Friday, May 9, 2008

Early Greek Influence In Etruria

I continue to listen to a lecture series on the intersection of Greek and Roman culture. In today’s lecture Professor Garland mentioned that the fifth king of Rome was really not Etruscan but the son of a Corinthian Greek named Demaratus who settled in Tarquinia to teach the Etruscans how to mold clay – especially into roof tiles. Apparently, roof tiles from Etruria have even been found in excavations of Corinth and scholars think the clay beds recently uncovered in Rome were probably the source of the raw material used in their construction. I found this information really interesting.

In his evaluation of classes of early Etruscan pottery, Alan Blakeway, in his article "Demaratus": A Study in Some Aspects of the Earliest Hellenisation of Latium and Etruria" in The Journal of Roman Studies, observes:

"This class, implying as it does the presence of Greek craftsmen in
Etruria at least as early as the ninth century B.c., is by far the most important as evidence of the character of this early Hellenisation. It is, of course, impossible to estimate exactly the contribution of these Greek [craftsmen] the development of Etruscan civilisation in this and in the following period, but it must be admitted that they provide a more satisfactory explanation of the Hellenisation of Etruscan Art in the ninth, eighth and seventh centuries than the theory of native genius working on imported models. In fact, it is probably they who are largely responsible for the great capacity for the imitation of Greek products shown by some of the ninth- and eighth-century potters of Etruria, as well as for the efflorescence of Graeco-Etruscan art in the seventh century. For Etruscan art (unlike that of most other Barbarian peoples) thus not only enjoyed the benefit of Greek influence both early in its own history and at a time when Greek art was not so far advanced beyond that of Etruria as to sterilise the native genius, but also learnt its lessons, in part at least, from Greek craftsmen working in Etruria, and not merely from the chance models imported by
Greek commerce."

He goes on to say:

"So far as our archaeological evidence goes, this earliest Greek influence seems to have been almost as strong as the Oriental in its effects on Etruscan art. If indeed there was any large-scale Oriental immigration in this and the preceding period, the art brought with it had no overwhelming or immediate effect on that of Etruria. With the major historical problem of the origin of the Etruscans I am not concerned; but it is necessary for me to point out that the theory of late Lydian immigration has done much to obscure (if not to conceal)the important early Greek contribution to Etruscan civilisation. Greek influence on Etruria is, in fact, not confined to the seventh century and later: it begins almost as soon as the civilisation of Etruria (on one theory) passed from the Villanovan to the Etruscan culture, that is to say, it almost coincides in time with the first appearance of non-Italian imports and influence."
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