Theodor Mommsen.

The History of Rome, Book I The Period Anterior to the Abolition of the Monarchy online

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closely to the Roman -Maecius-and -Spurius-. A number of names
of divinities, which occur as Etruscan on Etruscan monuments or
in authors, have in their roots, and to some extent even in their
terminations, a form so thoroughly Latin, that, if these names
were really originally Etruscan, the two languages must have been
closely related; such as -Usil- (sun and dawn, connected with
-ausum-, -aurum-, -aurora-, -sol-), -Minerva-(-menervare-) -Lasa-
(-lascivus-), -Neptunus-, -Voltumna-. As these analogies, however,
may have had their origin only in the subsequent political and
religious relations between the Etruscans and Latins, and in the
accommodations and borrowings to which these relations gave rise,
they do not invalidate the conclusion to which we are led by the
other observed phenomena, that the Tuscan language differed at least
as widely from all the Graeco-Italian dialects as did the language
of the Celts or of the Slavonians. So at least it sounded to the
Roman ear; "Tuscan and Gallic" were the languages of barbarians,
"Oscan and Volscian" were but rustic dialects.

But, while the Etruscans differed thus widely from the Graeco-Italian
family of languages, no one has yet succeeded in connecting them
with any other known race. All sorts of dialects have been examined
with a view to discover affinity with the Etruscan, sometimes by simple
interrogation, sometimes by torture, but all without exception in
vain. The geographical position of the Basque nation would naturally
suggest it for comparison; but even in the Basque language no
analogies of a decisive character have been brought forward. As
little do the scanty remains of the Ligurian language which have
reached our time, consisting of local and personal names, indicate
any connection with the Tuscans. Even the extinct nation which has
constructed those enigmatical sepulchral towers, called -Nuraghe-,
by thousands in the islands of the Tuscan Sea, especially in
Sardinia, cannot well be connected with the Etruscans, for not a
single structure of the same character is to be met with in Etruscan
territory. The utmost we can say is that several traces, that seem
tolerably trustworthy, point to the conclusion that the Etruscans
may be on the whole numbered with the Indo-Germans. Thus -mi- in the
beginning of many of the older inscriptions is certainly - emi - ,
- eimi - , and the genitive form of consonantal stems veneruf -rafuvuf-is
exactly reproduced in old Latin, corresponding to the old Sanscrit
termination -as. In like manner the name of the Etruscan Zeus,
-Tina-or -Tinia-, is probably connected with the Sanscrit -dina-,
meaning day, as - Zan - is connected with the synonymous -diwan-.
But, even granting this, the Etruscan people appears withal scarcely
less isolated "The Etruscans," Dionysius said long ago, "are like
no other nation in language and manners;" and we have nothing to
add to his statement.

Home of the Etruscans

It is equally difficult to determine from what quarter the Etruscans
migrated into Italy; nor is much lost through our inability to
answer the question, for this migration belonged at any rate to
the infancy of the people, and their historical development began
and ended in Italy. No question, however, has been handled with
greater zeal than this, in accordance with the principle which induces
antiquaries especially to inquire into what is neither capable of
being known nor worth the knowing - to inquire "who was Hecuba's
mother," as the emperor Tiberius professed to do. As the oldest
and most important Etruscan towns lay far inland - in fact we find
not a single Etruscan town of any note immediately on the coast
except Populonia, which we know for certain was not one of the old
twelve cities - and the movement of the Etruscans in historical
times was from north to south, it seems probable that they migrated
into the peninsula by land. Indeed the low stage of civilization,
in which we find them at first, would ill accord with the hypothesis
of immigration by sea. Nations even in the earliest times crossed
a strait as they would a stream; but to land on the west coast of
Italy was a very different matter. We must therefore seek for the
earlier home of the Etruscans to the west or north of Italy. It is
not wholly improbable that the Etruscans may have come into Italy
over the Raetian Alps; for the oldest traceable settlers in the
Grisons and Tyrol, the Raeti, spoke Etruscan down to historical
times, and their name sounds similar to that of the Ras. These
may no doubt have been a remnant of the Etruscan settlements on
the Po; but it is at least quite as likely that they may have been
a portion of the people which remained behind in its earlier abode.

