The Etruscans: The Great Civilization Of Antiquity Essay

The Etruscans The Great Civilization Of Antiquity Term paper

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The Etruscans were an enigmatic race that populated much of Italy between the rivers Po and Tiber. The Etruscans were seen as a strange, different people in antiquity and had little or no similarities in culture or traditions with there neighbours. Historians believe that the Etruscan civilization was established between the tenth and eleventh century BC. There has been evidence from archaeological digs that the Etruscans were living in Italy from at least the time of the Iron Age and it is also believed that the Etruscans ended up laying the foundation of Rome. However most historians are still uncertain about the origin of the Etruscan development and culture. Of the well-known Etruscan cities, the majority are virtually unexplored, and some of them are now buried underneath new towns that arose before the archaeologists could find out where these cities were. Others have been found by accident and had only a brief and limited excavation time. There were seven major centres in the Etruscan territory. They were: Tarquinii, Caere, Vulci, Vetulonia, Volaterrae, Clusium and Veii. Tarquinii was the first Etruscan centre to respond to an external desire for its metals by completing the process of urbanization. It was positioned on the southwest tip of the territory. It was surrounded by land on three sides, and water on the other. It controlled much of the mining in Etruria and was one of the major port centres for the empires naval ships. Caere was strategically located at the junction of the coastal plains and the hills, and history suggests that it may have also had access to the mines of Tarquinii. The people of Caere were very strong on the sea. They were very involved in importing and exporting ;as well they had a very strong navy. These people also carried on a great relationship with the Roman’s which helped them greatly on some occasions. Vulci was located on the north side of Tarquinii. The two bases of Vulci’s hinterland were the valleys of the Fiora and Albegna. It was assumed that this state also had a navy of its own. The maritime plain of Vulci was probably at on one time covered with pine trees that could be used as ships timber. And although the states coast was not easily navigational it is believed they had numerous ports. Vetulonia possessed quite a considerable hinterland, like other Etruscan states, as well as ports for its own naval fleet. This state’s history if fairly shady because not a lot of artefacts have been recovered to tell us about it. Volaterrae was one of the more important states in Etruria, so obviously they had a large port area with many ships. The interior of the state however was mainly marshland and was not very good for much use. Many important people lived in Volaterrae however, as we can tell by the jewellery and gold in the tombs that have been discovered. Clusium sixth century king, Lars Porsenna, was regarded as the most powerful Etruscan of all time. The wealth of this state came mainly form agriculture as they were not on the coast so they did not have a navy and they also did not have access to the metals that the other states had. They were also very gifted in making irrigation systems for their agricultural needs. Veii’s hinterland was a thick network of farms, which gave it some of its wealth. Their main source of wealth however, was salt. This was a great export because of its excellent preserving qualities. This made Veii one of the richest states in Etruria. Etruscan art has always been recognized as beautiful and exquisite. Their art began as engravings on the backs of mirrors. They used various themes, both religious and secular. In the 4th century vignettes of daily life, women at their toilet and theatrical and erotic scenes with a tendency towards scepticism and caricature became popular.# Children also appear frequently in engravings on the mirrors. One such engraving shows the triplets Kabeiri, at the foot of Mt.Olympus with Mercury, Minerva, and a third unknown Goddess. Etruscan mirror engraving also came to include nude male and female figures. Etruscan craftsmen did not confine their talents to just mirrors, they also engraved on tombs, bronze or terra-cotta statues, or temple walls. A Bronze cistae# was another piece for an engraver to show his skill. The rectangular, or cylindrical shape allowed him to do a continuous piece that wrapped around the whole box. An artefact example of this is a cistae that was a wedding gift from a mother to a daughter. It shows a scene of an Argonaut ship pulling up to shore. The handles on these boxes were usually two figures with outstretched arms connecting at the middle of the box. Probably put best by the French Scholar Martha, “Etruscan art had the great misfortune of never having time to form itself,#” ;which is true in the sense that by the time their art really became known the civilization was on its decline, although it had great influences on renaissance art and Michelangelo. The Etruscans had a very musical background. They sang, danced, and played instruments as parts of celebrations and other ceremonies and rituals. The common musical instruments are wind instruments like the flute and the trumpet, and stringed instruments as the lyre, the harp, and the cithara.# The Etruscan people had percussion instruments as well, such as castanets. Also included in some paintings were pictures of zithers which are believed to be used as a nobler sound to accompany the flute. The trumpet was important in military ceremonials as well as some religious ceremonials. The flute was an important part of ceremonies in honour of Dionysus, the god of wine, in which women whipped themselves into a frenzy, tearing young animals apart and drinking their blood.# Dance in Etruria started out as just men and women dancing separately. The men danced for the women and the women danced for the men. Because the ancient code of morals forbade couples dancing, dancing as couples was late to develop. The tombs of Tarquinia# have proven to be the greatest asset in information on Etruscan dance. There were 21 of these tomb scenes describes by Mary Johnstone. Seventeen of these were from Tarquinia and four were from Chiusi. From careful study she said, “dance as a subject of tomb decoration is confined within the last half of the sixth century and the first half of the fifth.”# The Etruscans were also very fond of games and sport. Dicing being their favourite game, they also enjoyed boxing, prize-fights, and wrestling, and enjoyed horse-racing and gladiatorial games. In the Tomb of the Augurs, there is an illustration of a brutal Etruscan game. There are two contestants. One is a man in a mask holding a leashed dog, and the other is a man, naked except for a loincloth, holding a large club with a sac tied over his head. In this game the masked man urges the dog to attack the man in the hood. The only way for the man to escape is to be lucky enough to hit the dog with the club. Although many of the games were probably used to show faith to Gods in some way or another, the Etruscans enjoyed them and it was a great part of their history. The Etruscan economy was based on a number of different areas. Seeing as though they lived in a fairly mountainous terrain they were not much of an agricultural people, except in a few choice places. They did however breed cattle and other flock animals as a source of food and a tradable commodity. The forests which were more dense then, compared to what they are now, housed a variety of animals for hunting and the lakes and ocean were great sources of fish. The primary area the Etruscans focused on was the vast mineral deposits that were spread around Etruria. In the north of the country, the hills, know today as the Colline Metallifere#, contained iron, copper, zinc and tin in large quantities, and these were the root of Etruscan wealth and power. The island of Elba, offered the same possibilities and was the scene of similar activities. Historically, one thing is certain. When the Etruscan spread their advanced civilization over Italy, at a time in the world where most everyone is still prehistoric, they set up the great things that would happen in western Europe in the next millennium. Fifteen hundred years after the decline of the gifted Etruscans and the place they lived the Renaissance started and another great era began.

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