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Etruscan Resources and References

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From a Magickal perspective, the origins of the Etruscans have been a subject of discussion since the most ancient times. The Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century BC, upheld the theory that they came by sea from Lydia, a region in Asia Minor.

According to other historians of the classical age, the Etruscans were believed to be a population of Italic origin, who had lived in the peninsula since remote times.

However, the theory that has emerged in modern historiography is that of groups from the eastern Mediterranean, who brought with them a technically and culturally advanced society and who mixed with the resident Italic population around the 10th century BC, giving rise to a new civilization.

Y Tylwyth Teg claims that acestors of the etruscan peoples settled in the South of France and on the Isle of Jersey, and communicated with the Druids of Wales from an early time.

Thier priesthood was the guardian of the doctrine and stood as intermediaries between men and the gods. This caste played a very important role in the civil and religious guidance of the Etruscan communities.

The priests had a particular costume, including a high semi-conical hat, and carried a stick curved at one end. They were divided into counsels and took part in all public activities, which for the Etruscans had a strong sacred significance.

The scriptures consisted of books containing a complex and codified system of ritual rules. The main ones  concerned: the interpretation of the entrails of animals, carried out by the Haruspices, the interpretation of lightning, carried out by the Augurs and the rules of behaviour to be followed in daily life.

At the basis of Etruscan religious discipline was the division of the heavens into sixteen compartments: the dwelling-places of the gods. The favourable gods were in the east and the unfavourable ones in the west.

Thus, as far as divination is concerned, every atmospheric event could be translated into a message from the divinity who dwelled in that place. Depending on the event, it could be an order, a good or an evil omen, or a sign of anger or discontent.

This system of compartments was also reproduced on the livers of sacrificed animals, of which bronze models have come down to us: the will of the gods was deduced from the observation of their physical characteristics. The prime of Etruscan civilization (from the 8th century to the 5th century BC)

From the 8th century BC onwards, the Etruscans represent the first Italic civilization with the necessary energy to undertake a policy of expansion, generated more by the frenzy of economic growth than by a conscious desire for power.

Without meeting any organized opposition, between the 7th and 6th century BC, the growth of Etruscan influence covered a vast area of the Italian peninsula, from the plain of the Po in the north to Campania in the south. With their products, Etruscan merchants reached all the Mediterranean ports and were everywhere rivals, and not always peacefully, with the Greeks and Phoenicians.

The Etruscans achieved the peak of their military and commercial strength around the middle of the 6th century when, after having occupied the ports of eastern Corsica, they became the acknowledged masters of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

During this phase of territorial expansion, the Etruscans came into conflict with the Carthaginians, their traditional allies, and the Greeks of the colonies of southern Italy, fiercer adversaries, whilst in the north, the Celts, divided into tribes and culturally backward, did not represent any real threat.

The glory and the decline (from the second half of the 5th to the 3rd century BC)

Allies of Carthage, the Etruscans had been able to dominate the Greek colonies in the south of Italy, successfully opposing their expansion both on land and at sea.

From the second half of the 5th century BC onwards however, the situation changed radically. Whilst the Etruscan cities had reached the peak of their economic development, the Greek colonies were undergoing a period of overwhelming cultural and political growth.

On the border between Etruria and Latium, a new and consistent danger had also appeared: the city of Rome which, once dominated and ruled by an Etruscan dynasty, had gained its independence, and gone on to the attack.

The decline of the Etruscans began at sea in 474 BC, when the Greeks of Italy, led by the city of Syracuse, defeated them at Cuma in a decisive defeat. After this, they lost control over the Tyrrhenian Sea.

On land as well, the situation rapidly deteriorated, and in less than a century Etrurian Campania was conquered by local populations, whilst the Etrurian plain of the Po was invaded by Celts from the northern side of the Alps.

From the mid 4th century BC, the once flourishing commercial and military power of the Etruscans was thus reduced to city-states which retreated into their original territories in central Italy.

In the end, they also participated in the final struggle against the newly born Roman power during the 3rd century BC. The proud city-states, lacking a strong national identity, were not able to co-ordinate any real resistance and were thus defeated one by one.

