|6th Century B.C. Etruscan Tomb|
Castellina in Chianti
I was undertaking my own little excavation the other day in my office when I unearthed some more photos from a vacation in Tuscany back in 2002. These photos were of an Etruscan tomb just outside Castellina in Chianti. The site was simple and unassuming but had a great impact on my imagination, so much so that I used it in some parts of Children of Apollo. On that trip, I started to learn more about the Etruscans who inhabited the Italian peninsula from roughly the Tiber to the Arno rivers and beyond to the Po valley and Bologna.
Not a great deal is known about the Etruscans and I am by no means an expert but from what I have seen and read, it is a very interesting topic. Anyone who has studied ancient Greece and Rome will have had some contact with the Etruscans; the Greeks traded with the Etruscans and were a great influence on Etruscan art and lifestyle and Rome itself was ruled by Etruscan kings who brought that little backwater village by the Tiber out of the mud with a dash of civilization. In Tuscany itself, there are many sites where one can find remains of Etruscan civilization, places such as Cerveteri, Veii, Tarquinia, Volsinii, Volterra, Vulci and Arezzo.
|Etruscan Tomb Painting|
|Chimera of Arezzo|
Florence Archaeological Museum
At the peak of their power and influence, the Etruscans were the dominant people of central Italy. They were however, never a truly unified nation and like the Greeks who had influenced them and traded with them, their city-states never stopped fighting amongst themselves. With the Romans growing in strength and skill to the south and the Celts expanding in the north, the Etruscans were in a superbly unenviable position and could not hold sway for long. The last Etruscan king of Rome, Tarquin the Proud, who according to Livy took the throne by force and ruled through fear, was narrowly defeated in a series of battles between Etruscan allies and the Romans, led by Lucius Iunius Brutus. Many died on both sides but Tarquin lived through the day and, though no longer King of Rome, lived out his days in exile in Tusculum. The wheels had been set in motion and Rome had become a Republic.
Of course, when I walked into the cypress-crowned tomb outside Castellina in Chianti nine years ago, I knew nothing of Etruscan history, nor how fascinating it really is. This short blurb is such a tiny scratch on the surface, a mere taste, there is so much more to learn. There are not a great many books (fiction or non-fiction) on the subject, at least not in English. As far as historical fiction/fantasy, two great reads are Steven Saylor's Roma, part of which takes place during Rome's infancy, and the other book is Ursula K. Le Guin's wonderfully woven tale, Lavinia, which looks at the early mythic establishment of Rome and the arrival of Aeneas after the Trojan War. I highly recommend the archaeological museums of Florence and Bologna where you can see Etruscan artefacts for yourselves and it goes without saying that visits to the archaeological sites mentioned are well worth the adventure. Just remember that snakes, as well as tourists, like nothing more than a dark, damp tomb in summer time.
|Interior of Etruscan Tomb|
Castellina in Chianti