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Etruscan War, 311/10-308 BC

Etruscan War, 311/10-308 BC


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Etruscan War, 311/10-308 BC

The Etruscan War of 311/10-308 BC was a short conflict between Rome and some of the inland Etruscan cities that for a brief period saw Rome facing a war on two fronts, against the Etruscans to the north and the Samnites to the south.

The Etruscan War falls in a period in which the traditional Roman chronology is probably incorrect. In this chronology the war took place in 311 to 308 BC, but that chronology includes a 'dictator year' in 309 BC, in which no consuls were recorded. Neither Livy nor Diodorus Siculus mention this year, and it was probably a later invention inserted in the list of consuls in an attempt to reconcile two different historical traditions.

Neither Livy nor Diodorus give any reason for the outbreak of the war. Livy reports that the Etruscans began to prepare for war in 312/11, and that the Romans responded by appointing C. Junius Bubulcus as dictator. He raised a new army, but was unwilling to be responsible for starting the war, and so the hostilities were delayed until the following year.

311/10 BC

The war began with an Etruscan attack on the city of Sutrium, a key Romen border city. The Romans sent the consul Q. Aemilius Barbula to lift the siege, but although he won a victory over the Etruscan army the Romans suffered heavy losses themselves, and were unable to force the Etruscans away.

310/9 BC

At the start of the next year the consul Q. Fabius Maximus Rullianus took command of the Etruscan War. He too was credited with a victory over the Etruscans at Sutrium, but the siege continued. One of Fabius's officers, possibly his brother, suggested crossing the great Ciminian forest, then a trackless wilderness that acted as a border between Etruria and Rome. This officer crossed the forest with a single servant, eventually reaching Camerinum, where he arranged an alliance. This convinced Fabius to risk crossing the forest, and after a single days marching the Romans had reached a position on the Ciminian hills, overlooking the Etruscan heartland.

Livy and Diodorus Siculus provide similar accounts of the campaign on the far side of the forest. Diodorus reports two Roman victories, the first at an unnamed location, and the second close to Perusia. After this victory he agreed truces with the people of Arretium, Cortona and Perusia.

In Livy Fabius defeated a force made up of local peasantry, probably the first battle records by Diodorus. Livy then records a second battle, which in his main account takes place back at Sutrium, but that he admits might have been fought near Perusia. After this victory he arranged a truce with Arretium, Cortona and Perusia.

Diodorus's account ends at this point, but Livy goes on to record a third battle, at Lake Vadimo in the upper Tiber valley. This saw the Romans defeated the largest Etruscan army yet, and break the power of the remaining hostile cities.

308

In 308 the consul P. Decius Mus was allocated the Etruscan War. He agreed a new 40 year truce with the coastal city of Tarquinii and then campaigned against Volsinii, in the Tiber valley. After the Romans captured and destroyed a number of Volsinii strong points the Etruscan League sued for peace, and asked for a peace treaty. Decius didn't agree to this, but he did agree to a one year truce.

This ended the Etruscan phase of the war, but now the Umbrians rose in arms, perhaps realising that they would be the Roman's next target. While Decius moved back into the territory of Pupinia to block the Umbrian's route towards Rome, his colleague Q. Fabius Maximus Rullianus made a forced march from Samnium, and defeated the Umbrians at Mevania.

This ended the war and left the Romans free to concentrate on defeating the Samnites. At the same time they agreed an alliance with the southern Umbrian city of Ocriculum, and on 303 BC, the year after the end of the Second Samnite War, they returned to Umbria.

Roman Conquests: Italy, Ross Cowan. A look at the Roman conquest of the Italian Peninsula, the series of wars that saw Rome transformed from a small city state in central Italy into a power that was on the verge of conquering the ancient Mediterranean world. A lack of contemporary sources makes this a difficult period to write about, but Cowan has produced a convincing narrative without ignoring some of the complexity.

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Etruscan War, 311/10-308 BC - History

The Etruscans were a Mediterranean civilization during the 6 th to 3 rd century BCE, from whom the Romans derived a great deal of cultural influence.

Learning Objectives

Explain the relationship between the Etruscan and Roman civilizations

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The prevailing view is that Rome was founded by Italics who later merged with Etruscans. Rome was likely a small settlement until the arrival of the Etruscans, who then established Rome’s urban infrastructure.
  • The Etruscans were indigenous to the Mediterranean area, probably stemming from the Villanovan culture.
  • The mining and commerce of metal, especially copper and iron, led to an enrichment of the Etruscans, and to the expansion of their influence in the Italian Peninsula and the western Mediterranean Sea. Conflicts with the Greeks led the Etruscans to ally themselves with the Carthaginians.
  • The Etruscans governed within a state system, with only remnants of the chiefdom or tribal forms. The Etruscan state government was essentially a theocracy.
  • Aristocratic families were important within Etruscan society, and women enjoyed, comparatively, many freedoms within society.
  • The Etruscan system of belief was an immanent polytheism that incorporated indigenous, Indo-European, and Greek influences.
  • It is believed that the Etruscans spoke a non-Indo-European language, probably related to what is called the Tyrsenian language family, which is itself an isolate family, or in other words, unrelated directly to other known language groups.

Key Terms

  • theocracy: A form of government in which a deity is officially recognized as the civil ruler, and official policy is governed by officials regarded as divinely guided, or is pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religion or religious group.
  • Etruscan: The modern name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany, western Umbria, and northern Latium.
  • oligarchic: A form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next however, inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term.

Those who subscribe to an Italic (a diverse group of people who inhabited pre-Roman Italy) foundation of Rome, followed by an Etruscan invasion, typically speak of an Etruscan “influence” on Roman culture that is, cultural objects that were adopted by Rome from neighboring Etruria. The prevailing view is that Rome was founded by Italics who later merged with Etruscans. In that case, Etruscan cultural objects are not a heritage but are, instead, influences. Rome was likely a small settlement until the arrival of the Etruscans, who then established its initial urban infrastructure.

Origins

The origins of the Etruscans are mostly lost in prehistory. Historians have no literature, and no original texts of religion or philosophy. Therefore, much of what is known about this civilization is derived from grave goods and tomb findings. The main hypotheses state that the Etruscans were indigenous to the region, probably stemming from the Villanovan culture or from the Near East. Etruscan expansion was focused both to the north, beyond the Apennines, and into Campania. The mining and commerce of metal, especially copper and iron, led to an enrichment of the Etruscans, and to the expansion of their influence in the Italian Peninsula and the western Mediterranean Sea. Here, their interests collided with those of the Greeks, especially in the 6t h century BCE, when Phoceans of Italy founded colonies along the coast of Sardinia, Spain, and Corsica. This led the Etruscans to ally themselves with the Carthaginians, whose interests also collided with the Greeks.

Map of the Etruscan Civilization: Extent of Etruscan civilization and the 12 Etruscan League cities.

Around 540 BCE, the Battle of Alalia led to a new distribution of power in the western Mediterranean Sea. Though the battle had no clear winner, Carthage managed to expand its sphere of influence at the expense of the Greeks, and Etruria saw itself relegated to the northern Tyrrhenian Sea with full ownership of Corsica. From the first half of the 5 th century BCE, the new international political situation signaled the beginning of Etruscan decline after they had lost their southern provinces. In 480 BCE, Etruria’s ally, Carthage, was defeated by a coalition of Magna Graecia cities led by Syracuse. A few years later, in 474 BCE, Syracuse’s tyrant, Hiero, defeated the Etruscans at the Battle of Cumae. Etruria’s influence over the cities of Latium and Campania weakened, and it was taken over by the Romans and Samnites. In the 4 th century, Etruria saw a Gallic invasion end its influence over the Po valley and the Adriatic coast. Meanwhile, Rome had started annexing Etruscan cities. These events led to the loss of the Northern Etruscan provinces. Etruria was conquered by Rome in the 3 rd century BCE.

Etruscan Government

The Etruscans governed using a state system of society, with only remnants of the chiefdom and tribal forms. In this way, they were different from the surrounding Italics. Rome was, in a sense, the first Italic state, but it began as an Etruscan one. It is believed that the Etruscan government style changed from total monarchy to an oligarchic republic (as the Roman Republic did) in the 6 th century BCE, although it is important to note this did not happen to all city-states.

The Etruscan state government was essentially a theocracy. The government was viewed as being a central authority over all tribal and clan organizations. It retained the power of life and death in fact, the gorgon, an ancient symbol of that power, appears as a motif in Etruscan decoration. The adherents to this state power were united by a common religion. Political unity in Etruscan society was the city-state, and Etruscan texts name quite a number of magistrates without explanation of their function (the camthi, the parnich, the purth, the tamera, the macstrev, etc.).

Etruscan Families

According to inscriptional evidence from tombs, aristocratic families were important within Etruscan society. Most likely, aristocratic families rose to prominence over time through the accumulation of wealth via trade, with many of the wealthiest Etruscan cities located near the coast.

The Etruscan name for family was lautn, and at the center of the lautn was the married couple. Etruscans were monogamous, and the lids of large numbers of sarcophagi were decorated with images of smiling couples in the prime of their life, often reclining next to each other or in an embrace. Many tombs also included funerary inscriptions naming the parents of the deceased, indicating the importance of the mother’s side of the family in Etruscan society. Additionally, Etruscan women were allowed considerable freedoms in comparison to Greek and Roman women, and mixed-sex socialization outside the domestic realm occurred.

Etruscan Religion

The Etruscan system of belief was an immanent polytheism that is, all visible phenomena were considered to be a manifestation of divine power, and that power was subdivided into deities that acted continually on the world of man and could be dissuaded or persuaded in favor of human affairs. Three layers of deities are evident in the extensive Etruscan art motifs. One appears to be divinities of an indigenous nature: Catha and Usil, the sun Tivr, the moon Selvans, a civil god Turan, the goddess of love Laran, the god of war Leinth, the goddess of death Maris Thalna Turms and the ever-popular Fufluns, whose name is related in an unknown way to the city of Populonia and the populus Romanus, the Roman people.

