National Geographic : 1946 Nov
Etruscan Festival TRUSCAN enjoyment offestivals and physical pleasures in general shocked theRomans. Totheseverely simple early Roman mind Etruscan dancing seemed undisciplined and lewd, Etruscan music licentious, Etruscan singing im moderate, Etruscan processions beyond allbounds ofdeco rum, and Etruscan feasting beyond alldecency. In later daysunder theEmpire, thecosmopolitan and ultrasophisticatedRoman probably lefttheEtruscan far behind in all such matters, buttheold-fashioned Roman was a puritan. People of today would readily understand theviolent throwing about oflimbs and bodies byadancing couple depicted in a wall painting inatomb atTarquinia. The long processionsin bright-colored garments, thetrappings and accoutrements ofthereligious festivals, thespontaneity and vivacity, the wish tomake themost ofthefleeting moment-all thiswould seem nothing unusual toamodern spectator, thoughthe flute music probably would beun intelligible evento themost modern earand thewords of the songs wouldbemeaningless. All through the 18th and 19th centuries ofourerathe Etruscan tombsofcentral Italy yielded aspectacular har vest of decoratedvases, golden earrings and necklaces with soldered gold granules ofunbelievable minuteness, carvings in ivory and amber, and vessels and furniture ofbronze. Some of the finest Etruscan urns proved, tobesure, imported Greek, but otherswere ofnative manufacture. In addition, the tombs fascinated modern eyes with their vividly colored paintings-colors doomed, unfortunately, to fade rapidly astheoutside airand light touched once more thepigments which had been sealed away formore than 2,000 years. These paintings furnish ourchief information about thebanquets, games and processions, dancing, cos tumes, musical instruments, feast, and festival. Impressive portions ofsome oftheoldEtruscan city walls arestill standing, despite thewars ofRoman antiquity, theMiddle Ages, and modern times. With their arched gateways and superstructures intact, they must have been magnificently strong. Inside thewalls thehouses seem tohave differed radically from thenative Italic and theimported Greek norm. The temples were roofed with wooden timbers which were protected from theweather byasheathing ofterra cotta carry ingpainted designs instrong colors. Unlike theGreek temples with broad, lowsteps running allaround, they were distinguished bybroad colonnaded porches infront and were lifted offtheground ontallplatforms. Rome, which took over somuch else ofEtruscan religious and cult detail, accepted theEtruscan temple and made itpeculiarly herown. For centuries thetemple ofherthree chief gods ontheCapitoline Hill was unmistakably Etruscan. The Etruscans and thePhoenician settlers ofCarthage, seafarers all,controlled thewestern Mediterranean, shutting outtheGreeks from theSpanish mines and theAtlantic trade until Rome destroyed Carthage and absorbed Etruria. Bythetime ofCicero, Etruscan was becoming adead language. The Emperor Claudius's treatise onEtruscan speech and institutions was ascholarly delving into thepast.