The Mysterious Etruscans : The Great Courses: Ancient History

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Steven L. Tuck
  • Series: The Great Courses: Ancient History
  • 12 hrs and 42 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

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.


See More Like This

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Does What it Can with Limited Material

This is a good course, bound to expand your knowledge of the Etruscans, as well as of the Romans and Greeks. But you may need to adjust your expectations to really enjoy it. As the title suggests -- and Professor Steven L. Tuck is up-front about this -- much about the Etruscans remains mysterious even to scholars.

As a people without a literature, the Etruscans didn't leave us much in the way of stories or contemporary accounts; those we do have come from biased Greek and Roman sources. Thus, scholarship leans heavily on archaeology (chiefly tomb paintings, it seems) to tell us about their culture, and Tuck does an admirable job extrapolating. The supplied PDF is useful for images, but you'll probably want to image search the various tombs mentioned for full-color photos.

Some of the most interesting info here is about cultural exchange in the ancient Mediterranean. For instance: a vast majority of the Attic vases found to date were found not in Greece but in Etruscan tombs. And many of the cultural practices we think of as quintessentially Roman (triumphal processions, gladiatorial combat) had Etruscan origins.

By no fault of Professor Tuck's, you'll walk away with only a sketchy understanding of the Etruscans… But your knowledge of the Greeks and especially the Romans will be deepened significantly.
Read full review

- Christopher

New Clues In The Etruscan Mystery

What did you love best about The Mysterious Etruscans?

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.

Read full review

- Emily

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-08-2016
  • Publisher: The Great Courses