Ruling over this pantheon of lesser deities were higher ones that seem to reflect the Indo-European system: Tin or Tinia, the sky Uni, his wife (Juno) and Cel, the earth goddess. In addition the Greek gods were taken into the Etruscan system: Aritimi (Artemis), Menrva (Minerva), and Pacha (Bacchus). The Greek heroes taken from Homer also appear extensively in art motifs.

The Greek polytheistic approach was similar to the Etruscan religious and cultural base. As the Romans emerged from the legacy created by both of these groups, it shared in a belief system of many gods and deities.

Etruscan Language and Etymology

Knowledge of the Etruscan language is still far from complete. It is believed that the Etruscans spoke a non-Indo-European language, probably related to what is called the Tyrsenian language family, which is itself an isolate family, or in other words, unrelated directly to other known language groups. No etymology exists for Rasna, the Etruscans’ name for themselves, though Italian historic linguist, Massimo Pittau, has proposed that it meant “shaved” or “beardless.” The hypothesized etymology for Tusci, a root for “Tuscan” or “Etruscan,” suggests a connection to the Latin and Greek words for “tower,” illustrating the Tusci people as those who built towers. This was possibly based upon the Etruscan preference for building hill towns on high precipices that were enhanced by walls. The word may also be related to the city of Troy, which was also a city of towers, suggesting large numbers of migrants from that region into Etruria.


Veii and the Etruscans

Despite removing the yoke of Etruscan rule in the late 6th century, the Etruscans would remain a viable threat to the fledgling Roman Republic for another three centuries. The Etruscan city-state of Veii was situated only 12 miles to the north of Rome, and being equally matched in strength, was the main source of concern. Between Rome and Veii, ran the important transportation and commerce artery, the Tiber River. Control of it was vital to both cities and conflict was inevitable.

The city controlling access to the Tiber also controlled access to Western Italy, Latium, Samnium, Etruria, and partly northern Campania. Ostia, settled on the mouth of the Tibur and the Mare Tyrrhenum was also a vital source of salt, and access to its mines were of utmost importance to both cities. Such vital economic repercussions in a considerably small area led to unlimited conflicts over time. As such, in the early 5th century (483 - 79 BC), a powerful Roman familia, the Fabians, had settled into Etruscan territory near the town of Fidenae. The potential damage to the Etruscan economy, and raids on both sides soon escalated led to war. While the history of the events that followed is based on legend (and suspiciously similar to the Peloponnesian battle of Thermopylae), it was said that the Veientanes destroyed 300 Fabii at the Cremera, leaving all but one dead.

Within a year of the victory at the Cremera, the Etruscan navy, in conflict with Greece, was destroyed by Hieron of Syracuse, off of Cumae. The result was a military disaster for the Etruscans that they never really seemed to recover from. The various city states of the Etruscan league, including Veii, devolved more and more into separate unrelated entities, thereby losing the strength of mutual protection. Veii, despite its recent upper hand at Cremera, was forced to make a treaty with Rome.

Within this time frame a more consequential series of events were taking place, however. Celtic Gauls had been migrating into northern Italy from the 6th century BC and establishing themselves at or near Etruscan territory. Raids and warfare with these people would have a debilitating effect on the Etruscans and play directly into the growing strength of Rome. The Gauls so weakened the Etruscans that the Romans, between 406 and 396 BC, went on the offensive.

It's about this period in history that Livy tells us of the legendary Roman hero M. Furius Camillus. Under his command Fidemae was retaken from Veii, and then the city of Veii itself came under siege. According to the legend, the Siege of Veii lasted 10 years, but its description is so closely paralleled to the Homeric Siege of Troy, that we must take into account the propaganda used by ancient sources to inflate the glory of Rome. The actual siege probably lasted considerably less time, though the introduction of a paid professional legion during this course of events indicates that it was a protracted campaign. The siege was finally broken, in 396 BC, when the Romans supposedly drained Alban Lake. This not only would divert water supplies from the city but allowed access for Roman soldiers to sneak under the walls through empty stream beds. In the end, whatever the truth behind the legend may be, Camillus was credited with saving Rome and bestowed with the unending admiration of the Romans throughout its history.

Gaining Veii, the Romans, in stark contrast to their general conquest policies of incorporation, destroyed much of the city and drove out many of the Etruscan residents. The territory was allotted to Roman citizens, and four new tribes were created: the Stellatine, Tromentina, Sabatina and Aniensis. Veii's capture resulted in a considerable increase in Roman territory and strength. As a result, the Roman state, which had already been a match for the Latin league in its entirety, now was greatly predominant in resources and manpower over her divided neighbors.

Slowly, over the course of the next century, the Etruscan cities would be added to the Roman fold one by one. In various forms over this time, they would side with various opponents of the Romans in desperate attempts to break their hold on power in central Italy. The obscurity of the Etruscan people, however, in the perspective of regional power, was inevitable by this point. Their lack of unity and cooperation, despite joining various enemies of Rome in the waning years of Italian independence, led directly to their own demise. By 273 BC, Etruria and the Etruscans would be completely within the domain of Rome.


Contents

Etruscan literacy was widespread over the Mediterranean shores, as evidenced by about 13,000 inscriptions (dedications, epitaphs, etc.), most fairly short, but some of considerable length. [13] They date from about 700 BC. [14]

The Etruscans had a rich literature, as noted by Latin authors. Livy and Cicero were both aware that highly specialized Etruscan religious rites were codified in several sets of books written in Etruscan under the generic Latin title Etrusca Disciplina. The Libri Haruspicini dealt with divination by reading entrails from a sacrificed animal, while the Libri Fulgurales expounded the art of divination by observing lightning. A third set, the Libri Rituales, might have provided a key to Etruscan civilization: its wider scope embraced Etruscan standards of social and political life, as well as ritual practices. According to the 4th century Latin writer Maurus Servius Honoratus, a fourth set of Etruscan books existed dealing with animal gods, but it is unlikely that any scholar living in that era could have read Etruscan. However, only one book (as opposed to inscription), the Liber Linteus, survived, and only because the linen on which it was written was used as mummy wrappings. [15]

In 30 BC, Livy noted that Etruscan was once widely taught to Roman boys, but had since become replaced by the teaching of only Greek, while Varro noted that works of theatre had once been composed in Etruscan. [16]

Demise Edit

The date of extinction for Etruscan is held by scholarship to have been either in the late first century BC, or the early first century AD. Freeman's analysis of inscriptional evidence would appear to imply that Etruscan was still flourishing in the 2nd century BC, still alive in the first century BC, and surviving in at least one location in the beginning of the first century AD [17] however, the replacement of Etruscan by Latin likely occurred earlier in southern regions closer to Rome. [18]

In Southern Etruria, the first Etruscan site to be Latinized was Veii, when it was destroyed and repopulated by Romans in 396 BC. [18] Caere (Cerveteri), another southern Etruscan town on the coast 45 kilometers from Rome, appears to have shifted to Latin in the late 2nd century BC. [18] In Tarquinia and Vulci, Latin inscriptions coexisted with Etruscan inscriptions in wall paintings and grave markers for centuries, from the 3rd century BC until the early 1st century BC, after which Etruscan is replaced by exclusive use of Latin. [18]

In Northern Etruria, Etruscan inscriptions continue after they disappear in Southern Etruria. At Clusium (Chiusi), tomb markings show mixed Latin and Etruscan in the first half of the 1st century BC, with cases where two subsequent generations are inscribed in Latin and then the third, youngest generation, surprisingly, is transcribed in Etruscan. [18] At Perugia, monolingual monumental inscriptions in Etruscan are still seen in the first half of the 1st century BC, while the period of bilingual inscriptions appears to have stretched from the 3rd century to the late 1st century BC. [18] The isolated last bilinguals are found at three northern sites. Inscriptions in Arezzo include one dated to 40 BC followed by two with slightly later dates, while in Volterra there is one dated to just after 40 BC and a final one dated to 10–20 AD coins with written Etruscan near Saena have also been dated to 15 BC. [19] Freeman notes that in rural areas the language may have survived a bit longer, and that a survival into the late 1st century AD and beyond "cannot wholly be dismissed", especially given the revelation of Oscan writing in Pompeii's walls. [20]

Despite the apparent extinction of Etruscan, it appears that Etruscan religious rites continued much later, continuing to use the Etruscan names of deities and possibly with some liturgical usage of the language. In late Republican and early Augustan times, various Latin sources including Cicero noted the esteemed reputation of Etruscan soothsayers. [21] An episode where lightning struck an inscription with the name Caesar, turning it into Aesar, was interpreted to have been a premonition of the deification of Caesar because of the resemblance to Etruscan aisar, meaning "gods", although this indicates knowledge of a single word and not the language. Centuries later and long after Etruscan is thought to have died out, Ammianus Marcellinus reports that Julian the Apostate, the last pagan Emperor, apparently had Etruscan soothsayers accompany him on his military campaigns with books on war, lightning and celestial events, but the language of these books is unknown. According to Zosimus, when Rome was faced with destruction by Alaric in 408 AD, the protection of nearby Etruscan towns was attributed to Etruscan pagan priests who claimed to have summoned a raging thunderstorm, and they offered their services "in the ancestral manner" to Rome as well, but the devout Christians of Rome refused the offer, preferring death to help by pagans. Freeman notes that these events may indicate that a limited theological knowledge of Etruscan may have survived among the priestly caste much longer. [22] One 19th-century writer argued in 1892 that Etruscan deities retained an influence on early modern Tuscan folklore. [23]

Around 180, the Latin author Aulus Gellius mentions Etruscan alongside the Gaulish language in an anecdote. [24] Freeman notes that although Gaulish was clearly still alive during Gellius' time, his testimony may not indicate that Etruscan was still alive because the phrase could indicate a meaning of the sort of "it's all Greek (incomprehensible) to me". [25]

At the time of its extinction, only a few educated Romans with antiquarian interests, such as Marcus Terentius Varro, could read Etruscan. The Roman emperor Claudius (10 BC – AD 54) is considered to have possibly been able to read Etruscan, and authored a treatise on Etruscan history a separate dedication made by Claudius implies a knowledge from "diverse Etruscan sources", but it is unclear if any were fluent speakers of Etruscan. [26] Plautia Urgulanilla, the emperor's first wife, was Etruscan. [27]

Etruscan had some influence on Latin, as a few dozen Etruscan words and names were borrowed by the Romans, some of which remain in modern languages, among which are possibly columna "column", voltur "vulture", tuba "trumpet", vagina "sheath", populus "people". [28]

Inscriptions have been found in north-west and west-central Italy, in the region that even now bears the name of the Etruscan civilization, Tuscany (from Latin tuscī "Etruscans"), as well as in modern Latium north of Rome, in today's Umbria west of the Tiber, in Campania and in the Po Valley to the north of Etruria. This range may indicate a maximum Italian homeland where the language was at one time spoken.

