July 5, 2022

The Etruscans (Gr. Τυρσηνοί/Tyrsênoi or Τυρρηνοί/Tyrrhênoi; Lat. Tusci or Etrusci; Etr. Rasenna or Rasna) formed a population group with its own language, Etruscan, and its own religion and culture. Their territory bordered on the Apuan Alps, which run parallel to the valley of the Arno, the Tiber and the Tyrrhenian Sea, and is located in present-day Tuscany, part of Umbria and Latium on the Apennine Peninsula. This area is called Etruria in this context. The Etruscan culture is the first great civilization on the Italic Peninsula. In their heyday (7th - 6th century BC), the Etruscans were one of the most highly developed peoples of antiquity. The Etruscans were a relatively small people, certainly compared to the ancient Greeks, but they were the first to attempt to unite the Italian peninsula. Rome was ruled by Etruscan kings for 150 years and the Romans, who partly mixed with the Etruscans, owed their writing, culture and religion for a large part to the Etruscans. In 280 BC. the Romans finally defeated the Etruscan cities, but the cultural influence continued. Many important Roman families were of Etruscan origin. A well-known Roman of Etruscan descent was Maecenas (although he spoke Latin) and the famous poet Virgil also had Etruscan ancestors. The well-known Roman emperor Trajan also came from an Etruscan lineage; the Ulpii. Her name Herennia Etruscilla is mentioned on coins of the wife of the Roman emperor Trajanus Decius (who reigned from 249 to 251). Their son was Herennius Etruscus, which in both cases indicates descent from an Etruscan Family.

Own identity

Despite the strong influence by Greek culture and the cultures of the East (which became observable especially after 700 BC), the Etruscan culture always had its own identity. Thus, with the exception of a few loanwords, the Etruscans had a language of their own, which was neither an Indo-European language nor a Semitic language. In addition, certain customs were not in accordance with Italian traditions. Thus, the role of women in Etruscan society was unique. There was complete equality between men and women. The Etruscans, like the Greeks, had the custom of reading the will of the gods in the entrails of sacrificial animals, but this need not indicate an Eastern origin. The cultural differences with the surrounding Italic peoples were so great, also in the eyes of the observers at the time, that in antiquity there has been speculation about the origin of the Etruscans since Herodotos.


The economic base of Etruria was agricultural. According to Pliny the Elder, Clusium's wheat was excellent, and Italy's best vineyards were in Tuscany, as they are today. Wild boars and deer were hunted in the forests. The Etruscans also raised horses, cattle and pigs. The valleys of the Arno, Tiber, Ombrone and smaller rivers were the main routes of travel. The relief and forests did not make traveling in Etruria easy before the Romans built roads. Mules were used as pack animals. Iron ore was mined in the mines of the island of Elba and processed into iron on site. It was also shipped to the Etruscan cities and sold to the Greeks in Greater Greece. Copper mines were present in the valley of the Cecina River. Due to the very successful trade in iron (a new and valuable product at the time), the contact with Gaul, Northern Europe, Carthage, Egypt, Syria, Greece (including Athens and Corinth) and the Greek settlers on the Italian peninsula, the Etruscan culture has can develop into one of the highest quality in Europe. From the Greek colony of Cumae in Italy, the Etruscans adopted the writing and technique of making pottery with the potters