Etruscan civilization

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
1200 BC – 550 BC
Location of Etruscans
Extent of Etruscan civilization and the twelve Etruscan League cities.
Capital Velzna- (Orvieto)
Language(s) Etruscan language
Religion Etruscan paganism
Political structure Confederation
 - Unknown Tyrrhenus
 - Unknown Tarchon
Legislature Etruscan League
Historical era Ancient
 - Villanovan 1200 BC
 - Roman assimilation 550 BC
Etruscan couple, National Museum at Florence.

Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to the culture and way of life of a people of ancient Italy and Corsica whom the ancient Romans called Etrusci or Tusci.[1] The Attic Greek word for them was Τυρρήνιοι (Tyrrhēnioi) from which Latin also drew the names Tyrrhēni (Etruscans), Tyrrhēnia (Etruria) and Tyrrhēnum mare (Tyrrhenian Sea).[2] The Etruscans themselves used the term Rasenna, which was syncopated to Rasna or Raśna.[3]

As distinguished by its own language, the civilization endured from an unknown prehistoric time prior to the founding of Rome until its complete assimilation to Italic Rome in the Roman Republic. At its maximum extent during the foundation period of Rome and the Roman kingdom, it flourished in three confederacies of cities: of Etruria, of the Po valley with the eastern Alps, and of Latium and Campania.[4] Rome was sited in Etruscan territory. There is considerable evidence that early Rome was dominated by Etruscans until the Romans sacked Veii in 396 BC.

Culture that is identifiably and certainly Etruscan developed in Italy after about 800 BC approximately over the range of the preceding Iron Age Villanovan culture. The latter gave way in the seventh century to a culture that was influenced by Greek traders and Greek neighbours in Magna Graecia, the Hellenic civilization of southern Italy.

After 500 BC the political destiny of Italy passed out of Etruscan hands.[5]


[edit] Language

An Etruscan warrior head figure used as a cippus (grave marker) in the necropolis Crocifisso del Tufo outside Orvieto

Knowledge of the Etruscan language is still far from complete. The Etruscans are believed to have spoken a non-Indo-European language; the majority consensus is that Etruscan is related only to other members of what is called the Tyrsenian language family, which in itself is an isolate family, that is, unrelated directly to other known language groups. Since Rix (1998) it is widely accepted that the Tyrsenian family groups Rhaetic and Lemnian are related to Etruscan.

[edit] Etymology

No etymology exists for Rasna.

The etymology of Tusci is based on a beneficiary phrase in the third Iguvine tablet, which is a major source for the Umbrian language.[6] The phrase is turskum ... nomen, "the Tuscan name", from which a root *Tursci can be reconstructed.[7] A metathesis and a word-initial epenthesis produce E-trus-ci.[8] A common hypothesis is that *Turs- along with Latin turris, "tower", come from Greek τύρσις, "tower."[9] The Tusci were therefore the "people who build towers"[9] or "the tower builders."[10] This venerable etymology is at least as old as Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who said "And there is no reason why the Greeks should not have called them by this name, both from their living in towers and from the name of one of their rulers."[11]

Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante (Bonfante 2002) speculate that Etruscan houses seemed like towers to the simple Latins. It is true that the Etruscans preferred to build hill towns on high precipices enhanced by walls. On the other hand if the Tyrrhenian name came from an incursion of sea peoples or later migrants (see below) then it might well be related to the name of Troy, the city of towers in that case.

[edit] Origins

The origins of the Etruscans are lost in prehistory. Several hypotheses exist, some of which are listed below. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Debate over origins was revived in the 17th century. Whether ancient or modern, theorists proceed mainly by looking for pattern matches between cultures; that is, given sets of cultural elements, {a, b, ...} of cultures {A, B, ...}, theorists look for groups of common elements and then hypothesize a connection between the corresponding cultures. The elements might be from any cultural aspects at all, from speech sounds to pot marks.

No complete but many partial matches have been found.

