Surrounded by both Greek and Roman cultural, political, and military influence many cultures would, and indeed did, crumble. However, the Etruscans managed to create their own distinct culture, which was influenced by and would influence Roman and Greek society for centuries. The Peoples of Europe: The Etruscans, authored by Graeme Barker and Tom Rasmussen, offers unique insight into the rise and history of the Etruscan people. For this review I will provide an overview of three of the book's major themes, the Etruscan's geography, religion, and economy.
Rasmussen and Barker argue, The achievements of Etruscans cannot be understood divorced from their landscape. Their natural environment offered particular opportunities, such as resources of food, water, space and raw materials, and constraints, such as natural hazards, difficult terrain, and biological limiting factors, for them as for all the societies who have lived in Etruria before and afterwards.(The Peoples of Europe: The Etruscans, Barker and Rasmussen, Page 10 Lines 1-6). The heartland of the Etruscans was located in the anti-Apennines region of central Italy, an area rich with rivers, estuaries, rolling hills, mineral reserves, and coastal lowlands. This abundance of natural capital provided a great asset to Etruscans, far different than the more hostile terrain of their neighbors the Greeks. According to Rasmussen and Barker the Etruscans took full use of the their lands, not only for economic purposes but also for religious and ritualistic ceremonies, In many places the rivers have cut deep trenches through the soft tufo, exposing dramatic cliffs that were favorite localities for Etruscan tombs.(The Peoples of Europe:
[...] While is is asserted that, “Etruscan religion did not require temples, and it is likely that these sprang up, as in Greece, for reasons of civic pride and in order to house cult statues.”((The Peoples of Europe: The Etruscans, Barker and Rasmussen, Page 219 Line 16-18). However, the aesthetics of these temples from their proportions, size, and material differ greatly from Etruria and Greece. The Etruscans included animal, pottery, and food or drink sacrifices as an important part of their worship. These sacrifices were created in order to secure the favor of the gods, something the Romans reported the Etruscans were obsessed with. [...]
[...] Peoples of Europe: The Etruscans, Barker and Rasmussen, Page 228 Line 4-6). The Etruscans created extensive burial, indeed the first use of the term Necropolis “City of the Dead”appears when referencing Etrai burial grounds. Following burial it was believed the body embarked on a great journey of judgement, most commonly believed to be envisioned as a sort of sea journey. Artworks depicting the Etruscan underworld are extremely rare and are late in their date with overwhelming Greek influence. While it is clear the Etruscans religion was formed by heavy outside influence they in turn would influence one of history's greatest societies, the Romans. [...]
[...] A detailed overview of the Etruscans society, life, afterlife, economy, geography, and daily life The Peoples of Europe: The Etruscans is an invaluable tool in understanding this underappreciated Italic people. Through the book I learned that the Etruscans, while most closely resembling the Romans and Greeks, also possessed many traits similar to the Egyptians. Rasmussen and Barker have also sparked my curiosity as to why more research into the Etruscans has not been conducted by the archaeological community. As I continue my educational journey I will do so with a much greater understanding of Italic histories lost civilization, the Etruscans. [...]
[...] This abundance of natural capital provided a great asset to Etruscans, far different than the more hostile terrain of their neighbors the Greeks. According to Rasmussen and Barker the Etruscans took full use of the their lands, not only for economic purposes but also for religious and ritualistic ceremonies, many places the rivers have cut deep trenches through the soft tufo, exposing dramatic cliffs that were favorite localities for Etruscan tombs.”(The Peoples of Europe: The Etruscans, Barker and Rasmussen, Page 16 Line 37-39). [...]
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