Story of Their Lydian Origin

In glaring contradiction to this simple and natural view stands
the story that the Etruscans were Lydians who had emigrated from
Asia. It is very ancient: it occurs even in Herodotus; and it
reappears in later writers with innumerable changes and additions,
although several intelligent inquirers, such as Dionysius, emphatically
declared their disbelief in it, and pointed to the fact that there
was not the slightest apparent similarity between the Lydians and
Etruscans in religion, laws, manners, or language. It is possible
that an isolated band of pirates from Asia Minor may have reached
Etruria, and that their adventure may have given rise to such tales;
but more probably the whole story rests on a mere verbal mistake.
The Italian Etruscans or the -Turs-ennae- (for this appears to
be the original form and the basis of the Greek - Turs-einnoi - ,
- Turreinoi - , of the Umbrian -Turs-ci-, and of the two Roman forms
-Tusci-, -Etrusci-) nearly coincide in name with the Lydian people
of the - Torreiboi - or perhaps also - Turr-einoi - , so named from
the town - Turra - , This manifestly accidental resemblance in name
seems to be in reality the only foundation for that hypothesis - not
rendered more trustworthy by its great antiquity - and for all the
pile of crude historical speculations that has been reared upon
it. By connecting the ancient maritime commerce of the Etruscans
with the piracy of the Lydians, and then by confounding (Thucydides
is the first who has demonstrably done so) the Torrhebian pirates,
whether rightly or wrongly, with the bucaneering Pelasgians who
roamed and plundered on every sea, there has been produced one of
the most mischievous complications of historical tradition. The
term Tyrrhenians denotes sometimes the Lydian Torrhebi - as is the
case in the earliest sources, such as the Homeric hymns; sometimes
under the form Tyrrheno-Pelasgians or simply that of Tyrrhenians,
the Pelasgian nation; sometimes, in fine, the Italian Etruscans,
although the latter never came into lasting contact with the
Pelasgians or Torrhebians, or were at all connected with them by
common descent.

Settlements of the Etruscans in Italy

It is, on the other hand, a matter of historical interest to
determine what were the oldest traceable abodes of the Etruscans,
and what were their further movements when they issued thence.
Various circumstances attest that before the great Celtic invasion
they dwelt in the district to the north of the Po, being conterminous
on the east along the Adige with the Veneti of Illyrian (Albanian?)
descent, on the west with the Ligurians. This is proved in particular
by the already-mentioned rugged Etruscan dialect, which was still
spoken in the time of Livy by the inhabitants of the Raetian Alps,
and by the fact that Mantua remained Tuscan down to a late period.
To the south of the Po and at the mouths of that river Etruscans
and Umbrians were mingled, the former as the dominant, the latter
as the older race, which had founded the old commercial towns of
Atria and Spina, while the Tuscans appear to have been the founders
of Felsina (Bologna) and Ravenna. A long time elapsed ere the
Celts crossed the Po; hence the Etruscans and Umbrians left deeper
traces of their existence on the right bank of the river than they
had done on the left, which they had to abandon at an early period.
All the regions, however, to the north of the Apennines passed too
rapidly out of the hands of one nation into those of another to
permit the formation of any continuous national development there.


Far more important in an historical point of view was the great
settlement of the Tuscans in the land which still bears their name.
Although Ligurians or Umbrians were probably at one time(5) settled
there, the traces of them have been almost wholly effaced by the
Etruscan occupation and civilization. In this region, which extends
along the coast from Pisae to Tarquinii and is shut in on the east
by the Apennines, the Etruscan nationality found its permanent abode
and maintained itself with great tenacity down to the time of the
empire. The northern boundary of the proper Tuscan territory was
formed by the Arnus; the region north from the Arnus as far as the
mouth of the Macra and the Apennines was a debateable border land
in the possession sometimes of Ligurians, sometimes of Etruscans,
and for this reason larger settlements were not successful there.
The southern boundary was probably formed at first by the Ciminian
Forest, a chain of hills south of Viterbo, and at a later period by
the Tiber. We have already(6) noticed the fact that the territory
between the Ciminian range and the Tiber with the towns of Sutrium,
Nepete, Falerii, Veii, and Caere appears not to have been taken
possession of by the Etruscans till a period considerably later
than the more northern districts, possibly not earlier than in the
second century of Rome, and that the original Italian population must
have maintained its ground in this region, especially in Falerii,
although in a relation of dependence.

