Monday, March 26, 2012


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ʑ The facts of the Etruscan civilization eluded historians for millennia. Most of the stories

and tales of their society were either destroyed or were written by Greeks or Romans with a bias

in favor of the author’s city, so much so that it forced the reader to believe the Etruscans were

either a mysterious evil civilization with a penchant for piracy and a luxurious way of life, or an

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ancient race of no significance whatsoever. Because there were so many great ancient

civilizations to study, most people believed the stories of an irrelevant Empire to be true, until

recently, when archeological findings in the 100s led historians and archeologists to turn their

beliefs in a whole different direction. How much the Etruscan people may have directly

influenced western civilization is still a matter of some speculation, but their influences on the

later Roman culture are either directly evidenced or strongly suggested through much of the

Etruscan life style. This influence is not militaristic or political, but found in the arts and in

professional trades such as engineering, architecture and city planning. The Etruscans are now

recognized as “tireless cultivators, founders of cities, bold navigators, deft craftsmen; soldiers,

traders, builders of temples, dykes and forts,” and noteworthy artists.

The Etruscans ruled in Italy from 750 B.C. to 60 B.C., a flourishing Empire prior to the

time of the Roman conquest of the Etruscan cities. The Etruscan Empire had its beginnings

when the Roman culture was little more than a small group of huts that was the start of the

Roman community. Etruria, the region where the Etruscans began their habitation, occupied a

significant part of the northern Italian peninsula and there they built Italy’s first great civilization,

spreading an advanced and cultured society across the land. The ways of the Etruscans were

considered so different that the writings of authors from foreign lands, who included the

Etruscans in their works, considered them to be bizarre and alien. The Etruscans , however, do

not appear to have been aggressive conquers and it is now believed that they did not want to

make contact with other nations for mastery, but instead wanted to open trade, create allies, and

discover new land to found cities. This was perhaps due to the pre-Italian background of the

Etruscans, an obscure history with mysteries that are still unsolved.

The origins of the Etruscans are still a matter of controversy and have been the subject

of speculation from the first historian to chronicle Etruscan life, Herodotus, and later the Roman

historian, Livy. Herodotus’ accounts report that the Etruscans originated from Lydia on the

western coast of Asia Minor, and with them brought order and civilization to the Italian

peninsula’s barbaric environment. Herodotus explains that natives of Lydia, because of a long

famine, decided to divide the population into two groups, one remaining in Lydia with the king

and the other emigrating with the kings son in search of a new homeland. The land that became

Etruria more or less parallels the Italian coast, from the mountains of the Alps to the southern

coast. Livy reports that the Etruscans made their way up the Adriatic Sea and the Etruscans are

also known to have lived on the island of Lemnos, and in other localities on the northeastern

shores of the Aegean Sea. It is unlikely that the Etruscans were indigenous to Italy because

everything the Etruscans brought to Italy was new to that part of the world. Everything about

their culture, technology and architecture, farming methods and mines, crafts and industries,

customs and fashions, religion, language, way of life and military structure was totally different

from anything that had existed in the area before. Though the resemblance of their rituals and

religious practices, the funeral customs, and the similarities of language, the Etruscans are linked

to Lydia and Asia Minor. However, confusion may have been caused because, even with such

great similarities to other distant civilizations, the Etruscans appear to have had an amazing ability

to adapt to many of the Greek cultural customs. Moreover, because the Etruscan cities and

Empire was annihilated by about 00 B.C., what we know of them comes solely from tombs and

excavations, and archeologists searching a extinct civilization have difficulty finding a human

affinity for the Etruscan people. This is strange because the Etruscans left an abundance of

materials evidence so that we know what they looked like, how they lived, and a good deal about

their public and private customs so that we can glimpse into their internal lives. Etruscans have

developed a historical importance because they are mysterious, which intrigues historians, and for

what their culture provided and passed on to other civilizations. While they were the greatest

sailors of their time and ruled the entire Italian coast with such mastery of the sea that they were

feared by all other nations, their naval and military feats were a matter of legends, exciting

episodes and incidents of derring-do, the Etruscan’s legacy is not military, but is found in those

things revealed in artifacts of an advanced society and culture. Archeological findings will

continue to shed light on the beginnings of the civilization, but what has already been discovered

reveals the approach the Etruscans took toward settlement of land was highly successful and, at

the peak of the Etruscan’s rule, they reigned over the whole of Italy.

