Home Of The Etruscans

It is equally difficult to determine from what quarter the Etruscans migrated into Italy; nor is much lost through our inability to answer the question, for this migration belonged at any rate to the infancy of the people, and their historical development began and ended in Italy. No question, however, has been handled with greater zeal than this, in accordance with the principle which induces antiquaries especially to inquire into what is neither capable of being known nor worth the knowing--to inquire "who was Hecuba's mother," as the emperor Tiberius professed to do. As the oldest and most important Etruscan towns lay far inland--in fact we find not a single Etruscan town of any note immediately on the coast except Populonia, which we know for certain was not one of the old twelve cities-- and the movement of the Etruscans in historical times was from north to south, it seems probable that they migrated into the peninsula by land. Indeed the low stage of civilization, in which we find them at first, would ill accord with the hypothesis of immigration by sea. Nations even in the earliest times crossed a strait as they would a stream; but to land on the west coast of Italy was a very different matter. We must therefore seek for the earlier home of the Etruscans to the west or north of Italy. It is not wholly improbable that the Etruscans may have come into Italy over the Raetian Alps; for the oldest traceable settlers in the Grisons and Tyrol, the Raeti, spoke Etruscan down to historical times, and their name sounds similar to that of the Ras. These may no doubt have been a remnant of the Etruscan settlements on the Po; but it is at least quite as likely that they may have been a portion of the people which remained behind in its earlier abode.

Story Of Their Lydian Origin

In glaring contradiction to this simple and natural view stands the story that the Etruscans were Lydians who had emigrated from Asia. It is very ancient: it occurs even in Herodotus; and it reappears in later writers with innumerable changes and additions, although several intelligent inquirers, such as Dionysius, emphatically declared their disbelief in it, and pointed to the fact that there was not the slightest apparent similarity between the Lydians and Etruscans in religion, laws, manners, or language. It is possible that an isolated band of pirates from Asia Minor may have reached Etruria, and that their adventure may have given rise to such tales; but more probably the whole story rests on a mere verbal mistake. The Italian Etruscans or the -Turs-ennae- (for this appears to be the original form and the basis of the Greek --Turs-einnoi--, --Turreinoi--, of the Umbrian -Turs-ci-, and of the two Roman forms -Tusci-, -Etrusci-) nearly coincide in name with the Lydian people of the --Torreiboi-- or perhaps also --Turr-einoi--, so named from the town --Turra--, This manifestly accidental resemblance in name seems to be in reality the only foundation for that hypothesis--not rendered more trustworthy by its great antiquity--and for all the pile of crude historical speculations that has been reared upon it. By connecting the ancient maritime commerce of the Etruscans with the piracy of the Lydians, and then by confounding (Thucydides is the first who has demonstrably done so) the Torrhebian pirates, whether rightly or wrongly, with the bucaneering Pelasgians who roamed and plundered on every sea, there has been produced one of the most mischievous complications of historical tradition. The term Tyrrhenians denotes sometimes the Lydian Torrhebi--as is the case in the earliest sources, such as the Homeric hymns; sometimes under the form Tyrrheno-Pelasgians or simply that of Tyrrhenians, the Pelasgian nation; sometimes, in fine, the Italian Etruscans, although the latter never came into lasting contact with the Pelasgians or Torrhebians, or were at all connected with them by common descent.

Settlements Of The Etruscans In Italy

It is, on the other hand, a matter of historical interest to determine what were the oldest traceable abodes of the Etruscans, and what were their further movements when they issued thence. Various circumstances attest that before the great Celtic invasion they dwelt in the district to the north of the Po, being conterminous on the east along the Adige with the Veneti of Illyrian (Albanian?) descent, on the west with the Ligurians. This is proved in particular by the already-mentioned rugged Etruscan dialect, which was still spoken in the time of Livy by the inhabitants of the Raetian Alps, and by the fact that Mantua remained Tuscan down to a late period. To the south of the Po and at the mouths of that river Etruscans and Umbrians were mingled, the former as the dominant, the latter as the older race, which had founded the old commercial towns of Atria and Spina, while the Tuscans appear to have been the founders of Felsina (Bologna) and Ravenna. A long time elapsed ere the Celts crossed the Po; hence the Etruscans and Umbrians left deeper traces of their existence on the right bank of the river than they had done on the left, which they had to abandon at an early period. All the regions, however, to the north of the Apennines passed too rapidly out of the hands of one nation into those of another to permit the formation of any continuous national development there.


Far more important in an historical point of view was the great settlement of the Tuscans in the land which still bears their name. Although Ligurians or Umbrians were probably at one time(5) settled there, the traces of them have been almost wholly effaced by the Etruscan occupation and civilization. In this region, which extends along the coast from Pisae to Tarquinii and is shut in on the east by the Apennines, the Etruscan nationality found its permanent abode and maintained itself with great tenacity down to the time of the empire. The northern boundary of the proper Tuscan territory was formed by the Arnus; the region north from the Arnus as far as the mouth of the Macra and the Apennines was a debateable border land in the possession sometimes of Ligurians, sometimes of Etruscans, and for this reason larger settlements were not successful there. The southern boundary was probably formed at first by the Ciminian Forest, a chain of hills south of Viterbo, and at a later period by the Tiber.

The Period Anterior to the Abolition of the Monarchy Page 53

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