Ancient history

Etruria and the Etruscans

The writings of Greek and Roman writers brought to us numerous information about the powerful Etruscans, their religion, cities surrounded by powerful walls, and their 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 of unbaked bricks. But the necropolises have survived - the "cities of the dead", satellites of all Etruscan cities. The crypts, repeating the layouts of the residential houses 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, their art and the level of development of the craft, and extensive trade relations with the peoples of the Mediterranean. In a word, historians have extensive material at their disposal for studying various aspects of the life of ancient Etruria. Then why did the Etruscans remain "mysterious" for centuries? 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. Ancient writers argued about the origin of the Etruscans. The Greek historian Herodotus claimed that the Etruscans, or Tyrrhenians, 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 were one of the local Italian peoples. In the work of the Roman historian Titus Livy there is an indication, though very vague, of the northern origin of the Etruscans. The dispute, begun in antiquity, is continued by modern researchers.

On the historical stage, the Etruscans appear somehow suddenly, suddenly. This is the basis for the assumption that the Etruscans did not belong to the indigenous population of Italy. In the 8th century BC e. between the rivers Tiber and Arno, a highly developed urban culture appears, far ahead of the culture of neighboring peoples in its development. Its creators were the Etruscans, and the ancient writers called the region of Central Italy inhabited by them Etruria.

Etruria, however, was not a single state, but was a union of 12 independent city-states - a "dwelt city". The largest of them were Arretius, Perusia, Volsinii, Caere, Tarquinii, Clusius, Veii. The 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 Volsinia, where once a year representatives of the cities gathered and held solemn games in honor of the revered deity. They elected a king, who, however, had no real power. Even in matters of foreign policy, each city was guided solely by its own interests. When joint military efforts were required, the issue of creating an allied army was decided not by the head of the twelve cities, but by the council of city representatives.

The political history of the Etruscan city-states is completely unknown, and talk about the system of government of these states or about the various social groups of Etruscan society is nothing more than speculation, unsteady and obscure. The oldest form of government in the 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. External signs of royal power were a portable chair made of ivory, a double ax - labrys, bundles of rods - facets and a scepter with an eagle-shaped pommel. The king wore a toga embroidered with palm leaves and a crown of golden oak leaves. These attributes were later transferred to the magistrates - the highest officials.

Probably late 7th or early 6th c. BC e. in most Etruscan cities, elected officials began to rule - representatives of the local aristocracy. Their functions and the titles of these positions are practically unknown. With some 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 civil communities, similar to Greek policies, or city-states of the eastern type. Considering them policies does not allow the lack of data on the presence of free citizens in them, who all (rich and poor, noble and not noble) would be equal before the law and could not be in a relationship of personal dependence on each other. Only the stratum of the population that is economically and politically dependent on the aristocracy stands out clearly. In Etruscan inscriptions, these people are called "etera" - comrades:they had to help their patron and made up his military squad.

The frescoes of the tombs of the Etruscan nobility and the evidence of ancient writers suggest the presence of slavery in Etruscan society. But whether the labor of slaves was widely used in handicraft production or whether they were used as domestic servants, it is impossible to say for sure.

In the 7th c. BC e. the Etruscans began to spread their influence to the neighboring regions of Etruria. Their cities appear in the fertile Campania and in the north of the Apennine peninsula, in the Po valley. The largest of them were Capua, Nola, Felsina, Mantua, Spina. The issue of Etruscan dominance in Latium is controversial. Some researchers 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 Tarquinian dynasty that Rome became the most powerful city of Latium (see the article “Ancient Rome”). Others, referring to Roman writers, speak only of the Etruscan influence on this territory.

The further advance of the Etruscans to the south of the peninsula and beyond was hindered by the Greek cities that appeared during the period of the Great Colonization in the 8th century. BC e. in southern Italy and Sicily. The Etruscans, having 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 secure dominance in the Tyrrhenian and Adriatic seas for the Etruscans, and over time in the names of these water areas:the ancients called the Etruscans the Tyrrhenians, as already mentioned, and Adria is 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 economic and cultural exchange between them. The Etruscans used the Greek alphabet to create their own script; 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 their own handicraft production there. Nearby

From the city of Caere, the Greek settlement of Pirgi has become an important seaport. Goods were brought here from the Mediterranean countries:expensive painted vases from Corinth, gold and silver dishes from Syria, Phoenicia and Cyprus, precious jewelry and ivory from the East. In turn, Etruria exported metal products for which its craftsmen were famous.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to say anything definite about the appearance of Etruscan cities. Strict planning with a system of intersecting streets replaces chaotic buildings only in the 6th-5th centuries. BC e. At the same time, pipelines appear that supply cities with drinking water. The building skill of the Etruscans can be judged by the sewage canal system built in Rome during the reign of King Tarquinius the Ancient. With her help, the swamp between the Palatine and the Capitol was drained. It existed for 19 centuries and is now part of the sewer system of Rome.

Haruspex priests were especially respected by the Etruscans. They predicted the future from the entrails of animals, the flight of birds, and from sightings of lightning. Similar divination by the liver of animals was performed 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.

The Etruscan funeral cult also has an obvious resemblance to the religious ideas of the peoples of the East. They believed that after death a person continues to live in another world, therefore they sought to provide the deceased with everything that he was used to in earthly life. The nobility built crypts similar to palaces for themselves, the creation of which required huge material and labor costs. There was nothing like it in ancient Greece or in ancient Rome, but it is very reminiscent of the tombs of Egypt and other countries of the East.

The world of the Etruscan gods is known to us mainly by their names, which, as a result of close contacts between the Etruscans and the Greeks and Romans, acquired a rather familiar sound:Aplu - Apollo, Netun - Neptune, Maris - Mars . The supreme deity of the Etruscan pantheon was the god of the sky, 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 Etruscan inscriptions are fairly easy to read, as the Etruscan alphabet is based on ancient Greek. But by reading the words, scientists cannot understand their meaning. The successes are very insignificant:in more than a hundred years, about a hundred words have been guessed, and then - presumably ... The reason is that neither among the ancient nor among the modern languages ​​was found a related Etruscan language. But even if the 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 a rich literature on religious, legal and scientific topics. However, after in the II century. BC e. the Etruscans romanized and stopped speaking their native language, everything disappeared without a trace. It is very difficult to study culture without written monuments:much has to be conjectured, reconstructed, and entire pages of the history of the people remain unclear.

The rise of the Etruscans was short-lived, and already at the end of the 6th century. BC e. the first signs of decline begin to appear. The internal political situation in Etruria became more complicated. A period of unrest begins in the cities, 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, are pushing the Etruscans at sea. The Romans expel the Etruscan royal family of the Tarquins, and the attempt of Porsena, king of the city of Clusium, to return the throne to the Tarquins ends in failure. In the 70s. 5th century BC e. the Etruscans lose 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 are fiercely fighting with the growing strength of Rome for their 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 absorbs the Etruscan world.

According to the encyclopedia.

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