Over the span of the Etruscan Empire’s 500 year existence, it had four ages Gold, Silver,

Bronze and Black Iron. The period which historians call the Golden Age is the time of the

Etruscans greatest rule, a time of growth and expansion and hope that declined over centuries

until the Iron Age when men took the law into their own hands and Rome’s conquest of Etruria

was complete. With each age the Etruscans changed their lifestyle, which has led to the

discovery of many different types, styles and varieties of artifacts which show influences from

many areas surrounding the Mediterranean. Recently discovered artifacts are the key to

unraveling the Etruscan mysteries. The Etruscan artifacts suggest they were a thoughtful people,

and the Greeks seem to have greatly influenced them, especially in Etruscan art where Greek

mythological figures appear frequently. The Etruscans greatest artistic talent was in bronze, not

clay, but many vases have been recovered, a large number of which are covered in painted figures,

and it is from these that a significant part of Etruscan history has been gleaned. Bucchero ware,

the Etruscan’s famous black pottery, was known all throughout the Mediterranean area. Created

only by the City of Caere, Bucchero ware received it’s unique black color by firing the clay so that

the oxygen and iron formed a ferrous oxide bond which looks black. The figures painted on

these vases, frequently have replica paintings of Greek gods and goddesses, and many of these

even include the Greek, not Etruscan, title of the god. Another unique Etruscan pottery is the

Red-Figured vases, found at Caere and which show women, satyrs, and other individuals in a

variety of settings. However, as the Etruscan civilization expanded and their rule grew, the

Etruscans changed their style and technique of artwork. Soon it was only the basic idea that was

contrived from Greek mythology, and the works of art themselves were completely and uniquely

Etruscan. This is shown by art which is more influenced by nature, art which did not show the

gods at all but which depicted humans interacting with nature. From these vases historians have

learned the complex society that blossomed in Etruria and the figures show a variety of sports and

games, social scenes, music and dancing, military engagements, natural and super natural


The region that was Etruria had twelve main cities on the Italian peninsula. There is no

authoritative list of the cities, but their names have been deduced to be Arretium (Arezzo), Caere

(Cerveteri), Clusium, Cortona, Perusia (Perugia), Populonia, Rusellae, Tarquinii (Tarquinia), Veii

(Veio), Vetulonia, Volaterrae (Volterra), and Vulci. The three most influential of the cities were

Vulci, Veii, and Caere, near coastal ports where the Etruscan sailors could shelter their merchant

and warships. The artistic differences among cities varied very little but the specialties of

particular cities did vary. Museums today, such as those in Rome, reveal “grand” works of

Etruscan art while others, such as Volterra, two thousand feet up in the hill country of Tuscany,

reveal simple items that show the story of every day life.

In addition to artistic talent, engineering and scientific skills are apparent among the

Etruscans, since the design of cities was along the four points of a compass with the temples lying

on the North and South points. When Etruscans decided the location of a city, ceremonies were

performed to consecrate the spot where the city was going to be built. The first settlements of

the Etruscans in the Tuscany area were in a hilly part of the northern Italian peninsula. This area

was too hilly to encourage purely geometric city schemes, but every city had three gates, each for

a road that converged to the main road leading to the city’s temples. The reason for this road

design was that temples were the focal point of city life and the most beautiful architectural

ornaments of a city. The temple was the most prominent structure in any Etruscan city.

Unfortunately, temples were built out of wood not marble or stone so only the foundation of

temples remain. The Etruscans were masters of masonry construction but decided not to use their

knowledge and skills for the building of their temples for various religious reasons. The design of

an Etruscan temple paralleled that of a Greek temple but with some distinct differences. The

temple itself rested on one tall base. This base was no wider than the cella, or indoor portion of a

temple, and only had steps on the South side leading into a deep porch. The porch was supported

by two rows of four columns each, one nearest the stairs and the other nearest the entrance to the

cella. Alike to the Greeks, the columns were Doric, but the Etruscans never used Ionic or

Corinthian columns, as do the Greeks and Romans. The cella was generally subdivided into three

subsections. The reasons behind the division was that Etruscan religion was dominated by a triad

of gods who were the predecessors to the Roman Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva. Therefore, the

layout for an Etruscans temple was squarish and closely related to domestic architecture of the

Etruscan living.