[edit] Ethnic formation hypothesis

In his own history of the Etruscan debate, Massimo Pallottino, the dominant Etruscologist of his times, distinguished between "provenance" and "ethnic formation."[12] Theories of the former seek an origin. He divided those into "oriental", "northern" and "autochthonous."

Formulating a different point of view on the same evidence, Pallottino says:[13]

... we must consider the concept 'Etruscan' as ... attached to ... a nation that flourished in Etruria between the eighth and first centuries BC .... We may discuss the provenance of each of these elements but a more appropriate concept ... would be that of formation ... the formative process of the nation can only have taken place on the territories of the Etruscans proper; and we are able to witness the final stages of this process.

[edit] Autochthonous hypothesis

Dionysius of Halicarnassus asserted:[11]

Indeed, those probably come nearest to the truth who declare that the nation migrated from nowhere signal, but was native to the country, since it is found to be a very ancient nation and to agree with no other either in its language or in its manner of living.

With this passage Dionysius launched the autochthonous theory, that the core element of the Etruscans, who spoke the Etruscan language, were of "Terra(Earth) itself"; that is, on location for so long that they appeared to be the original or native inhabitants. They are therefore the owners of the Villanovan culture.[14]

Picking up this theme, the Bonfantes (2002) state:[15]

... the history of the Etruscan people extends ... from c. 1200 to c. 100 BC. Many sites of the chief Etruscan cities of historical times were continuously occupied from the Iron Age 'Villanovan period on. Much confusion would have been avoided if archaeologists had used the name 'Proto-Etruscan' .... For in fact the people ... did not appear suddenly. Nor did they suddenly start to speak Etruscan.

An additional elaboration conjectures that the Etruscans were[16]

... an ethnic island of very ancient peoples isolated by the flood of Indo-European speakers.

[edit] Lydian immigration hypothesis

Herodotus[17] records the legend that the Etruscans came from Lydia in Asia Minor, modern Turkey:

This is their story: [...] their king divided the people into two groups, and made them draw lots, so that the one group should remain and the other leave the country; he himself was to be the head of those who drew the lot to remain there, and his son, whose name was Tyrrhenus, of those who departed. [...] they came to the Ombrici, where they founded cities and have lived ever since. They no longer called themselves Lydians, but Tyrrhenians, after the name of the king's son who had led them there.

In reply, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who read Herodotus, states:[11]

For this reason, therefore, I am persuaded that the Pelasgians are a different people from the Tyrrhenians. And I do not believe, either, that the Tyrrhenians were a colony of the Lydians; for they do not use the same language as the latter, nor can it be alleged that, though they no longer speak a similar tongue, they still retain some other indications of their mother country. For they neither worship the same gods as the Lydians nor make use of similar laws or institutions, but in these very respects they differ more from the Lydians than from the Pelasgians.

[edit] Sea peoples hypothesis

The Etruscans or Tyrrhenians may have been one of the sea peoples of the 13th-14th century BC.

[edit] Genetic evidence

A team of geneticists from Italy and Spain undertook the first genetic studies of the ancient Etruscans, based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from 80 bone samples taken from tombs dating from the seventh century to the third century BC in Etruria.[18] This study found that they were more related to each other than to the general population of modern Italy. Recent studies suggested a Near East origin.[19]

An earlier study estimated that the pool contained 150,000 to 200,000 women.[20] Dividing these numbers by the 36 cities in the three Etruscan leagues obtains an average of 4,167 to 6,944 women per community. Selecting an arbitrary family size of four gives an approximate Etruscan population of 600,000 to 800,000 persons in about 36 communities of an average between 16,668 and 27,776 persons each. These populations are sufficiently dense and sufficiently urban to have accomplished everything the Etruscans were supposed to have accomplished.

The studies showed that the areas of historical Etruscan occupation share a relatively high concentration of y-haplogroup G with Anatolians, and the people of Caucasus, where the haplogroup reaches its greatest presence, particularly amongst the Ossetians and Georgians. This evidence is not specific to any period or calendar date, and might reflect contiguous populations or significant migration far back in the Stone Age.

