in Greek.
I used Classical Latin pronunciation when singing the lyrics--note however that I pronounced the "s" sounds as very high pitched, non-retracted S sounds. This is inaccurate to Classical Latin, which used a retracted "S", a sound sort of in-between a "sh" like in "shoe," and the "s" in "sand." It's the sound one hears in European Spanish or Greek. My microphone, however, has a bad habit of distorting the retracted "s" sound when I add reverb to it--it seems to pick on that particular frequency for some reason, and always sounds bad. For the purpose of the audio quality, I thus sang the "s" not as a retracted "s," but that is inaccurate to Classical Latin pronunciation--and the proper "s" in Classical pronunciation should be retracted. I also didn't take into account the vowel lengths of Latin when building the sung melody—Latin was phonologically defined by the contrast of short vs long vowels, and it's arguably the most important part of Latin phonology, so keep in mind that it's missing here.
The background picture is from Trajan's column—not really related to Caesar as it was made centuries after his death, and represents soldiers wearing lorica segmentata which was not worn in Caesar's time.
Lyrics in Latin:
Aut Caesar aut nihil,
Hic abundant leones,
Hic sunt leones,
Alea iacta est!
Caesar or nothing,
Here lions abound,
Here are lions,
The die is cast!