After moving from hilly Tuscany to flat Rome, Etruscan cities were engineered more

precisely and based on two main intersecting roads creating four subsections in the city, following

which the four sub sections could then be further divided. This form of road organization directly

influenced later engineers and was adopted by the Romans for their city structures. Etruscan

engineers worked in conjunction with religious persons. After consulting the omens, an augurer

would act as surveyor and use instruments and the position of the sun to determine what the

orientation of the city would be. The four points of the two main roads were laid out on the

four cardinal directions with the main temple at the northern point where there was no gate.

Secondary streets were parallel and perpendicular to the two main roads forming a checkerboard

pattern. The Romans adopted many of the concepts of the Etruscan road system; processional

roads and main roads leading up to temples, and road planning throughout the land including

similar concepts for cross country roads connecting cities. If Romans followed the Etruscan

roads between cities is not known, but the Etruscans had a network of road spread out over the

countryside which were the first in western Europe provided a model for the Roman’s great

military highways.

Although many questions about the Etruscans are still unanswered, relatively recent

findings have uncovered previously unknown facts. For instance, Etruscan people were small in

stature. According to paintings found in Etruscan ruins, together with recovered Etruscan

furnishings and clothes, the average height of Etruscan men was about five feet four inches.

Consequently, it is probably that height was a determining factor for the buildings and other

aspects of Etruscan life. Paintings and sculptures depict banquet couches and low foot benches

with men and women reclining and it is likely that the interior spaces of buildings, and the

dimensions of living areas and furnishings would have been designed proportionate to the

Etruscan people.

The advanced nature of the Etruscan culture is shown by their homes. Within the ruins and

remains of Etruria there is evidence of a sophisticated society where even small things, such as

clothing, marking social status. Etruscan wealth was measured in material items of valued

substance, such as gold, ivory and precious stones. During the sixth century B.C., wealthy

aristocratic Etruscans indulged themselves and bought all they could afford in an effort to create

luxurious living conditions. The Etruscans began the use of an atrium-type area, a courtyard

used for formal and informal occasions, and this too was adopted by the Romans. Unfortunately,

Etruscan atriums were generally constructed of soft materials and few are still standing for present

time investigation. For the period, Etruscan houses were of an improved designed and were

built from dried mud bricks with a heavy wooden frame. The usual home of a person from an

aristocratic position was about 100 square feet in a rectangle 0 by 40 feet, which may have

relevance to the average Etruscan’s stature. The house was set upon a foundation of tufa blocks,

which are a porous rock formed as a deposit of springs or streams. The pitched roof was covered

with terra cotta tiles that could range from small pieces to three feet long and eighteen inches

wide. Advanced architectural features are found in the roof, whcih extended far beyond the walls

of the house in order to protect the brick and timber from rain or other harsh weather conditions

and every door and window of an Etruscan home was framed by sturdy wooden posts and lintels.

Depending on the wealth of the homeowner, the gables and eaves of each house were decorated

as elaborately as a temple. The terra cotta reliefs were further decorated with pictures of animals

and monsters, as well as graphic designs.

On the backside of a house, a fenced outdoor courtyard led to the vestibule, or entrance

room. The vestibule was only a few feet wide but was nearly the length of the house itself. It is

this vestibule that evolved in to what was known as the atrium to the Romans. The vestibule

served many purposes to an Etruscan home. It was used for the delivery from merchants, a

passageway for servants to do their bidding, and also the servants living and sleeping quarters.

From the far side of the vestibule were doors with access to the other rooms of the house. These

doors stretched across the length of the vestibule and were side by side to one another so that any

part of the home could be accessed from the vestibule. Curiously, the location where members of

a family slept are still uncertain.

The center room of the home was small, about fifteen feet wide but had many functions.

During the day the owner of the home used this room for business while at night this room could

be transformed into a place of parties, banquets, and a room to sleep when guests were too drunk

to find their way home. Two of the side rooms of the home were used for a kitchen and a room

for storing food, grain, and wine.