Another team of Italian researchers showed that the mtDNA of cattle (Bos taurus) in modern Tuscany is different from that of cattle normally found elsewhere in Italy, and even in Europe as a whole.[21] The mtDNA is similar to that of cattle typically found in the Near East. Many tribes who have migrated in the past have typically taken their livestock with them as they moved. This bovine mtDNA study suggests that at least some people whose descendants were Etruscans made their way to Italy from Anatolia or other parts of the Near East. However, the study gives no clue as to when they might have done so. There is the possibility that Etruscan civilization arose locally with maritime contacts from all across the Mediterranean, and the genetic presence could have been all along since the Neolithic and the expansion of the seaborne Cardium Pottery cultures of same origin.

However, work with ancient DNA is very prone to errors. Most bones from archaeological sites have been carelessly handled, causing extensive contamination by modern human DNA which can swamp the signal of what little ancient DNA may still survive. Hans-Jürgen Bandelt, a geneticist at the University of Hamburg in Germany, wrote that the DNA recovered from the Etruscan bones showed clear signs of such problems.

Another study by geneticist Alberto Piazza of the University of Turin linked the Etruscans to Turkey. The team compared DNA sequences with those from men in modern Turkey, northern Italy, the Greek island of Lemnos, the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia and the southern Balkans. They found that the genetic sequences of the Tuscan men varied significantly from those of men in surrounding regions in Italy, and that the men from Murlo and Volterra were the most closely related to men from Turkey. In Murlo in particular, one genetic variant is shared only by people from Turkey. [22] [23]

It has been suggested that, should the link to the Turkey prove to be correct, that the Etruscans originated from the Hittite Empire. As this empire was split at the height of its powers rather than at its nadir, it is entirely possible that a large number of Hittites migrated to Italy and formed their own kingdom. This hypothesis presents a paradox in that since the Hittites were an Indo-European people speaking an Indo-European language, then it would also imply that the Estruscans were also Indo-European and should therefore have spoken an Indo-European language. However, the Estruscan language has, to date, been considered to be a non-Indo-European Language.

[edit] Prehistory

As the Villanovan Culture prevailed over the Etruscan range at the dawn of their history, it must have been theirs. That it was exclusively theirs over its time span is less certain, and whether Etruscan culture preceded it is completely unknown.

[edit] History

Etruscan musician, Tomb of the Triclinium, Tarquinia.

Etruscan history is the written record of Etruscan civilization compiled mainly by Greek and Roman authors. Apart from their inscriptions, from which information mainly of a sociological character can be extracted, the Etruscans left no surviving history of their own, nor is there any mention in the Roman authors that any was ever written. Remnants of Etruscan writings are often concerned with religion and rituals.

[edit] Religion

The Etruscan system of belief was an immanent polytheism; that is, all visible phenomena were considered to be a manifestation of divine power and that power was subdivided into deities that acted continually on the world of man and could be dissuaded or persuaded in favor of human affairs. Three layers are evident in the extensive Etruscan art motifs. One appears to be divinities of an indigenous nature: Catha and Usil, the sun, Tivr, the moon, Selvans, a civil god, Turan, the goddess of love, Laran, the god of war, Leinth, the goddess of death, Maris, Thalna, Turms and the ever-popular Fufluns, whose name is related in some unknown way to the city of Populonia and the populus Romanus. Perhaps he was the god of the people.

Ruling over this pantheon of lesser deities were higher ones that seem to reflect the Indo-European system: Tin or Tinia, the sky, Uni his wife (Juno), and Cel, the earth goddess. In addition the Greek gods were taken into the Etruscan system: Aritimi (Artemis), Menrva (Minerva), Pacha (Bacchus). The Greek heroes taken from Homer also appear extensively in art motifs.

[edit] Architecture

The Etruscans made lasting contributions to the architecture of Italy, which were adopted by the Romans and through them became standard to western civilization. Rome itself is a repository of Etruscan architectural features, which perhaps did not originate with the Etruscans, but were channeled by them into Roman civilization.