Outside mainland Italy, inscriptions have been found in Corsica, Elba, Gallia Narbonensis, Greece, the Balkans, the Black Sea. [29] But by far, the greatest concentration is in Italy.

The classification of Etruscan is uncertain, due to poverty of data, but is increasingly believed to be related to a few obscure ancient languages. It is generally accepted that Etruscan does not belong to any living language family, though there have been repeated (unsuccessful) attempts to demonstrate that it is Indo-European.

Tyrsenian family hypothesis Edit

In 1998, Helmut Rix put forward the view that Etruscan is related to other members of what he called the "Tyrsenian language family". [30] Rix's Tyrsenian family of languages—composed of Raetic, spoken in ancient times in the eastern Alps, and Lemnian, together with Etruscan—has gained acceptance among scholars. [31] [32] [33] [34] [35] Rix's Tyrsenian family has been confirmed by Stefan Schumacher, [6] [7] [8] [9] Norbert Oettinger, [10] Carlo De Simone, [11] and Simona Marchesini. [12] Common features between Etruscan, Raetic, and Lemnian have been found in morphology, phonology, and syntax. On the other hand, few lexical correspondences are documented, at least partly due to the scant number of Raetic and Lemnian texts. [36] [37] The Tyrsenian family, or Common Tyrrhenic, in this case is often considered to be Paleo-European and to predate the arrival of Indo-European languages in southern Europe. [38] Several scholars believe that the Lemnian language could have arrived in the Aegean Sea during the Late Bronze Age, when Mycenaean rulers recruited groups of mercenaries from Sicily, Sardinia and various parts of the Italian peninsula. [39] Scholars such as Norbert Oettinger, Michel Gras and Carlo De Simone think that Lemnian is the testimony of an Etruscan piratesque or commercial settlement on the island that took place before 700 BC, not related to the Sea Peoples. [40] [41] [ clarification needed ]

Some scholars think that the Camunic language, an extinct language spoken in the Central Alps of Northern Italy, may be also related to Etruscan and to Raetic. [42] [43]

Isolate hypothesis Edit

Etruscan has long been thought to be a language isolate. In the first century BC, the Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus stated that the Etruscan language was unlike any other. [44] Giuliano Bonfante, a leading scholar in the field, argued in 1990 that "it resembles no other language in Europe or elsewhere". [13]

Other hypotheses Edit

Over the centuries many hypotheses on the Etruscan language have been developed, many of which have not been accepted or have been considered highly speculative. The interest in Etruscan antiquities and the Etruscan language found its modern origin in a book by a Renaissance Dominican friar, Annio da Viterbo, a cabalist and orientalist now remembered mainly for literary forgeries. In 1498, Annio published his antiquarian miscellany titled Antiquitatum variarum (in 17 volumes) where he put together a theory in which both the Hebrew and Etruscan languages were said to originate from a single source, the "Aramaic" spoken by Noah and his descendants, founders of the Etruscan city Viterbo. Annio also started to excavate Etruscan tombs, unearthing sarcophagi and inscriptions, and made a bold attempt at deciphering the Etruscan language. [ citation needed ]

The 19th century saw numerous attempts to reclassify Etruscan. Ideas of Semitic origins found supporters until this time. In 1858, the last attempt was made by Johann Gustav Stickel, Jena University in his Das Etruskische [. ] als semitische Sprache erwiesen. [45] A reviewer [46] concluded that Stickel brought forward every possible argument which would speak for that hypothesis, but he proved the opposite of what he had attempted to do. In 1861, Robert Ellis proposed that Etruscan was related to Armenian, which is nowadays acknowledged as an Indo-European language. [47] Exactly 100 years later, a relationship with Albanian was to be advanced by Zecharia Mayani, but Albanian is also known to be an Indo-European language. [48]

Several theories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries connected Etruscan to Uralic or even Altaic languages. In 1874, the British scholar Isaac Taylor brought up the idea of a genetic relationship between Etruscan and Hungarian, of which also Jules Martha would approve in his exhaustive study La langue étrusque (1913). [49] In 1911, the French orientalist Baron Carra de Vaux suggested a connection between Etruscan and the Altaic languages. [49] The Hungarian connection was revived by Mario Alinei, Emeritus Professor of Italian Languages at the University of Utrecht. [50] Alinei's proposal has been rejected by Etruscan experts such as Giulio M. Facchetti, [51] [52] Finno-Ugric experts such as Angela Marcantonio, [53] and by Hungarian historical linguists such as Bela Brogyanyi. [54]

The idea of a relation between the language of the Minoan Linear A scripts was taken into consideration as the main hypothesis by Michael Ventris before he discovered that, in fact, the language behind the later Linear B script was Mycenean, a Greek dialect. It has been proposed to possibly be part of a wider Paleo-European "Aegean" language family, which would also include Minoan, Eteocretan (possibly descended from Minoan) and Eteocypriot. This has been proposed by Giulio Mauro Facchetti, a researcher who has dealt with both Etruscan and Minoan, and supported by S. Yatsemirsky, referring to some similarities between Etruscan and Lemnian on one hand, and Minoan and Eteocretan on the other. [55] [56] It has also been proposed that this language family is related to the pre-Indo-European languages of Anatolia, based upon place name analysis. [38]

Others have suggested that Tyrsenian languages may yet be distantly related to early Indo-European languages, such as those of the Anatolian branch. [57] More recently, Robert S. P. Beekes argued in 2002 that the people later known as the Lydians and Etruscans had originally lived in northwest Anatolia, with a coastline to the Sea of Marmara, whence they were driven by the Phrygians circa 1200 BC, leaving a remnant known in antiquity as the Tyrsenoi. A segment of this people moved south-west to Lydia, becoming known as the Lydians, while others sailed away to take refuge in Italy, where they became known as Etruscans. [58] This account draws on the well-known story by Herodotus (I, 94) of the Lydian origin of the Etruscans or Tyrrhenians, famously rejected by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (book I), partly on the authority of Xanthus, a Lydian historian, who had no knowledge of the story, and partly on what he judged to be the different languages, laws, and religions of the two peoples.

In 2006, Frederik Woudhuizen went further on Herodotus' traces, suggesting that Etruscan belongs to the Anatolian branch of the Indo-European family, specifically to Luwian. [59] Woudhuizen revived a conjecture to the effect that the Tyrsenians came from Anatolia, including Lydia, whence they were driven by the Cimmerians in the early Iron Age, 750–675 BC, leaving some colonists on Lemnos. He makes a number of comparisons of Etruscan to Luwian and asserts that Etruscan is modified Luwian. He accounts for the non-Luwian features as a Mysian influence: "deviations from Luwian [. ] may plausibly be ascribed to the dialect of the indigenous population of Mysia." [60] According to Woudhuizen, the Etruscans were initially colonizing the Latins, bringing the alphabet from Anatolia.

Another proposal, pursued mainly by a few linguists from the former Soviet Union, suggested a relationship with Northeast Caucasian (or Nakh-Daghestanian) languages. [61] [62]


Etruscan War, 311/10-308 BC - History

- No one knows for certain where the Etruscans had originally come from. They may have migrated from Asia Minor (now called Turkey) before settling in Etruria.

- Historians have not deciphered much Etruscan writing (namely gods and goddesses) and cannot read first-hand accounts of Etruscan history.

- The Etruscans did not speak an Indo-European language as did most migrant peoples from Asia Minor.

- The mud, bricks, and wood from their buildings have all disappeared and though archaeologists have unearthed foundations of some Etruscan cities, there is very little revealed about Etruscan culture.

- Most of the knowledge of the Etruscans have been found in their burial chambers though not much is revealed.

- The many Etruscan tomb paintings reveal that they enjoyed sports, religious ceremonies, music and feasts.

- Decorative objects have been found in tombs such as furniture, clothing, pottery, tools, and jewelry all revealing that they were just as had been spoken about them, "wealthy Mediterranean traders."

- Scholars have determned that their society consisted of wealthy overlords who made slaves of conquered peoples, aristocratic priests who sacrificed prisoners of war forced them to duel to the death to appease angry gods.

- The Etruscans were the first civilized people to settle in Italy and they greatly influenced the Romans.

- The Etruscans were flourishing from around 800 BC to 400 BC.

- In the 6th cent. BC. they occupied and ruled Rome for 100 years.

- Extensive iron ore deposits near them in north central Italy made them very rich from trade.

- The Etruscans adopted the Greek alphabet.

