Etruscan religion comprises a set of stories, beliefs, and religious practices of the Etruscan civilization, heavily influenced by the mythology of ancient Greece, and sharing similarities with concurrent Roman mythology and religion. As the Etruscan civilization was gradually assimilated into the Roman Republic from the 4th century BC, the Etruscan religion and mythology were partially incorporated into ancient Roman culture, following the Roman tendency to absorb some of the local gods and customs of conquered lands. The first attestations of an etruscan religion belong to the villanovan phase.
Greek traders brought their religion and hero figures with them to the coastal areas of the central Mediterranean. Odysseus, Menelaus and Diomedes from the Homeric tradition were recast in tales of the distant past that had them roaming the lands West of Greece. In Greek tradition, Heracles wandered these western areas, doing away with monsters and brigands, and bringing civilization to the inhabitants. Legends of his prowess with women became the source of tales about his many offspring conceived with prominent local women, though his role as a wanderer meant that Heracles moved on after securing the locations chosen to be settled by his followers, rather than fulfilling a typical founder role. Over time, Odysseus also assumed a similar role for the Etruscans as the heroic leader who led the Etruscans to settle the lands they inhabited.
Claims that the sons of Odysseus had once ruled over the Etruscan people date to at least the mid-6th century BC. Lycophron and Theopompus link Odysseus to Cortona (where he was called Nanos).In Italy during this era it could give non-Greek ethnic groups an advantage over rival ethnic groups to link their origins to a Greek hero figure. These legendary heroic figures became instrumental in establishing the legitimacy of Greek claims to the newly settled lands, depicting the Greek presence there as reaching back into antiquity.
After the Etruscan defeat in the Roman–Etruscan Wars, the remaining Etruscan culture began to be assimilated into the Roman. The Roman Senate adopted key elements of the Etruscan religion, which were perpetuated by haruspices and noble Roman families who claimed Etruscan descent, long after the general population of Etruria had forgotten the language. In the last years of the Roman Republic the religion began to fall out of favor and was satirized by such notable public figures as Marcus Tullius Cicero. The Julio-Claudians, especially Claudius, who claimed a remote Etruscan descent, maintained a knowledge of the language and religion for a short time longer, [ citation needed ]but this practice soon ceased. A number of canonical works in the Etruscan language survived until the middle of the first millennium AD, but were destroyed by the ravages of time, including occasional catastrophic fires, and by decree of the Roman Senate.
The mythology is evidenced by a number of sources in different media, for example representations on large numbers of pottery, inscriptions and engraved scenes on the Praenestine cistae (ornate boxes; see under Etruscan language) and on specula (ornate hand mirrors). Currently some two dozen fascicles of the Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum have been published. Specifically Etruscan mythological and cult figures appear in the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae .Etruscan inscriptions have recently been given a more authoritative presentation by Helmut Rix, Etruskische Texte.
The Etruscans believed their religion had been revealed to them by seers,the two main ones being Tages, a childlike figure born from tilled land who was immediately gifted with prescience, and Vegoia, a female figure.
The Etruscans believed in intimate contact with divinity.They did nothing without proper consultation with the gods and signs from them. These practices were taken over in total by the Romans.
The Etruscan scriptures were a corpus of texts termed the Etrusca Disciplina. This name appears in Valerius Maximus,and Marcus Tullius Cicero refers to a disciplina in his writings on the subject.
Massimo Pallottino summarizes the known (but non-extant) scriptures as the Libri Haruspicini, containing the theory and rules of divination from animal entrails; the Libri Fulgurales, describing divination from lightning strikes; and the Libri Rituales. The last was composed of the Libri Fatales, detailing the religiously correct methods of founding cities and shrines, draining fields, formulating laws and ordinances, measuring space and dividing time; the Libri Acherontici, dealing with the hereafter; and the Libri Ostentaria , containing rules for interpreting prodigies. The revelations of the prophet Tages were given in the Libri Tagetici, which included the Libri Haruspicini and the Acherontici, and those of the prophetess Vegoia in the Libri Vegoici, which included the Libri Fulgurales and part of the Libri Rituales.