Some scholars also see in Urartean art, architecture, language and general culture traces of kinship to the Etruscans of the Italian peninsula.[24]

[edit] Art

Close up detail on a wheel of the monteleone chariot, c. 530 BC.

[edit] Written records

With the exception of the Liber Linteus, the only written records of Etruscan origin that remain are inscriptions, mainly funerary. The language is written in a script related to the primitive Euboean Greek alphabet.[25] Etruscan literature is evidenced only in references by later Roman authors.

[edit] Theatre

Again, only Latin references are left of this area of Etruscan culture. One word is perhaps emblematic of this theatrical work - φersu (persona in Latin, person in English). This word, among others, passed into Latin.

[edit] Music

The instruments seen in Etruscan frescoes and bas-reliefs are essentially just different types of pipes, such as the plagiaulos (the pipes of Pan or Syrinx), the alabaster pipe and the famous double pipes, accompanied on percussion instruments such as the tintinnabulum, tympanum and crotales, and later by stringed instruments like the lyre and kithara.

[edit] Heritage at Rome

Those who subscribe to an Italic foundation of Rome, followed by an Etruscan invasion, typically speak of an Etruscan “influence” on Roman culture; that is, cultural objects that were adopted at Rome from neighboring Etruria. The prevalent view today is that Rome was founded by Italics and merged with Etruscans later. In that case Etruscan cultural objects are not a heritage but are influences.

The main criterion for deciding whether an object originated at Rome and travelled by influence to the Etruscans, or descended to the Romans from the Etruscans, is date. Many, if not most, of the Etruscan cities were older than Rome. If we find that a given feature was there first, it cannot have originated at Rome. A second criterion is the opinion of the ancient sources. They tell us outright that certain institutions and customs came from the Etruscans.

[edit] The question of the founding population

In 390 BC the city of Rome was attacked by the Gauls, and as a result may have lost many - though not all - of its earlier records. Certainly, the history of Rome before that date is not as secure as it later becomes, but enough material remains to give a good picture of the development of the city and its institutions.

Later history relates that some Etruscans lived in the Tuscus vicus, the “Etruscan quarter”, and that there was an Etruscan line of kings (albeit ones descended from a Greek, Demaratus the Corinthian) which succeeded kings of Latin and Sabine origin. Etruscophile historians would argue that this, together with evidence for institutions, religious elements and other cultural elements, prove that Rome was founded by Italics. The true picture is rather more complicated, not least because the Etruscan cities were separate entities which never came together to form a single Etruscan state. Furthermore, there were strong Latin and Italic elements to Roman culture, and later Romans proudly celebrated these multiple, 'multicultural' influences on the city.

[edit] Foundation of Rome

Rome is located on the edge of what was Etruscan territory. When Etruscan settlements turned up south of the border, it was presumed that the Etruscans spread there after the foundation of Rome, but the settlements are now known to have preceded Rome.

Etruscan walled town (Civita di Bagnoregio).

Etruscan settlements were frequently built on a hill—the steeper the better—and surrounded by thick walls. According to Roman mythology, when Romulus and Remus founded Rome, they did so on the Palatine Hill according to Etruscan ritual; that is, they began with a pomoerium or sacred ditch. Then, they proceeded to the walls. Romulus was required to kill Remus when the latter jumped over the wall, breaking its magic spell (see also under Pons Sublicius).

The name of Rome is believed by some to be Etruscan, occurring in a standard form stating “place from which”: Velzna-χ, “from Velzna”, Sveama-χ, “from Sveama”, Ruma-χ, “from Ruma”. We do not know what it means however. If Tiberius is from θefarie, then Ruma would have been placed on the Thefar river.

