added by archaeologs The people who occupied north central Italy (ancient Etruria, modern Tuscany) in the 1st millennium BC. They can first be recognized in the 8th century BC, distinguished from their predecessors the Villanovans by the wealth and oriental appearance of their tombs. They developed a high level of civilization very quickly, with extensive trade contacts with Greece and Carthage, and across the Alpine passes to central Europe. Their cities were large and rich: Populonia, Vetulonia, Tarquinia, and Caere (Cerveteri) near the coast, and Veii, Clusium (Chiusi) and Perusia (Perugia) inland. Etruscan influence spread widely, through Rome itself down to Campania in the south, and north to the Po valley and the civilization reached its height in the 6th century BC. Conflict with the Celts in the north and Rome in the south led to conquest by the latter, beginning with Veii in 396 BC and completed early in the 2nd century BC. The Etruscans' own writings, in an alphabet borrowed from the Greeks, can be transliterated, but little of their non-Indo-European language can be translated. Etruscan tombs show their genius; the finest are mounds covering a burial vault, as in the cemeteries of Tarquinia and Cerveteri. The vaults may be elaborately frescoed with scenes from life, mythology, or the rites associated with death. Also remarkable is a tomb at Cerveteri, the walls of which are covered with stucco reliefs of everyday objects. There is a high preponderance of imports, especially metalwork and Athenian pottery. Typical products of the Etruscans are decorated bronze mirrors, bucchero pottery, and sophisticated filigree jewelry. The influence of the Etruscans on Roman civilization was enormous. Rome is indebted to the Etruscans not only for its early kings, such as the notorious Tarquin, but virtually for the total infrastructure of its civilization. Roman culture is essentially the continuation of Etruscan under another name and language. Among areas of continuity are religion (e.g. Etruscan haruspex and Roman augury), political and social organization, strategic arts, architecture, art, drama, theater and civil engineering (notably hydraulics, such as aqueducts and drainage systems). The origin of the Etruscans has been a subject of debate since antiquity. Herodotus, for example, argued that the Etruscans descended from a people who invaded Etruria from Anatolia before 800 BC and established themselves over the native Iron Age inhabitants of the region, whereas Dionysius of Halicarnassus believed that the Etruscans were of local Italian origin.
added by archaeologs An important culture, dominant in west central Italy (approximately the area of present-day Tuscany) from about the 8th to 5th centuries bc, with decisive influence upon its direct successor, Rome. Literary sources give a picture of a loosely structured but powerful confederacy of city-states (such as Tarquinia, Caere, Veii, Clusium [Chiusi], Populonia) combining to push their dominion north into the Po Valley, and south into Campania. Roman sources are generally hostile, and rehearse the standard clichés of extreme luxury, moral decadence and sexual licence. Recent thinking suggests some kind of continuity with Iron Age Villanovan culture, with no clear breaks in settlement patterns. The striking, especially oriental, developments in art, pottery, metalwork, tomb and temple architecture are then accounted for as bought-in acquisitions or expertise, purchased by a rising élite out of commercial success and vigorously expansive trade. Alternatively, an add-on intrusive aristocracy is suggested. Antiquity, on the other hand, particularly antiquarians such as Varro and the emperor Claudius (a considerable Etruscologist whose work, including a treatise on language, is unfortunately lost) tended to see an enigmatic opposition between two traditional literary viewpoints, represented by Herodotus — who derived the Etruscans from Lydia in Asia Minor(modern Turkey) — and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who claimed that they were indigenous. For the ancients, the mystery was compounded by the Etruscan language, whose affinity is still undecided. The letters of the script may be read easily enough, since the Etruscans used a Western Greek alphabet (which, through Etruscan, is the precursor of all subsequent Western forms of the alphabet). Clear too is the context of the vast majority of the inscriptions, which is funerary. There is no real doubt that a parallel can be sought with Oscan, Umbrian and Latin inscriptions of a similar period giving, for example, name and family of deceased, offices and honours, and age at death. Difficulties, however, immediately multiply with the few longer texts, once any effort is made at an unambiguous identification of vocabulary items or, worse, aspects of syntax and morphology. Just how severe the complexities remain may be judged from the failure to establish any exact correspondences in the Pyrgi so-called bilingual — a temple dedication with three parallel texts, one in Punic and two (different) ones in The ‘colourful and mysterious’ image commonly ascribed to Etruscan civilization also needs to be handled with some caution. The ‘goody-hunting’ approach of 19th-century antiquarians and some 20th-century archaeologists has produced a body of evidence that is almost entirely derived from cemeteries and grave goods. Apart from the exception of Marzabotto (a ‘colonial’ town site near Bologna), there has been little excavation or study of occupation sites. This weighted evidence shows a surge in wealth, with a high preponderance of imports, especially metalwork and Greek painted pottery. The market for such products encouraged local copies, and the growth of a home industry. Typical products are the ubiquitous decorated bronze mirror, Bucchero pottery, and sophisticated filigree jewellery. Inhumation tends to replace cremation, and characteristic are the stone sarcophagi with reclining figures, chamber tombs (with or without decoration) and the rounded tumuli often heaped over them (e.g. Caere, Chiusi, Tar-quinia). Rome is indebted to the Etruscans not only for its early kings, such as the notorious Tarquin, but virtually for the total infrastructure of its civilization. The debt is such that maybe the inverse picture is the true one, Roman culture being essentially the continuation of Etruscan under another name and language. Among areas of continuity too numerous and complex to list, notable are religion (e.g. Etruscan haruspex and Roman augury), political and social organization, strategic arts, architecture, art, drama, theatre and civil engineering (notably hydraulics, such as aqueducts and drainage systems).
The Macmillan dictionary of archaeology, Ruth D. Whitehouse, 1983