- ETRUSCAN RELIGION
- The study of Etruscan religion rests on two sources, the archaeological evidence of practice and literary sources (largely Roman) relating to the ideals of the disciplina etrusca and the expertise of the augurs (netsvis or haruspex). From the archaeological evidence, it is clear that ritual was deeply embedded in daily practice, permeating not only formal contexts such as sanctuaries and tombs, but also domestic contexts and the layout of cities. Two particular artifacts have provided details on the more formal aspects of Etruscan religion. The Zagreb mummy wrapping provides invaluable information on a liturgical calendar from the Cortona/Perugia region of Etruria. The Piacenza bronze model of a sheep liver carries inscriptions that associate specific parts of the liver with named deities, linking parts of a body to cosmology. The Capua tile may have a similar significance for funerary rites.In terms of developing religious practice, the excavations at Tarquinia show a sequence of increasing formality of ritual, coupled with symbols of ritual authority from the Bronze Age through to the seventh century BC, so that by the fifth century BC there was an attempted imposition of a gridded or orthogonal structure on the city, most probably following ritual principles. This orthogonal structure, although also present at sites such as Bagnolo S. Vito and Musarna, has been studied in most detail at Marzabotto. At this site, three large, 15-meter-wide streets were laid out east-west, and one similarly sized street was interspersed with five-meter-wide streets laid out north-south. Recent work has suggested that although orthogonal, the layout was not as regular as originally conceived, unless the sacred area of the acropolis is included in the layout of the ritual space. The southern urban block has eastern and western sides of 190.7 meters, whereas the northern urban block has eastern and western sides of 158.7 meters. However, an overlay of diagonals that project to include an observation point in front of the acropolis produces a regular distance in the region of 275 to 300 meters and it is this measurement that has been hypothetically linked into solar observations.In time, there was a merging of the identity of local divinities with those from the Greek world, leading to the pairing of Aplu and Apollo, Hercle and Herakles, and so on in the Etruscan pantheon. Some divinities mainly associated with the underworld escaped this process, such as Culsans. Etruscan ritual practice was not uniform throughout the area of Etruria, and there were variations in the location and character of sanctuaries and the degree of formality of ritual practice. Southern Etruria had the greatest concentration of Etruscan temples, decorated with terracottas in places such as Veii, Tarquinia, and Orvieto, whereas northern Etruria and Umbria engaged more frequently in rituals of deposition of bronze figurines of varying sophistication. A dominant theme of Etruscan religion was concerned with the afterlife. Many of the deities had links to the underworld and much of the surviving practice of Etruscan religion is concerned with the tomb.
Historical Dictionary of the Etruscans. Simon K. F. Stoddart.