Caesar's Triumph ("Ecce Caesar Nunc Triumphat")

Allegra Forbes |

Yes, It’s True: “My Darling Clementine” and the “Ode to Joy” Use the Same Meter as a Song Sung at Julius Caesar’s Triumph in 45 B.C.



 “Caesar’s Triumph,” by Rubens (after Mantegna). (Wikimedia Commons)
“Caesar’s Triumph,” by Rubens (after Mantegna). (Wikimedia Commons)

[Reginald Foster’s Caesar tour on the Ides of March would typically conclude at the statue of Caesar at the Via de’ Fori Imperiali, where Reginaldus would proffer a song in excellent Latin called “Caesar’s Triumph.” We would sing it to the tune of the “Ode to Joy,” which seemed appropriate, but it could also be sung to the tune of “My Darling Clementine,” which was unusual, to say the least. The first line of the song (“Ecce Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Galliam”) is found in Suetonius, who reports it was sung at Caesar’s triumph in 45 B.C. Neither Reginaldus nor anyone else seemed to know the origin of the rest of the song. After some research, I have determined that the song was written by John Charles Robertson (obiit 1956), a Canadian Classics scholar and dean of University College, Toronto. Robertson penned a number of translations of standard English songs (such as the “Star-Spangled Banner” (“Potestne Cerni”) and “Auld Lang Syne” (“Num Amicorum Veterum”)), which he collected into a volume, Latin Songs New and Old (1931; revised, with additions, as Latin Songs and Carols, 1961). The germ of the song “Caesar’s Triumph” is likely that Robertson realized that the line from Suetonius was in the trochaic meter still found in many popular songs, and wrote further verses to fill the song out. If you want an example of cultural continuity, here it is: a song such as “My Darling Clementine,” written by an Ohio man about a California miner’s daughter, uses the same metrical form as a song sung at Julius Caesar’s triumph in 45 B.C. — which was the same metrical form used in the Schiller ode Beethoven set into his Ninth Symphony.]


IULII CAESARIS CANTICUM (“Caesar’s Triumph;” J.C. Robertson, 1931)


Ecce Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Galliam,

Civiumque multitudo celebrat victoriam.


[chorus] Gaius Iulius Caesar noster, imperator, pontifex,

Primum praetor, deinde consul, nunc dictator, moxque rex.


En victores procedentes, laeti floribus novis,

Magna praeda sunt potiti et captivis plurimis.




Exsultantes magna voce Io triumphe! concinunt,

Dum auratum ante currum victa oppida ferunt.




Legiones viam sacram totam complent strepitu,

Capitolinumque collem scandit Caesar in curru.




O sol pulcher, o laudande! Caesarem recepimus,

Et corona triumphali honoratum vidimus.


Sign up to receive email updates about new articles

Allegra Forbes

In Medias Res is the online magazine for lovers of Latin and Greek, published by the Paideia Institute.


Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.