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 The Etruscans

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PostSubject: The Etruscans   Thu Jul 19, 2007 6:54 pm

Brief Overview


Introduction

Virtually all that we know about Etruscan history today comes to us from indirect sources- either from Roman historians who had a patriotic axe to grind, or from Ancient Greek historians, who in some cases failed to grasp the very different sets of values held by the Etruscans. For example the status of women in Etruscan society, which was so alien to the Greeks and Romans alike, both being of Indo European origins. The Greeks saw the Etruscans as being an immoral race of people (although this accusation was on very shaky ground given their own morality). The Greeks also refer to the Etruscans quite frequently as pirates. There is no evidence to suggest that the Etruscans dabbled in piracy any more than other races of the day, and what was piracy to one group of people was defense to others. One fact was indisputable, and that was that during their heyday, the Etruscans controlled a significant part of the Mediterreanean.

The Etruscans went on to lay the foundation of the city of Rome, to clear the shepherds huts which once littered the Palatine Hill, to drain the swamps and transform what had been a collection of tribal sheep herders into a true city which would eventually dominate large tracts of Europe, Asia and North Africa alike. From the Etruscans came writing, and Roman history was born in the true sense.

From their beginnings in the area that is now Tuscany, these Etruscans had deep rooted influences which survive to this day. Although the Etruscan language is by no means totally decoded, we now know enough to see that many words of Etruscan origin found themselves into Latin and from there into English. For an unknown language, many Etruscan words look very familiar.

Their Religious legacy had profound influences on at least the rituals and dress of the Church. Etruscan Art had obvious influences on renaissance artists such as Michelangelo.

While the Roman legions conquered region after region, the Etruscan cities were occupied by Veterans, and the citizens of the once proud Etruria bowed to the pressure and became part of Rome or died during numerous rebellious uprisings.

Those same legions were organised in accordance with Etruscan traditions, responded to the sound of the tuba (from Etruria), built their camps on a North/ South grid, as specified by the Etruscan sacred books, and carried a Standard inscribed with SPQR: Senatus Populusque Romanus. "Populus" is a word of Etruscan origin, -que (Etruscan -c with probably the same pronunciation) means "and", and even Romanus itself probably came from the Etruscan language. There are various theories among which connect it with the Etruscan gentilial name Rumlua

The Etruscan Haruspices and soothsayers remained well into the 5th Century CE, and according to some reports, may have survived in the Eastern Empire in Byzantium. The ancient tradition of their ancestral leaders proved difficult for the Romans to give up entirely.

Origins

The question of Etruscan origins has been a controversial subject for many years. Nowadays, it is fair to say that most authorities would agree that the Etruscans were autochthonous, and that the predecessors of the Etruscan civilization that started to manifest itself in the regions of Cerveteri, Tarquinia, Vulci and Vetulonia in the North in the early 7th century BCE had been in the region for many hundreds of years beforehand. There is however a large gulf between popular conceptions of the Etruscans, and the generally well established beliefs of academics in the field.

Religion

The basis of Etruscan religion was the fundamental idea that the destiny of man was completely determined by the vagaries of the many deities worshipped by the Etruscans. Every natural phenomenon, such as lightning, the structure of the internal organs of sacrificial animals, or the flight patterns of birds, was therefore an expression of the divine will, and contained a message which could be interpreted by trained priests such as Augurs.

Emerging from this basic concept the Rasenna scrupulously followed a complex code of rituals known by the Romans as the "disciplina etrusca". Even up to the fall of the Roman Empire, the Etruscans were regarded by their contemporaries with great respect for their religion and superstitions.

It may have been the fact that Etruscan religious beliefs and practices were so deep-rooted among the Romans that led to the complete destruction of all Etruscan literature as a result of the advent of Christianity. Arnobius, one of the first Christian apologists, living around 300CE, wrote ,"Etruria is the originator and mother of all superstition" .When the Gothic army under Alaric was approaching Rome, the offer made to Pope Innocent I by Etruscan Haruspices was seriously considered by the senate, but finally rejected.

The obvious Eastern Greek influence in Etruscan religion and art from the emergence of the civilisation in the 8th Century BCE, can be interpreted either as evidence of the Etruscan origins in Lydia, or as the influence of subsequent Greek settlement in the prosperous region of Etruria. However it is interpreted, the Etruscan religion was fundamentally unique to the region.

The Etruscan Religion was, like Christianity and Judaism, a revealed religion. An account of the revelation is given by Cicero(On Divination 2.50) . One day, says the legend, in a field near the river Marta in Etruria, a strange event occurred. A divine being rose up from the newly ploughed furrow, a being with the appearance of a child, but with the wisdom of an old man. The startled cry of the ploughman brought lucomones, the priest kings of Etruria hurrying up to the spot. To them, the wise child chanted the sacred doctrine, which they reverently listened to and wrote down, so that this most precious possession could be passed on to their successors. Immediately after the revelation, the miraculous being fell dead and disappeared into the ploughed field. His name was Tages, and he was believed to be the son of Genius and grandson of the highest God, Tinia (or Jupiter as he became known to the Romans). This doctrine was known to the Romans as the disciplina etrusca,

From the writings of the Etruscan haruspex Tarquitius around 90 BCE, we also get a glimpse of the prophesy of the nymph Vegoia (Latinised form of the name). This is bound up in the Gramatici veteres, in a corpus of Roman land surveys, We have a passage in which a divinity, the nymph Vergoia, speaks to Arruns Velturnnus:
"You should know that the sea is separated from the earth. When Jupiter claimed the land of Etruria for himself, he decided and commanded the fields to be surveyed and the lands marked out. Knowing the covetousness of man and his worldly greed, he wanted the boundaries of everything to be marked by boundary stones. Those which at any time anyone has placed because of the greed of this eighth - almost the latest - saeculum, arrogating to themselves licence, men with wrongful deceit will violate, touch and move. But if anyone touches or moves a boundary stone, extending his own possessions or diminishing those of someone else, for this crime he will be condemned by the gods. If slaves shall do this, they shall be moved to a lower status by their owner. But if this is done with the knowledge of the master, the household will be immediately uprooted, and the whole of his family will perish. The people responsible will be afflicted by the worst diseases and wounds and their limbs will be weakened. Then even the land will be shaken by storms or whirlwinds and many landslips. The crops will be frequently laid low and cut down by rain and hail, they will perish in the heat of the summer, they will be killed off by blight. There will be civil strife amongst the people. Know that these things happen, when such crimes are committed. Therefore do not be either a deceitful or treacherous. Place restraint in your heart. ..." .


For more detailed information go here

http://www.mysteriousetruscans.com/

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