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Etruscans: The Building Block of Rome

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Etruscans: The Building Block of Rome

Etruscans: The Building Block of Rome

“The dominant early settlers on the Italian peninsula were a non-Indo-European-speaking people known as the Etruscans” (Coffin & Stacey 168). The Etruscans were among three groups of people from the East that entered Italy as colonists and later as rulers of various segments of the peninsula. The Etruscans came into Italy about 800 B.C.E. following the Adriatic Sea. Although our knowledge of the Etruscans is severely limited by the fact that their language, although written in a Greek alphabet, has not been fully deciphered, traces remain that they left significant evidence of their effect and influence on Rome. The Etruscans left evidence throughout nearly every aspect of Rome including their traditions and culture. Without their influence, the Rome that everyone in the world knows today might have been very different.

“In the beginning of the first century after death, Livy and Virgil believed that the migration of the Etruscans to central Italy was the resultant of the fall of Troy and flight of Aeneas” ( The leader of the Etruscans, Tyrrhenos, from whom they adopted the name the Tyrrhenian, convinced the Etruscan people to travel from Lydia to Italy due to a famine outbreak. The Etruscans first established a series of small city-states in the northern and central areas of the Italian peninsula, ruling the native Italic people by virtue of their superior weaponry and organization. Then the Etruscans came to Rome in force-as craftsmen, merchants, builders, religious experts, doctors, and rulers. The Etruscans began to form Rome into an architectural city, with streets, public buildings, markets, shops, temples, and domestic houses, that the world knows it as now. They began to form a new Rome by fusing the Etruscan people with the natives throughout the country. “Rome became recognizable a city; it also acquired some of the features which characterized Greek city-states and distinguished them from other less-civilized communities, in particular a well-defined legendary past, a carefully formulated religion and a disciplined citizen army” (Ogilvie 33). The Etruscans slowly and gradually with success formed many of the key foundations of the Rome that you hear about today. The city turned from a city of mud dwellings to buildings being made of products such as brick, clay, and stucco. The city had aligned streets, although not calculated using math due to the severe differences in its landscape. Public Buildings were built for the purposes of markets and meeting areas. The Etruscans slowly built Rome into a metropolis in the sense of the world today.

The sport of gladiatorial combat and the practice of foretelling the future by studying the entrails of animals or the flight of birds went back to the beginnings of the Etruscans. Two of the most famous myths the Romans told about the founding of Rome itself has been drawn back from the Etruscans: that involving Aeneas of Troy and that involving the infant twins Romulus and Remus. Aeneas of Troy links Rome with the Homeric world and the world of Greek civilization. Aeneas brought Greek and Homeric traditions with him when he came to Rome, after he survived the invasion of Troy and escaped. He gave Rome international status, again showing a contribution of the Etruscans. The infant twins Romulus and Remus were believed to have been raised by wolves after they were left by their parents to die. The two brothers are later associated with being significant early leaders of Rome.

The Etruscans were very different from the Greeks, whom they did inherit many of their traditions from. Etruscan women enjoyed a comparatively elevated place in society. “Etruscan women participated in public life and sporting events, they attended dramatic performances and athletic competition (both forbidden to Greek women), and they danced in ways that shocked both Greeks and Romans” (Coffin & Stacey 168). The Etruscan women also ate meals at the same table as their husbands as well as were allowed to sit together at formal events. In some ways the Etruscans women were equal to their male companions. In many social events the Etruscan women were allowed to not only partake and attend them, but to sit alongside their husbands. “The pictorial record left by the Etruscans, mainly in recently rediscovered underground tombs, makes it clear that the early Romans derived much of their religious beliefs, art forms, and architecture from these peoples” (Adler & Pouwels 118). The Etruscan women were allowed after death to be buried together in these mortuary tombs with their husbands.

The religion was another key contribution the Etruscans brought to the Romans. Only aspects of the religion stuck later on in the traditions of Rome, but aspects did stick not only through

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