Of all aspects of an Etruscan home, one of the most advanced is plumbing and waste

disposal. The Etruscans differed from the Romans and Greeks in that fact that they did not have

to manually empty their houses of waste because of their excellent plumbing lines. Lucius

Tarquinius, the first Etruscan King of Rome is credited with providing sewer service from the city

to the river. Stone-lined drains led from the house to the main ditch to provide discharge

plumbing wastes and waste water. Other terra cotta pipes were made to fit into one another to

bring fresh water from an elevated cisterns. Many houses, to bring water in even more easily, had

their own stone-lined wells within their courtyards.

The dress and social lives of Etruscans also varied in many ways from the Romans and

Greeks of that time, although there were some similarities. In order to keep the Etruscan

aristocrats happy in their luxurious life style, lower class citizens would work on their large farms

to provide for the many requests of the rich and powerful. According to frescoes and wall

paintings left by the Etruscans in the tombs of nobles and the wealthy, these members of highers

society held frequent banquets, perhaps even nightly. Men and women both ate the finest foods

and choice wines. They were entertained by dancers and musicians, who doubled as house

servants at other times. The Etruscans were apparently quite hedonistic and, at these sybaritic

banquets, men and women lounged on long divans and were served by naked young boys while

dancers wore transparent dresses. In many ways the Etruscan family was no different in general

makeup and structure than that of the Romans or Greeks, but, unlike their Oriental and Arab

contemporaries, the Etruscans did not practice polygamy, communal wife sharing, or incest within


Social custom was important in Etruscan cities and is one of the most understood parts of

the culture due to the many vases, paintings and frescoes. Custom was shown in items such as the

clothing worn in Etruria, which eventually influenced the Roman toga. In the summer, men

wore round neck, close fitting robes, which reached down to the ankles. The left arm sleeve went

to the wrist, while the right arm only reached the elbow. The entire robe criss-crossed vertically

and horizontally, seeming as if the robe was tucked. The same type of garment was worn in the

winter, but the fabric was wool, not cotton or silk. Women wore short-sleeved tunics, light

colors, frequently embroidered. The material was pleated and reached the ankles. As did the

men, the women wore cotton or silk in the summer and wool in the winter. However, variety of

dress is also apparent in painting that show such things as flowered dresses, voluminous cloaks,

scarves and ankle high boots. Head wear also marked a person’s home or role in Etrurian society

and apparently could cause some confusion. Women might wear a tutulus, a high cap, and

because the Italian region did so much farming, hats were a very important necessity to everyday

farming life. Depending on what a person did for a living and where a person lived on the

waterways, determined if they wore hats. In the upper Po River valley region, both men and

women wore broad brimmed hats, whereas, in the lower Po valley, only the slaves, who worked

the fields, wore hats. Consequently, there were instances in which a person had to know where in

Etrusia they were to know the proper form of dress. The only other form of hat used by Etrurian

men was a helmet, of the type worn in battle. This helmet, worn by warriors, effected hair styles.

For the extra protection and padding for their helmet, men wore their hair parted down the middle

in braids which were wrapped around their heads. After the braids went out of style, men wore

their hair shorter, more clean cut, like Greek youths and apparently found some other form of

padding for their helmets. Women had more variety in hair styles, depending on the fashion of the

day. Women also wore braided hair under a hat, or one braid over the shoulder drawn up in a

knot and curls often framed the face.

An advanced society and personal riches were the products of Etruscan talents. The

Etruscans were skilled miners who exploited Italy’s natural resources, such as copper, lead, iron

and did extensive metal finish work. Etruscan metal workers were praised highly by the Romans

and Greeks for their work in bronze and precious metals. The Etruscans traded aggressively

with the Greek colonies south of Sicily and Ionia, and with Phoenician ports. Etruria was

founded on the trade of copper and iron, which were both soft metals and in great demand. This

much benefitted the Etruscans because the soil in the mountains of their homelands were iron rich

and easily mined. The iron mines in the Italian mountains were Europe’s first major industry and

it is probable that this ore was their biggest business and the basis of Etruria’s fabulous wealth.

With wealth also came education and professional trades such as medicine flourished. The

Etruscan doctor was a physician, dentist, oculist and pharmacist all at once and had a complete

stock of remedies to treat patients. Tradesmen produced goods of excellent quality, and good

foods, wines and oils were available.

