Different worlds or a part of the own tradition? The Etruscans seen by ancient Greek and Roman authors

In Greek and Roman Antiquity the handling of foreigners was an important aspect, especially referred to demarcation and consolidation of the own identity. What was the authors' view on foreign people, how did they create a link between foreigners and the own culture and what are the reasons for a particular perception? Within my research project the texts of ancient Greek and Roman authors play an eminent role for two reasons: the ancient information they give about the Etruscans, who lived in Central Italy from the 8th century BC up into Roman times, and the relationship between these three peoples.

The Etruscans, or Tyrrhenians, how they were called by Greeks, not only imported Greek ceramics and other luxury goods, but also elements of the Greek culture such as the alphabet, military techniques and several customs. Greek merchants settled down, married Etruscan women and integrated themselves in a partly foreign world. In this environment perhaps every sense for the cultural differences and the adoption of imported Greek elements were blurred, as can be seen on the example of banquets. This had been a point of critique in Greek literature, especially referred to the violation of norms and morals. The reason must not be only the desire to characterise a foreign society as barbarian and corrupted, but also intercultural misunderstandings. In general the Greeks faced a culture that had been partly Hellenised.

In the Roman literature the situation had changed fundamentally. Here we don’t have a perception of one culture that influences another one, but the opposite. Rome had strongly been affected by Etruscans and especially in cult and religion Tyrrhenian traditions lived on for al long time. This is why a central point of my research will also be the role of the Etruscans in the Roman identity and the Roman attitude towards the Etruscans as a people.

Furthermore there had been ancient theories about the immigration of the Tyrrhenians from Asia Minor, more precisely from Lydia. So we need to analyse if the image of the Lydians influenced the image of the Etruscans and how they interpreted the eastern origins of a people situated in the western Mediterranean world.

Go to Editor View