These works did not present prophecies or scriptures in the ordinary sense: the Etrusca Disciplina foretold nothing itself. The Etruscans appear to have had no systematic ethics or religion and no great visions. Instead they concentrated on the problem of the will of the gods: questioning why, if the gods created the universe and humanity and have a will and a plan for everyone and everything in it, they did not devise a system for communicating that will in a clear manner.[ citation needed ]
The Etruscans accepted the inscrutability of their gods' wills. They did not attempt to rationalize or explain divine actions or formulate any doctrines of the gods' intentions. As answer to the problem of ascertaining the divine will, they developed an elaborate system of divination; that is, they believed the gods offer a perpetual stream of signs in the phenomena of daily life, which if read rightly can direct humanity's affairs. These revelations may not be otherwise understandable and may not be pleasant or easy, but are perilous to doubt.
The Etrusca Disciplina therefore was mainly a set of rules for the conduct of all sorts of divination; Pallottino calls it a religious and political "constitution": it does not dictate what laws shall be made or how humans are to behave, but rather elaborates rules for asking the gods these questions and receiving answers.
For a hasty acceptance of an erroneous opinion is discreditable in any case, and especially so in an inquiry as to how much weight should be given to auspices, to sacred rites, and to religious observances; for we run the risk of committing a crime against the gods if we disregard them, or of becoming involved in old women's superstition if we approve them.
He then quipped, regarding divination from the singing of frogs:
Who could suppose that frogs had this foresight? And yet they do have by nature some faculty of premonition, clear enough of itself, but too dark for human comprehension.
Divinatory inquiries according to discipline were conducted by priests whom the Romans called haruspices or sacerdotes; Tarquinii had a college of 60 of them.The Etruscans, as evidenced by the inscriptions, used several words: capen (Sabine cupencus), maru (Umbrian maron-), eisnev, hatrencu (priestess). They called the art of haruspicy ziχ neθsrac.
A special magistrate, the cechase, looked after the cecha or rath, sacred things. Every man, however, had his religious responsibilities, which were expressed in an alumnathe or slecaches, a sacred society. No public event was conducted without the netsvis, the haruspex, or his female equivalent, the nethsra, who would read the bumps on the liver of a properly sacrificed sheep. We have a model of a liver made of bronze, whose religious significance is still a matter of heated debate, marked into sections which perhaps are meant to explain what a bump in that region would mean.
The Etruscan system of belief was an immanent polytheism; all visible phenomena were considered to be manifestations of divine power, and that power was embodied in deities who acted continually on the world but could be dissuaded or persuaded by mortal men.[ citation needed ]
Long after the assimilation of the Etruscans, Seneca the Younger saidthat the difference between the Romans and the Etruscans was that
Whereas we believe lightning to be released as a result of the collision of clouds, they believe that the clouds collide so as to release lightning: for as they attribute all to deity, they are led to believe not that things have a meaning insofar as they occur, but rather that they occur because they must have a meaning.
After the 5th century, iconographic depictions show the deceased traveling to the underworld. [ citation needed ]In several instances of Etruscan art, such as in the François Tomb in Vulci, a spirit of the dead is identified by the term hinthial, literally "(one who is) underneath". The souls of the ancestors, called man or mani (Latin Manes), were believed to be found around the mun or muni, or tombs,
A god was called an ais (later eis), which in the plural is aisar. The abode of a god was a fanu or luth, a sacred place, such as a favi, a grave or temple. There, one would need to make a fler (plural flerchva), or "offering".
Three layers of deities are portrayed in Etruscan art. One appears to be divinities of an indigenous origin: Voltumna or Vertumnus, a primordial, chthonic god; Usil, god(-dess) of the sun; Tivr, god of the moon; Turan, goddess of love; Laran, god of war; Maris, goddess of (child-)birth; Leinth, goddess of death; Selvans, god of the woods; Nethuns, god of the waters; Thalna, god of trade; Turms, messenger of the gods; Fufluns, god of wine; the heroic figure Hercle; and Catha, whose religious sphere is uncertain.
Ruling over them were higher deities that seem to reflect the Indo-European system: Tin or Tinia, the sky, Uni his wife (Juno), and Cel, the earth goddess.
