Etruscan Jewellery

Michael Grant describes how, when Etruscan civilization burst into flower, among its most characteristic products was a wealth of splendid jewels.

In the eighth, seventh and sixth centuries B.C. the city-states of the Etruscans, whose homeland roughly corresponded with the modern Tuscany and north-western Lazio, achieved a powerful, advanced, civilization, which in due course they extended northwards into the valley of the Po, and southwards via Rome into Campania.

The origins of these people have always been disputed, and our notorious inability to crack the Etruscan language does not help us to find an answer. According to the two main theories, the Etruscans were indigenous to Italy: or they were immigrants from Asia Minor. In fact, the bulk of the population of Etruria no doubt remained much as it had been before - a complicated mixture dating back to very ancient times.

Yet it was affected, to some extent, by movements from and across the Adriatic; and it does remain possible that immigrants came from some part or other of the near east. These may have been the people who established themselves as the ruling class of the emergent Etruscan cities.

For the art of these cities strongly reflected the civilizations of the near east, and especially of the Syrian and Phoenician coastlands, and of Mesopotamia which lay behind them, and to some extent of Asia Minor. Similar trends were apparent in Greek art of the same ‘orientalizing’ period; and this art, through trade, obviously influenced the Etruscans. But the orientalizing trend is sharper and deeper in Etruria than in Greece; and this was presumably a result of direct commercial contacts with the eastern Mediterranean.

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