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Etruscans: An Ancient Civilization

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Written by Bedirhan Atabay


Etruscans were a nation that existed in Etruria, currently the Tuscany province of Italy. Their country expanded from Genoa to Venice. This civilization was one of the most advanced of its era. However, what happened to them? Why did they fail and why were they forgotten for millenniums? Here is the reason why:


According to Herodot, an Ancient Greek historian, Etruscans migrated to Italy from Anatolia. In addition, some historians suggest that they had similar rituals to Ancient Truvans; thus, the theory that Etruscans are from Anatolia is the strongest theory. Etruscans ruled over a huge portion of land and they were the largest nation in the Italian peninsula at their height. The reason why they fell? Because they were in the form of a confederation, which means that Etruscans were divided among smaller states, resulting in constant fighting with each other. Without authority, a state would perish. In 753 BC, a new city in Central Italy was built, Rome. At first, the Etruscans did not care much about the city since it was much smaller than an average Etruscan city. However, Rome became a kingdom under one authority and they managed to defeat one of the main Etruscan Kingdoms. However, Etruscans were not scared of the Roman victory, instead, they were happy that one of their rivals was gone. Soon, Romans started invading Etruscia and, unsurprisingly, Etruscans were unable to form an actual army for a long time. When they formed their army, it was too late and Romans conquered the whole of Etruscan.


However, it was not the end of their culture. In fact, what we know as “Roman Culture” was derived from Etruscan and Greek cultures. Etruscan heritage did not die there, instead, parts of their culture spread into the whole of Europe by Romans. Etruscans were using their own alphabet, which was a version of the Greek Alphabet. Despite this, their language was quite unique as unlike most of the languages in Europe, the Etruscan language is not a part of the Indo-Aryan language family. Even though they were actively using an alphabet, speaking was the more common way to store knowledge, and the usage of letters was not common among Etruscans. Their sculpture culture, derived from Greek culture, was divided into 5 branches and each of them flourished in different eras:

  • Villanovan (Geometric) Period: 9th - 8th centuries BC

  • Orientalizing Period: 7th century BC

  • Archaic Period: 6th - mid 5th centuries BC

  • Classical Period: mid 5th - mid 4th centuries BC

  • Hellenistic Period: 3th - 1st centuries BC

Etruscans had their own architectural style which influenced Roman architecture. Etruscans worshipped outside; therefore, their architectural style was influenced by this trait. They built temples. This was one of them:











The Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, was rebuilt in Greek style in 95 BC.


They were living in mud-straw shelters looking like this:
















As you can see, Etruscans were the creators of the roots of Roman Culture, causing their culture to affect most of the civilizations in the world.


References:
  1. AYDA, Adile. "Etrüskler Türk mü İdi?" Türk Tarih Kurumu Yayınları. Ankara, 2014. ISBN 978-975-16-2922-7

  2. Benelli, Enrico (2017). "Alphabets and language". In Naso, Alessandro (ed.). Etruscology. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 245–253. ISBN 978-1934078495.

  3. Emeline H. Richardson. (n.d.). Etruscan culture, land and people. By axel boethius, Carl fries, Einar Gjerstad, Krister Hanell, Carl Eric Ostenberg, Vagn Poulsen, Bengt Thordeman, Erik Welin, Erik wetter, and nils G. Sahlin. | American Journal of archaeology: Vol 69, no 1. American Journal of Archaeology. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.2307/502273

  4. Stephen J. Simon, Luisa Banti. Etruscan Cities and Their Culture. Translated by Erika Bizzarri. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1973. Pp. vi, 322. $14.50 and Werner Keller. The Etruscans. Translated from the German by Alexander and Elizabeth Henderson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1974. Pp. xiv, 435, xxi. $12.50, The American Historical Review, Volume 80, Issue 5, December 1975, Pages 1304–1305, https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/80.5.1304-a

  5. Nancy Thomson de Grummond. (2015, November 12). Ancient Italic people. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/297441/Italic-people/26562/The-Etruscans

  6. Hugh Honour, & John Fleming. (2005). A world history of art. https://books.google.com.tr/books/about/A_World_History_of_Art.html?id=qGb4pyoseH4C&redir_esc=y

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