Greeks and Etruscans in Early Italy

  • M. Cary
  • H. H. Scullard


At the beginning of the first millennium b.c. the Italic peoples had laid the foundations of a settled and ordered life, but their civilisation lagged behind that of the older seats of culture in the Nearer East. The next stages in the development of Italy were the result of increased contact with peoples from the Eastern Mediterranean.


Sixth Century Northern Plain Alluvial Valley Mineral Wealth Greek City 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    On the general cultural background and development of the Mediterranean world see J. Heurgon, The Rise of Rome (1973).Google Scholar
  2. On the Phoenicians see D. Harden, The Phoenicians (1962)Google Scholar
  3. and S. Moscati, The World of the Phoenicians (1968). Attempts have,recently been made to discern Phoenician influence and traders on the site of early Rome itself. It has been argued that the sanctuary of Ara Maxima of Hercules in the Cattle Market (Forum Boarium) on the bank of the Tiber was preceded by a temple of the Phoenician god Melkart (=Hercules) and that this provides evidence for Phoenician merchants and even a Phoenician settlement, protected by a Phoenician god, at Rome. See for discussion J. Heurgon, JRS 1966, 2 f., and The Rise of Rome, 73 f. This theory should be regarded with considerable caution until confirmatory evidence appears.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    On the Greeks who settled in such numbers in southern Italy that the district became known as Magna Graeca, Great Greece, see T. J. Dunbabin, The Western Greeks (1948)Google Scholar
  5. A. G. Woodhead, The Greeks in the West (1962)Google Scholar
  6. and J. Boardman, The Greeks Overseas (1964), 175 ff.Google Scholar
  7. It is noteworthy that the earliest settlements at Pithecusae and Cumae (see p. 16) were so far north: the attraction was most probably the copper and iron of Etruria and Elba, although both settlements were fertile. They were founded by Euboeans of Chalcis and Eretria. Cf. the remarks of A. J. Graham, JHS 1971, 143 ff.Google Scholar
  8. and D. Ridgway, ‘The First Western Greeks’, Greeks, Celts and Romans (ed. C. F. C. Hawkes, 1973), 5 ff. A vital sea-link with Greece was formed by the Strait of Messina: soon therefore some settlers from Cumae and Chalcis colonised Zancle-Messene (modern Messina). These in turn co-operated with Messenians from the Peloponnese in founding Rhegium across the strait in the toe of Italy. Sybaris was colonised about 720 (the traditional date) and was soon followed by Croton, Metapontum, Caulonia and others, while Taras (Tarentum) late in the eighth century occupied a territory with an ancient history. The individual names, dates and cultural contributions of these and other colonies cannot be given here, but all shared in a marvellous flowering of architecture, art, sculpture, the plastic arts, coinage, literature, science and philosophy, as seen, for instance, in the temples of Paestum, the terracottas of Locri, the bronzes of Tarentum, the philosophers of Elia and Pythagoras at Croton. It is against this brilliant background in southern Italy that Rome began to emerge in central Italy.Google Scholar
  9. 3.
    On Demaratus see A. Blakeway, JRS 1935, 129 ff. Greek influence in another sphere is illustrated by a recent unexpected find: a Greek shrine, dedicated to Hera, at Graviscae, the port of the Etruscan city of Tarquinii:Google Scholar
  10. see M. Torelli, Parola del Passato 1971, 44 ff.Google Scholar
  11. 5.
    The Greeks abandoned early ‘heroic’ methods of fighting, in which individual prowess was demanded, and adopted a battle-line (phalanx) of heavy-armed infantry (hoplites). The process is now shown to have been gradual; pieces of hoplite armour might be adopted by the aristocracy as they acquired them, but when the phalanx formation was adopted, social and political changes occurred in the warrior class, and a more independent middle class emerged. See A. N. Snodgrass, Arms and Armour of the Greeks (1967), ch. iii. This new formation was taken over by the Etruscans in the sixth century: see above, p. 53.Google Scholar
  12. 6.
    Our knowledge of the Etruscans derives from very scattered references in the ancient writers and from archaeological discovery. Of the vast modern literature the following general surveys may be mentioned: M. Pallottino, Etruscologia (6th ed. 1968; English translation of this edition = The Etruscans, 1975);Google Scholar
