Roman Cavalry Choirs

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Vocabulary / Vocabulario Español-Inglés' started by Beatitrix, Nov 18, 2008.

  1. Beatitrix New Member

    Spanish - Spain
    Hello everyone!

    Do anyone know what 'roman calvary choirs' means?? It's from the coldplay song 'Viva la vida'.

    I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
    Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
    Be my mirror my sword and shield
    My missionaries in a foreign field

    (MOD EDIT - Do not post more than 4 lines of lyrics or their translation, thank you)

    I give you the extract, hope you help me! :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 18, 2008
  2. ampurdan

    ampurdan Senior Member

    jiā tàiluó ní yà
    Català & español (Spain)
    Hola Beatitrix, creo que sería:

    "Caballerescos coros romanos".
  3. Beatitrix New Member

    Spanish - Spain
    Yo busqué cavalry a secas y es caballeria, caballeria romana lo entiendo. lo que no me cuadra es choirs. será las cornetas y canciones que cantaban los romanos en la batalla? Que opinas?
  4. Lis48

    Lis48 Senior Member

    York, England
    English - British
    A "Roman choir" is where multiple singers sing a single melody without harmony, a sort of religious chanting. I don´t understand the connection with cavalry as the Roman cavalry historically didn´t have choirs, so I suspect it is just to give the image of lots of people marching along chanting in unison.
  5. Beatitrix New Member

    Spanish - Spain
    Yes, many times songs mix several ideas or words in order to mean something abstract and original.

    Thank you very much ! ;)
  6. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    "Roman cavalry choirs" are choirs made up of Roman cavalry: coros de caballeria romana.

    If the phrase makes little sense in Spanish, be assured that it makes no more sense in English.:)

    I do not think this is correct.
  7. Beatitrix New Member

    Spanish - Spain
    Thank you GreenWhiteBlue. the thing is that I didn't know that cavarly , caballería, singed. I imagined them only like soldiers with a horse. Then I imagined it could be the songs they singed in order to motivathe themselves for the battle. could it be?
  8. Lis48

    Lis48 Senior Member

    York, England
    English - British
    That´s exactly while I still feel it refers to a Roman choir which is an informal ( maybe only BE as GreenWhiteBlue does not seem to have heard of it) way of saying Roman Catholic choir, a choir that chants in unison. This goes with the line Jerusalem bells are ringing, for the two religions.
    Many people say that the word is catholic not cavalry anyway but even as a native speaker I can´t distinguish it. Even if it was "cavalry," to me here it is used in the sense of a battallion and suggests the idea of Roman Catholics singing as a force.
    The song is full of biblical references, pillars of salt, head on a silver plate, St. Peter´s, Jerusalem bells etc. but nothing about the Roman era.
    It´s supposed to be about Napoleon (hence the cover painting of the French Revolution) though friends say it´s more about Tony Blair ( his conversion to Roman Catholicism, reputed lies, today he is the Middle East envoy, considered a puppet, used to "rule" the world etc.)
    To me, it´s really bazaar to suggest it has anything to do with the Roman army and cavalry as in soldiers on horseback.
    I just can´t imagine Roman soldiers on horseback singing as a choir into battle. But just my opinion! :)
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2008
  9. Beatitrix New Member

    Spanish - Spain
    Waw, thank you Lis48 for your wide explanation ^^ It has been very useful to me. I agree with you, the Roman age has nothing to do with the rest of the song, I was wrong. And the cover itself gives us a clue about the contents. I found curious the comparison with Blair, and I also think it's possible.

    So thank you again for your time! :)
  10. big jake New Member

    I disagree with the general consensus regarding the term "Roman Cavalry choirs ".
    Cavalry while not the backbone of the Roman legion ,was an important component.
    Consider the vast size of the Roman Empire ,encompassing the entire Mediteranean
    Sea. Now consider the system of Roman engineered roads needed for commerce ,for collection of taxes and for the transport of troops form one part of the empire to the other.

    The Cavalry, logically, would have been used when there was a need to get to a trouble spot quickly. Long days and nights riding were most likely not spent in silence.

    Did the Roman Cavalry sing into battle? Most likely not. Did they sing in transit from place to place? I would assume that they did rather than ride in silence in order to fight boredom and monotony.

    I direct your attention to "The Horse Soldiers" staring John Wayne and William Holden
    for an example of a "cavalry choir". Cavalry troopers sang on the trail just as infantrymen marched to a cadence.
  11. big jake New Member

    The error in the general thinking here is that you are taking the term choir literally.
    Think of it figuratively and it starts to make sense.

    I picture the timeline of the reference was post 320AD after Christianity became the religion of the Empire. Then the verse makes some sense.
    I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
    Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
    Be my mirror my sword and shield
    My missionaries in a foreign field
  12. Moritzchen Senior Member

    Los Angeles, CA
    Spanish, USA
    Here´s a long winded interpretation of that song.
  13. codigo387 New Member

    Great observations and explanations all. Fundamentally, the song is about the lament of the damned and the failure of monarchy to successfully accomplish the mission of Christianity, resulting in revolution, democratic or otherwise. The monarchs of Europe, for the most part, achieved their power from the church, the Catholic Church was the source of their authority—thus the verbiage "puppet on a string". Their mission, as sovereigns, was to promote Christianity throughout the world in service to the church. The chorus is a lament of their failure, it is a failed mission statement and an indictment: "be my mirror , my sword, my missionaries in a foreign field".

