"The Etruscans, as everyone knows, were the people who occupied the middle of Italy in early Roman days and whom the Romans, in their usual neighborly fashion, wiped out entirely to make room for Rome with a very big R. They couldn’t have wiped them all out, there were too many of them. But they did wipe out the Etruscan existence as a nation and a people. However, this seems to be the inevitable result of expansion with a big E, which is the sole raison d’etre of people like the Romans." [D.H. Lawrence, Etruscan Places]


    • Characteristics of civilization

Cities, government, literacy, armed forces, monumental architecture, agricultural surplus, military, organized religion, labor specialization (division of labor), long-range commerce

Etrusci (by Romans), Tusci (by Romans), Tyrrhenoi (in Greek) and Rasenna (by themselves)


Etruria = Tuscany — that "rare land of courtesy" [Coleridge]

Tiber to Arno

Tyrrhenian Sea (Tyrrhenoi)

Elba called Aithaleia


Expanded south into Latium andCampania — trade with Cumae — Bay of Naples

East to Adriatic — Spina — near mouth of Po -- Hatria near mouth of Po (Adriatic Sea)

North — Marzabotto

Colonies in Corsica


Lydia — according to Herodotus -- Tyrrhenus brought them — 11th Century —Lemnos inscription

Sea Peoples — mention of Tyrsenoi in Egyptian records

Native (autochthonous theory) — derived from Villanovans — major influences from contact with Greeks

c. 800 B.C.

League (Confederation) of Twelve Cities — by 700 B.C.


Veii —

"Veii lives in the page of history rather than in extant monuments … The very skeleton of Veii has crumbled to dust — the city is its own sepulcher…" [George Dennis, The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria.]

"I fear it will be said of Veii, Her very ruins have perished — etiam perlere ruince." [Lucan]

"Veii, thou hads’t a royal crown of old,

And in thy forum stood a throne of gold!

Thy walls now echo but the shepherd’s horn,

And o’er thine ashes waves the summer corn." [Propertius, 1st century B.C.]

"Who now ever remembers its former existence? What remains or traces of it are left? Our trust in our annals has a difficult task to make us believe that Veii ever existed." [Lucius Annaeus Florus, Epitome of Roman History]










Little co-operation — religious ties — "So that the Etruscan cities vanished as completely as flowers. Only the tombs, the bulbs, were underground." [D.H. Lawrence]


Lauchume (lucumo in Latin)Lucumones

Group of elders (Senate?)

Thalassocracy — dominated whole length of Italy and the Tyrrhenian Sea

Allied with Carthage against Greeks


The Etruscans were "more concerned than any other nation with religious matters." [Livy]



Host of other local deities

Underworld deities — Charun (Gr. Charon) — satanic figure

Borrowed several gods from Greeks

Disciplina Etrusca — doctrine from a collection of sacred writings

Temples: 3 cella, high podium, steps only in front— massive, squat, almost square

Afterlife — necropolis, elaborate tholos tombs and underground tombs — vast quantities of tomb furniture from everyday life, elaborately painted, elaborate sarcophagi

"Dead men/ Having their mute thoughts on the mute walls around." [Shelley]

Haruspex = soothsayer —divination — claimed to foresee future by inspecting entrails of sheep

Hepatoscopy -- predict future by examining livers of animals — Piacenza liver (bronze)

Noted for bronze work — Capitoline Wolf

Also mined and fashioned tin, copper, iron and lead

Skilled road-builders

Bucchero pottery — extremely fine glossy black pottery

Terra cotta sculpture with polychrome painting— Apollo of Veii — archaic smile

Probably introduced chariot into Italy — biga

Greeks remarked on freedom of women in Etruscan society — athletic events, banquets, sexual license


Not Indo-European — no language is similar

Script not entirely deciphered

Greek alphabet

Evidence of linen books folding like accordions -- others in papyrus roles

Satirical drama — according to Livy — histrio in Latin from Etruscan word — actor — phersu = Latin persona = mask -- actor


Legacy to Rome

Alphabet (from Greek)

Hydraulics — cuniculation — underground tunnels to withdraw water, irrigation, drainage (Cloaca Maxima)

City planning — urban lifestyle — cardo (north-south) and decumanus (east-west)

Temple architecture — stone temple

Anthropomorphic gods



Metal crafts


Gladiatorial games — Depicted in Tomb of Augurs — figures engaged in combat — one in a mask with inscription designating by the name phersu, an Etruscan word corresponding to the Latin persona (meaning a masked man, an actor)

Lictors and fasces

"It is further said that the triumphal and consular adornment, and, in a word, that of all the rulers, was transferred to Rome from Tarquinii, as also fasces, axes, trumpets, sacrificial rites, divination, and all music publicly used by the Romans." [Strabo]



Sella curulis --Curule chair

Groma — surveying instrument of use to engineers

Etruscan trumpet — called it tuba

Roman toga derived from semicircular woolen cloak draped over one shoulder — worn by Etruscans