[edit] Populus Romanus

Under Romulus and Numa the people were said to have been divided into thirty curiae and three tribes. Very few words of Etruscan entered the Latin language, but the names of at least two of the tribes — Ramnes and Luceres — seem to be Etruscan. The last kings may have borne the Etruscan title lucumo, while the regalia were traditionally considered of Etruscan origin: the golden crown, sceptre, the toga palmata (a special robe), the sella curulis (curule chair), and above all the primary symbol of state power: the fasces. The latter was a bundle of whipping rods surrounding a double-bladed axe, carried by the king's lictors. Chance has thrown an example of the fasces into our possession: remains of bronze rods and the axe come from a tomb in Etruscan Vetulonia. Now that its appearance is known, the depiction of one was identified on the grave stele of Avele Feluske, who is shown as a warrior wielding the fasces.

The most telling Etruscan feature is the word populus, which appears as an Etruscan deity, Fufluns. Populus seems to mean the people assembled in a military body, rather than the general populace, however.

[edit] Etruscan cities

The range of Etruscan civilization is marked by its cities. They were entirely assimilated by Italic, Celtic or Roman ethnic groups, but the names survive from inscriptions and their ruins are of aesthetic and historic interest in most of the cities of central Italy.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ According to Félix Gaffiot's Dictionnaire Illustré Latin Français, Tusci was used by the major authors of the Roman Republic: Livy, Cicero, Horace, etc. A number of cognate words developed: Tuscia, Tusculanensis, etc. This was clearly the major word used for things Etruscan. Etrusci and Etrūria were used less often, mainly by Cicero and Horace, and without cognates. According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, the English use of Etruscan dates from 1706.
  2. ^ Gaffiot's.
  3. ^ Rasenna comes from Dionysius of Halicarnassus I.30.3. The syncopated form, Rasna, is inscriptional and is inflected. The topic is covered in Pallottino, page 133. Some inscriptions, such as the cippus of Cortona, feature the Raśna (pronounced Rashna) alternative, as is described in Gabor Z. Bodroghy's site, The Palaeolinguistic Connection, under Origins.
  4. ^ A good map of the Italian range and cities of the culture at the beginning of its history can be found at [1], the site. The topic of the "League of Etruria" is covered in Freeman, pages 562-565. The league in northern Italy is mentioned in Livy, Book V, Section 33. The passage also identifies the Raetii as a remnant of the 12 cities "beyond the Apennines." The Campanian Etruscans are mentioned (among many sources) by Polybius, (II.17). The entire subject with complete ancient sources in footnotes was worked up by George Dennis in his Introduction. In the LacusCurtius transcription, the references in Dennis's footnotes link to the texts in English or Latin; the reader may also find the English of some of them on WikiSource or other Internet sites. As the work has already been done by Dennis and Thayer, the complete work-up is not repeated here.
  5. ^ Cary, M.; Scullard, H. H., A History of Rome. Page 28. 3rd Ed. 1979. ISBN 0312383959.
  6. ^ Paper entitled Cui Bono? The Beneficiary Phrases of the Third Iguvine Table by Michael Weiss and published on-line by Cornell University at [2].
  7. ^ Carl Darling Buck (1904), A Grammar of Oscan and Umbian, Boston: Gibb & Company, Introduction, available online at [3] the site.
  8. ^ Eric Partridge (1983), Origins, New York: Greenwich House, under "tower."
  9. ^ a b The Bonfantes (2003), page 51
  10. ^ Partridge
  11. ^ a b c Book I, Section 30.
  12. ^ Pallottino [date] Chapter 2.
  13. ^ Pages 68-69.
  14. ^ Page 52. Pallottino attributes this theory in modern times to the historian, Eduard Meyer, with Ugo Antonielli later associating the Villanovan and the natives. But Mayer soon adopted the oriental theory and Antonielli the northern. Drews in The End of the Bronze Age, page 59, available as a preview on Google Books at [4], reports on Meyer and the views of Antonielli are stated in a review by R. A. L. Fell of Studi Etruschi. Vol. I. Rassegna di Etruscologia by A. Neppi Modona, the first page of which is found at [5].
  15. ^ Page 3.
  16. ^ Pallottino, page 52, who says that he relies on Alfredo Trombetti and Giacomo Devoto.
  17. ^ Histories 1.94
  18. ^ Cristiano Vernesi and others, "The Etruscans: A Population-Genetic Study", The American Journal of Human Genetics, 2004 April; 74(4): 694–704, published online at [6], the PubMed Central site.
  19. ^ DNA Boosts Herodotus’ Account of Etruscans as Migrants to Italy
  20. ^ Rasmussen T (2004) "Urbanisation in Etruria." In: Osborne R (ed) Mediterranean urbanisation, 800–600 B.C. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
  21. ^ M. Pellecchia and others including Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, The mystery of Etruscan origins: novel clues from Bos taurus mitochondrial DNA, Proceedings of the Royal Society, February 2007, summary available online at [7] on the PubMed Central site.
  22. ^ A. Piazza; N. Cerutti, C. Di Gaetano, F. Crobu, A. Kouvatsi, C. Triantaphyllidis, D. Palli, A. Achilli, S. Fornarino, V. Battaglia, S. Santachiara Benerecetti, P. A. Underhill, G. Matullo, L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, A. Torroni, O. Semino (2007-06). "Origin of the Etruscans: novel clues from the Y chromosome lineages - Abstract". European Journal of Human Genetics: p. 21. 
  23. ^ Thomas H. Maugh II (2008-06-18). "Genetic tests: Italians were from Turkey". The Los Angeles Times: p. A-6. 
  24. ^ A History of Armenia by Vahan M. Kurkjian p.19
  25. ^

