The works of Greek and Roman writers brought us numerous information about the powerful Etruscans, their religion, cities surrounded by powerful walls, about rivalry with the Greeks for dominance in the Western Mediterranean. We learn a lot directly from the Etruscans themselves – more precisely, from their heritage that has come down to us. Time did not spare their cities and temples built from unburnt bricks. But necropolises have survived – the “cities of the dead”, satellites of all Etruscan cities. Crypts, repeating the layouts of residential buildings of the nobility, decorated with frescoes and filled with precious utensils, tell about the life of the Etruscans, their ideas about the world and the gods, about their art and level of craft development, wide trade relations with the peoples of the Mediterranean. In short, historians have at their disposal extensive material for studying various aspects of the life of ancient Etruria. Then why, for centuries, the Etruscans remain “mysterious”? But the fact is that scientists do not know the most important thing: who they are, when and how they appeared in Italy, what language they spoke. The origin of the Etruscans argued even ancient writers. The Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Etruscans, or Tyrrhenes, as they were called in antiquity, sailed by sea from Asia Minor Lydia. The writer Dionysius of Halicarnassus, objecting to him, argued that the Etruscans are one of the local Italian peoples. In the work of the Roman historian Titus Livius there is an indication, though very vague, of the northern origin of the Etruscans. The dispute, begun in antiquity, continues to modern researchers. The origin of the Etruscans argued even ancient writers. The Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Etruscans, or Tyrrhenes, as they were called in antiquity, sailed by sea from Asia Minor Lydia. The writer Dionysius of Halicarnassus, objecting to him, argued that the Etruscans are one of the local Italian peoples. In the work of the Roman historian Titus Livius there is an indication, though very vague, of the northern origin of the Etruscans. The dispute, begun in antiquity, continues to modern researchers. The origin of the Etruscans argued even ancient writers. The Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Etruscans, or Tyrrhenes, as they were called in antiquity, sailed by sea from Asia Minor Lydia. The writer Dionysius of Halicarnassus, objecting to him, argued that the Etruscans are one of the local Italian peoples. In the work of the Roman historian Titus Livius there is an indication, though very vague, of the northern origin of the Etruscans. The dispute, begun in antiquity, continues to modern researchers. to the northern origin of the Etruscans. The dispute, begun in antiquity, continues to modern researchers. to the northern origin of the Etruscans. The dispute, begun in antiquity, continues to modern researchers.
On the historical stage, the Etruscans appear somehow suddenly, suddenly. The assumption is based on this that the Etruscans did not belong to the indigenous population of Italy. In the VIII century. BC e. Between the Tiber and Arno rivers, a highly developed urban culture appears that far outstrips the culture of neighboring peoples in its development. Its creators were the Etruscans, and the ancient writers called them Etruria, the region of Central Italy settled by them.
Etruria, however, was not a single state, but was a union of 12 independent city-states – the “twelve-city”. The largest of them were Arretius, Perusia, Volsinia, Ceres, Tarquinia, Clusius, Veii. Cities that were part of the union, uniting the cult of the goddess Voltumna (according to another version – the god Vertumna). The sanctuary was located near the city of Wolsinia, where once a year representatives of cities gathered and held ceremonial games in honor of the revered deity. They elected a king who, however, did not have real power. Even in matters of foreign policy, each city was guided exclusively by its own interests. When joint military efforts were required, then the question of the creation of the allied forces was decided not by the head of the twelve grades, but by the council of representatives of cities.
The political history of the Etruscan city-states is completely unknown, and talking about the governance system of these states or about the various social groups of Etruscan society is nothing more than assumptions, unsteady and unclear. The oldest form of government in Etruscan cities in the VI century. BC e., judging by the nature of the power of the kings of the Etruscan dynasty in Rome, was close to monarchical. The external signs of tsarist power were a portable ivory chair, a double ax – a labris, bundles of twigs – facets and a scepter with an eagle topping. The king wore a toga embroidered with palm leaves and a crown of golden oak leaves. These attributes were later passed on to magistrates, senior officials.
Apparently, at the end of the VII or beginning of the VI century. BC e. in most Etruscan cities, elected officials, representatives of the local aristocracy, began to rule. Their functions and the names of these posts are almost unknown. With a certain degree of certainty, we can only say that all power was in the hands of the aristocracy. The essence of these republics remains unclear: whether they were civilian communities similar to Greek policies, or city-states of the eastern type. They can not be considered policies because of the lack of data on the presence of free citizens in them, who all (rich and poor, noble and not-so-good) would be equal before the law and could not be in a relationship of personal dependence on each other. Only a layer of the population is clearly distinguished, which is economically and politically dependent on the aristocracy.
The frescoes of the tombs of Etruscan nobility and the testimonies of ancient writers allow us to talk about the presence of slavery in Etruscan society. But whether slave labor was widely used in handicraft production or whether they were used as domestic workers, it is definitely impossible to say.
