Next up — mostly because they’re the quickest way to get some material out there, three retro reviews.
This one is from July 15, 2010.
Retro Review: The Etruscans, Michael Grant, 1980, 1997.
In his brief introduction to the 1997 edition of this book, Grant noted that nothing truly major had changed in our understanding of the Etruscans between then and the book’s original 1980 appearance. Taking a quick and very layman look at the Wikipedia and other sources on the Internet, that still seems to be true – with the exception of genetic studies that seem to support Herodotus’ contention of an Asia Minor origin for the Etruscans.
However, the whole question of Etruscan origins seems to annoy professional Etruscanologists. Etruscans became Etruscans in Italy regardless of where the people migrated from they argue. Besides, Grant points out the linguistic, logistical, and cultural evidence arguing against accepting Herodotus’ claim of a migration from Lydia forced by famine.
The problem with studying the Etruscans is we have to rely on Roman and Greek sources. Besides badmouthing their morals – particularly the freedom women were allowed, fat Etruscan men, and creating stories of them as perpetual enemies of Rome, they also distorted our view of Etruscan politics and culture. There never was, argues Grant, an Etruscan League in any sense but a group that held periodic religious festivals. Instead, Grant organizes his book around the idea of Etruscan city states. These city states had satellite cities and sometimes warred with each other. They differed in their economic basis – though the wealth of most Etruscan cities was based on iron, copper, and tin which drew trade with Greek cities and the Carthaginians. Their burial customs varied as did the output of their artisans. Continue reading “The Etruscans”