- They had skilled workers in bronze, iron and precious metals.

- At the height of their power they were ruling from the River Po to Naples.

- It was the Etruscans that wore a robe, later known to the Romans as the "toga."

- The Etruscans built Rome's first drainage system.

- Etruscan soldiers carried an official symbol called the "fasces" which was an axe with its handle surrounded by sticks and tied with rope.

- The Etruscan and Roman civilizations were put together from bits and pieces from Asia Minor, Greece, Phoenicia, Israel, Egypt, and Persia.

- The Romans adopted almost all of their superior warfare techniques including weapons and armor designs from the Etruscans, using the same techniques to conquer them in the fourth century BC.

- Etruscan women were considered equal to men

- Roman elegance was adopted from the Etruscans, lavish banquets reclining on couches, watching dancers and other entertainers while being served courses of fine food and drink by slaves.

- Senior officials of the Roman Republic derived their insignia from the Etruscans: curule chair, purple-bordered toga (toga praetexta), and bundle of rods (fasces).


Etruscan War, 311/10-308 BC - History

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Ancient Coins & Artifacts:


Etruscan, c. 4th Century BC. Nice and large Etruscan terracotta half-head of a woman! In high relief and in fine style, the head being in half because it was part of a relief scene mounted against a wall, the woman being in profile. Nearly life size! H: 8 in (20.4 cm). Minor losses with light deposits. Ex Harold Whitbeck estate, San Francisco CA, acquired between the 1980's and 1990's from major auction houses and galleries in the US and UK. #AG2236: $550
Ancient Etruscan, c. 7th-6th century BC. Italic, early Italy. Wonderful Etruscan bucchero chalice. With low flaring pedestal foot, with short stem, the bowl with steep walls, stamped on the exterior with inverted elongated U shaped vertical lines and incised with circular grooves. Bucchero-ware is a specifically Etruscan style of firing pottery which results in a smooth, shiny dark gray to black finish. This type was made in Vulci, Italy, between 600-550 BC. Nicely burnished surfaces with dark grey color. H: 4 3/4 in, W: 5 5/8 in. Repaired. Property from the George R. Francoeur Trust, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, sold to benefit the George R. Francoeur Scholarship Fund at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Rasmussen Type 3a for type. See example in the British Museum, inventory #1909,0720.16 for nearly identical example donated in 1909. #AR3239: $950 SALE PENDING
Etruscan, 600 - 550 BC. Fantistic and quite large Etruscan Bucchero oinochoe, the body ovoid with flared foot, short neck with trefoil pouring spout and single handle. The surface retains its glossy burnish surface with light deposits. H: 6 1/4 in (15.8 cm). Ex North German private collection, acquired at Cahn Gallery, 2013. Large, in ecellent condition, and highly desirable! #AG2274: $750 SALE PENDING
A nice Etrusco-Corinthian aryballos, 7th Century BC, the rounded body decorated with bands of dark brown slip, vertical tongues around the shoulder. The neck is short with wide, flat rim decorated with concentric bands, single strap handle. H: 2 5/8" (6.9cm). Well-preserved with light surface deposits. Ex Central California private collection. #AG2276: $525

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Etruscan, 7th - 6th Century BC. A bucchero burial urn with incised decoration on the body and neck. Repaired from fragments with the bones of the original occupant placed back inside. Small label on inside of neck stating is was found in 1862 and a place name, all in German. Also written in German on the side of the neck is "Oost" which must indicat the direction the vessel was facing when found. An interesting old piece with an excavation history which would be interesting to research. H: 6 1/2". #k44: SOLD
Etruscan, c. 4th Century BC. An amazing Etruscan kantharos in the style of Greek Gnathian ware. With delicately-painted vine pattern below rim and above ribbed design. Repair to rim and some fading, otherwise an interesting and beautiful large piece! Ex old English collection with remains of old label inside. Stands 4 1/2" (11.4 cm) tall. #14154: $799 SOLD
Etrusco-Corinthian, c. 6th Century BC. Nice large Skyphos wine-cup. Repaired from shards. Measures 168 mm (6 1/2") handle-to-handle, stands 85 mm (3 1/4") tall. Painted and engraved with various scenes. Ex-Seaby. Ex-Superior auction 1183. For a very similar example see Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum: GLASGOW, GLASGOW COLLECTIONS, 43, PL.(909) 50.4. Ex-Dr. Geoffrey Smith collection, San Diego CA. #GS453x2: $550 SOLD

Etruscan, c. 4th Century BC. Excellent terracotta molded face of a youth. Sensitively made, with a round face and cherub-like features. Classic style. Measures 4" x 4 7/8" (10.4 x 9.8 cm). Mounted on a nice custom stand. Ex-British collection, acquired in the 1950's. From my own personal collection. #18448: $925 SOLD

Excellent Etruscan figure of a musician playing a flute.
Etruscan, c. 4th - 1st Century BC. A nice molded terracotta figure of a musician playing a flute. He holds a 6-chamber flute in his left hand andnother long device, possibly a different sort of instrument, in his right. He has a pleasant look upon his face as his head is slightly bowed, lips pursed, blowing into the instrument. He wears a long tunic and band around his hair. Nice details! Feet broken off in antiquity. Measures 3 3/8" (8.5 cm) tall. Some nice finger-prints of the maker still visible in the clay on back! #9796: $525 SOLD
Etruscan, c. 3rd-2nd century BC. Excellent silver votive statuette of a man. He is depicted standing with beard and short-cut hair, wearing long robes and holding a cornucopia in his left hand. Right arm and bottoms of feet missing but otherwise intact. 35 mm (1 3/8") tall. A "mini masterpiece!" Nice grey cabinet tone. ex-Gorny & Mosch auction acquired before 2000 for a South German collection. #AR2032: $699 SOLD
Ancient Etruscan/Greek, c. 6th Century BC. Nice Etrusco-Corinthian aryballos, decorated with bands in a dark slip, rays above. Intact with some surface wear and light deposits, minor rim chips. H: 3 3/8" (8.6 cm). Ex Alex Malloy, 1979. #A15143x2: $299 SOLD

Etruscan, c. 3rd - 2nd Century BC. Nice bronze figure of a man. Made in flattened form, wearing close fitting tunic and drapery over his left shoulder. His facial features are detailed and his hair is closely cropped. H: 2 1/4" (5.7 cm). Intact with a glossy olive patina and mounted on a custom base. From the estate of listed American sculptor, Eleanor Mary Mellon (1894 - 1979) New York. Eleanor, (a descendent of philanthropist Andrew Mellon) traveled extensively abroad and the bust may have been purchased during one of her many trips to Europe. #AR2221: $850 SOLD
Ancient Etruscan/Italic, c. 7th Century BC. Nice Villanovan Impasto jar. The rounded shoulder with four pierced lug handles decorated with roughly parallel zigzag lines with rosettes beneath, two horizontal beaded lines around the base of the neck and groups of vertical beaded lines inside the rim. 3 1/4" x 4 1/8" (7.9 x 10.4 cm). The surfaces are nicely burnished with light deposits. Ex Howard Sirak Collection, Columbus, OH. Really a lovely little piece. #AG2129: $575 SOLD
Etruscan, c. 6th Century BC. Etrusco-Corinthian alabastron (made by Etruscans in Corinthian style), the body decorated with horizontal bands in dark slip, vertical tongues around the shoulder and the rim. 3 5/8" (9.2 cm). Nice color, light deposits. Losses to handle and edge of rim. De-Accessioned from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art via a sale, c. 1970 Ex R. Fletcher collection, Taos, NM. #AG2122: $399 SOLD
Etruscan, c. 625 - 550 BC. Lovely Etruscan Bucchero chalice. The bowl is deep with incised lines and a grooved ridge just above the bottom, the stem narrow at top with thick collar and flaring into a wide, flat foot, H: 6 1/3" (16cm), D: 5 7/8" (15.1cm). reference: Rasmussen Type 2d. Repaired at top of stem, light earthen deposits and root marks. There are some ink markings on the bottom of the bowl and bottom of the foot, but also a neat late 1800's to early 1900's label with a number "8" on the bottom of the bowl. Can provide further photos upon request. Ex English private collection, collected in the late 1800's. #A30168: $850 SOLD
A fabulous framed Etruscan necklace and bracelet, c. 9th – 6th Century BC. The necklace is comprised of rectangular Bucchero beads, each nicely burnished, with three long segmented elements with an open-work bell at the end. The bronze elements are well-preserved with a thick olive green patina and earthen deposits, the ceramic Bucchero beads quite scarce. A lovely display piece! Frame measures 13 1/4" x 16 1/4" (33.7 x 41.2 cm). Ex R. Fletcher collection, Taos, NM. #AG2119: $900 SOLD


THE STORY OF TARQUINIA

Tarquinii (Etruscan Tarch(u)na etc.) is one of the most ancient of Etruscan cities the ancient myths connected with Tarch(u)na (those of its eponymous founder Tarchon – the son or brother of Tyrrhenos – and of the infant oracle Tages, who gave the Etruscans the “disciplina etrusca”), all point to the great antiquity and cultural importance of the city and the archaeological finds bear out that Tarquinia was one of the oldest Etruscan centres which eclipsed its neighbours well before the advent of written records. It is said to have been already a flourishing city when Demaratus of Corinth brought in Greek workmen. It was the chief of the twelve cities of Etruria.

Descendants of Demaratus, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus and Lucius Tarquinius Superbus became kings of ancient Rome. From Tarquinii many of the religious rites and ceremonies of Rome are said to have been derived, and even in imperial times a collegium of sixty haruspices continued to exist there.

The emergence of Tarch(u)na as a trading power as early as the 8th Century BCE was influenced by its control of mineral resources located in the Tolfa Hills (Monti della Tolfa), to the south of the city, and midway to the Caeretan port of Pyrgi.

