How much do you know about the Etruscans? Many people, even those who are fascinated by ancient history, are less familiar with this intriguing culture than with the history of Greece and Rome - but the story of the Etruscans is equally captivating and far more important than you may have known. This ancient civilization prospered in the region of modern-day Tuscany, maintaining extensive trade networks, building impressive fortified cities, making exquisite art, and creating a culture that, while deeply connected to the Greeks and Romans, had striking contrasts.
The Etruscans were the original inhabitants of central Italy. Centuries before Rome's rise, they built cities such as Pompeii, Capua, and Orvieto along fortified hilltops. They developed a system of roads and invented what we call the Roman arch. While they had their own system of government, their own myths and legends, and their own cultural attributes, the Etruscans imported and repurposed much from the Greeks - and, in turn, gave much to the Romans. You might be surprised to find out how much of Roman civilization - from togas to bronze military armor to Rome itself - actually has Etruscan origins. The Etruscans are largely responsible for:
transmitting the alphabet to the Romans and other ancient societies as far away as the Nordic regions
granting Rome much of its celebrated architecture and infrastructure, from the Cloaca Maxima water-control system to the storied arch
developing exquisite works of bronze and terra-cotta, as well as mesmerizing tomb paintings
creating well-known symbols of republican government, imagery that still lives on in US government buildings like the Lincoln Memorial
Without the Etruscans, much of what we associate with the Roman world, and thus the foundations of Western civilization, would largely disappear.
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Does What it Can with Limited Material
New Clues In The Etruscan Mystery
So much is still unknown about the Etruscans, but this lecture series gives a nice overview of recent archaeological finds and academic scholarship (up through 2015).
The course focus is cultural and its organization is thematic, which works well and is appropriate based on our knowledge or lack thereof. I always appreciate how Professor Tuck discusses the generally accepted theories while including his own thoughts and presenting interesting alternative theories. Importantly, he also highlights areas that are still a total mystery.
We haven't yet solved the Etruscan puzzle, but I enjoyed this enthusiastic presentation of newly found pieces.