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The Etruscans

Last Updated   11/13/2007      11/12/2007     10/27/2007      10/2/207

Around 800 BC, Etruscans settle in Etruria, north of the Palatine.
Historians believe first that they came from Lydia in Asia Minor.

Famine Story
In Lydia they did not have enough food.
They ate only on the even numbered days.
The famine continued so one-half the people left.
they were led by the king's son, Tarquis.

Now, it is generally thought that their civilization developed in Italy from the Villanovan culture
They built cities high on hilltops, each surrounded by a thick wall.
They were known as "the people from the sea."
As pirates they were feared and envied.
As traders they were admired and respected.
By 600 BC, they dominated all of northern Italy.
That included the Latin village on Palatine hill.

Time Periods of Etruscan History
Villanovan Phase            900-700 BC
Orientalizing Period      700-600 BC
Archaic Period               600-480 BC
Classic Period                480-300 BC
Roman-Etruscan Period  300-100 BC

League of Twelve Peoples.
Formed for religious purposes but evidently having some political functions.
They met anually at Fanum, the chief sanctuary of the Etruscans.
Lauchme (Latin lucumo) was the Etruscan word for "king."
The cities that composed the Etruscan Dodecapoli or league of "twelve cities"

Grew barley, millet, wheat, grapes, and other fruits.
They raised pigs, goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, and cattle.
Cattle was used for food and to pull plows and wagons.
In the 9th century, the Etruscans introduced wine to Italy.

Etruscan miners dug copper, lead, iron, and tin.
Metal workers and sculptors  turned metals into weapons, utensils, and jewelry.
Bronze statuary was common.
They were also experts in the art of ironworking.
Etruscan goldwork was among the finest anywhere in the ancient world.

Etruscans brought the art of bronze working to a very high level of achievement.
Most Etruscan sculpture, however, was executed in clay.
Noted for their black bucchero pottery.
Experts with the potter's wheel. 
The principal centers of Etruscan art were Caere (Cerveteri), Tarquinii, Vulci, and Veii (Veio).

Metals and finished goods were traded with Syria, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries.
Merchants traded for luxury items of gold, silver, and ivory.

Language and Writing
No Etruscan books remain.
Names of gods and funeral writings remain.
Best example was a linen book cut into strips and used to wrap a mummy.

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Etruscans had a strong army.
Their infantry formed a phalanx.
Soldiers wore heavy leather shoes that laced around the ankle.

Etruscans gambled with ivory dice.
They played board games similar to chess and backgammon.
They watched and took part in sports.
They loved music and dancing.

Musical Instruments
Double flute.
7-stringed lyre.
Bells and castanets
were used by dancers.

Dancing was connected to religion.
Both men and women danced.

Social Classes of People
Wealthy landowners, Nobles, and Priests
Farmers, Traders, and City Workers
Enslaved people

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Men wore a robe that gave way to a "Tunica" with a colorful cape over the shoulder.
Women wore a long tunic, decorated on the edges, down to the feet.
Robes of the patrician women were finished off with exquisite jewelry.
Over this was worn a heavier colorful mantle.
Footwear was high sandals and ankle boots.
Women wore a great variety of hairstyles.

Houses were laid out in streets.
Rich lived in rectangular one-story home.
It was made of sun-dried brick on a frame of heavy timbers.
Drains led to a main sewage drain located under the road.
Had a open air courtyard.
A center room was used for business and for entertainment.
A form of underfloor heating was used.

Religious Beliefs
Etruscans had many gods.
They first worship gods outdoors on platforms made of stone or dirt.
Later, they built temples of wood, mud-brick, and clay on stone foundations.
Soothsayers predicted events.
Omens were signs of what was going to happen.

Tombs of Gold
Outside each Etruscan city was a cemetery
Dead were buried in tombs called catacombs.
They filed their tombs with works of art and treasures of gold, silver, bronze, and ivory.
After a funeral, the relatives of the deceased were treated to a banquet. (A custom in the USA too.)
Lavish receptions were laid on.
The guests; men and women of high social standing, reclined on couches.
They were waited on by numerous servants.
They were entertained by musicians and dancers.

Etruscan Time Line

950-700 BC Pre-historic, iron age, Villanovan cultures in Italy.
They used iron and cremated thier dead.
From their hamlets Etruscan cities grow.
775-750 BC First Greek colony in Italy was founded.
Greeks from the island of Euboea settled at Pithekoussai in the Bay of Naples.
Numerous Greek and Middle Eastern objects were imported into Etruria.
750-600 BC Greek colonies exert influence over newly urbanized Etruscans.
616 BC Tarquinius Priscus becomes first Etruscan to rule Rome.
600 BC Etruscans dominated all of northern Italy.
550 BC Founding of cities in Po Valley and expansion into Campania.
535 BC Etruscans control Corsica. Greatest extent of Etruscan influence.
Phocaean Greeks fight Etruscans at battle of Alalia.
Phocaean give up the island to Etruscans and Carthagenians.
524 BC Etruscans attacked the Greek foundation of Cumae.
Etruscans defeated by Aristodemus of Cumae.
509 BC Fall of Tarquin dynasty in Rome.
The beginning of Etruscan decline.
474 BC Etruscan fleet destroyed by the Greeks from Syracuse.
396 BC Sacking of Veii, the strong southern fortress, lasted 10 years.
After 8 years Veii asked other Etruscan cities for help.
They were refused.
2 yeras later Veii fell.  Eventually all the Etruscan cities fell.
351 BC Tarquinii sued for peace
265 BC Capitulation of Velzna, last  Etruscan city to be subdued to Rome.
90 BC After centuries of decline, Etruscans become Roman citizens.
80-79 BC Sulla defeats Marius in Civil War
Some Etruscan cities sided with Marius.
They were sacked and punished.


Ager, Simon. "Etruscan Alphabet"  13 Nov. 2007

David. "Etruscan History"  Feb. 2005.   13 Nov. 2007