As a third layer, the Greek gods were adopted by the Etruscan system during the Etruscan Orientalizing Period of 750/700–600 BC.Examples are Aritimi (Artemis), Menrva (Minerva; Latin equivalent of Athena), and Pacha (Bacchus; Latin equivalent of Dionysus), and over time the primary trinity became Tinia, Uni and Menrva. This triad of gods were venerated in Tripartite temples similar to the later Roman Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus
A fourth group, the so-called dii involuti or "veiled gods", are sometimes mentioned as superior to all the other deities, but these were never worshipped, named, or depicted directly.
Etruscan beliefs concerning the hereafter appear to be an amalgam of influences. The Etruscans shared general early Mediterranean beliefs, such as the Egyptian belief that survival and prosperity in the hereafter depend on the treatment of the deceased's remains.Etruscan tombs imitated domestic structures and were characterized by spacious chambers, wall paintings and grave furniture. In the tomb, especially on the sarcophagus (examples shown below), was a representation of the deceased in his or her prime, often with a spouse. Not everyone had a sarcophagus; sometimes the deceased was laid out on a stone bench. As the Etruscans practiced mixed inhumation and cremation rites (the proportion depending on the period), cremated ashes and bones might be put into an urn in the shapes of a house or a representation of the deceased.
In addition to the world still influenced by terrestrial affairs was a transmigrational world beyond the grave, patterned after the Greek Hades.[ citation needed ] It was ruled by Aita, and the deceased was guided there by Charun, the equivalent of Death, who was blue and wielded a hammer. The Etruscan Hades was populated by Greek mythological figures and a few such as Tuchulcha, of composite appearance.
...a people more than any others dedicated to religion, the more as they excelled in practicing it.
The Etruscan civilization of ancient Italy covered a territory, at its greatest extent, of roughly what is now Tuscany, western Umbria, and northern Lazio, as well as parts of what are now the Po Valley, Emilia-Romagna, south-eastern Lombardy, southern Veneto, and Campania.
In ancient Roman religion, the diiNovensiles or Novensides are collective deities of obscure significance found in inscriptions, prayer formulary, and both ancient and early-Christian literary texts.
In Etruscan mythology, Charun acted as one of the psychopompoi of the underworld. He is often portrayed with Vanth, a winged figure also associated with the underworld.
In Etruscan religion, Fufluns or Puphluns was a god of plant life, happiness, wine, health, and growth in all things. He is mentioned twice among the gods listed in the inscriptions of the Liver of Piacenza, being listed among the 16 gods that rule the Etruscan astrological houses. He is the 9th of those 16 gods. He is the son of Semla and the god Tinia. He was worshipped at Populonia and is the namesake of that town.
Menrva was an Etruscan goddess of war, art, wisdom, and medicine. She contributed much of her character to the Roman Minerva. She was the child of Uni and Tinia.
Tages was claimed as a founding prophet of Etruscan religion who is known from reports by Latin authors of the late Roman Republic and Roman Empire. He revealed a cosmic view of divinity and correct methods of ascertaining divine will concerning events of public interest. Such divination was undertaken in Roman society by priestly officials called haruspices.
In Etruscan mythology, Tarchon and his brother, Tyrrhenus, were culture heroes who founded the Etruscan League of twelve cities, the Dodecapoli. One author, Joannes Laurentius Lydus, distinguishes two legendary persons named Tarchon, the Younger and his father, the Elder. It was the Elder who received the Etrusca Disciplina from Tages, whom he identifies as a parable. The Younger fought with Aeneas after his arrival in Italy. The elder was a haruspex, who learned his art from Tyrrhenus, and was probably the founder of Tarquinia and the Etruscan League. Lydus does not state that, but the connection was being made at least as long ago as George Dennis. Lydus had the advantage in credibility, even though late, of stating that he read the part of the Etrusca Disciplina about Tages and that it was a dialogue with Tarchon's lines in "the ordinary language of the Italians" and Tages' lines in Etruscan, which was difficult for him to read. He relied on translations.
In Etruscan religion and mythology, Tinia was the god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology, equivalent to the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus. However, a primary source from the Roman Varro states that Veltha, not Tins, was the supreme deity of the Etruscans. This has led some scholars to conclude that they were assimilated, but this is speculation. He was the husband of Uni and the father of Hercle. Like many other Etruscan deities, his name is gender neutral.