    According to Encyclopedia Britannica the term mirror in Christian terms is quite clear:

    Education of the laity in the 9th and 10th centuries
    "The clergy who dominated society thought it necessary to give laymen some directives about life comparable to those offered in monastic rules and thus issued what were called miroirs (“mirrors”), setting forth the duties of a good sovereign and exalting the Christian struggle. Already the image of the courtly and Christian knight was beginning to take shape."

    With the exception of Spain, which has the oldest known monarchy in human history excluding the Japanese, the monarchal political system failed and became empire for power's sake rather than for the mission of the church. For the Church's part, it does not care about government types, only that government exists so that civil order is maintained. So a failed king or monarchal system is ultimately of no consequence. Even socialism would be acceptable, even preferred perhaps, if atheistic philosophy wasn't so intertwined with most systems.

    So the song was not referring to any particular monarch or the revolution that over threw it (French or Roman in the above examples), it was the system of monarchy itself that is over thrown by revolution, all the revolutions. The damned king's lament (Jerusalem bells etc.), as a representative of all kings, is his acknowledgment and worry that he failed in his part to accomplish Christ's victory. But that continues of course...

    I agree with Big Jake, Roman Cavalry choirs is in reference to the songs sung by the Roman cavalry, they were the instrument of empire, the early form of monarchy (pre medieval feudalism) , and as such it fits completely within the context of the song. Mr. Martin, the song writer, as a student of Ancient World Studies, clearly has a knowledge of Church history He was raised Catholic and is thus versed in the concept of Christian salvation which he considered [stated was] serious . In his studies, he probably studied his namesake, as many Christians do, St. Martin of Tours (316-397 AD), who was a Roman cavalryman who turned to the monastic life and was one of the most influential spiritual leaders in medieval Europe. He is remembered best in art work depicting his tearing half his cavalry cloak (capella) to give to a naked beggar during winter. Charlemagne put that very capella in his palace church, it became known as his capella. The Carolingians, began calling their churches capellas as well, where the word "chapel" comes from. The Carolingians, as forerunners to the Holy Roman Empire, were Frankish and their territory around the time of the fall of Rome would eventually become France (probably why the French revolution is prominent in the album’s art work). Further, St. Martin has long been associated with the royalty of France and later to the republic. It is said that St. Martin's cloak is the "first flag" of France.

    St. Martin became the bishop of Tours and set up the oldest monastery in Europe, the Benedictine Liguge' abbey. As you may probably know, Benedictine monks and the monks of many Catholic orders are quite well known for their choirs. Perhaps you are familiar with Gregorian chant or the latest version of it sung by the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo De Silos (entitled Chant) for example? In Catholic circles and vernacular, particular in earlier times. monks that evangelize as missionaries [in foreign fields] are known as the cavalry of the Catholic church, they are basically action figures, the heroes of Catholicism. So in the context in which it was written “Roman cavalry” and “Roman Catholic” is simply idiomatic and synonymous.

    Therefore, Lis48 is absolutely correct in her linking cavalry to catholic, though the rest of her hypothesis is quite imaginative and entertaining! I enjoyed it very much. I love when history is linked to current events such as Tony Blair. Nice maneuver. I hope this helps, it would be very interesting to hear what Mr. Martin would say about all our discussion here?

    Pax Christi
  14. EvanWilliams

    EvanWilliams Senior Member

    North Texas- US of A
    The Roman cavalry was indeed a small arm. More commonly Cavalry was provided by auxiliary or allied barbarians.
    I did laugh when I heard the song and pictures of Roman equestrians and barbarians singing hymns ran through my mind.
    But I do imagine they had some bawdy tunes they sang or hummed on the march.
  15. codigo387 New Member

    I would agree that is the consensus among historians after the common era, it simply got too large. But at the beginning, according to Theador Mommsen, the cavalry was strictly a patrician class hereditary service occupation. Later it was open to first class commoners, and finally open to allies as you specify. Plus, the cavalry was paid 3 times more and required less campaign seasons than regular infantry; it was a sought after position. Then in 107 BC, long before the Christ event, Gaius Marius abolished the citizen cavalry in favor of native allied cavalries as Evan suggests. It might be argued that by the time of Constantine and the rise of Christianity that there was scarcely a Roman cavalry, let alone a Christian one, to be found!

    But to be clear, Big Jake's observations were just plain common sense; it would be hard to argue and ridiculous to think that Roman cavalrymen never sang. I am saying, given Evans remarks and the historical perspective above, that the Roman cavalry that Mr. Martin mentions in Viva La Vida is not actually Roman cavalry (literally), the context wouldn't even make sense since the chorus describes the time of the judgment. He far more plausibly means the Roman Catholic missionary monks known as [spiritual] cavalry, that his St. Martin established. The Catholic missionary monks make perfect logical sense given the context and theme of the song regardless of Mr. Martins intent. I would wager that was his intent though given that he was learned in Ancient World Studies and at some point perhaps religious or knowledgeable of Catholicism.
  16. johnnyd New Member

    There are two words here ... CAVALRY is a mounted military unit and CALVARY the hill where the Romans crucified Jesus Christ and it seems both are used in the song Viva la Vida

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