But in southern Etruria, in Latium, and likewise on the east coast, peaceful intercourse with the foreign merchants was protected and encouraged; and such was not the case elsewhere. The position of Caere was especially remarkable. "The Caerites," says Strabo, "were held in much repute among the Hellenes for their bravery and integrity, and because, powerful though they were, they abstained from robbery." It is not piracy that is thus referred to, for in this the merchant of Caere must have indulged like every other. But Caere was a sort of free port for Phoenicians as well as Greeks. We have already mentioned the Phoenician station--subsequently called Punicum--and the two Hellenic stations of Pyrgi and Alsium.(5) It was these ports that the Caerites refrained from robbing, and it was beyond doubt through this tolerant attitude that Caere, which possessed but a wretched roadstead and had no mines in its neighbourhood, early attained so great prosperity and acquired, in reference to the earliest Greek commerce, an importance even greater than the cities of the Italians destined by nature as emporia at the mouths of the Tiber and Po. The cities we have just named are those which appear as holding primitive religious intercourse with Greece. The first of all barbarians to present gifts to the Olympian Zeus was the Tuscan king Arimnus, perhaps a ruler of Ariminum. Spina and Caere had their special treasuries in the temple of the Delphic Apollo, like other communities that had regular dealings with the shrine; and the sanctuary at Delphi, as well as the Cumaean oracle, is interwoven with the earliest traditions of Caere and of Rome. These cities, where the Italians held peaceful sway and carried on friendly traffic with the foreign merchant, became preeminently wealthy and powerful, and were genuine marts not only for Hellenic merchandise, but also for the germs of Hellenic civilization.

Hellenes And Etruscans--Etruscan Maritime Power

Matters stood on a different footing with the "wild Tyrrhenians." The same causes, which in the province of Latium, and in the districts on the right bank of the Tiber and along the lower course of the Po that were perhaps rather subject to Etruscan supremacy than strictly Etruscan, had led to the emancipation of the natives from the maritime power of the foreigner, led in Etruria proper to the development of piracy and maritime ascendency, in consequence possibly of the difference of national character disposing the people to violence and pillage, or it may be for other reasons with which we are not acquainted. The Etruscans were not content with dislodging the Greeks from Aethalia and Populonia; even the individual trader was apparently not tolerated by them, and soon Etruscan privateers roamed over the sea far and wide, and rendered the name of the Tyrrhenians a terror to the Greeks. It was not without reason that the Greeks reckoned the grapnel as an Etruscan invention, and called the western sea of Italy the sea of the Tuscans. The rapidity with which these wild corsairs multiplied and the violence of their proceedings in the Tyrrhene Sea in particular, are very clearly shown by their establishment on the Latin and Campanian coasts. The Latins indeed maintained their ground in Latium proper, and the Greeks at Vesuvius; but between them and by their side the Etruscans held sway in Antium and in Surrentum. The Volscians became clients of the Etruscans; their forests contributed the keels for the Etruscan galleys; and seeing that the piracy of the Antiates was only terminated by the Roman occupation, it is easy to understand why the coast of the southern Volscians bore among Greek mariners the name of the Laestrygones. The high promontory of Sorrento with the cliff of Capri which is still more precipitous but destitute of any harbour--a station thoroughly adapted for corsairs on the watch, commanding a prospect of the Tyrrhene Sea between the bays of Naples and Salerno--was early occupied by the Etruscans. They are affirmed even to have founded a "league of twelve towns" of their own in Campania, and communities speaking Etruscan still existed in its inland districts in times quite historical. These settlements were probably indirect results of the maritime dominion of the Etruscans in the Campanian sea, and of their rivalry with the Cumaeans at Vesuvius.

Etruscan Commerce

The Etruscans however by no means confined themselves to robbery and pillage. The peaceful intercourse which they held with Greek towns is attested by the gold and silver coins which, at least from the year 200, were struck by the Etruscan cities, and in particular by Populonia, after a Greek model and a Greek standard. The circumstance, moreover, that these coins are modelled not upon those of Magna Graecia, but rather upon those of Attica and even Asia Minor, is perhaps an indication of the hostile attitude in which the Etruscans stood towards the Italian Greeks. For commerce they in fact enjoyed the most favourable position, far more advantageous than that of the inhabitants of Latium. Inhabiting the country from sea to sea, they commanded the great Italian free ports on the western waters, the mouths of the Po and the Venice of that time on the eastern sea, and the land route which from ancient times led from Pisa on the Tyrrhene Sea to Spina on the Adriatic, while in the south of Italy they commanded the rich plains of Capua and Nola. They were the holders of the most important Italian articles of export, the iron of Aethalia, the copper of Volaterrae and Campania, the silver of Populonia, and even the amber which was brought to them from the Baltic.(6) Under the protection of their piracy, which constituted as it were a rude navigation act, their own commerce could not fail to flourish. It need not surprise us to find Etruscan and Milesian merchants competing in the market of Sybaris, nor need we be astonished to learn that the combination of privateering and commerce on a great scale generated the unbounded and senseless luxury, in which the vigour of Etruria early wasted away.

The Period Anterior to the Abolition of the Monarchy Page 61

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