  13. J. Heurgon, Daily Life of the Etruscans (1964);Google Scholar
  14. H. H. Scullard, The Etruscan Cities and Rome (1967);Google Scholar
  15. D. Strong, The Early Etruscans (1969).Google Scholar
  16. These works will put the reader on the track of more detailed studies and of the older literature. In H. H. Scullard Etruscan Cities, will be found illustrations of most of the Etruscan cities as well as of their artistic products. On architecture see A. Boëthius and J. B. Ward-Perkins, Etruscan and Roman Architecture (1970);Google Scholar
  17. on art see M. Moretti and G. Maetzke, The Art of the Etruscans (1970).Google Scholar
  18. 8.
    On Veii see J. B. Ward-Perkins, Papers of the British School at Rome, 1961Google Scholar
  19. and on Tarquinii see H. Hencken, Tarquinia and Etruscan Origins (1968), which is a summary of his larger work, Tarquinia, Villanovans and Etruscans (1968).Google Scholar
  20. 9.
    On the Etruscan language see, briefly, M. Pallottino, The Etruscans (1975), chs 10–12, and for a selection of inscriptions see his Testimonia Linguae Etruscae2 1968).Google Scholar
  21. 10.
    This is the approach of M. Pallotino; see his The Etruscans (1955), chs 1 and 2, and for more detail his L’origine degli Etruschi (1947).Google Scholar
  22. Older views are discussed by P. Ducati, Le Probleme étrusque (1938).Google Scholar
  23. 11.
    An iron model of axe and fasces of c. 600 B.C. was found at Vetulonia. The twelve lictors who carried the fasces before kings and consuls of Rome were probably derived from the practice of the Etruscan League: when the twelve cities united for a joint enterprise the twelve axes, borne by the rulers of the individual cities, were entrusted to the supreme commander. A number of processions of magistrates is depicted on late funerary sarcophagi from southern Etruria and on alabaster urns from Volaterrae. They show the magistrate generally in a chariot, with attendants who include lictors with fasces; they represent both a triumphal procession when the magistrate was at the height of his glory, and also reflect his final journey to the underworld. See R. Lambrechts, Essai sur les magistratures des républiques étrusques (1959), with illustrations; one is reproduced in H. H. Scullard, Etruscan Cities, plate 102.Google Scholar
  24. 12.
    Aristotle, Politics iii. 9; 1280a 35, refers to a treaty between Etruria and Carthage, without giving the date, which was probably the second half of the sixth century. The close relation between the two powers has been dramatically illustrated recently by a discovery at Pyrgi (Santa Severa), which was the port of the great Etruscan city of Caere. Between two Etruscan temples of the early fifth century were found three inscribed sheets of gold-leaf, two in Etruscan and one in Punic; although the latter is not a translation of either of the former (this would have provided the much-needed bilingual inscription which would help to a fuller interpretation of the Etruscan language), their content is similar. They record a dedication by Thefarie (Tiberius) Velianas, ruler of Caere, to Uni-Astarte, a Phoenician goddess, and the date is c. 500 B.C. The dedication of a shrine by an Etruscan to a Punic deity suggests very close relations and probably the existence at Pyrgi of a small settlement of Carthaginian merchants. This is the time when the Etruscans were being threatened in central Italy by Greeks and Latins and needed Carthaginian help. See J. Heurgon, JRS 1966, 1 ff.Google Scholar
  25. and J. Ferron, Aufstieg NR W, 1. i (1972), 189 ff.Google Scholar
  26. 13.
    The helmet, now in the British Museum, which Hiero dedicated to Zeus at Olympia, is well known. It contained the words ‘the Etruscan spoils won at Cumae’. A second inscribed helmet was found in 1959. See R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions (1969), 62.Google Scholar
  27. 15.
    The odium in which the Etruscans were held by their subjects is illustrated by the tradition about Mezentius of Caere (the villain in the later books of Virgil’s Aeneid), and by the solemn curses on the Etruscan race in the surviving tablets from the Umbrian town of Iguvium, for which see J. W. Poultney, The Bronze Tables of Iguvium (1959).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The representatives of the estate of the late M. Cary and H. H. Scullard 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Cary
    • 1
  • H. H. Scullard
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LondonUK

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