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The Etruscans: A Very Short Introduction


A professor of Ancient History and Director of the British School of Rome, author Christopher Smith is considered to be an expert of ancient Italian history. Specifically, this publication focuses primarily on one of the most misunderstood cultures of the ancient world, the Etruscans.

The Etruscans inhabited Etruria, the region of modern day Tuscany (in Italy), circa 900 - 400 BCE and until their eventual decline to the later growing Roman Empire, the Etruscans would have been regarded as the most innovative, powerful, wealthy, and creative peoples of the Italian mainland.

I was extremely satisfied with this book. It was very well written and to the point. It offers the reader with the latest research in Etruscology. The author introduces the reader first to the Proto-Villanovan culture which emerged in central Italy ca. 12th century BCE and lasted until about the 10th century BCE. This period marked the end of their Bronze Age and from its ashes emerged the Iron Age Villanovan cultures. It is this period that the indigenous Etruscans established their identity and started to expand their influences through central and northern Italy and into the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Smith continues to describe the uniqueness of their language and how it stood apart from all other Indo-European languages of the time and eventually moves to the structure of city life, society, religion, and more. Evidence is provided highlighting the influences coming into Etruscan art, religion, and life (i.e. Greek, Carthaginian, Egyptian, etc.). Evidence is also provided showcasing that the Etruscans themselves exported well crafted goods and influenced outside cultures.

By the end of the book, the reader learns of their rise, evolution, their enemies, and eventual decline. This book summarizes approximately 500 years of history into a little less than 150 pages and while the subtitle of the publication implies it to be "A Very Short Introduction," it is anything but.

By Petros Koutoupis