In the ancient world, religious and social planning were directly related to nature and

natural sciences. Basic natural science was highly developed in Etruria and the Etruscan calendar

was based on the phases of the moon, as was the later Roman calendar. This calendar marked

festivals, the kings activities, and every eighth day, which was market day. The Etruscans loved

nature and went hunting, fishing and swimming often. Also, many people owned and raised

animals and owned or operated farms. Every year the valley areas would flood and, in order to

use this natural occurrence to accomplish two tasks � draining the valley and irrigating the dryer

areas � the Etruscans invented methods for irrigation. Irrigation allows farmers to expand their

growing season and growing areas, and by doing this the Etruscans would have been able to

produce more of the items they needed and would have been less dependent on other nations for

foods. Their ability to be self-sufficient and independent would have allowed them the

opportunity to develop a broad range of talents and Etruscans became miners, farmers, ranchers,

sailors, merchants and, when necessary, warriors.

Societies are often judged by their appreciation of the arts and music was a huge part of

Etruscan life. Every Etruscan youth was taught music, either by rote or by ear, as depicted in

many Etruscan frescos. It is believed that, just as important as the music was to society, so was

the singing and dancing that accompanied the music. The classical Greek and Etruscan style of

music were very similar There were many different forms of dancing, some more casual and one

for every formal occasion such as courting and formal balls. Even funerals developed a specific

style of dance appropriately entitled funereal dancing. In courting, the way the women danced

was called “Round” and the men’s style was “Martial”. The Etruscans did not dance in couples,

but stood facing each other, following their own dance. Interestingly, though the Etruscan lifestyle

included many types of dance, none are said to have been performed with extreme gracefulness.

Nevertheless, the Etruscans were great lovers of music and, with the Etruscan’s love of music

came a number of different instruments.

In Etruscan paintings and reliefs, a flute is often represented and is present in many every

day scenes depicting everything from bakers to thieves. This has caused historians to believe that

the flute or long double pipe, was the national and regional instrument of Etruria. Besides the

flute, the Etruscans had other wind instruments, including the trumpet, which they are credited

with inventing. The Etruscans had two forms of the trumpet. The first one was a straight bronze

tube sometimes curved at on end. The other was twisted like a ram’s horn. Rome adopted both

trumpet styles for their use. In addition, Etruscans has several varieties of stringed instruments

including the lyre, harp and cithara. The Etruscans also had entertainment in the form of plays

and they may have formed orchestras to be used for adding music to their plays. Because

gestures were often used in these plays, rather than dialogue, the Etruscans are also credited with

developing mime. Interestingly, while Rome followed much of the Etruscan lifestyle, unlike the

Greeks and Etruscans, the Romans love for music was never as deep or passionate.

Another difference between Etruscan and Roman societies was the place held by women.

“Women were not only equal members of society with their husbands and fathers, but enjoyed

much of the same status that ladies had in the Age of Chivalry. Their liberated condition, in fact,

was unique in the ancient world.” The massive amount of freedom Etruscan women enjoyed

caused the Romans to look down on the entire Etruscan civilization. Whereas, if a Roman

woman were to be respectable, she must be adapted to enjoying few freedoms, the Etruscan

women were used to being free. The Roman’s reasons for looking down upon Etruscan women

was that, instead of serving the men, the women considered themselves on a par with men and

even dined with the men. Etruscan women went outside a great deal, unlike Greek and Roman

women, who lived in the shadows of their homes. In formal dress, women went to dances,

concerts, and sporting events such a boxing and chariot racing. This made Etruscan women seem

indiscrete to the Romans but, although the Romans looked down upon Etruscan women, many

Romans had Etruscan brides. When the Roman men brought their Etruscan brides home, the men

were disgraced at the ladies lack of manners and soon forced their wives to fit Roman standards.

Similarly, the Greeks, who were very narrow minded, looked on a woman’s rights as the worst

kind of social misbehavior.

