Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
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Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
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Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
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The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Ancient World

ca. 2500 B.C. - 900 A.D.


The epics of Homer, the wars of Caesar, and temples and palaces characterize the image of classic antiquity and the cultures of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. They are the sources from which the Western world draws the foundations of its philosophy, literature, and, not least of all, its state organization. The Greek city-states, above all Athens, were the birthplace of democracy. The regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and great parts of Northwest Europe were forged together into the Roman Empire, which survived until the time of the Great Migration of Peoples. Mighty empires also existed beyond the ancient Mediterranean world, however, such as those of the Mauryas in India and the Han in China.


Alexander the Great



The Etruscans:
The League to the Roman Empire

7th century B.C.-1stcentury B.C.


Etruscan civilization

Between the seventh and first centuries B.C., the 1 Etruscans thrived as an independent culture in central Italy. Whether they were indigenous to Italy was unclear even in antiquity, as the Etruscans had assimilated the Roman myth about Aeneas and the founding of Rome. The Etruscans believed in predestination and that life was totally controlled by the gods, which is why sacrificial cults and cults of the dead played a special role in their culture. From the fifth century on, their history was closely tied to that of Rome.

1 Etruscan bronze sculpture

The Culture of the League of Twelve Cities

A confederation of twelve Etruscan cities controlled Mediterranean trade at first but were forced onto the defensive by the West Greeks of Sicily.

The Etruscans in Italy can be traced back to the seventh century ‚.Ů.

Today they are no longer regarded as immigrants from the East, although there was a close cultural proximity to the early Greek world as seen in their 4 script and 3 vase painting.

4 Sheet of bronze with Etruscan script,
end of the third century B.C.

3 Etruscan vase painting,
ca. 500 B.C.

Etruscan vase


Evidence of their culture is found primarily in house-like tombs and in the form of 5 burial objects found in chamber tombs, which were decorated with 6 frescoes.

5 Etruscan animal figures, found in the
Tomba Bernadini in Palestrina,
ca. 640-620 B.C.

Death Adonis


6 Etruscan mural in the Tomba dei Leopardi in Tarquinia depicting servants and musicians,
first half of the fifth century ‚.Ů.

Etruscan mural

Etruscan mural


They built necropolises, for example, at Orvieto and 2 Cerveteri, with their own road networks.

2 The Etruscan necropolis at Cerveten

Etruscan tomb at Cerveteri


The Etruscans worshiped a number of gods, which were later mixed with the Roman gods. The highest god was Varro, the god of war and vegetation.

The prophecies of the 7 haruspex, who read omens in sacrificial livers and interpreted lightning and bird flights, played a large role in the cult.

The Etruscans were politically organized as a league of twelve city-states, which were ruled by priest-kings. This league was primarily a community based around the shrine to the god Voltumna at Volsinii, but it also pursued common political goals. In the seventh and sixth centuries ‚.Ů, the Etruscans pushed out of their core territory, present-day Tuscany, into southern Italy and over the Apennines to the north, and they founded the city of Rome about 650 B.C. by combining existing settlements.

Because of Etruria's wealth of ore, it had many trade contacts, including trade agreements with the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeksó particularly Sicily, beginning in the fifth century. Over time, the Etruscans increasingly intervened in Sicilian political affairs and came into conflict with the tyrants of Syracuse when the Sicilians extended their sphere of power to the Italian mainland. The destruction of the Etruscan fleet at Cumae in 474 B.C. broke Etruscan political power and made Rome's subsequent rise possible.

7 Statuette of a haruspex, 4th-3rd Ů B.C.; Etruscan bronze sculpture; Etruscan helmet



A Life of Luxury

The flourishing trade in mineral resources and other raw materials provided the Etruscan upper class with great prosperity and wealth, as testified to by the luxury articles they left with their dead for the next life. However, the Etruscans also knew how to enjoy this life. Sumptuous celebratory feasts with music and sporting competitions were held. Greek and Roman writers took exception to the loose morals of their neighbors but at the same time admired their cultural achievements.



The Etruscans under Roman Rule

As Rome gained power, the Etruscan cities increasingly lost their independence, and the Etruscans became alliesóRoman citizens, but without the right to vote. They were later completely integrated in to the world empire.

Initially, Rome was part of the Etruscan world and was ruled over by the Etruscan Tarquin dynasty.

When they were driven out by the Romans in 510 B.C., the king of the Etruscans, 10 Porsenna of Camars (modern-day Chiusi)ówho is frequently mentioned in ancient literatureóis said to have besieged and taken the city. But his efforts proved in vain. Rome became a republic, and when the people rebelled against the powerful patrician families around 500 B.C., the monarchic form also came to an end in other Etruscan cities.

10 Conquest of Rome by Porsenna 510 B.C.

During the fifth century, the Etruscan cities came under attack by both the 11 Celts and an expanding Rome.

11 Battle between the Etruscans and the Celts, urn, second century B.C.

The clashes between Rome and Tarquinia, the leader of the League of Twelve Cities, spread in 353 B.C. to all the cities of Etruria. The Etruscan city-state of Caere was quickly captured and assimilated by the Romans, its inhabitants became "allies," Roman citizens with all privileges except the vote. This was the model by which succeeding Etruscan and Italian cities were taken into the Roman Empire; the Etruscan cities of Veii (396), Nepete (386), and Sutrium (383), which had already been conquered, received the same status.

Between 310 and 283 the last 8, 9, 12 Etruscan coalition army suffered crushing defeats against the Romans at the Vadimonian Lake. This sealed their fate as an independent polity.

Economic and cultural decline followed the political fall when the Etruscan cities, now under Roman rule, experienced destruction by attacking Gauls in 225 B.C. and the advance of the Carthaginians under Hannibal in 218-207. The areas around the cities became extensively depopulated as a result of the pillaging and brutal conquest by the invaders, and many Etruscan peasants were forced by poverty into lifelong servitude. The social misery of the Etruscan territories provided a mass base for Roman social reformers like the Gracchi in the second century ‚.Ů. and Marius. who built up a voluntary army of poverty-stricken Etruscans, in 87 B.C. The revenge of its enemy Sulla thus hit the region of Etruria particularly hard. Under Emperor Augustus, Etruria was fully incorporated into the Roman Empire and was granted the status of Regio VII, making it a Roman voting district.

8 Statuette of an Etruscan
warrior, fourth century B.C.

Etruscan warrior

9 Etruscan chariot from Castro


12 Etruscan soldier with rectangular shield


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