In the VII century. BC e. the Etruscans began to spread their influence in the neighboring areas of Etruria. Their cities appear in the fertile Campania and in the north of the Apennine Peninsula, in the valley of the Po River. The largest of them were Capua, Nola, Felsina, Mantua, Spina. The question of the dominance of the Etruscans in Latsium is controversial. Some scholars believe that they conquered this area and founded Rome, reinforcing their point of view by the fact that it was during the reign of the kings of the Etruscan dynasty of Tarquinius that Rome became the most powerful city of Latsium (see the article “Ancient Rome”). Others, referring to Roman writers, speak only of Etruscan influence on this territory.
The further advance of the Etruscans to the south of the peninsula and beyond was hindered by Greek cities that appeared during the period of the Great Colonization in the VIII century. BC e. in southern Italy and Sicily. The Etruscans, possessing a strong fleet, sought to dominate the seas adjacent to Italy. Their rivalry with the Greeks attracted the attention of Carthage, a powerful city on the northern coast of Africa, founded by Phoenician merchants. Carthage considered the Greeks to be its main competitors on the sea trade routes and therefore sided with the Etruscans. The allies managed to prevent the strengthening of Greek influence and consolidate dominance in the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas for the Etruscans, and eventually in the names of these water areas: the ancients called the Etruscans as Tyrrenes, and Adria was one of the Etruscan cities on the east coast of Italy.
Far from friendly relations between the Greeks and the Etruscans, however, did not prevent the economic and cultural exchange between them. The Etruscans used the Greek alphabet to create their writing; acquaintance with Greek religion and mythology had a great influence on their religious ideas and art. Greek artisans settled in Etruscan cities; this contributed to the development of its own craft production there. Located near
from the city of Ceres, the Greek settlement of Pirgi turned into an important seaport. Goods from the Mediterranean countries were brought here: expensive painted vases from Corinth, gold and silver dishes from Syria, Phenicia and Cyprus, precious jewelry and ivory from the East. In turn, Etruria exported metal products, which her masters were famous for.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to say anything definite about the appearance of Etruscan cities. A strict layout with a system of intersecting streets replaces chaotic buildings only in the VI – V centuries. BC e. At the same time, pipelines appear supplying cities with drinking water. The Etruscan construction skills can be judged by the system of sewage channels built in Rome during the reign of Tsar Tarquin the Ancient. With its help, the swamp between the Palatine and the Capitol was drained. It lasted 19 centuries and is now part of the sewer system of Rome.
The Etruscans were especially respected by the Haruspian priests. They predicted the future from the insides of animals, the flight of birds, and from observations of lightning. Such fortune telling on the liver of animals took place in Babylon and the countries of Asia Minor. The image of the liver was found by archaeologists in Etruria, which indicates either the close ties of the Etruscans with the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean, or their eastern origin.
An obvious resemblance to the religious beliefs of the peoples of the East is also the funeral cult of the Etruscans. They believed that after death, a person continues to live in another world, so they sought to provide the deceased with everything that he was used to in earthly life. To know, it built for itself crypts similar to palaces, the creation of which required huge material and labor costs. There was nothing like this either in Ancient Greece or in Ancient Rome, but it very much resembles the tombs of Egypt and other countries of the East.
The world of Etruscan gods is known to us mainly by their names, which as a result of close contacts of the Etruscans with the Greeks and Romans acquired a rather familiar sound: Aplu – Apollon, Netun – Neptune, Maris – Mars. The supreme deity of the Etruscan pantheon was the god of heaven, the lord of lightning – Tin. The goddess of fertility – Uni under the influence of Greek mythology turned into his wife, like Hera – the wife of Zeus.
The surviving inscriptions in the Etruscan language are read quite easily, because the Etruscan alphabet is based on the ancient Greek. But by reading the words, scientists cannot understand their meanings. The successes are very insignificant: over a hundred-plus years, about a hundred words have been unraveled, and then – presumably … The reason is that neither among the ancient, nor among modern languages, a related Etruscan language was found. But even if Etruscan inscriptions ever “speak”, this is unlikely to help scientists. Only very short inscriptions on the walls of tombs, ceramics, bone and metal products have survived, although, according to ancient writers, the Etruscans had rich literature devoted to religious issues, legal and scientific topics. However, after the second century. BC e. the Etruscans were romanized and stopped speaking their native language, everything disappeared without a trace.
The heyday of the power of the Etruscans was short-lived, and already at the end of the VI century. BC e. the first signs of decline begin to appear. The domestic political situation in Etruria has become more complicated. In the cities, a period of unrest begins, probably caused by the struggle of aristocratic groups for power. The external world hostile to the Etruscans is also activated. The Greeks, especially the inhabitants of the colonies in Sicily, crowded the Etruscans at sea. The Romans ousted the Etruscan royal family of the Tarquinians, and the attempt of Porsena, king of the city of Clusius, to return the throne to Tarquinia fails. In the 70s. V century BC e. the Etruscans are losing power over Campania, and in the north of the peninsula they are increasingly attacked by the Gauls. During the IV century. BC e. Etruscan cities fiercely fight Rome, which is gaining strength, for its independence, but each acts on its own. The fragmentation of the Etruscans weakens their resistance to external enemies, and in the end they find themselves under the rule of Rome. Powerful Roman culture engulfs the Etruscan world.