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Posts Tagged ‘Carmen’

carmen (carmina in plural) in ancient Roman religion can be anything from a hymn, to a verse, to a spell, to a prayer, or expiation.  They could be used for a variety of purposes, including harming another’s crops, imploring the gods to make one’s crops grow, for protection purposes…

They would typically be chanted instead of sung, and they each had a certain rhythm to them; parts of the carmen would be repeated, always three times.

The two carmina that survive today are the Carmen Saliare and the Carmen Arvale.  And, unfortunately, though I say “survive”, I don’t mean that they survive in their entirety.  Rather, what we have are fragments of a much larger picture, and sometimes what we do have isn’t even translatable.

Hell, they weren’t even translatable to the Romans of the mid-and-late Republic.

The Carmen Arvale

This carmen was chanted by the Fratres Arvales, or the Arval priests.  These were the priests of the Dea Dia, goddess of growth, and were primarily concerned with the growth of crops.  This carmen would be chanted during the Ambarvalia, a festival taking place on May 29th.  The opening words are very famous:

e nos, Lases, iuuate

e nos Lases, iuuate

e nos Lases, iuuate

 

neue lue rue Marmar sins incurrere in pleores

neue lue rue Marmar sins incurrere in pleores

neue lue rue Marmar sins incurrere in pleores

 

satur fu, fere Mars, limen stali, sta berber

satur fu, fere Mars, limen stali, sta berber

satur fu, fere Mars, limen stali, sta berber

 

semunis alternei aduo capit conctos

semunis alternei aduo capit conctos

semunis alternei aduo capit conctos

 

enos Marmor iuuato

enos Marmor iuuato

enos Marmor iuuato

 

triumpe triumpe triumpe triumpe triumpe

 

What that basically is, is a plea for the Lares (called Lases here, evidence of its archaic nature) and for Mars (called Marmar, Mars, and Marmor) to aid the chanters.  It is asking for mars to not let plagues or disasters destroy the crops, and is asking him to be satiated in dance.  “Semunis” are the Semones, possibly sowing deities.

The “limen stali, sta berber” is quite possibly a non-chanted portion, serving as directions for the priests to “jump over the barrier, stand!”

 

The Carmen Saliare

This carmen is far more fragmented and indecipherable than the Carmen Arvale.  It was chanted by the Salii, the “leaping priests” of Mars, and was performed at several times during March and October.

What we do have of the carmen is as follows, preserved by Varro in de Lingua Latina and Terentius Scaurus in de Orthographia:

 

divum empta cante, divum deo supplicate

cume tonas, Leucesie, prae tet tremonti

quot ibet etinei de is cum tonarem (or) quom tibi cunei decstumum tonaront

cozeulodorieso (?)

omnia vero adpatula coemisse

Ian cusianes duonus ceruses dunus Ianusve

vet pom melios eum recum.

 

It translates roughly to:

 

Sing of him, the father of the gods!  Appeal to the God of gods!

When you thunder, O God of Light, they tremble before you!

All gods beneath you have heard your thunder!

…?

But to have acquired all that is spread out

Now the good … of Ceres … or Ianus …

 

The weird cozeulodorieso has been proposed to be osculo dolori ero, meaning “I shall be as a kiss to grief”, but we really don’t know.

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