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Latin/meaning of a Latin phrase

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Question
Hello Maria,

may I please ask you for an English translation of the following:

Vultus fortunae variatur imagine lunae: Crescit, decrescit, constans persistere nescit.

As my Latin is almost zero, I can only venture a partial guess as to the meaning: Fortune changes like the moon, rising and waning and never constant....... but I don’t trust my guess. Please help!
The phrase appears in a biography of Heinrich Schliemann and it is definitely NOT for homework or a tattoo. :-)

Tank you for your time and assistance!
Sincerely,
Sonja

Answer
Hello,

Glad to help you. So, here’s the correct translation for “Vultus fortunae variatur imagine lunae: Crescit, decrescit, constans persistere nescit”, which is the inscription that Heinrich Schliemann  saw, while taking a glance at the tower of the Green Gate from the window of his hotel in Königsberg:

“The course of fortune changes like the phases of the moon: it waxes, it wanes, it is not able to remain the same”.

As you can see, this sentence, that emphasizes the vagaries and uncertainty of the fate which can change like the phases of the moon, is not so far from your loose translation ”Fortune changes like the moon, rising and waning and never constant...”.

Best regards,

Maria
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Note that:

-Vultus (nominative singular, 4th declension) =  the course (literally, "the face")

-fortunae (genitive singular of FORTUNA, 1st declension)= of fortune

-variatur (3rd person singular, present indicative, passive form,  of the verb VARIO)= changes (literally, “is being changed”)

-imagine (ablative singular of IMAGO, 3rd declension) = like the phases (literally, “according to the face”)

- lunae (genitive singular of the noun LUNA, 1st declension)=of the moon

-Crescit (3rd person singular, present indicative of CRESCO) = it waxes

-decrescit (3rd person singular, present indicative of DECRESCO) = it wanes

-constans (adjective in the nominative case) = the same (literally, “unchanging/ steadfast”)

-persistere (present infinitive of PERSISTO) = to remain/to stay

-nescit (3rd person singular, present indicative of NESCIO) = it is not able

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Maria

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I am an expert in Latin Language and Literature and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning this matter.

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Over 25 years teaching experience.

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I received my Ph.D. in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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