Under the Tuscan Sun - THE ETRUSCANS

Frescoes like this one, from the "Tomb of the Leopards" at the Necropolis of Monterozzi—an ancient burial site near the city of Tarquinia in the Lazio Region of Italy—provide some information about the Etruscans, an early Iron-Age people who today are mostly shrouded in mystery.


Long before the rise of Rome, while various tribes lived in the country we know as Italy, the Etruscans dominated the central part of the Italian peninsula. Before Latin became the language of an Empire, Etruscan was the language of a people today mostly shrouded in mystery.

Although it was the Etruscans who passed on the alphabet to the Romans, their ancient language (which was non-Indo-European) died out in the first century B.C. after Etruscans became Roman citizens.

Since there is no surviving Etruscan literature, what we know of the people comes from archeological remains or indirect sources. What we know of their language comes mostly from inscriptions written on extremely old objects.

In 1992, an Etruscan inscription on a bronze plate found in Cortona caused a great deal of excitement among scholars. The find, representing one of the longest Etruscan-language inscriptions located to-date, included twenty-seven lexemes which were completely unknown before the plate was discovered.

The two-sided bronze table, known as the Tabula Cortonensis, is very likely a document exchange between two families. First publicized in Italian newspapers on 1 July 1999, it is probably from the second or third century, B.C. It is broken in eight pieces, one of which is still missing. The names of people who “signed” the document likely appear on Side A.

We can see how the plate must have looked originally when its seven located parts are put together in an apograph. We can also examine a transliteration (from its original Greek-like letters to English letters), although many of its words (the link depicts Side B) are still unknown to scholars.

Somewhat less uncertain is the impact of the Etruscan League, although it, too, is cloaked with mystery. As treasures once covered by Tuscan hills continue to provide scholars with clues to understanding this ancient people and their country, our knowledge of them, and their way of life, will continue to increase.

The same, one hopes, will also be true of the Etruscans’ neighbors - the Umbrians.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 01, 2003

Updated Last Revision: Mar 18, 2019

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"THE ETRUSCANS" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 01, 2003. Feb 21, 2020.
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