If an Etruscan woman had a high enough rank, she was given a good education and, in

addition to social mixing and informal freedoms, Etruscan women were involved a great deal in

the politics of their cities. Nevertheless, even through women were granted equal rights in many

things, the Etruscan family was a patriarchy and, as far as the formal the order of the family was

designed, women always came second. This is somewhat confusing because in Lydia, the

supposed original Etruscan homeland, the society is matriarchal such that children are called by

their mother’s name not their father’s. Etruscans were paternalistic and used the same authority

of the pater familias the Romans gave to the head of the family.

Complex and sophisticated religion was another sign of the Etruscan’s advanced society.

The Etruscans believed in a great connection between man, nature, celestial, terrestrial and even

the underworld. Everything was integrated in a huge rhythm. The Etruscan’s had a myth that

told the tale of how the basic law of their religion was written. According to the story, a farmer

saw a child rise up from the ground, but the child, Tages, was gifted with the wisdom of the

priests and kings. When the other priests, the Lucumones of the twelve cities of Etruria, heard the

screams of the farmer, the priests came running to see what was wrong. When they arrived, the

child began to speak. As the child spoke, the priests wrote it down. These words became the

religious law for the Etruscans, the Diciplina Etrusca.

One key difference in Roman and Etruscan religion is Romans believed everything

happened because the gods willed it. The Etruscans, on the other hand, weren’t too worried

about gods, except as they might effect a person’s afterlife, and thought many events happened

just as events in the normal course of living. The Etruscans were not as paranoid about the god’s

intervention in everyday events, but were still god fearing people and were as bloody in their

rituals as the Romans. Their luxurious lives were a cause for their religious fervor and

thanksgiving. Also, because of their belief of an afterlife, it was a prime concern of Etruscans to

please the gods and thus to obtain a pleasurable post-death.

Like the Greeks and Romans, the Etruscans believed in a god hierarchy. There were

sixteen deities in the family of gods. Twelve of those sixteen were great gods, and eight of these

twelve had the right to hurl thunderbolts. Each thunderbolt was assigned to a specific god

differentiated by whatever color it was. The Etruscans had the same basic gods as the Greeks

and Romans, but all the groups had different names. Tinia, who is equivalent to the Greek god

Zeus and the Roman god Jupiter, was the head god and sat at the summit of the north. The

Etruscans also believed in an underworld similar to the Greeks. The Etruscan religion even

included a demon, Charun, who ferried dead souls across the River Styx. This demon parallels

the virtually identical Greek demon, Charon. Besides worshiping the main gods, Etruria’s minor

gods were worshiped in individual cults. Though little is know about the actual rituals, the

remains of the open air sanctuaries remain. The only known facts were found on paintings on the

walls of tombs. Religious ceremonies began with a trumpeter who wore clothes of the gods,

purple and gold. This trumpeter carried an ivory scepter crowned with laurel leaves. He was

followed by lectors, priests, prisoners, and the general public. The new custom of a religious

procession for the priests and other noble men was soon taken up as Roman tradition.

To ward off invasion by gods or outside forces, the sacrifices were better if from your

own country, and even better if from your own family. The Etruscans believed this to be true, and

were as hardened to human sacrifice and the sight of human suffering as the Romans, as shown by

ceremonies reproduced on Etruscan urns and frescoes. If “games” seen on frescoes were, in

fact, sacrifices and “the shedding of blood to maintain the flickering life of the dead, the savage

game shown in the fresco, can be understood.” This led to one of the most horrible fortune

telling styles in history in which a haruspices, or soothsayer, was trained to interpret the will of

the gods by examining the internal organs of animal and human sacrifices.

While human sacrifice may have seen barbaric, the Etruscans were known for their

elaborate and highly excessive tombs and funeral ceremonies. In order to accompany the

aristocratic lifestyle of the Etruscans, a “City of the Dead” was built. This city included streets and

plazas as would exist in a city of the living. Etruscan tombs differed houses because the tomb

replica homes were mainly carved out of solid rock. The tomb itself was approximately the

same size as an Etruscan hut but was highly more decorated in the amount of frescoes found on

the walls of the tombs. The beliefs that the Etruscans had was that the tomb was home for the

body and soul, so that the tomb must closely represent the life of the living as possible. Etruscans

tombs were carved out of soft stone in a round or rectangular shape. The shaping and building of

a tomb was taken more seriously by the Etruscans, as would a temple, because the Etruscans

believed if the dead was served well in the afterlife then they would not come back to haunt the

living. The actual sarcophagus for the dead was lavishly sculpted to show the deceased in a party

like atmosphere. The coffin was designed to resemble the deceased within. It was full length in

the shape of a divan with the dead lying on top as if they were about to banquet. Unlike most

