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A History of Rome to 565 A. D. by Boak

The Etruscans practised inhumation


However, the most striking memorials of the presence of the Etruscans are their elaborate tombs. Their cemeteries contain sepulchres of two types--trench tombs (_tombe a fossa_) and chamber tombs (_tombe a camera_). The latter, a development of the former type, are hewn in the rocky hillsides. The Etruscans practised inhumation, depositing the dead in a stone sarcophagus. However, under the influence of the Italian peoples with whom they came into contact, they also employed cremation to a considerable extent. Their larger chamber tombs were evidently family burial vaults, and were decorated with reliefs cut on their rocky walls or with painted friezes, from which we derive most of our information regarding the Etruscan appearance, dress, and customs. Objects of Phoenician and Greek manufacture found in these tombs show that the Etruscans traded with Carthage and the Greeks as early as the seventh century.

*Etruscan industries.* The Etruscans worked the iron mines of Elba and the copper deposits on the mainland. Their bronzes, especially their mirrors and candelabra, enjoyed high repute even in fifth-century Athens. Their goldsmiths, too, fashioned elaborate ornaments of great technical excellence. Etruria also produced the type of black pottery with a high polish known as _bucchero nero_.

*Etruscan art.* In general, Etruscan art as revealed in wall paintings and in the decorations of vases and mirrors displays

little originality in choice of subjects or manner of treatment. In most cases it is a direct and not too successful imitation of Greek models, rarely attaining the grace and freedom of the originals.

*Architecture.* In their architecture, however, although even here affected by foreign influences, the Etruscans displayed more originality and were the teachers of the Romans and other Italians. They made great use of the arch and vault, they created distinctive types of column and _atrium_ (both later called Etruscan) and they developed a form of temple architecture, marked by square structures with a high _podium_ and a portico as deep as the _cella_. Their mural architecture has been referred to already.

*Writing.* Knowledge of the art of writing reached the Etruscans from the Greek colony of Cyme, whence they adopted the Chalcidian form of the Greek alphabet. Several thousand inscriptions in Etruscan have been preserved, but so far all attempts to translate their language have failed.

*Religion.* The religion of the Etruscans was characterized by the great stress laid upon the art of divination and augury. Certain features of this art, especially the use of the liver for divination, appear to strengthen the evidence that connects the Etruscans with the eastern Mediterranean. For them the after-world was peopled by powerful, malicious spirits: a belief which gives a gloomy aspect to their religion. Their circle of native gods was enlarged by the addition of Hellenic and Italian divinities and their mythology was greatly influenced by that of Greece.

*Commerce.* The Etruscans were mariners before they settled on Italian soil and long continued to be a powerful maritime people. They early established commercial relations with the Carthaginians and the Greeks, as is evidenced by the contents of their tombs and the influence of Greece upon their civilization in general. But they, as well as the Carthaginians, were jealous of Greek expansion in the western Mediterranean, and in 536 a combined fleet of these two peoples forced the Phoceans to abandon their settlement on the island of Corsica. For the Greeks their name came to be synonymous with pirates, on account of their depredations which extended even as far as the Aegean.

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