The Religion of the Etruscans

The Religion of the Etruscans

Nancy Thomson de Grummond
Erika Simon
Copyright Date: 2006
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/706873
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  • Book Info
    The Religion of the Etruscans
    Book Description:

    Devotion to religion was the distinguishing characteristic of the Etruscan people, the most powerful civilization of Italy in the Archaic period. From a very early date, Etruscan religion spread its influence into Roman society, especially with the practice of divination. The Etruscan priest Spurinna, to give a well-known example, warned Caesar to beware the Ides of March. Yet despite the importance of religion in Etruscan life, there are relatively few modern comprehensive studies of Etruscan religion, and none in English. This volume seeks to fill that deficiency by bringing together essays by leading scholars that collectively provide a state-of-the-art overview of religion in ancient Etruria.

    The eight essays in this book cover all of the most important topics in Etruscan religion, including the Etruscan pantheon and the roles of the gods, the roles of priests and divinatory practices, votive rituals, liturgical literature, sacred spaces and temples, and burial and the afterlife. In addition to the essays, the book contains valuable supporting materials, including the first English translation of an Etruscan Brontoscopic Calendar (which guided priests in making divinations), Greek and Latin sources about Etruscan religion (in the original language and English translation), and a glossary. Nearly 150 black and white photographs and drawings illustrate surviving Etruscan artifacts and inscriptions, as well as temple floor plans and reconstructions.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79628-7
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. EDITORS’ NOTE
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. CONTRIBUTORS TO THIS VOLUME
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. PREFACE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    W. Jeffrey Tatum
  7. CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION: THE HISTORY OF THE STUDY OF ETRUSCAN RELIGION
    (pp. 1-8)
    Nancy Thomson de Grummond

    “Religion is in fact the best known facet of the Etruscan civilization.”¹ In making this statement, Massimo Pallottino noted that very many of the archaeological remains of the Etruscans and the literary sources about the Etruscans in Latin and Greek have a connection, in one way or another, with religion. The well-known statement of Livy describing the Etruscans as being the nation most devoted to religion, excelling others in their knowledge of religious practices (5.1.6; see Appendix B, Source no. I.1), provides evidence that the ancients also recognized the pervasiveness of religion in Etruscan civilization.

    It is a little odd,...

  8. CHAPTER II ETRUSCAN INSCRIPTIONS AND ETRUSCAN RELIGION
    (pp. 9-26)
    Larissa Bonfante

    We have no Etruscan literature, no epic poems, no religious or philosophical texts. We learn about Etruscan life and civilization—including language and religion, the two basic aspects of a people’s identity—from the remains of their cities and cemeteries. These include highly important evidence from their inscriptions, written in their own peculiar language, that reveal much about their religious rituals and beliefs.

    These inscriptions are so central to the study of Etruscan religion that they will naturally be referred to frequently throughout the book. In this chapter we present an overview of this source material, including a list of...

  9. CHAPTER III PROPHETS AND PRIESTS
    (pp. 27-44)
    Nancy Thomson de Grummond

    For an Etruscan, the starting point of religion lay in the revelations of the prophets. After that, the continuing practice of religion was guided by inquiry into the will of the gods, properly revealed and interpreted by individuals with skills in divination. Here we shall make a distinction between these two different categories of communication of the will of the gods, using the words “prophet” and “prophecy” to refer to the traditions in which a particular individual made revelations that then became basic sacred scripture for the Etruscans. We will reserve the term “divination” for the multitude of examples in...

  10. CHAPTER IV GODS IN HARMONY: The Etruscan Pantheon
    (pp. 45-65)
    Erika Simon

    It is well known that the Etruscan religion was not monotheistic like the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths but recognized many gods. The members of that pantheon lived in the sixteen regions of the Etruscan heaven, with which the priests, especially the haruspices,* were well acquainted. The animals killed for the gods carried that heaven in small scale within them, on their livers. The highest god of this divine assembly, Tin or Tinia,¹ was restricted in his power in comparison with Yahweh or Allah. He was not the only wielder of the lightning bolt, because besides him some other gods...

  11. CHAPTER V THE GRAVE AND BEYOND IN ETRUSCAN RELIGION
    (pp. 66-89)
    Ingrid Krauskopf

    About twenty years ago, Larissa Bonfante remarked that “Etruscan concepts of the Afterworld are not clear.”¹ This statement still holds true today, if perhaps to a lesser degree, after many years of further intensive research.² One reason for this persisting lack of knowledge is obvious: we know that books about death, the grave, and the Afterlife existed in Etruria; they were known in Roman tradition as Libri Acheruntici. But we know almost nothing about their contents, except for one aspect: Servius (quoting Cornelius Labeo) and Arnobius (Appendix B, Source nos. IX.1 and IX.2) reveal that the Etruscans believed that certain...

  12. CHAPTER VI VOTIVE OFFERINGS IN ETRUSCAN RELIGION
    (pp. 90-115)
    Jean MacIntosh Turfa

    Votive religion touches upon basic human needs and the innermost prayers of all, from rulers to slaves. The material remnants of Etruscan votives, after two millennia in Tuscan soil, represent only a tiny fraction of all the ceremony, belief, and sacrifice that went into their dedication. In 1981, Comella was able to count 161 deposits of the fourth to first century BCE in Etruria and Latium, and in 1985, the exhibition Santuari d’Etruria considered nearly 80 sanctuary sites of all periods.¹ By now the number of significant votive deposits of all periods exceeds 200. Unfortunately, most were either exposed and...

  13. CHAPTER VII RITUAL SPACE AND BOUNDARIES IN ETRUSCAN RELIGION
    (pp. 116-131)
    Ingrid E. M. Edlund-Berry

    The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus is one of the many ancient Greek and Latin authors who supply a wealth of observations about the Etruscan presence in Italy and the geography of the region known as Tyrrhenia or Etruria.¹ Depending on the type of text and the author’s objectives, the tone of the narrative may range from statements of historical facts and mythological foundation stories to accounts of Etruscan lifestyle and society. With the additional help of the material remains from the Etruscan period and an awareness of the physical space of the area between the Arno and the Tiber primarily,...

  14. CHAPTER VIII SACRED ARCHITECTURE AND THE RELIGION OF THE ETRUSCANS
    (pp. 132-168)
    Giovanni Colonna

    This chapter offers a panoramic survey, obviously brief, of the sacred architecture of the Etruscans, intended to bring out what it can teach us about the religion of that people. By sacred architecture I mean all the manifestations of the art of building that have a cultic scope, both in places and contexts specifically sacred (i.e., sanctuaries)¹ and elsewhere. I shall not be able to give a truly exhaustive account, for the material is too vast and rich in its ramifications, especially as regards the funerary aspects, so important in Etruria. I shall attempt, however, to put the problems in...

  15. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 169-172)
  16. APPENDIX A: THE ETRUSCAN BRONTOSCOPIC CALENDAR
    (pp. 173-190)
    Jean MacIntosh Turfa
  17. APPENDIX B: SELECTED LATIN AND GREEK LITERARY SOURCES ON ETRUSCAN RELIGION
    (pp. 191-218)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 219-225)