The Etruscans in the Ancient World

The Etruscans in the Ancient World

The Etruscans in the Ancient World

The Etruscans in the Ancient World

Excerpt

BETWEEN Florence and Rome lies the inviting land of Tuscany. This was in ancient times the home of a civilized people who possessed the art of enjoying life to the full yet at the same time were perpetually conscious of fate, death and change, and showed a strangely submissive attitude towards the powers of the underworld. The Romans called the people who created and maintained this civilization Tusci and Etrusci, but the Greeks knew them as Tυραηνοί or Tυρσηνοί, i.e. Tyrrhenians or Tyrsenians. The name they themselves used- Rásna, Rasenna -- was not adopted either by ancient or modern languages. Hesiod, writing about 700 B.C., speaks of the Tυρσηνοῖσιν ὰγαξλειτοῖσι 'the renowned Tyrsenians', whereas Thucydides, writing in the second half of the fifth century B.C., classes them with 'barbarians'. 'Tuscan' to the Romans of later date frequently meant the same as did 'Italic' in ancient times. Finally, about A.D. 300 Arnobius was to describe Etruria from the early Christian point of view as genetrix et mater superstitionis, 'originator and mother of all superstition'.

Etruscan civilization had its beginnings in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. and reached its zenith in the sixth century. Its end, or rather its assimilation into the pan-Italic civilization established by Rome, coincided with the end of the Roman Republic in the last century B.C. In 44 B.C., after Caesar's death, an Etruscan seer announced the beginning of the end of Etruscan greatness. Thus its history corresponds in time to that phase of Greece's development which had such a great influence on the intellectual and social history of Europe, the period which began with the break-up of the geometric style and the creation of the Homeric epics, continued through the period of archaic art and the age of Solon into classical times and led finally into the age of Hellenism.

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