Relations of the Etruscans to Latium

From the time at which the river Tiber became the line of demarcation
between Etruria on the one side and Umbria and Latium on the other,
peaceful relations probably upon the whole prevailed in that quarter,
and no essential change seems to have taken place in the boundary
line, at least so far as concerned the Latin frontier. Vividly
as the Romans were impressed by the feeling that the Etruscan was
a foreigner, while the Latin was their countryman, they yet seem
to have stood in much less fear of attack or of danger from the
right bank of the river than, for example, from their kinsmen in
Gabii and Alba; and this was natural, for they were protected in
that direction not merely by the broad stream which formed a natural
boundary, but also by the circumstance, so momentous in its bearing
on the mercantile and political development of Rome, that none of
the more powerful Etruscan towns lay immediately on the river, as
did Rome on the Latin bank. The Veientes were the nearest to the
Tiber, and it was with them that Rome and Latium came most frequently
into serious conflict, especially for the possession of Fidenae,
which served the Veientes as a sort of -tete de pont- on the left
bank just as the Janiculum served the Romans on the right, and
which was sometimes in the hands of the Latins, sometimes in those
of the Etruscans. The relations of Rome with the somewhat more
distant Caere were on the whole far more peaceful and friendly than
those which we usually find subsisting between neighbours in early
times. There are doubtless vague legends, reaching back to times
of distant antiquity, about conflicts between Latium and Caere;
Mezentius the king of Caere, for instance, is asserted to have
obtained great victories over the Latins, and to have imposed upon
them a wine-tax; but evidence much more definite than that which
attests a former state of feud is supplied by tradition as to
an especially close connection between the two ancient centres of
commercial and maritime intercourse in Latium and Etruria. Sure
traces of any advance of the Etruscans beyond the Tiber, by land,
are altogether wanting. It is true that Etruscans are named
in the first ranks of the great barbarian host, which Aristodemus
annihilated in 230 under the walls of Cumae;(7) but, even if
we regard this account as deserving credit in all its details, it
only shows that the Etruscans had taken part in a great plundering
expedition. It is far more important to observe that south of the
Tiber no Etruscan settlement can be pointed out as having owed its
origin to founders who came by land; and that no indication whatever
is discernible of any serious pressure by the Etruscans upon the
Latin nation. The possession of the Janiculum and of both banks of
the mouth of the Tiber remained, so far as we can see, undisputed
in the hands of the Romans. As to the migrations of bodies of
Etruscans to Rome, we find an isolated statement drawn from Tuscan
annals, that a Tuscan band, led by Caelius Vivenna of Volsinii and
after his death by his faithful companion Mastarna, was conducted
by the latter to Rome. This may be trustworthy, although the
derivation of the name of the Caelian Mount from this Caelius is
evidently a philological invention, and even the addition that this
Mastarna became king in Rome under the name of Servius Tullius is
certainly nothing but an improbable conjecture of the archaeologists
who busied themselves with legendary parallels. The name of the
"Tuscan quarter" at the foot of the Palatine(8) points further to
Etruscan settlements in Rome.

The Tarquins

It can hardly, moreover, be doubted that the last regal family which
ruled over Rome, that of the Tarquins, was of Etruscan origin,
whether it belonged to Tarquinii, as the legend asserts, or
to Caere, where the family tomb of the Tarchnas has recently been
discovered. The female name Tanaquil or Tanchvil interwoven with
the legend, while it is not Latin, is common in Etruria. But
the traditional story - according to which Tarquin was the son of
a Greek who had migrated from Corinth to Tarquinii, and came to
settle in Rome as a - metoikos - is neither history nor legend,
and the historical chain of events is manifestly in this instance
not confused merely, but completely torn asunder. If anything more
can be deduced from this tradition beyond the bare and at bottom
indifferent fact that at last a family of Tuscan descent swayed the
regal sceptre in Rome, it can only be held as implying that this
dominion of a man of Tuscan origin ought not to be viewed either
as a dominion of the Tuscans or of any one Tuscan community over
Rome, or conversely as the dominion of Rome over southern Etruria.
There is, in fact, no sufficient ground either for the one hypothesis
or for the other. The history of the Tarquins had its arena in
Latium, not in Etruria; and Etruria, so far as we can see, during
the whole regal period exercised no influence of any essential
moment on either the language or customs of Rome, and did not at
all interrupt the regular development of the Roman state or of the
Latin league.

