North of the Latini and the River Tiber lay the land of Etruria…

North of the Latini and the River Tiber lay the land of Etruria…

With the Tyrrhenian1 Sea lapping its western shores and the Apennines Mountains rearing up to the east and north, Etruria occupied the land north of the Tiber to the River Arno. The Etruscans carried out much land clearing and drainage and built roads into the surrounding wilderness. The hilly country favored the emergence of individual city-states, whose agricultural base was supplemented by hunting and fishing. Unlike Latium, Etruria was rich in minerals, especially in copper and iron but also in tin, lead and silver.

By the 8th century BC, Etruria’s mineral wealth was in high demand by Greek and Phoenician merchants. It was during this period, that early Iron Age Villanovan culture (c. 1000-c. 750 BC) grew into Etruscan civilization (8th to 3rd centuries BC). The exact nature of Etruscan origin remains mysterious, however, as parts of their language continue to defy translation and appear unrelated to other Indo-European languages.

The gods of the Etruscans were many, some of native origin, others, adopted or assimilated from other cultures, especially the Greeks. Chief among them was the trinity of Tinia, the sky god (equivalent of Jupiter/Zeus), his wife Uni (Juno, Hera) and Menerva (Minerva/Athena) who was armed with a spear but also associated with children and education.

Exporting their wealth, the Etruscans formed a league of twelve cities. With such power and influence, Etruscan dominion did not remain limited to Etruria and from the seventh century on spread southward into Latium

  • Copyright Ludwig H. Dyck

1. Tyrrehnian was the Greek name for Etruscans

Sources: Bonfante, G.; L. Bonfante. The Etruscan Language. An Introduction. Manchester University Press, 2002, Edward Tipp, The Meridian Handbook of Classical Mythology, New York, A Meridian Book, 1974, L.H. Dyck, The Roman Barbarian Wars, The Era of Roman Conquest, Mark Cartwright, Etruscan Pantheon, Villanovan Culture, Ancient History Encyclopedia, http://www.Ancient.eu.

Photo: Rebuilt in medieval times, Italy’s Civita di Bagnoregio dates to Etruscan times when it was called Ratumna. “The main entrance is a huge stone passageway, cut by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago and decorated in the 12th century with a Romanesque arch.” Photo and quote from Rick Steves, Italy’s Civita di Bagnoregio: Jewel on the Hill, (ricksteves.com).

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