With the loss of political independence, the cycle of an ancient people who for centuries had been the cultural and economic leaders of the western Mediterranean came to an end.


starBOOKS

bookHere is a Etruscan reading list which contains important books on Etruscan and Strega topics. These are the best introductory texts available:


Banti, Luisa.Etruscan cities and their culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.   The two unique aspects of this source lie in Chapters 3-5 and 8. Chapter 8 examines the role of government of the cities, and their relationship to each other. Chapters 3-5 explore the different characters of Etruscan towns in 4 distinct geographic areas.  Davis Library: DG223.B313 1973

Bloch, Raymond. The Etruscans. Translated from the French by James Hogarth. Archaeologia mundi series. Geneva: Nagel Publishers, c1969.  Bloch begins with a coherent explanation of the history of Etruscology, and goes on to address the two great Etruscan mysteries: the undecoded language and the origins of the race. He discusses the history, culture, "literature and religion" and Etruscan art, as well.  Sloane, Davis, and Undergraduate Libraries: DG223 .B513

Bloch, Raymond. The ancient civilization of the Etruscans. Translated from the French by James Hogarth. Ancient Civilizations Series. New York: Cowles Book Co, 1969
Bloch focuses on the civilization of the Etruscans in general terms, and its eventual elimination and incorporation at the hands of the Romans. Much of the information is the same as the information provided in The Etruscans.  Undergraduate Library: DG223 .B513 1969b

Grant, Michael. The Etruscans. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, c1980.   Michael Grant, who specialized in Greek and Roman history, surveys Etruscan history with a focus on the Etruscan city. Trade, politics, and social structures all play key roles in this volume.
Davis and the Undergraduate Libraries: DG223 .G76 1980

Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert) Sketches of Etruscan places and other Italian essays. Cambridge University Press, 1992.   These are Lawrence's essays on travelling though Italy, looking for Etruscan sites, in the early 1930s. He describes the feeling of descending into the tombs, the state that they remain in, and clearly finds the modern Italian inferior to his Etruscan forbears.  It is also clear that he feels a real affinity for the early Etruscans, and for the art he finds there. He is no scholar of art history, but he does create vivid images of the past and the present.  Davis Library: DG223 .L374 1992

Livy.The history of Rome.Translated by 5 different translators. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1850.  This literal translation of Livy provides a look at the Roman attitude towards and about the Etruscans. The first five chapters are the most valuable to the Etruscologist. They discuss the early kings of Rome, several of whom were Etruscan. During this period, the Etruscans still maintained a certain amount of power.  Davis Library: DG207 .L5 S48 1850

Randall-MacIver, David. The Etruscans. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1927.  The book begins with an explanation "Why the Etruscans are interesting," and goes on to provide a brief overview of the Etruscan culture. This is a small volume, and the overview is brief. He describes cities in terms of the artifacts found, and which musuem currently held them.
Davis Library: DG223 .R3

Spivey, Nigel and Simon Stoddart. Etruscan Italy. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1990.
A scholarly book that focuses on the geography, available technology, trade and agriculture, war, ritual, and social interaction. Excellent tables, charts, and diagrams.
Davis Library: DG223 .S75 1990 

Vacano, Otto Wilhelm von. The Etruscans in the ancient world. St. Martin's Press, 1960
von Vacano examines the Etruscans in terms of their place in the Mediterranean world, but focusing mainly on the Greeks and the Romans. He does include some information on links with Central Europe and the Balkans, and the Phoenicians, but information about African influences is missing.  Davis and Undergraduate Libraries: DG223 .V313

Bonfante, L., Etruscan Dress, Baltimore (1973)

Bonfante, L., "Human Sacrifice on an Etruscan Urn," American Journal of Archaeology no. 88 (1984) 531-539

Bonfante, L., Etruscan Life and Afterlife, Detroit (1986)

Larissa Bonfante, "Etruscan Women," in Women in the Classical World edited by E. Fantham, H. P. Foley, N. B. Kampen, S. B. Pomeroy and H. A. Shapiro: Oxford University Press (1994) 243-259

Larissa Bonfante, "Etruscan Sexuality and Funerary Art," in Sexuality in Ancient Art: Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Italy edited by N. Kampen, Cambridge (1996)

Larissa Bonfante, "Etruscan couples and their aristocratic society," in Reflections of Women in Antiquity edited by H. Foley (1981) 323-341

Bonfante-Warren, L., "Roman Costumes: A Glossary and Some Etruscan Derivatives," ANRW no. 1.4 (1973) 584 614

Bonfante-Warren, L., "Roman Triumphs and Etruscan Kings. The Changing Face of the Triumph," Journal of Roman Studies no. 60 (1970) 49-66 

de Grummond, N., "Rediscovery," in Etruscan Life and Afterlife: A Handbook of Etruscan Studies edited by L. Bonfante, Detroit (1968) 142-159

Birgitte Ginge, "Women in Etruria: The Case of Seianti Hanunia Tlesnasa,," AJA 97 (1993) 338ff.