The cause of this comparatively passive attitude of Etruria towards
the neighbouring land of Latium is probably to be sought partly
in the struggles of the Etruscans with the Celts on the Po, which
presumably the Celts did not cross until after the expulsion of the
kings from Rome, and partly in the tendency of the Etruscan people
towards seafaring and the acquisition of supremacy on the sea and
seaboard - a tendency decidedly exhibited in their settlements in
Campania, and of which we shall speak more fully in the next chapter.

The Etruscan Constitution

The Tuscan constitution, like the Greek and Latin, was based on the
gradual transition of the community to an urban life. The early
direction of the national energies towards navigation, trade, and
manufactures appears to have called into existence urban commonwealths,
in the strict sense of the term, earlier in Etruria than elsewhere
in Italy. Caere is the first of all the Italian towns that is
mentioned in Greek records. On the other hand we find that the
Etruscans had on the whole less of the ability and the disposition
for war than the Romans and Sabellians: the un-Italian custom of
employing mercenaries for fighting occurs among the Etruscans at
a very early period. The oldest constitution of the communities
must in its general outlines have resembled that of Rome. Kings or
Lucumones ruled, possessing similar insignia and probably therefore
a similar plenitude of power with the Roman kings. A strict line
of demarcation separated the nobles from the common people. The
resemblance in the clan-organization is attested by the analogy
of the system of names; only, among the Etruscans, descent on the
mother's side received much more consideration than in Roman law.
The constitution of their league appears to have been very lax. It
did not embrace the whole nation; the northern and the Campanian
Etruscans were associated in confederacies of their own, just
in the same way as the communities of Etruria proper. Each of
these leagues consisted of twelve communities, which recognized a
metropolis, especially for purposes of worship, and a federal head
or rather a high priest, but appear to have been substantially equal
in respect of rights; while some of them at least were so powerful
that neither could a hegemony establish itself, nor could the
central authority attain consolidation. In Etruria proper Volsinii
was the metropolis; of the rest of its twelve towns we know by
trustworthy tradition only Perusia, Vetulonium, Volci, and Tarquinii.
It was, however, quite as unusual for the Etruscans really to act
in concert, as it was for the Latin confederacy to do otherwise.
Wars were ordinarily carried on by a single community, which
endeavoured to interest in its cause such of its neighbours as
it could; and when an exceptional case occurred in which war was
resolved on by the league, individual towns very frequently kept
aloof from it. The Etruscan confederations appear to have been
from the first - still more than the other Italian leagues formed
on a similar basis of national affinity - deficient in a firm and
paramount central authority.

Notes for Book I Chapter IX

1. -Ras-ennac-, with the gentile termination mentioned below.

2. To this period belong e. g. inscriptions on the clay vases of

umaramlisia( - "id:theta")ipurenaie( - "id:theta")eeraisieepanamine
( - "id:theta")unastavhelefu- or -mi ramu( - "id:theta")af kaiufinaia-.

3. We may form some idea of the sound which the language now had
from the commencement of the great inscription of Perusia; -eulat
tanna laresul ameva( - "id:chi")r lautn vel( - "id:theta")inase
stlaafunas slele( - "id:theta")caru-.

4. Such as Maecenas, Porsena, Vivenna, Caecina, Spurinna. The
vowel in the penult is originally long, but in consequence of the
throwing back of the accent upon the initial syllable is frequently
shortened and even rejected. Thus we find Porse(n)na as well as
Porsena, and Ceicne as well as Caecina.

