Once I realized that this warrior was wounded, and bleeding profusely, it called to mind the ancient Greek concept of the beautiful death. Perhaps nowhere is this idea better expressed than in a passage in the Iliad where Priam, the king of Troy, idolizes youth and the brave death of a young and handsome warrior, while at the same time lamenting the death of an older man.
In the translation of Richmond Lattimore, the passage reads (Il. 22.71–76):
For a young man all is decorous when he is cut down in battle and torn with the sharp bronze, and lies there dead, and though dead still all that shows about him is beautiful; but when an old man is dead and down, and the dogs mutilate the grey head and the grey beard and the parts that are secret, this, for all sad mortality, is the sight most pitiful.
The museum doesn’t make clear where this cup was found, but considering that it is intact, it must have been recovered from a grave. Perhaps the deceased was himself a young man cut down in battle. Or maybe whoever put this cup in the grave had thoughts along similar lines to Priam, either extolling the virtues of a beautiful death or deploring the passing of the aged. If the cup was ever used in life, it almost certainly would have ellicited such thoughts from whomever held it.