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The Etruscans

  • D. Randall MacIver

It is surprising how little classical authors of the time of Augustus choose to tell us about the Etruscans. For Livy, Vergil and their contemporaries it might almost seem as if the Etruscans had already become a dim legendary background to history, hardly less unreal than King Arthur is to us. If they ever knew the facts they have taken great pains to conceal how much of their state religion and political organization was due to Etruscan rulers, and how completely the city of Rome itself was based upon Etruscan foundations. This is to some extent the result of a deliberate conspiracy. It was the set policy of the Augustan writers to suppress everything that did not obviously tend to the enhancement of Roman prestige; it was their policy to distort facts, to invent legends and to carry into their literature the same single-minded fanaticism that had made the success of their nation in politics and war. We must not look therefore to the Latin writers for any scientific account of the extraordinary people that preceded the Romans almost everywhere in North and Central Italy, and, but for some strange inherent weakness, would have ruled the whole peninsula in their stead. Merely as a prelude to his story of the rise of Rome, Livy tells us that Etruria had ‘filled with the renown of her name the whole length of Italy from the Alps to the Sicilian strait.’

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  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
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