5. I. VIII. Umbro-Sabellian Migration

6. I. VIII. Their Political Development

7. I. VIII. Their Political Development

8. I. IV. Oldest Settlements in the Palatine and Suburan Regions


The Hellenes in Italy - Maritime Supremacy of the Tuscans and

Relations of Italy with Other Lands

In the history of the nations of antiquity a gradual dawn ushered
in the day; and in their case too the dawn was in the east. While
the Italian peninsula still lay enveloped in the dim twilight of
morning, the regions of the eastern basin of the Mediterranean had
already emerged into the full light of a varied and richly developed
civilization. It falls to the lot of most nations in the early
stages of their development to be taught and trained by some rival
sister-nation; and such was destined to be in an eminent degree the
lot of the peoples of Italy. The circumstances of its geographical
position, however, prevented this influence from being brought to
bear upon the peninsula by land. No trace is to be found of any
resort in early times to the difficult route by land between Italy
and Greece. There were in all probability from time immemorial
tracks for purposes of traffic, leading from Italy to the lands
beyond the Alps; the oldest route of the amber trade from the Baltic
joined the Mediterranean at the mouth of the Po - on which account
the delta of the Po appears in Greek legend as the home of amber - and
this route was joined by another leading across the peninsula
over the Apennines to Pisae; but from these regions no elements
of civilization could come to the Italians. It was the seafaring
nations of the east that brought to Italy whatever foreign culture
reached it in early times.

Phoenicians in Italy

The oldest civilized nation on the shores of the Mediterranean, the
Egyptians, were not a seafaring people, and therefore exercised no
influence on Italy. But the same may be with almost equal truth
affirmed of the Phoenicians. It is true that, issuing from their
narrow home on the extreme eastern verge of the Mediterranean,
they were the first of all known races to venture forth in floating
houses on the bosom of the deep, at first for the purpose of
fishing and dredging, but soon also for the prosecution of trade.
They were the first to open up maritime commerce; and at an incredibly
early period they traversed the Mediterranean even to its furthest
extremity in the west. Maritime stations of the Phoenicians appear
on almost all its coasts earlier than those of the Hellenes: in
Hellas itself, in Crete and Cyprus, in Egypt, Libya, and Spain, and
likewise on the western Italian main. Thucydides tells us that all
around Sicily, before the Greeks came thither or at least before
they had established themselves there in any considerable numbers,
the Phoenicians had set up their factories on the headlands
and islets, not with a view to gain territory, but for the sake
of trading with the natives. But it was otherwise in the case of
continental Italy. No sure proof has hitherto been given of the
existence of any Phoenician settlement there excepting one, a Punic
factory at Caere, the memory of which has been preserved partly by
the appellation -Punicum- given to a little village on the Caerite
coast, partly by the other name of the town of Caere itself,
-Agylla-, which is not, as idle fiction asserts, of Pelasgic origin,
but is a Phoenician word signifying the "round town" - precisely
the appearance which Caere presents when seen from the sea. That
this station and any similar establishments which may have elsewhere
existed on the coasts of Italy were neither of much importance nor
of long standing, is evident from their having disappeared almost
without leaving a trace. We have not the smallest reason to think
them older than the Hellenic settlements of a similar kind on the
same coasts. An evidence of no slight weight that Latium at least
first became acquainted with the men of Canaan through the medium
of the Hellenes is furnished by the Latin appellation "Poeni," which
is borrowed from the Greek. All the oldest relations, indeed, of
the Italians to the civilization of the east point decidedly towards
Greece; and the rise of the Phoenician factory at Caere may be very
well explained, without resorting to the pre-Hellenic period, by
the subsequent well-known relations between the commercial state
of Caere and Carthage. In fact, when we recall the circumstance
that the earliest navigation was and continued to be essentially
of a coasting character, it is plain that scarcely any country on
the Mediterranean lay so remote from the Phoenicians as the Italian
mainland. They could only reach it either from the west coast
of Greece or from Sicily; and it may well be believed that the
seamanship of the Hellenes became developed early enough to anticipate
the Phoenicians in braving the dangers of the Adriatic and of the
Tyrrhene seas. There is no ground therefore for the assumption that
any direct influence was originally exercised by the Phoenicians over
the Italians. To the subsequent relations between the Phoenicians
holding the supremacy of the western Mediterranean and the Italians
inhabiting the shores of the Tyrrhene sea our narrative will return
in the sequel.

Greeks in Italy - Home of the Greek Immigrants

To all appearance, therefore, the Hellenic mariners were the first
among the inhabitants of the eastern basin of the Mediterranean to
navigate the coasts of Italy. Of the important questions however

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