In 509 BC, after the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, the family of Tarquinius Superbus went into exile in Caere in Etruria. Tarquin sought to regain the throne, at first by the Tarquinian conspiracy and, when that failed, by force of arms. He convinced the cities of Tarquinii and Veii to support him, and led their armies against Rome in the Battle of Silva Arsia. Although the Roman army was victorious, it is recorded by Livy that the forces of Tarquinii fought well on the right wing, initially pushing back the Roman left wing. After the battle the forces of Tarquinii returned home.

At the end of the fifth century and during the first half of the fourth a brief revival took place, both in the political and artistic sphere, probably under the ascendancy of the Spurinna family, whose members contributed to the renewed expansion of Tarquinia and the repopulation and growth of towns in the hinterland. The Spurinnas’ tomb, known as the “Tomba dell’Orco” , is decorated with fine frescoes of a banquet uniting the famous members of the family, who are identified by inscriptions. The Spurinna family was prominent in Tarquinia up to the 1st Century AD. Recently, two fragmented slabs were found known as the Elogia Tarquiniensis. These pay tribute to Velthur Spurinnas and Aulus Spurinnas, and give a rare glimpse of Etruscan history, including the mention of one King Orgolnium of Caere, recalling the family name of Urgulanilla, which included among its members the wife of the emperor Claudius.

During this period, Tarquinia overtook Caere and other Etruscan cities in terms of power and influence. It was about this period that colossal walls were built around the city in response to threats from the Celts and from Rome. Tarquinia, not affected by Celtic invasions (about 385 BC), finally colonised all its previously held territories. This new flourishing state allowed a rapid recovery of all activities. Impressive burial monuments decorated by paintings, with sarcophagi and funerary sculptures in stone, reflect the eminent social position of the new aristocratic classes, but several inscriptions on walls and sarcophagi show the gradual process of an increasingly democratic transition was taking place.

However, during the fourth century BC when Tarquinia’s expansion was at its peak, a bitter struggle with Rome took place. In 358 BC, the citizens of Tarquinii captured and put to death 307 Roman soldiers the resulting war ended in 351 BC with a forty years’ truce, renewed for a similar period in 308 BC.

When Tarquinii came under Roman domination is uncertain, as is also the date at which it became a municipality in 181 BC its port, Graviscae (mod. Porto Clementino), in an unhealthy position on the low coast, became a Roman colony. It exported wine and carried on coral fisheries. Nor do we hear much of it in Roman times it lay on the hills above the coast road. The flax and forests of its extensive territory are mentioned by classical authors, and we find Tarquinii offering to furnish Scipio with sailcloth in 195 BC. A bishop of Tarquinii is mentioned in 456AD.

The original residential quarters of the Etruscan and Roman city of “Tarquinia”, known as the “Civita”, were on the long plateau to the north of the current town. Small sections of the city walls of the early 4th century BCE, of large blocks of limestone and about 8 km long remain today, as do the foundations of a great Etruscan sanctuary of the same age, known as the Ara della Regina. The decoration of this temple includes the terra-cotta group of winged horses in Hellenistic style that is considered a masterpiece of Etruscan art.

The ancient burial grounds, dating from the Iron Age (9th century BC, or Villanovan period) to Roman times, were on the adjacent promontories. The ancient city had shrunk to a small fortified settlement on the “Castellina” location during the early Middle Ages, while the more strategically placed Corneto (possibly the “Corito” mentioned in Roman sources) grew progressively to become the major city of the lower Maremma sea coast, especially after the destruction of the port of Centumcellae (modern Civitavecchia). The last historic references to “Tarquinia” are from around 1250, while the name of Corneto was changed to Tarquinia in 1922. Reversion to historical place names (not always accurately), was a frequent phenomenon under the Fascist Government of Italy as part of the nationalist campaign to evoke past glories.


ROME DESTROYED IN 450 BC

1. Have the Carthaginans attempted any expeditions along the West coast of Africa? It would be intresting seeing the Carthaginan sailors encountering the Nok villages of the Niger River Valley.

They have done some expeditions down there, and they carry on some minor trade there, but there has been no major contact.

Historico

Historico

Now with the Etruscan's dominating Italy, how would they assimilate all those different Itallian Cultures into their own? Is it possible we will see an
Third Babylonian Empire flowering many new ideas and Inventions?

After Carthage's Exhausting war with Macedon, I think they would most likely turn south and begin focusing their efforts into colonizing Africa? Is it possible we would see an srong Celtic State in the North Blocking off Etruscan Expension, or would they fall to them also? Egypt althought not as rich as they were in the New Kingdom could also become and strong Power and providing an strong enemy to Carthage in Africa? Is this Timeline on the Backburner or is it discontinued?

Robertp6165

Historico

Now with the Etruscan's dominating Italy, how would they assimilate all those different Itallian Cultures into their own? Is it possible we will see an Third Babylonian Empire flowering many new ideas and Inventions?

After Carthage's Exhausting war with Macedon, I think they would most likely turn south and begin focusing their efforts into colonizing Africa? Is it possible we would see an srong Celtic State in the North Blocking off Etruscan Expension, or would they fall to them also? Egypt althought not as rich as they were in the New Kingdom could also become and strong Power and providing an strong enemy to Carthage in Africa? Is this Timeline on the Backburner or is it discontinued?

Robertp6165

Culturally, the Etruscans already exerted a great influence on the other Italian cultures. Indeed, other than language, there was a great deal of similarity between the Etruscans and the surrounding Italian peoples. So I don't think it would be as difficult as one might think.

Well, there is already a Third Babylonian Empire in this timeline. But as to whether it would be "flowering with new ideas and inventions," I doubt it. The Babylonians were actually a fairly conservative people, and the environment there is probably not very conducive to that.

It is possible some colonization may occur, but they will remain focused mainly on the Mediterranean. That is where the big money is.

I think the Etruscan League would be less interested in territorial expansion than the Roman Republic was. The Etruscans were more of a commercial people than a warrior people (sort of like Carthage in that regard). So it is likely that the Celts of Gaul will survive in some form. Whether they form a strong state or not is another matter. In OTL there is some evidence that the Gauls were headed in that direction, and given more time may have gotten there.

Robertp6165

Historico

Robertp6165

Here is the first map for this timeline.

Historico

Robertp6165

Yehud is under Egyptian control, even though not formally a part of the Egyptian empire. At the time portrayed on the map, the King of Yehud is a vassal and ally of Egypt, and in fact aided the Egyptians in conquering Phoenicia and Syria.

The Numidians will be there, but they may not be able to form their own state because Carthage is too powerful. The only reason they were able to break free from Carthage in OTL is that Carthage lost the first two Punic Wars against Rome. Unless something similar happens, it is unlikely they will be successful.

Historico

In this Timeline is it possible we will see the Greek city states around the Black Sea unite against the Diadochi States and expand into the Russian Steppe? Have Carthaginan Merchants & Colonists ran into problems with the Britions in Britannia? Why Wouldn't the Assyrian Revolt be successful(I doub't that Babylon could be as powerful as the Persians and be able to put it down as successfully). What are the policies of the more smaller and contained Diadochi states? What's going on in Iberia. Since they become an Independent state are they rulled by an Republic, Leuage or Kingdom(Tartessoss,Gades, Nova Carthagina?).

I also would like to see some other Members put their input into this potentially good Timeline.

Robertp6165

Historico

Historico

Great Map, Robert, I am really looking forward to the next Installment. But is it possible

1. Will the Greek city states around the Black Sea unite against the Diadochi States and expand into the Russian Steppe?

2. Have Carthaginan Merchants & Colonists ran into problems with the Britions in Britannia?

3.Why Wouldn't the Assyrian Revolt be successful(I doub't that Babylon could be as powerful as the Persians and be able to put it down as successfully).

4.What are the policies of the more smaller and contained Diadochi states?

5.What's going on in Iberia. Since they become an Independent state are they rulled by an Republic, Leauge or Kingdom(Tartessoss,Gades, Nova Carthagina?).

Robertp6165

There is nothing in this timeline which makes that any more likely than in OTL.

Again, nothing in this timeline would make that any more likely than in OTL.

Given Babylon's experiences with the Assyrians, the revolt may not happen at all, because Babylon will be watching the Assyrians like a hawk. In OTL, the revolt happened partly because of the tolerant policies followed by the Persians, which encouraged the Assyrians to think they could get away with it. And, since the Assyrians considered themselves to be a "brother people" with the Babylonians, they may not revolt anyway against a Babylonian regime.

All of the Diadochi states are ruled by aggressive Macedonian generals. They are going to be looking for one thing. expansion.

Nothing in the timeline has diverted Hispania from the course of OTL. they are a collection of independent city states and tribes, and little more. There is no "independent state" there, in the sense of a state with control over more than a very small portion of the peninsula.

Historico

Nicole

Robertp6165

CORRECTIONS TO EARLIER SEGMENTS OF THE TIMELINE.

318-308 BC--Civil War in Macedonia. Alexander III of Macedon returns home with the
survivors of his army from Sicily. Upon his return, he finds that in the ten years he has
been under blockade in Sicily, affairs at home have not gone well. A group of
Macedonian noblemen has conspired with King Aeacides of Epirus to depose him,
replacing him with his half-witted half-brother, Philip Arrhidaeus, who they can easily
control. These noblemen arrange to have Alexander assassinated shortly after his arrival
in Macedonia. But this simply opens the door to outright civil war, as generals loyal to
Alexander lead the veteran army returning from Sicily against the conspirators. The
Greek cities of the League of Corinth take the opportunity to rebel against Macedonian
control, and the entire Macedonian realm is soon the scene of bitter fighting. Fighting
goes on for ten years, and in the end, the Macedonian Empire falls apart. Antigonus
“One-Eye” ends up in control in Macedonia itself Ptolemy and Seleucus end up with
realms in Anatolia (Ptolemy as King of Lydia and Seleucus as King of Cappadocia) and
Cassander, son of Antipater (who died in the first year of the civil war), sets himself up as
Tyrant of Sicily. The Greek cities regain their independence, and form the Achaean
League for mutual defense against Macedonia. Aeacides of Epirus is deposed, and Epirus
is ruled by Antigonus of Macedonia for several years.

