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Saturday, March 13, 2021

Etruscan chariots

 


Silver panel, perhaps from a parade chariot or piece of furniture, overlaid with electrum and decorated in repoussé relief with two riders, perhaps taking part in a horse-race, with a fallen comrade below, Etruscan, 540-520 BCE, found in the Castel San Mariano near the city of Perugia.

Perguia, first called Perusia in the ancient sources, was one of the 12 confederate cities of Etruria.  The league was mostly an economic and religious league, or a loose confederation, similar to the Greek states.  The historical Etruscans had achieved a state system of society, with only remnants of the chiefdom and tribal forms used by surrounding Italics. The government was viewed as being a central authority, ruling over all tribal and clan organizations and wielding the power of life and death. The gorgon was revered as an ancient symbol of that power, and frequently appeared as a motif in Etruscan decoration.

The individual referred to as a "fallen comrade" in this Archaic period relief appears to somewhat resemble a gorgon and, as such, may represent the presence of death in such competitions or victory over death. (only my humble opinion, though)

Perusia was not mentioned in the ancient sources until, Q. Fabius Pictor's account, utilized by Livy, of the expedition carried out against the Etruscan League by Fabius Maximus Rullianus in 310 or 309 BCE. At that time a thirty-year indutiae (truce) was agreed upon. However, in 295 BCE Perusia took part in the Third Samnite War.

At the decisive Roman victory at Sentinum, the enemy fielded over 1,000 chariots (although I doubt any of these were plated with silver) along with 60,000 infantry and 40,000 cavalry.  The Roman consuls Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus who commanded the right and Publius Decius Mus who commanded the left were ultimately victorious after Publius Decius decided to devote himself to galvanize the troops. This term refers to a military commander offering prayers to the gods and launching himself into the enemy lines, effectively sacrificing himself, when his troops are in dire straits. His father had done the same at the Battle of Vesuvius (340 BCE). 

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