And how can man die better, Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his gods?*
Way back before the great Horatius helped the Romans gain their freedom in the late 6th century BC, the Etruscans ruled over them. Livy, one of our only sources for early Rome and a late, inventive one at that, makes it seem as if the Etruscans were a mean, exploitative lot, who took everything of value from the Romans, including some exceptionally beautiful and highly upstanding Roman ladies. It seems to me that Etruscan art and artifacts tell a different story.
They seem more like Hobbits than Uruk-hai, if you know what I mean. Take their wonderful necropolis at Cerveteri, for example:
Doesn’t it look like a sort of Hobbiton for the dead?
Curiously enough, while the tombs look round on the outside, the interiors map as rectangular spaces.
One of my favorite structures is the Tomb of the Five Chairs, in which, that’s right, archaeologists found five chairs.
Seated on those five chairs (and with feet resting on the footstools) were five, wonderful terracotta statues, of which only three survive, two in the British Museum and one in the Capitoline Museum in Rome.
I’ve loved those statues since I took a class in Etruscan art in college. Aren’t they fabulous? There’s something extremely endearing about them, and they aren’t exactly what you’d call threatening. To be fair to the Romans, most Etruscan art depicts full-size warrior types like this:
I wonder who those people in the Tomb of the Five Chairs were. In any case, I love the Etruscans’ cool necropolis with its round tumuli and rectangular subterranean rooms. While I don’t approve of disturbing graves, I confess that I would love to visit Cerveteri. Road trip anyone?
*Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay, “Horatius at the Bridge”
All photos via Google image.