310 BC onward--Cassander orders the rebuilding of Syracuse, recognizing it’s superb
location for trading and it’s strategic military value.

300 BC--By this time, Chandragupta Maurya, King of the northern Indian state of
Magadha, has built an empire encompassing most of northern India. In 300 BC he
attacks Persis, Bactria and Parthia, wresting territory from all of them. The Persian,
Parthian, and Bactrian kings agree to pay tribute, and Chandragupta retires.

c. 300 BC: Euclid writes the Elements of Geometry. Philosophic schools of
Epicureanism (Epicurus) and Stoicism (Zeno) founded. The Ramayana is composed.

300 BC-293 BC--The First War of the Diadochi. In 300 BC, King Seleucus of
Cappadocia, a Macedonian General who has carved out for himself a realm in Asia Minor
and is seeking to expand his realm, declares war on King Nabu-apal-usur II of Babylon.
Seleucid armies invade northern Mesopotamia, and defeat the Babylonian army near the
city of Opis. Seleucus occupies all of Mesopotamia down to Opis, and the stops to
consolidate his gains.

Meanwhile, King Nabu-apal-usur desperately seeks allies, and his entreaties meet a
favourable response at the court of King Ptolemy of Lydia, a rival Macedonian who also
has a realm in Asia Minor. In 299 BC, Ptolemy invades the Seleucid realm in Anatolia,
moving rapidly toward the Seleucid capital at Mazaca on the Halys River. Seleucus is
forced to withdraw most of his army northward to meet the Ptolemaic threat, and King
Nabu-apal-usur takes the opportunity to invade northern Mesopotamia. However, he is
defeated by the Seleucid garrison there and forced to retreat.

In 298 BC, Seleucus defeats the Ptolemaic army outside of Mazaca, and Ptolemy is
killed. Seleucus invades the Ptolemaic kingdom and annexes it, and Ptolemy Keraunos,
heir of the slain king, flees to the court of King Demetrius of Macedon. At this point,
Demetrius, fearing to see one of his rivals become too powerful, declares war on
Seleucus.

Demetrius lands an army in the Troad in 297 BC, while at the same time, King
Nabu-apal-usur of Babylon once again invades northern Mesopotamia. Demetrius is
defeated and forced to retreat back across the Hellaspont. The Babylonians are able to
make some gains, but do not reclaim all of their lost territory.

These will prove to be the last major campaigns of the war. Inconclusive skirmishing
will take place along the borders between the warring powers (mostly naval skirmishing
between Seleucus and Demetrius, and land skirmishing between Seleucus and the
Babylonians) for the next four years, in which Antigonus and Ptolemy Keraunos will
capture Cyprus but little else will change. A treaty is finally agreed upon in 293 BC,
ending the war. By the terms of the treaty, Seleucus is to keep the lands he has managed
to hold onto until the treaty was signed. Demetrius sets up Ptolemy Keraunos as King of
Cyprus. subordinate to himself, of course. Babylon recognizes the new border between
itself and Seleucus. The peace will not last long, however.

299 BC--Death of Pharaoh Nekhtnebef II of Egypt. He is succeeded by his son, who
reigns as Pharaoh Necho III. Death of King Antigonus “One-Eye” of Macedon. He is
succeeded by his son, Demetrius, who will go down in history as “The Besieger”
(Poliorcetes in Greek).

297 BC--Death of Cassander, Tyrant of Sicily. He is succeeded by his son, who reigns as
Tyrant Antipater II.

295 BC--Pyrrhus comes to the throne of Epirus.

293 BC--The Etruscan League inflicts a decisive defeat on the Celtic tribes north of the
Po River and occupies the lands north of the Po and south of the Alps. Some of the Celts
remain in the area and accept Etruscan rule, while others migrate north and east, joining
other migrating Celts who will soon be entering the Balkans.

290 BC--Bindusara, successor of Chandragupta Maurya, extends the Mauryan Empire to
the Deccan.

290-280 BC--Second War of the Diadochi: In 290 BC, King Demetrius Poliorcetes of
Macedon, having made alliances with his brother-in-law, King Pyrrhus of Epirus, King
Ptolemy Keraunos of Cyprus, and King Nabu-apal-usur II of Babylon, declares war on
King Seleucus of Lydia and Cappadocia (as his realm has come to be known).
Meanwhile, King Seleucus has made alliances with Tyrant Antipater II of Sicily and with
Pharaoh Necho III of Egypt. So, in short order, warfare engulfs the eastern Mediterranean
region and much of the near east.

In Anatolia, Macedonian and Cypriot armies clash with those of Seleucus. It is here, after
carrying out many sieges of Seleucid fortresses, that King Demetrius earns his nickname
of “Besieger.” But, although he takes several cities and inflicts a major defeat on the
Seleucid army near Sardis, Demetrius fails to achieve ultimate success, and Seleucus is
able to retain control of the most important cities in his realm. Demetrius is ultimately
forced to drop out of the war and abandon Anatolia in 281 BC by news of Celtic invaders
who are ravaging his Macedonian homeland, leaving Seleucus battered, but still in
control of his kingdom. Demetrius is killed fighting the Celts, and his successor,
Antigonus II Gonatas, sues for peace in 280 BC.

In other arenas, Seleucid armies, in alliance with those of Egypt, also clash with those of
Babylon and Cyprus in northern Syria. The war does not go so well for Seleucus there, as
the combined Seleucid and Egyptian army suffers a devastating defeat outside Damascus
in 285 BC in which Pharaoh Necho III is killed. The Babylonian army then moves north
and reclaims Mesopotamia and much of Armenia. since Seleucus is fully occupied with
fighting Demetrius of Macedon in western Anatolia, there is little he can do to stop the
Babylonian march. Meanwhile, the Cypriot army sweeps southward to gobble up Egypt’s
Asian possessions (they find ready allies in the Jews of Yehud, who have been in
rebellion against the Egyptians for some decades). Finally, in 283 BC, the Cypriots
under Ptolemy Keraunos enter Egypt itself, defeating the Egyptian army at Pelusium.
Pharaoh Psammuthes II is captured and executed, and Ptolemy Keraunos establishes
himself on the throne of Egypt by 280 BC.

Meanwhile, the forces of Epirus and Sicily battle for control of the Greek colonies in
Southern Italy. Pyrrhus lands an army at Tarentum, which was under siege by the forces
of Antipater of Sicily. Pyrrhus quickly proves his superiority as a general, and over the
next few years campaigns over much of southern Italy, inflicting defeat after defeat on
Antipater’s armies. However, Antipater’s fleet defeats that of Pyrrhus, effectively
blockading him in southern Italy, and so Pyrrhus is prevented from invading Sicily itself,
or returning home to Epirus. So the war eventually reaches a stalemate in that region,
with Pyrrhus in control of the Greek cities of southern Italy, and Antipater still uneasily
on his throne in Sicily.

A treaty is finally signed in 280 BC which recognizes the status quo as it exists at that
time.

288 BC--Death of King Nabu-apal-usur II of Babylon. He is succeeded by his son, who
reigns as King Hamurabbi II. Hamurabbi will successfully conclude Babylon’s
participation in the Second War of the Diadochi, and afterward his reign will be relatively
peaceful, and will see a flowering of the arts and culture in Babylonia. Hammurabi will
be known to history more as a builder than as a warrior.

285 BC--Death of Pharaoh Necho III of Egypt in battle outside of Damascus. He is
succeeded by his son, who reigns as Pharaoh Psammuthes II.

283 BC onward--The Jews of Yehud, having aided the Ptolemies in their conquest of
Egypt, expect to be rewarded with independence, or at least autonomy within the
Ptolemaic empire. They are given some lattitude, but in general, their dreams are frustrated.
In addition, under the influence of the Ptolemies, the Jews increasingly are exposed to
Hellenistic culture, which has deep impacts on their society. Many young Jews want to
blend in with the new regime and take part in Greek culture, and this is creating
problems. One major issue comes about as Jews start participating in Greek athletic
contests. It is the custom for those participating in these contests to do so naked. But
Jews, being circumcised, are often subjects of ridicule by the uncircumcised Greeks, who
consider the exposed glans of the penis to be a sign of sexual excitement. This makes
many young Jews resentful of their own Jewish heritage, which in turn, creates anger and
resentment against the Greeks among many Jewish religious leaders, who feel the Greeks
are “corrupting” Jewish youth. Tensions will continue to build in the province over the
succeeding decades.

282 BC--Pharaoh Psammuthes II of Egypt is captured and executed by Ptolemy Keraunos
of Cyprus. End of native rule in Egypt.

281-278 BC--Celtic Invasions of Macedonia and Greece: Beginning in 281 BC,
migrating Celtic tribes (Gauls) under the leadership of Brennus enter Thrace and begin
invading Macedon and northern Greece. In 281 BC, they defeat the Macedonian army,
killing and beheading King Demetrius Poliorcetes, and ravage Macedon. In 279 BC, the
Celtic onslaught storms through Greece and succeeds in sacking Delphi, only to meet
defeat shortly afterwards at the hands of the Macedonian army commanded by the new
King, Antigonus II Gonatas. Brennus kills himself shortly afterward, supposedly by
drinking “undiluted wine.” However, Macedon loses control of Illyria and much of
Thrace to the Celts, who settle the region in large numbers. Indeed, Thrace will become
so dominated by Celts that it comes to be known as Galatia, and the Celts there will
establish a powerful state which will give Macedon much trouble in the years to come.

