A relatively famous phrase from the Odes (or Carmina) by Quintus Horatius Flaccus (better known to us English speakers as Horace), this useful Latin means, simply, "Now is the time for drinking."

Webbing about, one can find it translated as "Now it is the time for drinking" but I feel that's perhaps a poor translation, as the extra word strips some of the poetry -- not to mention insistent immediacy! -- from the original, and Horace has always inhabited the very first rank of Latin poets, one might even say the primus pilus.

To understand a little, perhaps, of the mind of the man who wrote in a hundred different ways "Carpe diem!" (also one of Horace's, also from the Odes), you need look no further than a single decision taken in the youth of his long, 57-year Roman life: he joined Brutus's army to fight against Julius Caesar's named heir, Augustus (or Octavian as he was known then).

Since the followers of Brutus professed to be fighting for the Republic against what they saw as the new rise of "kings" in Rome, the internal journey Horace experienced must have been quite something. After the war was "lost" by his chosen side, he became a leading exponent of the glories of Rome under his old enemy. Seize each and every day indeed!

With that history, you might well ask how we know "Now is the time for drinking" is a paean to celebration and not sorrow at might-have-been, an invitation to drunkenness, or a wish to wash the past away in wine, and for that you simply need the rest of Horace's original line: Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero pulsanda tellus.

Now is the time for drinking, now is the time for dancing footloose upon the earth!

But, of course, nothing is ever that one-dimensional. What's the rest of the Ode about? What's the context of this demand for a serious knees-up? Why it's nothing less than pleasure at the death of Cleopatra, and with her, the last conceivable rival to Augustus' claim to be Caesar's heir. Hooray! Let's dance on her grave!

Pure Roman Schadenfreude in the old style. "It is pleasant, when the sea is high and the winds are dashing the waves about, to watch from the shore the struggles of another." But of course that's Lucretius.

So, finally, have you just gotten out of a relationship before your partner took you both down in flames? Has a business rival just imploded? Has someone who had it coming gotten theirs?

Nunc est bibendum!

Particular thanks are due liveforever and DylanDog, Latin scholars both! Strenuis ardus cedunt.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.