The Etruscans were a civilization that inhabited the center of the Italian peninsula between the 8th and 3rd centuries BC. C., until its territory was conquered by the Roman expansion , approximately in the year 509 a. C.

The origin of this town or its settlement process in central Italy is not known. Some hypotheses maintain that the Etruscans would have arrived with migratory waves from northern Italy or from Asia Minor; others maintain that their town developed from local Neolithic villages .

What is considered more likely is that the Etruscan civilization arose from the confluence of these factors.

Location of the Etruscans

The Etruscans settled in central Italy , roughly in the current regions of Tuscany, Lazio, and Umbria. From there they spread to the north and south coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea, to Campania. They came to occupy the island of Corsica.

Region occupied by the Etruscans around 750 BC. C.

Characteristics of the Etruscans

The main characteristics of the Etruscans are the following:

  • They did not form a state, but lived in autonomous citiesthat shared language, religion and customs. These cities formed confederations to confront their enemies and hold religious festivals.
  • They built the cities on top of the hills, from where they could comfortably control the surrounding territories. Many of these cities were walled. Although some of them have changed their name, they still exist today and are important Italian cities, for example Arrétion (now Arezzo), Felsina (Bologna), Velathri (Volterra), Faesulae (Fiesole), Curtum (Cortona) and Pupluna (Populonia), among others.
  • They practiced mining byexploiting the iron mines on the island of Elba, off Populonia, on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. In addition, they carried out water works for the sanitation of the cities and for the practice of agriculture.
  • The tradewas one of its most important economic activities. Throughout the Mediterranean they traded in ceramics, luxury objects and minerals, especially iron, thanks to their being great navigators.
  • They had a writing system composed of Greek characters that until now has not been able to be completely deciphered.
  • They were good warriors since they had permanent conflicts with neighboring peoples of the region, such as the tribes that inhabited the center of the peninsula and the Greeks who were settled on the coasts.
  • Although the Romans conquered the Etruscan cities, they adopted many customs of their civilization, which formed the basis of Roman culture. During the stage of the Roman monarchy , the kings were of Etruscan origin.

Political and social organization of the Etruscans

Political organization

The Etruscan cities were governed by a king who exercised absolute power (judicial, military and priestly). They were dynastic monarchies , meaning that power was inherited within the family.

Towards the 5th century BC, some cities began to have an oligarchic system of government, with a senate, magistrates and popular assemblies.

Social organization

Etruscan society was made up of an aristocracy , made up of rich and powerful families; commoners, who could be wage-earners dependent on the aristocracy or independent merchants and artisans, and slaves, who were very numerous and took care of domestic and productive tasks.

Etruscan women had greater freedom than women in other societies of the time. Through stories by Greek and Roman authors of the time, it is known that they carried out the same activities as men, including participating in banquets and gymnastic games. They could even give their children their names, meaning that the lineages were sometimes matrilineal.

Etruscan religion

The Etruscans were polytheists . Their gods were influenced by their Greek neighbors and, in turn, influenced the Romans. The Etruscan triad, made up of the gods Tinia, Uni and Menfra, was assimilated to the Roman capitoline triad.

They also had demonic gods associated with the concept of hell .

Life after death was of great importance to the Etruscan religion, as evidenced by the huge necropolis that have been preserved. Thanks to the paintings found in the tombs, it can be said that they believed in life after death and in the existence of a place of happiness and a place of punishment .

They believed in the divinatory power of the priests and practiced hepatoscopy , that is, the observation of the liver of sacrificed animals to make predictions and aruspicina, divination by observing the flight of birds. These practices were preserved even during the Roman period.

Etruscan art

Most of what is known of Etruscan art comes from necropolises . In the cemeteries, located outside the cities, there were different types of funeral buildings , from caverns dug in the rocks to rooms below ground level, which were covered with earth to simulate a hill.

The Etruscans reproduced, in the tombs, the rooms of their houses with everything that the deceased could need. Thus, they were full of objects of daily life and paintings that represented parties, musical scenes and daily activities.

The painting used to be done in continuous scenes in which the colors red, blue and green predominated.

Tomb of the Reliefs, in the necropolis of Banditaccia, Cerveteri.

Another feature of Etruscan art were sculpted portraits . Unlike other cultures of the time, this town had an interest in representing the real factions of the people.

They stood out in the production of terracotta pieces , such as the imposing sarcophagi that reproduce people as if they were reclining on a bed.


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