280 BC--Concerned by the new power of Epirus which has extended it’s reach over
southern Italy, the Etruscan League renews it’s old alliance with Carthage. Also at this
time, the Etruscan League grants a vote on the Great Council to the Latin cities of Latium,
which have been non-voting members of the League for about 150 years, but have been
ruled by Etruscan dynasties since the end of the War of Volumnius. In order to preserve
the dominance of the original Etruscan cities on the governing body of the League, the
Great Council is reorganized, and a bi-cameral legislative body is created. A new upper
house, The Senate, is created, to be composed of members from the original Etruscan
cities, while the original Great Council, representing all League cities, becomes the lower
house. The Great Council continues to function as in the past, but the Senate. which
does not pass laws itself. has the right to veto any law which is passed by said Council.

279 BC--The poor performance of Sicilian arms in the recent war has weakened Tyrant
Antipater II’s hold on the throne of Sicily. In 279 BC he is murdered by his cousin,
Sosthenes, who usurps the throne. Antipater’s son, Agathocles, flees to Carthage. Also in
this year, King Demetrius Poliorcetes of Macedon is killed in battle with invading Celts.
He is succeeded by his son, Antigonus II Gonatas (“knock-kneed”).

278 BC--Ptolemy Keraunos is murdered by his brother, also called Ptolemy, who usurps
the Egyptian Throne. He marries his sister, Arsinoe, who is the widow of Macedonian
General Lysimachus (who was killed whilst fighting for Seleucus during the Second War
of the Diadochi). This union, while sanctioned by Egyptian custom, scandalizes the
Greeks. As in Macedon under Antigonus Gonatas, his reign will mark a minor golden
age of Hellenistic culture. Ptolemy will found a major new city on the Egyptian
Mediterranean Coast, named Ptolemaia, and will maintain a splendid court there. He will
patronize scientists, poets, and philosophers. And he will also found a royal library which
will become a center of learning for the Mediterranean world.

277-269 BC--The Fourth Sicilian War: Agathocles, son and legitimate heir of Tyrant
Antipater II of Sicily, convinces the Carthaginian Senate to support him in his bid to
reclaim the Sicilian throne. The Carthaginians declare war on Tyrant Sosthenes in 277
BC, and Carthaginian forces cross the Halcyus River. Carthage calls on the Etruscan
League to join in the attack, but the League declines to take part in an aggressive war.
Carthage defeats Sosthenes at Himera, and pursues him back to his capital at Syracuse,
which they place under siege. In desperation, Sosthenes sends a plea for assistance to
Pyrrhus of Epirus, who lands with an army and raises the siege of Syracuse. Over the
next two years, Pyrrhus drives the Carthaginians back, until only their base at Lilybaeum
(on the far western end of the island) remains to them. The Carthaginians now again call
upon the Etruscan League for assistance, and this time, the Etruscans honour their
alliance, since Carthage is clearly on the defensive. An Etruscan army and fleet arrives in
Sicily, and begins cooperating with the Carthaginians. Another Etruscan army begins
moving south toward the Epirote possessions in southern Italy (this army will not make
much progress, but will tie up substantial Epirote forces which could otherwise have been
deployed to Sicily). In 275 BC, the combined Carthaginian and Etruscan fleet inflicts a
massive defeat on that of Pyrrhus off Tarentum, sinking over three quarters of the Epirote
fleet. Meanwhile, the Greek cities of southern Italy, which have been very unhappy under
the despotic rule of Pyrrhus, rebel and throw out the Epirote garrisons. Pyrrhus, who
fears being cut off in Sicily and separated from his sources of supply and reinforcements,
abandons Sicily and returns to Epirus, leaving Sosthenes to his fate. The Carthaginians
and Etruscans once again advance eastward from Lilybaeum. The allies lay siege to
Syracuse again in 273 BC. The city holds out for four years, until the allies finally
manage to totally defeat the Sicilian fleet and cut off Syracuse from supply by sea. The
city surrenders in 269 BC. Sosthenes, in desperation, commits suicide. The
Carthaginians, instead of restoring Agathocles to his throne, renege on their alliance with
him, and he is taken back to Carthage and crucified. End of the Antipatrid Dynasty of
Sicily. The Carthaginians want to raze Syracuse to the ground and sell the inhabitants
into slavery, but the Etruscans. remembering the low return they got from previous
interventions in Sicily. demand the city for themselves. Not desiring to go to
war. yet. against their erstwhile allies, the Carthaginians agree. An Etruscan king is
installed in Syracuse, who rules the city and the surrounding region. The rest of the
island goes to Carthage.

275-273 BC--King Cyrus III of Persis invades Elam. The Elamites are defeated outside
the capital at Susa, and Cyrus lays siege to the city. A two year siege results, but Susa
eventually falls. Cyrus adds the Elamite lands to his own.

274 BC--King Pyrrhus of Epirus, arriving back in Epirus, decides to take advantage of the
chaos reigning in Macedonia since the Celtic invasions of a few years before and invade.
He defeats the army of King Antigonus II Gonatas and usurps the Macedonian throne.

273 BC--Death of King Seleucus I of Lydia and Cappadocia. He is succeeded by his son,
Antiochus I.

272 BC--King Pyrrhus of Epirus and Macedonia decides to bring the Greek cities of the
Achaean League under his control, but is killed while besieging Argos. Antigonus II
Gonatas resumes the Macedonian throne and recognizes Greek independence. The latter
part of his reign will be comparatively peaceful. marred only by intermittent border raids
by the Celts of Galatia. and he gains the affection of his subjects by his honesty and his
cultivation of the arts. He gathers round him distinguished literary men. philosophers,
poets, and historians. and his reign marks a minor “golden age” of Hellenistic culture in
the region. Meanwhile, Alexander II, son of Pyrrhus, assumes the throne of Epirus.
Alexander is a weak ruler, and will pay tribute to Antigonus II of Macedon for most of his
reign.

270 BC--King Cyrus III of Persis, emboldened by his victory over the Elamites, declares
war on Media. He is defeated and killed by the Medes near Ecbatana. He is succeeded
by his son, who reigns as Xerxes IV. Xerxes, unlike his father, is not an aggressive ruler,
and peace will generally reign on the Iranian plateau for the next couple of decades.

270-240 BC--Intermittent warfare between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies for control of
Syria and Palestine. By the end of the period, the Seleucids have achieve control of Syria,
but Palestine remains in the hands of the Ptolemies.

269 BC onward--Period of deteriorating relations between Carthage and the Etruscan
League. Carthage, upset at having had to accede to the Etruscan demand for Syracuse at
the conclusion of the recent war, takes an increasingly hostile attitude toward the
Etruscans. The Etruscans, aiming to break the Carthaginian stranglehold on trade in the
western Mediterranean, build up Syracuse into a major naval base which directly
threatens Carthaginian control of the surrounding region. A tense “cold war” results
which will last for some time without bursting into active hostilities.

261 BC--Death of King Antiochus I of Lydia and Cappadocia. He is succeeded by his
son, who reigns as King Antiochus II.

258-252 BC--King Antiochus II of Lydia and Cappadocia declares war on King
Hammurabi II of Babylon. In bitter fighting, Seleucid armies retake Armenia and part of
northern Mesopotamia. But a new outbreak of fighting on the border between the
Seleucids and the Ptolemies forces Antiochus to cut short the war, and Hammurabi
accepts a peace based on the current status quo in 252 BC.

259 BC--The Mauryan King Ashoka converts to Buddhism and sends out Buddhist
missionaries to the surrounding regions.

c. 250 BC--The Parni, a Scythian tribe from the region north of the Jaxartes River, move
south into Parthia.


Aule Metele (Arringatore)

An Etruscan in Roman clothing, this figure is a masterwork—made as Etruscan culture was slipping away.

Aule Metele (Arringatore), from Cortona, Italy, early 1st century B.C.E., bronze, 67 inches high (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence), (image: corneliagraco, CC BY 2.0)

The image, status, and stature of the magistrate in the course of performing the duties of his office commands respect—and no pose is more riveting than that of the orator.

L’Arringatore (“The Orator”) is a hollow-cast bronze statue that was recovered from Lake Trasimeno in 1566. The statue is an important example of bronze sculpture in later first millennium B.C.E. Italy and indicates the gradual Romanization of Etruscan art.

The statue

The life-size statue depicts a draped adult male, standing with his right arm outstretched. The figure adopts a frontal pose with a slight contrapposto stance (contrapposto refers to the figure shifting his weight onto his right leg). Based on the inscription on the statue, the figure is identified as Aulus Metellus (or Aule Metele in Etruscan). He is clearly a magistrate and his posture seems to be that of the orator who is in the process of addressing the crowd. He wears a tunic over which is draped a toga—the formal attire of the magistrate. The toga is wrapped around the body, leaving the right arm free. On his feet are the high boots that were commonly worn by Roman senators. His expression and slightly opened mouth make him a compelling figure. The statue was originally erected by the community in honor of Aulus Metellus.

The inscription

Inscription (detail), Aule Metele (Arringatore), from Cortona, Italy, early 1st century B.C.E., bronze, 67 inches high (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Florence) (image: corneliagraco, CC BY 2.0)

The lower hem of the short toga carries an Etruscan inscription: “auleśi meteliś ve[luś] vesial clenśi / cen flereś tece sanśl tenine / tu θineś χisvlicś” which can be interpreted as reading, “To (or from) Auli Meteli, the son of Vel and Vesi, Tenine (?) set up this statue as a votive offering to Sans, by deliberation of the people” (TLE 651 CIE 4196).

