Etruscan Italy: Life and Afterlife

The Etruscans were major contributors to some of Western civilization’s greatest achievements in architecture, engineering, and art. A sophisticated and wealthy people living in central Italy between the 8th and 2nd centuries BCE, the Etruscans leave us much of their past through their material culture, namely, tombs, temples, habitation sites, and more. By the 7th century BCE the Etruscans had created a broad network of commercial and artistic trade routes throughout the Mediterranean and were avid importers of Greek and Near Eastern art. Their artistic legacy lives on in their tomb paintings, bronze and clay sculpture, vase paintings and gold jewelry. In fact, since their literature has not survived, it is from their material history that we learn about their fascinating culture.

Friday, February 28, 2020 | 7:30-9:30 pm

Etruscan Life and Afterlife Revisited / Lisa C. Pieraccini (History of Art, Ancient History & Mediterranean Archaeology, UC Berkeley)

The Etruscans were major contributors to some of Western civilization’s greatest achievements in architecture, engineering and art. A sophisticated people living in central Italy in the first millennium BCE, the Etruscans leave us much of their past through archaeological remains, namely, tombs, temples and towns. Their artistic legacy lives on in tomb paintings, sculptures, vase paintings and gold jewelry. Since their literature has not survived, we rely on their material culture to provide insight into their fascinating culture. What new perspectives and insights have broadened our understanding of Etruscan life and afterlife and why do scholars refrain from describing them as ‘mysterious’?

Performance: Etruscans at the Opera:  Highlights from Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia / Introduced by Clifford (Kip) Cranna (Dramaturg Emeritus, San Francisco Opera)

Tradition holds that the rape of the Roman noblewoman Lucretia by the Etruscan Prince Tarquinius sparked the overthrow of the Roman monarchy and the birth of the Republic. Benjamin Britten’s eloquent chamber opera tells the story in music of haunting beauty. The cast of four talented singers features Chantal Grybas as Lucretia, Eugene Brancoveanu as the Etruscan Tarquiniusand Hope Briggs and Christopher Colmenero as the Female and Male Chorus (Narrators), with Kevin Korth, piano.

Saturday, February 29, 2020 | 10 am-noon & 1:30-4 pm

Etruscan Development of Organized Government & City-States / Hilary Becker  (Assistant Professor of Classical Studies in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies, Binghamton a University (SUNY))

This talk traces the political development of independent city-states in Etruria by examining archaeological evidence that provides clues about Etruscan public life. Since we lack secure evidence for identifiable political buildings in Etruria, this makes it more difficult to reconstruct the extent of Etruscan power and the places where it was exercised. However, important evidence for the daily civic life of the Etruscan communities can be gleaned by examining artifacts such as the Pyrgi plaques (three golden plaques inscribed in the Etruscan and Phoenician languages), a legal contract, a weight, and 100 broken cups, all of which provide insight into the nature of Etruscan political power. Studying such artifacts allows us to understand new aspects of Etruscan political ritual and symbolism, as well as to gain insight into what Etruscan city-states could have provided to their citizens in terms of administration, public works, and law.

The Etruscans in the Roman Imagination / Christopher Hallett (Professor of History of Art and Classics, UC Berkeley) By the late 1st century BCE the old Etruscan cities of central Italy had all been absorbed by the Romans, and Etruscan culture lived on only in memory. The language was moribund, inscriptions less and less frequent; Etruscan literature—mostly works on religion—translated into Latin. But at the beginning of the reign of Augustus (ca. 30 BCE) there was a great revival of interest in the Etruscans. What did Romans of Augustus’ generation choose to remember about their great predecessors in central Italy? What did they make of the legends, the art, the buildings that survived?

Quintessentially Etruscan:  Art and Architecture from the Villanovan to the Etrusco-Roman Period / Alexandra A. Carpino (Professor of Art History, Northern Arizona University)

From the 9th century on, Etruscan and immigrant artists and craftsmen created temples, tombs, vases, jewelry and more for individuals eager to communicate statements about their wealth, families, beliefs and traditions. While foreign influences are undeniable, Etruscan art stands out for its sophisticated mastery of terracotta and metal, its vividly expressive style and its memorable content, which includes both local stories and tales from the Hellenic repertoire rarely if ever visualized in the classical world. While assessments of meaning can be challenging, given the absence of their literature and histories, Etruscan art brings to life a remarkable Mediterranean culture.

The Rediscovery of the Etruscans: A Retrospective / Lisa C. Pieraccini (History of Art, Ancient History & Mediterranean Archaeology, University of California Berkeley)

The question here is, where did the Etruscans go? This presentation traces the reception of certain aspects of Etruscan culture over several centuries to the present. Examples of Etruscan reception, including monuments, forgeries, borrowings of imagery, collecting and subjects of literary works illustrate the varying motivations through the ages for appropriating the Etruscans. Dr Pieraccini seeks to illuminate where the Etruscans have gone and suggest where they still might be going.

Discussion with Presenters / George Hammond, Moderator (Humanities West)

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