In Etruscan mythology, Voltumna or Veltha was the chthonic deity, who became the supreme god of the Etruscan pantheon, the deus Etruriae princeps, according to Varro. Voltumna's cult was centered in Volsini a city of the Etruscan Civilization of central Italy. Voltumna is shown with contrasting characteristics, such as a maleficent monster, a chthonic vegetation god of uncertain sex, or a mighty war god.
Neptune is the god of freshwater and the sea in Roman religion. He is the counterpart of the Greek god Poseidon. In the Greek-influenced tradition, Neptune is the brother of Jupiter and Pluto; the brothers preside over the realms of Heaven, the earthly world, and the Underworld. Salacia is his wife.
In the religion of ancient Rome, a haruspex was a person trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy (haruspicina), the inspection of the entrails of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry. The reading of omens specifically from the liver is also known by the Greek term hepatoscopy.
Etruscan art was produced by the Etruscan civilization in central Italy between the 10th and 1st centuries BC. From around 750 BC it was heavily influenced by Greek art, which was imported by the Etruscans, but always retained distinct characteristics. Particularly strong in this tradition were figurative sculpture in terracotta, wall-painting and metalworking especially in bronze. Jewellery and engraved gems of high quality were produced.
The vocabulary of ancient Roman religion was highly specialized. Its study affords important information about the religion, traditions and beliefs of the ancient Romans. This legacy is conspicuous in European cultural history in its influence on later juridical and religious vocabulary in Europe, particularly of the Western Church. This glossary provides explanations of concepts as they were expressed in Latin pertaining to religious practices and beliefs, with links to articles on major topics such as priesthoods, forms of divination, and rituals.
Roman mythology is the body of myths of ancient Rome as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans. One of a wide variety of genres of Roman folklore, Roman mythology may also refer to the modern study of these representations, and to the subject matter as represented in the literature and art of other cultures in any period. Roman mythology draws from the mythology of the Italic peoples and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European mythology.
Vegoia is a sibyl, prophet, or nymph within the Etruscan religious framework who is identified as the author of parts of their large and complex set of sacred books, detailing the religiously correct methods of founding cities and shrines, draining fields, formulating laws and ordinances, measuring space and dividing time; she initiated the Etruscan people to the arts, as originating the rules and rituals of land marking, and as presiding over the observance, respect, and preservation of boundaries. Vegoia also is known as Vecu, Vecui, and Vecuvia, as well as Vegoe; her name is also given as Begoe or Bigois.
Satre or Satres was an Etruscan god who appears on the Liver of Piacenza, a bronze model used for haruspicy. He occupies the dark and negative northwest region, and seems to be a "frightening and dangerous god who hurls his lightning from his abode deep in the earth." It is possible that Satre is also referred to with the word "satrs" in the Liber Linteus, the Etruscan text preserved in Ptolemaic Egypt as mummy wrappings.
Catha is a female Etruscan lunar or solar deity, who may also be connected to childbirth, and has a connection to the underworld. Catha is also the goddess of the south sanctuary at Pyrgi, Italy She is often seen with the Etruscan god Śuri with whom she shares a cult. Catha is also frequently paired with the Etruscan god Fufluns, who is the counterpart to the Greek god Dionysus, and Pacha, the counterpart to the Roman god Bacchus. Additionally, at Pyrgi, Catha is linked with the god Aplu, the counterpart to the Greek god Apollo. Aplu may have even taken some of the characteristics of Catha when he was brought into the Etruscan religion. Giovanni Colonna has suggested that Catha is linked to the Greek Persephone since he links Catha's consort, Suri, to Dis Pater in Roman mythology.
Culsans (Culśanś) is an Etruscan deity, known from two inscriptions and a variety of iconographical material which includes coins, statuettes, and a sarcophagus. Culśanś is usually rendered as a male deity with two faces and at least two statuettes depicting him have been found in close association with city gates. These characteristics suggest that he was a protector of gateways, who could zealously watch over the gate with not one, but two pairs of eyes.