Interpretation

The statue of Aulus Metellus offers us a glimpse of the changing socio-political landscape of the Italian peninsula during the latter first millennium B.C.E.—a period in which sweeping change brought on by the hegemonic fortunes of Rome and its booming population, signalled profound and lasting change for other Italic peoples, including the Etruscans. As Rome’s territory expanded during the fifth through first centuries B.C.E., her neighbors were gradually absorbed into the sphere of Roman cultural, economic, and political influence. Some groups, of course, resisted in one way or another, while others gladly “joined up” through political and military treaties and through adopting a Roman lifestyle. This process of acculturation–or Romanization, to use a term that is considered outmoded by some scholars—means that cultural heterogeneity becomes less visible in the archaeological record, replaced instead by a more homogeneous cultural model. These were the fortunes of the Etruscans—as the autonomy of the various Etruscan states eroded, the Etruscans themselves elected to adopt the trappings of a Roman culture that was, in turn, indicative of wider, pan-Mediterranean dynamics. Etruscan art, politics, and even language gradually slipped away.

Thus L’Arringatore is one of our latest surviving examples of a sculptural masterwork that still demonstrates the traits of an Etruscan workshop, all the while packaged for an increasingly Roman world. The statue clearly wears the short toga exigua (a kind of narrow toga) and senatorial boots that come from the Roman sphere. He is posed as an orator—highlighting his political career as both Etruscan and Roman aristocrats did. His haircut is in keeping with those of Roman aristocrats and his face may betray some evidence of the verism (truthfulness) popular among Roman elites of the late Republic. The statue still carries an inscription in Etruscan, though, and the working of the bronze is in keeping with the tendencies of Etruscan craftsmanship. Surely the historical Aulus Metellus witnessed a world that was changing rapidly and this statue that carries his inscribed name still bears silent witness to the patterns and dynamics of socio-cultural change in the Roman Mediterranean.

Additional resources:

L. Bonfante, Etruscan Dress (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975).

G. Bonfante and L. Bonfante, The Etruscan Language: An Introduction, revised Edition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002). p. 183 no. 66.

O. J. Brendel, Etruscan Art, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).

A. Corbeill, “The Republican Body,” in A Companion to the Roman Republic, edited by N. Rosenstein and R. Morstein-Marx, 439-456. (Malden MA: Blackwell, 2006).

T. Dohrn, Der Arringatore: Bronzestatue im Museo archeologico von Florenz (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1968).

S. Haynes, Etruscan Civilization: a Cultural History (Los Angeles, California: Getty Publications, 2000).


Sarcophagus of the Spouses (Rome)

The intimacy of this clay sculpture is unprecedented in the ancient world. What can it tell us about Etruscan culture?

Sarcophagus of the Spouses (or Sarcophagus with Reclining Couple), from the Banditaccia necropolis, Cerveteri, Italy, c. 520 B.C.E., painted terracotta, 3′ 9 1/2″ x 6′ 7″ (Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, Rome)

Sarcophagus of the Spouses, c. 520 B.C.E., Etruscan, painted terracotta, 3 feet 9-1/2 inches x 6 feet 7 inches, found in the Banditaccia necropolis, Cerveteri (Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia in Rome)

The Sarcophagus of the Spouses is an anthropoid (human-shaped), painted terracotta sarcophagus found in the ancient Etruscan city of Caere (now Cerveteri, Italy). The sarcophagus, which would have originally contained cremated human remains, was discovered during the course of archaeological excavations in the Banditaccia necropolis of ancient Caere during the nineteenth century and is now in Rome. The sarcophagus is quite similar to another terracotta sarcophagus from Caere depicting a man and woman that is presently housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris these two sarcophagi are contemporary to one another and are perhaps the products of the same artistic workshop.

Upper bodies (detail), Sarcophagus of the Spouses, c. 520 B.C.E., Etruscan, painted terracotta, 3 feet 9-1/2 inches x 6 feet 7 inches, found in the Banditaccia necropolis, Cerveteri (Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia in Rome)

An archaic couple

The sarcophagus depicts a reclining man and woman on its lid. The pair rests on highly stylized cushions, just as they would have done at an actual banquet. The body of the sarcophagus is styled so as to resemble a kline (dining couch). Both figures have highly stylized hair, in each case plaited with the stylized braids hanging rather stiffly at the sides of the neck. In the female’s case the plaits are arranged so as to hang down in front of each shoulder. The female wears a soft cap atop her head she also wears shoes with pointed toes that are characteristically Etruscan. The male’s braids hang neatly at the back, splayed across the upper back and shoulders. The male’s beard and the hair atop his head is quite abstracted without any interior detail. Both figures have elongated proportions that are at home in the archaic period in the Mediterranean.

Feet and shoes (detail), Sarcophagus of the Spouses, c. 520 B.C.E., Etruscan, painted terracotta, 3 feet 9-1/2 inches x 6 feet 7 inches, found in the Banditaccia necropolis, Cerveteri (Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia in Rome)

A banquet

The Sarcophagus of the Spouses has been interpreted as belonging to a banqueting scene, with the couple reclining together on a single dining couch while eating and drinking. This situates the inspiration for the sarcophagus squarely in the convivial (social) sphere and, as we are often reminded, conviviality was central to Etruscan mortuary rituals. Etruscan funerary art—including painted tombs—often depicts scenes of revelry, perhaps as a reminder of the funeral banquet that would send the deceased off to the afterlife or perhaps to reflect the notion of perpetual conviviality in said afterlife. Whatever the case, banquets provide a great deal of iconographic fodder for Etruscan artists.

Banquet Plaque (detail) from Poggio Civitate, early 6th century B.C.E., Etruscan, terracotta (Antiquarium di Poggio Civitate Museo Archeologico, Murlo, Italy) (photo: sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In the case of the sarcophagus it is also important to note that at Etruscan banquets, men and women reclined and ate together, a circumstance that was quite different from other Mediterranean cultures, especially the Greeks. We see multiple instances of mixed gender banquets across a wide chronological range, leading us to conclude that this was common practice in Etruria. The terracotta plaque from Poggio Civitate, Murlo (above), for instance, that is roughly contemporary to the sarcophagus of the spouses shows a close iconographic parallel for this custom. This cultural custom generated some resentment—even animus—on the part of Greek and Latin authors in antiquity who saw this Etruscan practice not just as different, but took it as offensive behavior. Women enjoyed a different and more privileged status in Etruscan society than did their Greek and Roman counterparts.

Female’s face (detail), Sarcophagus of the Spouses, c. 520 B.C.E., Etruscan, painted terracotta, 3 feet 9-1/2 inches x 6 feet 7 inches, found in the Banditaccia necropolis, Cerveteri (Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia in Rome)

Technical achievement

The Sarcophagus of the Spouses is a masterwork of terracotta sculpture. Painted terracotta sculpture played a key role in the visual culture of archaic Etruria. Terracotta artwork was the standard for decorating the superstructure of Etruscan temples and the coroplastic (terracotta) workshops producing these sculptures often displayed a high level of technical achievement. This is due, in part, to the fact that ready sources of marble were unknown in archaic Italy. Even though contemporary Greeks produced masterworks in marble during the sixth century B.C.E., terracotta statuary such as this sarcophagus itself counts as a masterwork and would have been an elite commission. Contemporary Greek colonists in Italy also produced high level terracotta statuary, as exemplified by the seated statue of Zeus from Poseidonia (later renamed Paestum) that dates c. 530 B.C.E.

Seated statue of Zeus from Poseidonia (Paestum) c. 530 B.C.E., terracotta (photo: Dave & Margie Hill, CC BY-SA 2.0) (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Paestum)

Etruscan culture

In the case of the Caeretan sarcophagus, it is an especially challenging commission. Given its size, it would have been fired in multiple pieces. The composition of the reclining figures shows awareness of Mediterranean stylistic norms in that their physiognomy reflects an Ionian influence (Ionia was a region in present-day Turkey, that was a Greek colony)—the rounded, serene faces and the treatment of hairstyles would have fit in with contemporary Greek styles. However, the posing of the figures, the angular joints of the limbs, and their extended fingers and toes reflect local practice in Etruria. In short, the artist and his workshop are aware of global trends while also catering to a local audience. While we cannot identify the original owner of the sarcophagus, it is clear that the person(s) commissioning it would have been a member of the Caeretan elite.

Male’s face (detail), Sarcophagus of the Spouses, c. 520 B.C.E., Etruscan, painted terracotta, 3 feet 9-1/2 inches x 6 feet 7 inches, found in the Banditaccia necropolis, Cerveteri (Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia in Rome)

The Sarcophagus of the Spouses as an object conveys a great deal of information about Etruscan culture and its customs. The convivial theme of the sarcophagus reflects the funeral customs of Etruscan society and the elite nature of the object itself provides important information about the ways in which funerary custom could reinforce the identity and standing of aristocrats among the community of the living.

Additional resources:

L. Bonfante, ed., Etruscan Life and Afterlife: a Handbook of Etruscan Studies (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1986).

M. F. Briguet, Le sarcophage des époux de Cerveteri du Musée du Louvre. (Florence: Leo Olschki, 1989).

O. J. Brendel, Etruscan Art, 2nd ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).

S. Haynes, Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History (Los Angeles, California: Getty Publications, 2000).

E. Macnamara, Everyday life of the Etruscans (London: Batsford, 1973).

E. Macnamara, The Etruscans (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).

A. S. Tuck, “The Etruscan Seated Banquet: Villanovan Ritual and Etruscan Iconography,” American Journal of Archaeology 98.4 (1994): 617-628.

J. M. Turfa, ed., The Etruscan World (London: Routledge, 2013).

A. Zaccaria Ruggiu, More regio vivere: il banchetto aristocratico e la casa romana di età arcaica (Rome: Edizioni Quasar, 2003).