copyright 2009, Maria Liberati
Editor: Christa Gutzler
The Etruscans were wild. Wildly mysterious, wildly artistic, and wildly efficient in their influence over Italian culture, the Etruscan civilization infiltrated the Umbrian region and dominated parts of their fertile lands for many centuries. Etruscan dominion covered the scope of art, politics, language, and religion. Exceptionally skilled, motivated, and powerful, they withstood opposition from the Umbrians and others who fought against them for control over many areas of northern Rome from the 9th to 1st century B.C. Known to be a seagoing community, the Etruscans traded exclusively in the Mediterranean. They are thought to have originated from Asia Minor, though modern thought strays to ideas that they actually formed as a consequence of internal struggle within the confines of Italy, leaving doubt as to the true location of their native lands. Regardless of where they came from, it is what they brought with them that still matters today, in the twenty-first century.
Both linguistic and creative contributions are evident by way of excavated tombs and surviving wall paintings and other artistic structures. Loaning words to Latin before AD 100, the Etruscan language was eventually replaced by Latin. Because some of the last Italian kings, before Italy transitioned into the republic system in 510 AD, are believed to have been Etruscan, a rich cabinet of Etruscan literature, legal codifications, and religious doctrine are said to have existed and served as the primary linguistic template. Figures like Claudius (10 BC-AD 54), Tarquin the Proud (AD 500), and Varo were literate in Etruscan language. Today, Etruscan inscriptions appear in their ancient form meant to be read from right to left. Only one Etruscan book survives and is almost entirely unreadable by modern linguists. This fact does not, however, render their linguistic offerings obsolete, as the Romans accessed much of the Etruscan language and influenced many modern languages still spoken today. Their writing mechanics found their way into Latin who later contributed to the romance languages like Italian, Spanish, French, and Romanian evident by their lexical, grammatical, and syntactic similarities.
The Etruscan people embraced artistic expression to reveal themselves to the world. Intricately decorated wall paintings, tombs, sculptures, rings, and other stones showcase their attention to detail and rich cultural influence on areas including but not limited to Umbria and Tuscany. Statues like Portonaccio Temple’s the Apulu demonstrate how expressive and deliberate their artistic processes were. The Etruscan she-wolf, dating back to 500 BC, is said to be the most legendary animal in art’s history. Why was their work so distinguished? The Etruscans did not revel in a few different types of art, but rather, they draped their talent, contributions, and legacy over so many aspects of the art world. The architecture and other concrete displays of art accredited to the Romans in many areas of Italy can be traced back to the Etruscans. They were pioneers in design, composition, materials, perspective, and impact on both ancient and modern Italian aesthetic beauty.
Find out how the Etruscans influenced today’s olive oil
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