Etruscans

The Etruscans were an ancient people who settled in the central and northern regions of the Italic peninsula between 10th and 9th centuries BC, establishing a flourishing civilization, which influenced on the later development of the Roman civilization. The most important Etruscan cities lay in the region between the Apennines and the River Tiber. This region was referred to in antiquity as Etruria. Etruscan settlements were frequently built on a hill—the higher the better—and surrounded by thick walls.

The origin of the Etruscans is uncertain, but there are two main hypotheses as to their origins in the Early Iron Age. There are archeologists who affirm that the Etruscans originated from an autochthonous development in situ out of the Villanovan culture; others maintain that they migrated to the Italic peninsula from the Near East (West Asia) and that they were probably related to the Phoenicians. What is certain is that the Etruscan language was of a completely different family from that of neighboring Italic and Celtic peoples, who spoke Indo-European languages, such as the Latins, Sabines, Umbrians, and Samnites.

The Etruscans lived in independent city-states, which were organized in small confederacies. In primeaval times, these city-states were ruled by a monarch, but were later run by oligarchies that governed through a council and through elected officials. The Etruscans were largely an agrarian people, but they also had a strong military, which they used to control all the surrounding peoples. These subjugated populations were forced to do the agricultural labor on Etruscan farms, so the Etruscans had time to devote to commerce and industry. In the 7th and 6th centuries, the Etruscan army had conquered much of the Italic peninsula, including Rome, and regions outside of Italy, such as the island of Corsica.

The Romans completely emancipated from the Etruscans dominance after the general revolt of Latins and Sabines led by Lucius Junius Brutus, after the rape of the noblewoman Lucretia at the hands of the Etruscan king’s son Sextus Tarquinius. This revolutionary event is known as the Rebellion Against King Tarquin Superbus. After overthrowing the last Etruscan king, the Latins (Romans) established the Roman Republic.

Comments

  1. Richard Welch says:

    There is a third possible origin for the Etruscans, i.e., that they came from the west — Iberia. Their language has been seen to have some affinities with Basque, and they were part of the Atlantean confederacy that attacked the eastern Mediterranean in the 2nd millennium BC. (See Roots of Cataclysm, Algora PUbl.NY 2009.)