Guarducci, M., Il conubium nei riti del matrimonio etrusco e di quello romano, Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Communale di Roma no. 55 (1929) 205-24

Hafner, G., "Etruskische Togati," AntPl no. 9 (1969) 25-44

Hanfmann, G. M. A., "Daedalos in Etruria," American Journal of Archaeology no. 39 (1935) 189-94

Holliday, P. J., "Processional Imagery in Late Etruscan Funerary Art," American Journal of Archaeology no. 94 (1990) 73-93

Marcad, Jean, Roma Amor: Essay on Erotic Elements in Etruscan and Roman Art, Geneva (1965)

Marshall, F. H., Catalogue of the Finger Rings: Greek, Etruscan, and Roman, Oxford (1968)

Marshall, F. H., Catalogue of the Jewellery: Greek, Etruscan, and Roman, Oxford (1969)

Marjatta Nielsen, "Women and Family in a Changing Society: A Quantitative Approach to Late Etruscan Burials," AnalRom (1989) 17-18

Marjatta Nielsen, "Sacerdotesse e associazioni cultuali femminili in Etruria: testimonianze epigrafiche ed iconografiche," AnalRom 19 (1990) 45-62

Richardson, E. H., "The Etrusacan Origin of Early Roman Sculpture," MAAR no. 21 (1953) 110-116

Richardson, E. H., The Etruscans: Their Art and Civilization, Chicago (1964)

Andrew Stewart, "Mirrors of Desire," in Sexuality in Ancient Art: Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Italy edited by N. Kampen, Cambridge (1996)

Anthony S. Tuck, "The Etruscan Seated Banquet: Villanovan Ritual and Etruscan Iconography," AJA 98.4 (1994) 617

Vermeule, C. C., and A. Brauer, Stone Sculptures: The Greek, Roman, and Etruscan Collections of the Harvard University Museums, Cambridge, Mass. (1990)

Larissa Bonfante Warren, "The Women of Etruria," Arethusa 6 (1973) 91-102

etruscan horseCles-Reden, Sibylle. The buried people; a study of the Etruscan world. Translated from German by C.M. Woodhouse.   London, Rupert Hart-Davis, 1955.  Cles-Redden discusses the afterlife and its religious aspects in Chapter 12. She specifically discusses Christianity, and the facets of it that she suggests are Etruscan in origin, specifically the role of demons and other creatures of Hell. She argues that the Etruscan presence was felt by the Church well into Medieval times. It is fairly unique discussion.   Davis and Undergraduate Libraries: DG223 .C614

Maule, Quentin Froebel, and Henry Roy William Smith. Votive religion at Caere: prolegomena. University of California publications in classical archaeology, v.4, no. 1. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1959.  Maule and Smith discuss the role of votive offerings in the Etruscan religion, focusing on the terra-cotta sculpture offerings, with
some comparative discussion of bronze votives. They focus on the styles and iconography of the votives in the larger contexts of religion and death.  Davis Library : DE3 .C3 v. 4 no. 1

Meer, L. Bouke van der. The bronze liver of Piacenza : analysis of a polytheistic structure. J.C. Gieben, 1987.   The bronze liver of Pacenza is a model of a divinsation liver - the artisan etched divisions and symbols into the bronze. van der Meer focuses on the liver in its role as a diviner; some glancing attention is paid to the role the liver has played in the attempted decryption of the Etruscan language,the clues it provides to understanding Etruscan medicine, and its role as a treasured belonging marking the status of an augur.
Davis Library : BL813.E8 M43 1987

Regell, P., Roman augury and Etruscan divination. Ancient religion and mythology series New York : Arno Press, 1975.  Regell traces the evolution of the Etruscan practices of divination into the Roman reliance on augurs and omens. He used artifacts and artwork to demonstrate the similarities and differences between the two cultures in addition to the similarities and differences of the divination practices.  Davis Library : BF1768 .R65

Small, Jocelyn Penny, Cacus and Marsyas in Etrusco-Roman legend. Princeton University Press, c1982.  Small traces the Etruscan origins of the Roman god Cacus, using Marsyas as a yardstick and foil for the Etruscanization and Romanization of the Cacus figure. The use of Roman and Greek dieties as a way to understand the Etruscan dieties is an old
and traditional technique.  Davis Library: BL820.C127 S6

 

star ETRUSCAN ONLINE RESOURCES

There are several sites related to Etruscan culture and traditions with more coming online all the time. Some sites maintain excellent links to the best Etruscan web pages.

         Archaeological Sites