Etruscans were the people of a pre-Roman civilization. They inhabited areas that make up the modern-day Tuscany, Northern Umbria, and Lazio regions of Italy. Some historians believe that Etruscans were indigenous people of the region, while others think that they came from Lydia, in Asia Minor. The Etruscans established control in the region around 800 BCE. The last three Roman kings were Etruscans.
From fifth century BCE onwards, Etruscans faced competition from other emerging regional powers like Gauls, Syracuse, Carthage, and Romans. The Etruscan territory began to shrink and by the third century BCE Rome had completely invaded Etruria. Etruscan civilization greatly affected the social, political, and cultural structure of Roman civilization.
Etruscans were the first in the region to establish a central state government that exercised control over all the tribes and clans, instead of rule by chiefs. Etruscan society gave local authority to clan chiefs but considered the state as the central authority.
Etruscans maintained a strong military force. They conducted military campaigns to increase their territories and gain financial benefits. They took slaves and goods from the raids and defeated territories. Gallic invasions weakened Etruria. Then Roman invaded and annexed many Etruscan territories.
Etruscan architecture was highly influenced by Greek architecture. Etruscans were accomplished goldsmiths. They also made clay and metal sculpture, including terracotta busts and statues of Etruscan gods. Etruscan art was mostly related to religion, funerals, and rituals, including funerary urns, sarcophagi, and tomb decorations.
Etruscan people derived pleasure from violent sports and rituals. Historians believe they practiced human sacrifice, and slaves were forced to fight each other till death. This early form of gladiator fighting was later imported by the Romans.
Etruscans practiced a polytheistic religion. They were deeply religious, worshipping several gods, who were ranked according to their importance and sanctity. They incorporated Greek gods such as Artemis and Minerva into their own religion. Tinia, the god of sky, was the highest god of Etruscan religious order.
Etruscans were a seafaring society and may have engaged in piracy. Etruscans dealt in trade and agriculture. Etruscan society revolved around the family, where women had unusual freedom and importance in the society.
© 2021 History for Kids. All rights reserved.