Etruscans sculptures, coffins were most likely carved out of stone such as terra cotta instead of

bronze. Couples were usually buried together within the same tomb and even in the same

sarcophagus. To help the deceased, the tomb would often times be filled, like the Egyptians, with

the dead’s most valuable possessions, weapons, and food to provide for the afterlife. Each of the

items found in tombs, with the exception of food, included an engraving of some sort either to

show the decease’s power or the insignia of the family.

Another artistic aspect of the sophisticated society enjoyed by the Etruscans was visual

arts. Advanced engineering and elaborate art appear in temple structures. Though the

appearance of the size of the temples seemed to be large, they were squat, squarish shapes that

left room for few statues to be placed inside. The dividing of the temple into three regions would

have left the Etruscans with no place to arrange statues on the floor, and it is unlikely that the

wooden walls were strong enough to support the massive weight of a bronze statue. The

Etruscans were then forced to find another way of decorating their temples. Terra cotta plaques

covered the achitrave in the pediment, below the gable, above the porch. In one bold attempt to

add more artwork to the Temple to Apollo at Veii, the Etruscans adorned the temple roofs with

terra-cotta figures and constructed a monumental statue that stood on top of the gable ,at its

peak, in front of the stairs. Also on the two sides ridges of the temple and the top ridge four life

size statues stood. These statues added a very dramatic effect to this particular temple, but the

idea must have been a poorly received by the citizens because this technique of decorating a

temple was never used again.

The most important area of Etruscan art is tombs and the frescoes and other art works

found on Etruscan tomb walls. The frescoes are life size and cover whole walls from floor to

ceiling. The images depicted on the frescoes in the tombs are of dancers in the springtime. The

dancers are usually women in thin brightly colored dresses dancing in a woodland area to the

music of young boys. The reasoning for the gaiety of the artwork was the same as that for the

coffin, that is, the tomb represented the life of a party then the afterlife of the dead would be like a

party as well. Also, if the dead were content and entertained in the afterlife they would not have

the time to haunt the living who buried them. Along with the images of the living world every

tomb included a painting of the Etruscan god of the dead.

It is noteworthy that, just as other aspects of Etruscan living changed with their decline

over the centuries, so did the idea of burying the dead. During the decline, the Etruscans began to

cremate their dead and pour the ashes into urns. These urns were usually in the shape of a hut or

the head of a man. Then small holes were dug in a side of a hill were the urns were buried. If one

was rich or powerful enough to have a tomb built they were not filled with, as before, with joyous

paintings of dancers but with relief art. The images found on the reliefs was of fearful demons

from a most un-welcoming afterlife. One of the most feared of the demons was known as the

“Demon of Death.” The “Demon of Death” was said to take the life away from a person and

drag in down to the afterlife. The colors found on such tombs were not as bright but just as

bold as their predecessors. To create such bright and bold colors the Etruscans used a mixture of

water and plaster to paint the walls and ceiling of tombs. This combination seeped into the soft

stone walls preserving the artwork in excellent condition. Most of the information found about

Etruscan living was discovered within the wall of the tombs.

Throughout the long period of painting tomb walls the art and technique used to paint

them changes dramatically. In late tombs and burial chambers a tendency to create a realistic

style of painting and sculpture instead of the surreal artwork found in earlier works of Etruscan

art. Besides just paintings and frescoes the reliefs also are depicted in very real styling. Etruscan

artists took great pride in creating art that would represent the portrayed as similar to the way

they actually looked. During the fifth and sixth century the Etruscan art style was very closely

related to the paintings found in Ionia. The curved mouths, almond shaped eyes, long fingers, and

long slender feet to show off their shoes, which they were very proud of. Also the artwork

portrayed the fashion of that period. These works showed many different scenes including funeral

scenes, banquets, athletic games, and dances. In the Fourth Century B.C. the Etruscans were

not prepared for their demise and their art reflected that idea. From Etruscan art being filled with

happy scenes of banquets and dancing they were filled with pictures of bloody fierce battle scenes.