[edit] Bibliography

Ancient sources
Modern sources
  • Barker, G.; T. Rasmussen (1998). The Etruscans. London: Blackwell. 
  • Bloch, Raymond (1969). The ancient civilization of the Etruscans. New York: Cowles Book. 
  • Bonfante, Larissa; et al. ed. (1986). Etruscan Life and Afterlife: a Handbook of Etruscan Studies. Warminster: Aris and Phillips. 
  • Bonfante, Larissa (1990). Etruscan. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07118-2. 
  • Bonfante, G.; L. Bonfante (2002). The Etruscan Language. An Introduction. Manchester University Press. 
  • Bram, L. (editor) (1975). Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. 
  • Brendel, Otto (1995). Etruscan art. New Haven: Yale University Press. 
  • Dennis, George (1848). The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria. London: John Murray.  Available in the Gazeteer of Bill Thayer's Website at [8]
  • Freeman, Edward Augustus (1893). History of Federal Government in Greece and Italy. London, New York: Macmillan and Co. 
  • Greenidge, A. H. J. (2003). A History of Rome During the Later Republic and Early Principate. 
  • de Grummond, Nancy & Erika Simon(editors) (2006). The Religion of the Etruscans. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70687-1. 
  • Hampton, C. (1969). The Etruscans and the survival of Etruria. London: Victor Gollancz. 
  • Haynes, S. (2000). Etruscan Civilization. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Trust. 
  • Maetzke, Guglielmo. The Art of the Etruscans. 
  • Macnamara, E. (1973). Everyday Life of the Etruscans. London: B. T. Batsford. 
  • Massa, Aldo (1989). The Etruscans. Editions Minerva. 
  • Pallottino, M. (1975). The Etruscans. London: Penguin Books. 
  • Richardson, Emeline (1964). The Etruscans: Their Art and Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  • Roldán Hervás, José Manuel (2000). Historia de Roma. Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca. 
  • Spivy, N.; S. Stoddart (1990). Etruscan Italy. London: Batsford. 
  • Stillwell, Richard, ed. (1976). Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. 
  • Taylor, Isaac (1874). Etruscan Researches. London: Macmillan. 
  • Torelli, Mario, ed. (2000). Gli Etruschi. Milan: Bompiani. 

[edit] See also

Find more about Etruscan civilization on Wikipedia's sister projects:
Definitions from Wiktionary

Textbooks from Wikibooks
Quotations from Wikiquote
Source texts from Wikisource
Images and media from Commons
News stories from Wikinews

Learning resources from Wikiversity

[edit] External links

[edit] General

[edit] Genetics

[edit] Cities and sites

[edit] Art

Personal tools