Enjoy the wine today, tomorrow there will be none

The opening to ch.15 of Antal Szerb’s Journey by Moonlight:

THE NEXT DAY they did indeed visit the Villa Giulia. They looked at the graves and the sarcophagi, with their lids supporting terracotta statues of the old Etruscan dead enjoying their lives—eating, drinking, embracing their spouses, and proclaiming the Etruscan philosophy. This, being wise enough not to have developed literature in the evolution of their cultural life, they never  committed to writing, though of course it can be read unmistakably on the faces of their statues: only the present matters, and moments of beauty are eternal.

Waldheim pointed out some broad drinking bowls. These were for wine, as the inscription proclaimed: Foied vinom pipafo, cra carefo.

“Enjoy the wine today, tomorrow there will be none,” Waldheim translated. “Tell me, could it be expressed more succinctly or truly? That statement, in its archaic splendour, is as definitive and unshakeable as any polygonic city-walls or cyclopean buildings. Foied vinom pipafo, cra carefo.

The patera – pictured below – is real, as is the inscription (only with vino in place of vinom).  It is one of the few meaningful bits of an old Italic language, Faliscan, related to but distinct from Latin.  The Old Latin version of the same is reconstructed as ‘hodie vinom bibabo, cras carebo.’  The literal translation is “today I will drink wine, tomorrow I won’t have any”


With the text clearer – reading right to left:



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