The scenes including mythological battles as well as battles they were fighting in reality. Charun,

the Etruscan demon of the dead who ferried the dead across the river Styx, replaced youths

playing wind and stringed instruments in the sunny outdoors. The depressing expression of the

art was caused by three main reasons.

The worst of Etruria’s two problems was their declining business. The volume of trade

shrunk immensely. Etruia was no longer trading with as many countries as they were at the height

of their rule. The second main problem was the political powers in Eturia’s were very weak as

class conflicts grew. Lastly, the cities military was extremely venerable to attacks. Etruria was

never at one time under one strong leader. They may have spoken the same language, shared the

same religion and culture, but Eturia remained a small groups of city states much alike to those of

Greece. This allowed them to be successful in the early stages of the Empire, but proved to be

their downfall as the centuries passed. Although it is reasonable to assume that individual cities

sent colonists to neighbouring regions and would have entered into diplomatic alliances with each

other and foreign states, it is probable that each Etruscan city resolved problems in a manner that

was most beneficial to its own survival, most likely without regard for the interests of its allies or

neighbors. The independence of the city-states has been shown by archeological finds and it is

believed that these autonomous cities were bound together only by religion and common


Initially, the Etruscans were a greatly feared sea fearing people. These are reports of other

groups of people running in fear of the alleged pirates of the Tyrrhenian. The early Etruscans

were just as powerful on land a they were on sea. Tactical warfare gave the Etruscans a huge

advantage against their enemies. The Etruscans used phalanxes, like the Greeks did, but it is a

societal advancement that is credited for much of their success. The one weapon that was

acclaimed to be their “secret weapon” was not a fighting machine, but their strong leather shoes

that wrapped above their ankles. These shoes were said to have led the Etruscans to victory more

than their armor or weapons.

It is part of the Etruscan’s success that led to their downfall. The three principal causes of

the end of the Empire were economic collapse, disunity among the city-states and the one-time

lore and mystique of the Bronze Age Etruscans was overcome by the aggressiveness and might of

the Iron Age Romans. In time, the Etruscan society led to its own breakdown and the politics of

rulers and ruling classes, together with the pursuit of pleasure, led to lack of concern over military

matters, fragmentation of their society, and easy Roman conquest. In one instance, the leaders of

the City of Volsinii, apparently incapable of handing their own affairs, appealed to the Romans for

help in subduing a slave uprising, leading the Roman conquest and destruction of the city. In

most other instances, the Etruscans refused to unite to fight the common enemy and were

overcome one at a time, until the entire Etruscan civilization ceased to exist.

What remains is art. ʑBIBLIOGRAPHY

Banti, Luisa. Etruscan Cities and Cultures. Los Angeles University of California Press,


Beazley, J.D. Etruscan Vase-Painting. Oxford Clarendon Press, 147.

Beazley, J.D. Etruscan Vase Painting. Oxford Oxford University Press, 150.

Brown, W. Llewellyn. The Etruscan Lion. London Oxford University Press, 160.

Del Chiaro, Mario A. Etruscan Red-Figured Vase-Painting at Caere. Los Angeles

University of California Press, 174.

Hamblin, Dora Jane. The Etruscans. New York Time Inc, 175.

Hempl, George. Mediterranean Studies. New York AMS Publisher, Inc, 167.

Heurgon, Jacques. Daily Life of the Etruscans. New York The Macmillan Company, 164.

Janson, H.W. The History of Art. New York Harry N. Abrams Inc, 177.

Keller, Werner. The Etruscans. New York Alfred A. Knopf Inc, 174.

Mayani, Zacharie. The Etruscans Begin to Speak. New York Souvenir Press, LTD, 16.

Pallottino, Massimo. Etruscan Painting. Lausanne Skira Color Studio, Imprimeries

Reunies, S.A., 15.

Richardson, Emeline. The Etruscans, Their Art and Civilization. Chicago The University of

Chicago Press, 164.

Richardson, Emeline. Etruscan Sculptures. New York New American Library, 166.

Vaughan, Agnes Carr. Those Mysterious Etruscans. New York Doubleday and Company,

Inc, 164.

Wellard, James. The Search for the Etruscans. New York Saturday Review Press, 175.

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